House Of The Dragon Season 1 Ending Explained: The Point Of No Return

House Of The Dragon Season 1 Ending Explained: The Point Of No Return

Long before Viserys Targaryen breathed his last breath, we knew that war was afoot in Westeros. "House of the Dragon" has been planting the seeds of this Targaryen civil war since its opening minutes, and through three decades worth of story the dam always seemed on the verge of breaking. But somehow, it never did. Was Viserys the only thing holding the kingdoms together? We certainly feared as much, when the peaceful king finally died, leaving the world to cope with a complicated succession crisis.

Watching the Green Council plot their coup, it was impossible not to envision the rageful response that their scheming would inevitably receive. But "The Black Queen" offered us a surprise. For nearly the entire episode, Viserys' plea for peace lives on in his daughter. Though the blood of the dragon courses through her veins, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) does not share her uncle-husband's hot temper. She does not yearn for battle, glory, or even vengeance for her enemies... Not at first. Rhaenyra takes her duty too seriously for that.

Still a Princess at the start of the finale, Rhaenyra begins the hour by learning about her father's death and the coup that's been executed in his wake. The revelation is so stressful that it forces her into a harrowing pre-mature birthing sequence. In the end, she survived but her only daughter is born twisted, silent, and dead. And even then, her instinct is not to burn everything to the ground. Rhaenyra is determined to keep the peace and even considers sacrificing her claim. But how much loss can a person suffer before they are irrevocably changed? By the finale's end, Rhaenyra is past the point of keeping the peace and ready to deliver on the promise of her namesake: a war of fire and blood.

Tragedy Comes To Dragonstone

Rhaenyra's last moment of peace is, fittingly, a touching conversation with her son. Little Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) is the same age as his mother when she was officially declared heir and like any sane fourteen-year-old, has his reservations about taking on adult levels of responsibility. For him, it's all of Driftmark — the stronghold and fleet will pass to him if Lord Corlys doesn't recover from his wartime wounds. That's a lot of pressure for one seasick-prone teen but Rhaenyra assures him that through it all, she will be by his side. She also offers an honest speech about duty — which is perfectly timed, because hers has finally come calling. Their conversation has hardly concluded when she is alerted to the arrival of Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), who has finally touched down on dragonback.

The look on Luc's face tells us that he thinks this urgent message will be about him but instead, it's Rhaenyra's turn to face her destiny. Rhaenys privately tells Rhaenyra and Daemon (Matt Smith) what we already know to be true: Viserys is dead and Aegon has been publicly crowned in his place. The double-whammy of grief and betrayal hits Rhaenyra hard: she's particularly bowled over by Alicent's involvement. Hadn't they finally mended the rift? The real clincher is that Rhaenys prepares to leave with a warning. "The Greens are coming for you, Rhaenyra. And for your children." Rhaenys urges them to leave Dragonstone but before Rhaenyra can process the imminent threat, she's thrown into stress-induced labor.

Rhaenyra Accepts Her Crown. But At What Cost?

While Rhaenyra labors — her screams echoing through Dragonstone — Daemon enters a fit of rage. Assuming his brother has been murdered, he makes plans to protect the island and rally their allies. It's a very short list of nearby minor houses that don't exactly radiate strength, but Daemon's anger more than makes up for it: what they lack in numbers, they make up for in firepower. He makes sure to remind their Kingsguard that their options include declaring for Rhaenyra or being burned to a crisp.

Rhaenyra might as well be alone when she finally gives birth: her husband is absent and, perhaps remembering the result of her mother's difficult labor, she refuses the help of the silent sisters. In the end, she survives but the baby does not. This is the first child that Rhaenyra loses to this war but it will not be the last.

The child's funeral is interrupted by the arrival of Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor), the rogue Kingsguard who stole Viserys' crown to declare his loyalty to Rhaenyra. Where Aegon was crowned with pomp, circumstance, and a ridiculously large audience, Rhaenyra is quietly crowned before her closest allies. Daemon is the one to set the crown atop her head and declare her Queen, before everyone present bows in acceptance. Everyone except Rhaenys.

A Game Of Armies And Dragons

Speaking of people who refuse to kneel, Rhaenyra is blessed with a much less friendly visitor: Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) comes bearing terms from Alicent. They can have peace and avoid war — they'll even let Rhaenyra keep her claim to Dragonstone — so long as she accepts Aegon as king. The prospect of avoiding war is tempting, but it's the last lingering sentiments of her friendship with Alicent that makes Rhaenyra really consider these terms. Otto offers a page from a book they shared in childhood, a token of friendship that moves the Queen to call off her rabid dog (Daemon) and return to the castle to consider Alicent's offer.

With a council of her own, Rhaenyra takes stock of her position. Compared to the Greens, the Blacks are losing on the numbers front: the Hightowers have very much enjoyed their headstart, having had two days to rally support. Thanks to their presence at court, they also have powerful allies already guaranteed — like the very rich Lannister clan. But there are still some other big-name Houses up for grabs, including the Baratheons, Starks, and Tullys. While Rhaenyra brainstorms strategies to win their allegiance, some of her councilors grow impatient: why waste time with ravens and declarations, when this war could be won with dragons?

Daemon practically lights up but Rhaenyra has reservations. Would a dragon battle really swing in their favor? It seems like it. The Greens have three adult dragons (Aemond's Vhagar, Aegon's Sunfyre, and Helaena's Dreamfyre) — including the biggest, oldest and only battle-tested dragon in the realm. But the Blacks also have three adults (Rhaenrya's Syrax, Daemon's Caraxes, and Rhaenys' Meleys), plus four young dragons (Jace's Vermax, Luc's Arrax, Joffrey's Tyraxes, and Baela's Moondancer). If they also count the riderless dragons at their disposal (which Daemon does), then they have Seasomke, Silverwing, Vermithor, and then some. But besides Rhaena, who else could ride them?

Ultimately, Rhaenyra takes little interest in the answer, recalling the histories taught by her father. "When dragons flew to war, everything burned," she reminds them. "I do not wish to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone."

The Rogue Prince Vs The Black Queen

As much as he loved his brother, Daemon also openly resented Viserys. He hated his weakness, his reliance on dreams rather than dragons, and his hesitation to act. In Rhaenyra, he thought he found a fellow dragon but despite having a damn good reason to start a war, she continues to exercise caution. Through the planning, the tension between them ripples so palpably that Rhaenyra opts to clear the room so they can discuss. When Daemon finally understands the reason behind her hesitation, he snaps and violently grabs her by the neck, denouncing the nonsense of Dragon Dreams: "Dreams didn't make us kings, dragons did."

When he finally stops choking her, Rhaenyra is almost amused to realize what this means: Viserys never shared A Song of Ice ad Fire with Daemon, even though he was his original heir. That's how much he didn't believe Daemon was fit to rule. And it's further affirmation that he really did believe in Rhaenyra. So no, this confrontation doesn't change her mind. Rhaenyra sticks with caution over vengeance. And while it may not win her any favor from her husband, it wins someone else's.

Finally, Two Queens On One Side

It's been so frustrating to watch Rhaenys reject Rhaenyra as heir — but she was never without good reason. At first, it was just practicality: Rhaenys knows better than anyone in Westeros that a Queen will not be easily accepted. Sure enough, Aegon was used as an excuse to plan a coup. Later, she blamed Rhaenyra for the mysterious "death" of Leanor. But through it all, she just never particularly respected the Princess. All of which makes it so much more satisfying to see her finally accept Rhaenyra, not out of duty or desperation but out of choice.

Rhaenys declares for Rhaenyra and pushes Corlys (Steve Toussaint) to do the same. Just when he was finally coming to his senses about putting pride and ambition aside for survival, she rallies his support for Rhaenyra. This gives her a powerful new ally. The Stepstones (which have officially gotten more mention than the fourth child you didn't know Alicent has!) have finally become important to the story! Now that Corlys has taken control of them, he has the power to completely cut King's Landing off from trade and travel. This blockade is a great, non-dragon-related approach to taking the throne back and Rhaenyra is thrilled.

While she determines their next steps, Daemon continue gathering dragons. She can continue down the road of caution, but he anticipates a war of fire and blood. Unfortunately, he's on the right track.

A Blunder To Start A War

Choosing caution doesn't make her weak. Rhaenyra commands respect in her war council. She proves herself to be a good, capable leader with her people's best interests at heart. When she does make use of the dragons, it's for the sake of sending a message: though there's some hesitation on her part, Rhaenyra agrees to send her sons on dragonback to secure some crucial allies. In the future, maybe she'll follow her gut and just send ravens...

The odds were never good for little Lucerys and his adorably small dragon, Arrax. Flying to a place called Storm's End to meet with a Baratheon? Arriving on a dark and stormy night? Going through with the plan even though another dragonrider has beaten you there? Lucerys was doomed the second he entered the castle. By the time he arrives, Borros Baratheon has already struck a deal with the Hightower envoy — Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). You remember Aemond, right? Lucerys once slashed his eye open with a knife. Don't let the glee on Aemond's face fool you, this is not a happy reunion.

Borros does not take well to Rhaenyra's demand that he remembers his oath, especially since she offers nothing in return. At least with the Hightowers, he can marry a daughter into the Royal family. With Rhaenyra's boys already matched up, he gets nothing. He sends Luc away empty-handed, but before the kid can leave, he gets a challenge from Aemond who sings the same refrain as his mother so many years ago: "an eye for an eye."

Let Them Burn

Dragons don't really understand the concept of tag. When Borros sends Lucerys away, quick to avoid bloodshed under his roof, Aemond decides to get his vengeance another way: by scaring the s*** out of his nephew. We know Aemond to be vicious and obviously, he isn't above bloodshed, but he's also smart enough to understand that killing Lucerys would be a declaration of war. He only meant to terrify him or cause a minor injury (maybe even snag an eye) — but Vhagar must've missed the no-kill memo, because the massive she-dragon doesn't hold back.

Their chase is like something out of a horror movie: Vhagar is five times the size of Arrax and hunts little Lucery like he's prey. Relying on the swiftness of his dragon, he manages to put some distance between them. The storm clears above the clouds and when Lucerys surfaces into the light, he thinks he has finally escaped. But Vhagar — a war veteran, an experienced hunter, the oldest dragon in Westeros — is not about to lose to a newborn pup. Despite the protests of her rider, she seizes control, and in a single chomp, both Arrax and Lucerys are done. And war has officially begun.

We don't see Rhaenyra's face when she receives the news, but we see the aftermath of her expression. Is this what it means to be forged in fire? The blind, grief-stuck rage that settles on her face speaks volumes. The death of her father wasn't enough to start this war, but the murder of her son is all the motivation she needs.

Stray Thoughts

  • Shoutout to Daemon Targaryen who loves crowning his beloved family members and never fails to make me cry when he does.

  • Also, f*** Daemon Targaryen for his treatment of Rhaenyra in this episode. Once he has an excuse to start a war, he loses sight of everything else that matters. Hint hint, this is probably why everyone was terrified about the possibility of him being king.

  • "I would rather feed my sons to the dragons than have them carry shields and cups for your drunken usurper c*** of a king." Hilarious line, but terrible parenting!

  • After losing two children and his brother, Corlys Velaryon has come to the groundbreaking realization that the Game of Thrones is very dangerous. The absolute badass that she is, Rhaenys displays Herculean strength by resisting the urge to throttle this man while yelling "I told you so."

  • 90% of the conflict in this show bubbles down to bad communication. Why does Alicent crown Aegon? Because she misunderstands Viserys. Why does Vhagar kill Lucerys? Because Aemond forgot to tell her that they were just doing a prank.

  • Rhaenys cares an awful lot about the people of the realm for someone who murdered a s*** ton of random smallfolk last week! She's so excited about Rhaenyra not choosing war but like, didn't you kill 50 people yesterday?

  • Speaking of which, now that Rhaenyra is gonna burn it all down, is Rhaenys gonna rescind her support?

  • I'm not saying that Daemon doesn't have good reason to be suspicious of the Hightowers but the question "how did Viserys die? Is objectively hilarious. Viserys had like 50 different diseases, a gaping hole in his face, and the stamina of a dead horse. This isn't rocket science! He was long overdue!

  • Two times Rhaenyra has saved Otto from Dameon on that Dragonstone bridge. Judging by the look on her face at the end of the episode, there will not be a third.

  • Rhaenyra, paraphrased = "I am not here to be Queen of the ashes." This is the part where we all say "I 100% support whatever Rhaenyra does next" and then we name children after her and then in two years, when the next season finally arrives, the discourse will get really awkward.

Who Is Winning The Game Of Thrones?

WINNER: Aegon Targaryen - For about an hour there, Aegon was enjoying the sweetest deal of all: comfortably sitting on the Iron Throne while his only challenger was leaning towards peace and actually considering his terms. But then his brother went and murdered her son, so now I expect Rhaenyra will be his worst nightmare. Until she delivers on the family promise of Fire & Blood, Aegon remains somewhat victorious (even though he did none of the work to get that crown on his head). Otto put it best: "Every symbol of legitimacy belongs to him."

LOSER: Rhaenyra Targaryen - On the political front, things aren't ideal: she doesn't have half the support she needs, Aegon sits on her throne and the Lords of Westeros are quick to dismiss her claim. But none of that means anything in the face of her personal losses. Rhaenyra begins the episode by losing her father and an hour later, she also has two children to mourn. She can still scrape together a win, but I'm terrified of what more it will cost her. Who will she be when she rises from these ashes?

LOSER: Alicent Hightower - Poor Alicent Hightower has clung to a single wrinkled piece of paper ever since her best friend tore it from a book two decades ago. Minus that time she charged at a toddler with a knife, viciously demanding his eye, Alicent has ever really stopped loving Rhaenyra or mourning their friendship. And even after usurping her throne, she clings to the possibility of rekindling that flame. Unfortunately, both of her sons suck and her great plan for peace hasn't gone as intended. Time to get some Cersei Lannister-inspired armor dresses made — we're going to war, kids!

LOSER: Aemond Targaryen - Aemond has two options: he can own it and pretend that he totally meant to murder that teenager or he can admit that he can't control his sentient nuke, Vhagar. Both are very bad and whatever he chooses to do, I hope we get to see Olivia Cooke's face when he does it.

WINNER: Vhagar - While the rest of the world scrambles to reconcile with the consequences of Vhagar's actions, this grumpy old dragon can rest easy knowing that she's still got it! Arrax and Luc dared to challenge her and she literally tore them to pieces. Visenya would be proud.

LOSER: All! Of! Westeros! - The Targaryens are going to war and they're bringing their scary, fire-breathing weapons of mass destruction with them. Who gets to fight in that war? The sons and daughters of Westeros, who are definitely not fireproof and don't really care which petty blonde sits the Iron Throne.

Read this next: Every Game Of Thrones Spin-Off Show In Development

The post House of the Dragon Season 1 Ending Explained: The Point Of No Return appeared first on /Film.

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