December 1, 2022

“Despite the unnecessary scene of violence towards a woman, the season goes out in a dramatic and brilliant style.” We review the season finale of House Of The Dragon.

The finale of the first season of ‘House Of The Dragon’ has aired. And once again, it is a remarkably tense, dramatic, and enjoyable episode. One that sums up the first season perfectly. We are now ready for the Dance Of The Dragons to begin in full. The first step has been taken, although accidentally, and the first casualty has occurred. Battle lines have been drawn, allegiances made, and tragedy has struck already. It isn’t all good news, though. A scene of Daemon choking Rhaenyra is shocking and unwarranted, letting the episode down. And a scene of childbirth near the beginning is shocking and heartbreaking. But despite the unnecessary scene of violence towards a woman, the season goes out in a dramatic and brilliant style.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (1×10: THE BLACK QUEEN)

After escaping from custody at the climax of last week’s episode aboard her dragon, Princess Rhaenys arrives on Dragonstone where she announces King Viserys’s death and Prince Aegon’s succession to the throne. The news shocks a pregnant Princess Rhaenyra, who goes into labor, causing a premature stillbirth. Prince Daemon, believing Viserys was murdered, urges Rhaenyra to go to war against her half-brother and his mother, Queen Alicent. Ser Erryk arrives on Dragonstone, bringing the late king’s crown and it is here that Rhaenyra is declared queen. Everyone, except Rhaenys, swears allegiance to Rhaenyra as the true queen and ruler of Westeros.

Ser Otto Hightower arrives and presents the disputed king’s terms to Rhaenyra in an attempt to stop a war. Both Rhaenyra and Daemon react angrily and Rhaenyra is forced to prevent Daemon from killing Otto and delays giving her answer for a day. Privately, Daemon is infuriated by Rhaenyra’s desire to negotiate peace rather than wage war. Rhaenyra repeats Viserys’ vision for ‘The Song Of Ice And Fire’ to which Daemon grabs her by the throat in anger. Rhaenys successfully persuades a still-recovering Lord Corlys to pledge House Velaryon’s allegiance to Rhaenyra’s faction in case of war. Daemon, wanting more Dragonriders as well as dragons for the fight ahead, awakens Vermithor, a dragon nearly as large as Vaghar.

Rhaenyra sends Princes Jacaerys and Lucerys to recruit House Arryn, House Stark, and House Baratheon as allies. What happens from here will determine whether Rhaenyra will seek the peace she is hoping for. Or whether it will leave her so devastated that all thoughts of a peaceful, diplomatic solution will be gone in a burst of dragon flame. The Dance Of The Dragons has truly begun.

THOUGHTS

The episode itself is a masterful work of mystery, dramatic tension, and sadness. The final shot of the episode will chill the viewer to the bone. Make no mistake, by the end of the episode, you know exactly where it’s going to lead for the second season. We may still get episodes of dramatic tension, where things slow down for a while before bursting out of the screen at us again. But from here on, death, destruction, and bloodshed are the order of the day. And it most certainly isn’t going to end pretty, for both sides. Fair warning already, many of your favorites won’t get to see the end credits when the series finally ends. Some won’t see the climax of the second season.

But as we leave this first season behind us, we are prepared for the battles that are to come. The second season will start filming early in 2023. We may have a wait ahead of us to get to the real meat of the story, the war that is to come over the coming seasons. We may not even get the second season until early 2024. But it is coming, that much we know. In the same vein, as we had to wait for the next season of Game Of Thrones’, we have to wait again. But for those who haven’t read the book, the wait will be worth it. And you won’t believe what lies in store for these characters.

THE CAST

With the return of Steve Toussaint as Corlys this week, and the reunion with Eve Best as his wife, Rhaenys, we are back on solid ground with a firm footing. Both give great performances, with Toussaint giving a powerful example of what both he and his character can do. Toussaint gives a powerful speech this week as Corlys, and we can detect the dark undertone beneath his words. Eve Best once again seems as if she’s not doing much but it’s the way she stands, the way she looks and reacts during her scenes that really tell the story. Rhaenys is a powerful character, even though she says and does little. When she does speak, you listen, and this is due to Eve Best’s great acting prowess.

RHYS IFANS

As Ser Otto Hightower, this week Rhys Ifans has little screentime, reduced to a mere three-minute cameo. But when he does appear, you really hope to see his demise at Daemon’s hands. It is not to be, and won’t be for a while yet. But Ifans makes us hate him even more with his mannerisms. Hightower rarely raises his voice, preferring to speak quietly, and with what sounds like reason. But he is almost like a Boa Constrictor. He hypnotizes you with his words and reason while getting ready to kill you when you don’t expect it. Ifans has crafted a character that harkens back to Peter Baelish in the original ‘Game Of Thrones.’ And turns in another terrific acting performance here.

MATT SMITH

As Daemon, Matt Smith is almost let off the leash this week. The angry looks, the evil stare, and the nastiness that replaces Daemon’s soul are all ready to be unveiled. But with the exception of the choking scene, which is totally not how the character behaves in the book and is another example of what can only be described as promoting violence against women, we never quite get to see it. But we can see it lying just under the skin, ready to explode at any moment. Matt Smith has done a fantastic job in bringing Daemon to the screen. And he even allows Daemon to show a vulnerable side we don’t expect. He fits the character like a hand fits a glove. And alongside Paddy Considine, has been the main surprise amongst the male cast.

EMMA D’ARCY

But the episode belongs solely to Emma D’Arcy. I commented earlier in the season that she would have to go somewhat to be able to surpass Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra. In this episode, she does it. Emma D’Arcy, for this single episode alone, deserves acclaim and awards. She delivers every emotion possible this week, and she takes us along with her. From sadness, the devastation of miscarriage, anger, understanding, innocence, hope, and finally murderous rage in the final shot, we feel everything she feels. We are dragged through the gamut of emotions, and experience every one beside her. Her acting ability is possibly the best performance of any of the main cast throughout the season in this episode alone. It is what can only be described as a true masterclass of acting. And one we can believe in.

INSIDE THE EPISODE

Usually, it is here where we present the trailer for the next episode. Of course, the season has ended this week. So instead, we present you with a look inside the tenth episode. But be warned, spoilers are ahead if you have yet to watch the season finale:

FINAL THOUGHTS

This episode is the crowning glory of the entire season. It wrings us out emotionally with some of what we see and experience here. And we see the domino effect that one action will cause. The cast is all excellent, the story sticks pretty close to the book, and we are on the edge of our seats waiting for the dance to get into full swing. Some of the events we have seen during this season were alluded to in ‘Game Of Thrones’ from the very start. Seeing these events presented to us during the season has been worth every minute of lost sleep I’ve had over the past ten weeks. (The U.S gets to see it at 9 pm on Sunday evenings while we in the UK see it alongside our American cousins simultaneously but at 2 AM Monday morning!)

Now, as I said earlier, we must be patient. We must wait for the second season to take us by surprise once again. But it is worth the wait, believe me. The Dance Of The Dragons is well and truly on. Our journey toward The Song Of Ice And Fire is well underway. It won’t be pretty. It won’t end nicely. And it certainly won’t be bloodless. That is something we have come to expect over the years. But based upon the quality that this finale holds alone, we are all in for a treat that will thrill, shock, surprise, and sadden us over the coming years. For Winter Is Coming. And we will be only too happy to come along with it.

“House Of The Dragon” is available to watch on HBO Max in the United States, and on streaming services across the world.

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