House of the Dragon finale review: Who started the war and Dance of Dragons?

We review the House of the Dragon finale, which included a shocking death, more childbirth trauma and dragons galore.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 26 October 2022 - 6.05pm

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Do we really have to wait until 2024 for House of the Dragon season 2?

The biggest complaint we have about the season 1 finale is that it already feels like an unbearable long wait for the Dance of Dragons to begin.

The final shot of season 1, a raging Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) staring down the lens, was a tantalising teaser for the fire and fury coming to Westeros as the Greens and Blacks go for all-out war.

Much of season 1 was spent exploring the psychology and mind games of Rhaenyra and Alicent (Olivia Cooke), but throughout everything that happened, it felt like both were keeping their fingers crossed for a peaceful resolution to the Iron Throne succession puzzle.

But not anymore.

Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and Vhagar’s hunting down of Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) has shifted House of the Dragon into a full-blown war. Large chunks of the finale episode were spent explaining the battle lines and loyalties, which will come into play as the war for the Iron Throne spreads beyond King’s Landing, Driftmark and Dragonstone.

House of the Dragon's most shocking moments

If you need a little recap of what went down and whose on Team Black and whose on Team Green, here are the big questions and talking points from House of the Dragon episode 10…

Who is on Team Black with Rhaenyra and Daemon?

Prince Daemon and Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 1 finale

It was a desperately sad episode for Rhaenyra and Daemon as they lost a child in a traumatic childbirth sequence and Lucerys was murdered by Vhagar after being shunned by House Baratheon. However, the Black Queen and her husband do still have plenty of allies.

Maester Geradys (Phil Daniels) outlined the current battle lines across Westeros and Kingsguard members Lorent Marbrand (Max Wrottesley) and Steffon Darklyn (Anthony Flanagan) vowed to defend Queen Rhaenyra.

Lord Bartimos Celtigar (Nicholas Jones) was introduced as a passionate member of Team Black and in a significant showcase of loyalty Erryk Cargyll (Elliot Tittensor) abandoned his brother Arryk (Luke Tittensor) and arrived at Dragonstone with Viserys’ crown for the Queen.

Erryk Cargayll in House of the Dragon

Rhaenyra is also confident that House Stark and House Arryn will back them because of family connections and the unwavering loyalty of the Starks – Game of Thrones fans know all about that.

We’re already intrigued about the casting of Cregan Stark and Jeyne Arryn, who will have key roles in season 2 – let the rumours commence!

A final trump card for Team Black was the recovery of the Sea Snake, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint). On the mend after fighting in the Stepstones, Corlys places his ships and loyalty behind Team Black. His fleet and control of the Narrow Sea - along with his wife Rhaenys' (Eve Best) dragon power - is a serious coup in the battle for the Iron Throne.

Who is on Team Green with Alicent and Aegon?

Borros Baratheon in House of the Dragon

While Erryk Cargyll joined the Blacks, his brother Arryk was seen with Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) and has remained loyal to King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney). A showdown between the twin brothers surely beckons.

Despite Rhaenyra’s belief that House Baratheon would back her, Lucerys’ doomed visit to Storm’s End suggests that Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans)  is a signed-up member of Team Green.

Aemond’s promise to wed one of Baratheon’s daughters sealed the deal and serves as a reminder that oaths don’t mean much in the battle for the Iron Throne.

Aegon, Alicent and the Greens can also depend on the Lannisters and have the handy advantage that they currently occupy King’s Landing.

The one hitch for the Greens and the cunning Hightowers? They’re currently well outnumbered on the dragon front. Speaking of dragons…

Which dragon is Daemon singing to and why?

Prince Daemon with Vermithor

While Rhaenyra was keen to strategise and build up alliances across the Seven Kingdoms, Daemon had a rather more blunt approach to dealing with Aegon’s coronation: taking all their dragons to King’s Landing and having the Greens’ heads on spikes before they’ve even got time to put their pants on.

While others were plotting and scheming, Daemon opted to take a dangerous mission to visit Vermithor – a dragon without a rider situated under a volcano in Dragonstone. Daemon soothed Vermithor with High Valyrian singing and attempted to win the creature onto his side.

The news of Viserys' death and the incoming civil war reignited the darker side of Daemon. So long, the caring brother who helped Viserys to the Iron Thrones, it was nice to briefly know you.

It was time to reintroduce the violent and sinister Daemon, who even turned violent on Rhaenyra after she spoke about the secret Viserys had passed on to her - Aegon’s dream.

Enraged perhaps that his brother had not trusted him with the secret, or just too close-minded to accept the prophecy, Daemon grabbed his wife by the throat. It was a timely reminder to any viewers warming to Matt Smith's character that this is not a man to ever trust or cheer.

Rhaenyra proves her strength in traumatic childbirth

A million miles away from the sort of childbirth sequences we’re used to in soap operas – a few huffs and puffs and 15 minutes later it’s all smiles – Emma D’Arcy gave an incredible performance as she suffered a traumatic and heartbreaking stillbirth.

Daemon and Rhaenyra’s loss, shortly after they were informed about Viserys’ death and Aegon’s coronation, was a tragic centre-point to the episode.

Aemond and Vhagar kill Lucerys and Arrax, starting the war

Prince Aemond in House of the Dragon finale

The question of who really started the war between the Greens and Blacks is a tricky one. Even in this episode, Alicent did her best to make a peace offering to Rhaenyra by sending a page from the Nymeria book we saw the pair reading way back in episode one, when Milly Alcock and Emily Carey were giggling youngsters.

Although some have craved, expected and prepared for war – Otto, Aemond, Daemon, Criston – the possibility of peace has always remained in place because of the childhood friendship of Alicent and Rhaenyra.

So although we’ve have Alicent’s green dress statement, the loss of Aemond’s eye and Rhaenys destruction at the coronation – it was really Aemond and Vhagar who started the Dance of Dragons with their actions at Storm’s End.

Elliot Grihault as Luce Velaryon

Lucerys' doomed mission to win over House Baratheon gave Aemond the chance to gain revenge on his cousin for striking his eye in their youth. Judging by Aemond’s face and final commands to Vhagar, however, he had no intention to kill Luce.

Despite what Daemon and Aemond may believe, the Targaryens don’t have complete control over their dragons and Luce’s dragon Arrax paid the price for retaliating as it was chased by Vhagar.

Vhagar’s response was brutal, refusing to obey Aemond’s calls to cease, chomping up Lucerys and Arrax for breakfast.

There has always been a way out of the war, some arrangement that could be made, before this finale. But as Rhaenyra’s face showed in the closing shot of season 1, the loss of her beloved Luce means that the war and Dance of Dragons has now truly begun.

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