After the crowning of Aegon as King, Rhaenys Targaryen had flown free on the back of her dragon to alert Rhaenyra of Viserys’ death and the hurried coronation. The news comes not just as an emotional blow but there are physical repercussions for the sudden change in fortunes.
As Daemon plans an immediate and devastating response, Rhaenys is advised to consider all her options, bearing in mind that it’s the fate of the whole of Westeros that may hang in the balance.
However even as both sides hesitate before taking any irreversible actions, circumstances are about to escalate the situation and it seems war will now be inevitable…
Just a week after Amazon‘s The Rings of Power concluded its first season, HBO‘s House of the Dragon‘s debut run bows out as well, leaving fans who might argue about which has been best, bereft of either. In truth, as previously mentioned, it’s entirely possible to see the brickbats and bouquets of both shows and it speaks to a continuing golden (perhaps even platinum) age of impressive television that we can have as much creative talent and budget working in the medium and such choices across the channels and platforms.
Last week’s episode The Green Council was mostly set around the halls of Kings Landing, the immediate aftermath to the death of Viserys and there was no immediate sign of Princess (now Queen?) Rhaenyra Targaryen played by Emma D’Arcy nor Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen. The situation is reversed for The Black Queen with the news and fallout from those events finally reaching Dragonstone and the story mainly set around the reactions. There’s consternation between the married couple (who are, of course, also uncle and niece) with Daemon wanting to enact swift actions to secure their family’s legacy and making plans to do so. Rhaenyra may be in premature labour but manages to physically and mentally rally to at least ensure that nothing must be done outside the castle walls without her express permission. In graphic fashion (and in a series full of explicit violence, tragedy and bloodshed, it sadly stands out) she loses the infant and though understandably desolate at the loss she is still back in the ‘war-room’ within hours, knowing that the fate of her other sons hangs in the balance…
It’s Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), the ‘Queen who never was’ that delivers the news to Rhaenyra after her escape at the end of the previous chapter and the elder royal continues to be a major player throughout the episode, understanding more than most the long-game, generational aspects of the days that are to come. She’s the speaker of hard truths to both Rhaenyra and to her own husband , Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) who is recovering from his own recent injuries… she knows full well that war may be inevitable but that support is often as fleeting as it is strategical.
Rhys Ifans’ Ser Otto Hightower does make an appearance as he heads up a party sent to Dragonstone to entreat Rhaenyra to accept Alicent’s terms – that Rhaenyra should acknowledge the current state of affairs, swear allegiance to the new king and in return be left in peace, rewarded with high office for she and her children. One wonders how honest an offer that is given that Hightower had noted in the last episode that the royal lineage would not be safe until Rhaenyra and Daemon (and their children) were killed and might still work to make that happen. However, it’s also entirely likely that the widowed Queen Alicent may have at least brokered and arranged that offer in good faith. It’s certainly something that Rhaenyra wants to weight fully before giving her answer, much to Daemon’s consternation.
But we leave Westeros with yet another schism-inducing tragedy. The monoscopic Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) pursues the young Prince Lucerys ‘Luke’ Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) through the skies, with the former’s dragon, Vhagar, many times larger and more powerful. At first it seems like Aemond is trying to maim (perhaps take an eye) or kill his young relative as they race away from Storm’s End castle, but it becomes almost a sadistic game of intimidation and ‘tag’ as they dart between the lightning and clouds. Then, in a savage moment Vhagar swoops down into the smaller flying dragon, Arrax, deliberately tearing it apart and seeing the ‘lesser’ beast and rider plummet to the waters below. The look on Aemond’s face instantly realises the implications of what he’s allowed to happen and he knows the deaths will have huge consequences. That’s reflected as we see the news of the demise reach the towers at Driftmark and Rhaenyra who – until now – has been half-considering Alicent’s outreach offer (or at least carefully assessing the pros and cons of her position). there’s no doubt as she turns and looks straight into camera with dark and angry eyes that Aemond’s actions have cemented a coming war that can no longer be averted.
There’s no doubt that the conveyer belt of cast changes may have hurt the show over the wider run, with some characters having three actors play the parts over a single season of ten episodes. The audience would grow to appreciate one performance only to have it shifted out to accommodate for age and the passing of time (though many of the senior male roles remained with the people who originally essayed them). Yet it’s also true that each incarnation have been played by talented, enigmatic performers who quickly made their mark and – acknowledging that most of this first season is a prelude to the bigger events in George R R Martin’s epic tale – things should settle down on the IMDb front as we now go forward.
Existing fans of Martin’s tomes knew the events of this week’s finale were coming and will know some of what’s yet to come. But even relative newcomers to the story will see that there will be (more) blood, dragons, games and thrones coming in Season Two.
- Production Design / VFX10