The Targaryen civil war begins as Rhaenyra receives word of her father’s death.
The first season of House of the Dragon has ended, and the Dance of the Dragons has begun. The finale followed Rhaenyra and her family as they learned of Viserys’ death and made their first moves to challenge the Hightowers for the Iron Throne.
Ahead, we recap the events of Episode 10 and break down the action-packed ending—including the shocking death that sets off the Targaryen civil war. Beware—spoilers are below.
Recapping Episode 9
Before Rhaenys (Eve Best) arrives at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and her secondborn Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) have a conversation around the map of Westeros. Luke tells his mother that he doesn’t want Driftmark, and that the Velaryon lordship should have gone to Vaemond. Rhaenyra puts her son at ease, saying that she was also nervous when she became her father’s heir, and that she will help prepare him for the duty. The sweet moment ends with a knight alerting them of Rhaenys’ arrival.
When Rhaenys tells Rhaenyra and Daemon (Matt Smith) of King Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) death, and Aegon’s (Tom Glynn-Carney) coronation, they have ver different reactions. Daemon is instantly enraged, assuming that Alicent (Olivia Cooke) murdered his brother, which Rhaenys can neither confirm or deny. He also asks why Rhaenys didn’t just burn the usurpers alive as she escaped the Dragonpit, but Rhaenys says that the war “is not [hers] to begin.” Rhaenyra’s devestated as she learns the news, but before she can react, she begins bleeding.
As Rhaenyra enters early labor in her chambers, Daemon gathers their allies for a war council (soundtracked by her screams). Before he cam jump into action, Daemon is stopped by Jaecerys (Harry Collett), who Rhaenyra ordered to halt any war plans (again, mid-labor). Though he cannot make any big moves, Daemon continues his power games by commanding the knights of the Kingsguard at Dragonstone to swear fealty to their new queen, under threat of death by his dragon, Caraxes. He doesn’t return to his wife until her labor is over, and she has delivered a stillborn baby.
Rhaenyra quickly performs burial rites following the stillbirth, and the residents of Dragonstone hold a funeral on the beach. During the funeral, Ser Erryk (the knight twin who disliked Aegon) arrives and offers Viserys’ golden crown to Rhaenyra. As Erryk (Elliott Tittensor) re-pledges his Kingsguard oath, Daemon crowns Rhaenyra as queen.
The funeral is followed by the first official war council, with Rhaenyra presiding and her sons attending. The new queen confirms her allies for her side of the conflict, but they’re unsure of where houses Arryn, Stark, and Baratheon will fall. Rhaenys also says that the Velaryons’ fleet is at the command of Lord Corlys (Steve Touissant), who is recovering from his injury and is on his way to Dragonstone. Daemon briefly takes over the meeting when the subject turns to dragons, as he confirms that they have seven claimed dragons and six riderless dragons, while the Hightowers only have four total. Before the building tension between the couple can break, they receive word that an envoy from King’s Landing is arriving.
Daemon goes out to the bridge outside Dragonstone (the same used in Episode 2) to meet Otto Hightower and his party. Rhaenyra arrives late, riding in on Syrax and blocking the party’s exit. Otto offers Rhaenyra terms for bending the knee to Aegon: They would get Dragonstone (which would pass on to Jace), Luke would be heir to Driftmark, and her and Daemon’s sons would become Aegon’s squire and cupbearer in the Red Keep. Daemon immediately refuses, but Otto points out that Aegon has all of the “symbols of legitimacy,” including Aegon the Conqueror’s crown and sword, while Rhaenyra only has “stale oaths.” He then offers Rhaenyra a folded piece of paper, the same book page that she ripped out of the history book while hanging out with Alicent, back when they were friends all those years ago. Before the parley can devolve into violence (courtesy of Daemon), the usurped queen stopped them, and told Otto to wait for her answer.
In another war council, Rhaenyra argues that her true duty to Westeros is to reign over it peacefully, rather than ruling over a kingdom of “ash and bone.” Daemon counters, saying that the Hightowers have already started the war, and Rhaenyra clears the room. Once they’re alone, she reminds Daemon of her ultimate oath, the Song of Ice and Fire. When she says that Viserys shared it with her long ago, Daemon grabs her throat, emphasizing that dragons, not dreams, made the Targaryens kings. After he lets her go, Rhaenyra realizes that her father never told Daemon about the century-old prophecy.
When Corlys awakens in a room at Dragonstone, Rhaenys is there, angry that he abandoned her to battles at war after Laena and Laenor died. She also tells him about Vaemond’s death, and with that Corlys finally gives up his ambitions for the Iron Throne, telling Rhaenys they should remain neutral and live a quiet life on Driftmark with their grandchildren. Instead, Rhaenys reminds him that Jace, Luke, and Joffrey will never be safe, hints that she trusts Rhaenyra as the only person at the war table who has shown restraint instead of plunging the country into war.
Corlys and Rhaenys go down to the Great Hall, where he swears loyalty to Rhaenyra and reveals that their side has not only his fleet, but also control of the Narrow Sea. The queen still refuses to strike the first blow in the war, but she does want to secure the support of the three great houses remaining. Jace suggests that he and Luke go to convince the lords themselves, and she sends her eldest to the Eyrie and Winterfell, while the younger goes to Strorm’s End. She also makes them swear that they will go as messengers, not warriors.
While all of that was happening, Daemon was missing from the war council, having disappeared somewhere after arguing with his wife. He instead went down into the active volcano Dragonmont, where the unclaimed and wild dragons live. We briefly see him approaching Vermithor, the second largest living dragon, but we don’t see whether they claim each other.
When Luke arrives at the Baratheon castle, his uncle Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) is already there. An arrogant Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans) tells Luke that Aemond has already promised to marry one of his daughters, which Luke can’t do because he’s betrothed to Rhaena. Baratheon refuses to join Rhaenyra’s side and sends Luke away, but before he can leave, Aemond steps up and demands Luke cut out his eye as payment for the long-ago accident. Luke keeps his oath not to fight, but Aemond rushes at him. Before they reach each other, Baratheon stops them from fighting under his roof and sends Luke to his dragon, Arrax.
A thunderstorm is raging outside Storm’s End, and Luke warns Arrax to stay calm and obey him before they set off. They don’t get very far before Aemond catches up on Vhaghar, and the size difference is obvious; the giant dragon could clutch the young Arrax’s body with one of his feet. Aemond chases Luke through the storm, and for a minute Luke evades the chase. However, Arrax takes the chance to launch a sneak attack on Vhaghar, attacking him with fire as Luke tries to stop him. After that, both of the men lose control of their dragons, though it seems like the chase is over when Luke gets out of the storm and emerges into a sunny sky. After a brief moment of peace, Vhaghar, completely out of control, gets in front of Luke and Arrax and catches them in his mouth, tearing the dragon and his rider in two.
The final scene shows Daemon walking through the Dragonstone Hall to tell Rhaenyra of Luke’s demise. The couple face the fireplace, and the mother collapses in on herself in grief. It’s only a moment until Rhaenyra turns around, with a single tear trailing down her face and a look of raging resolve on her face. The first strike has been thrown, and the war is on.
Is Rhaenyra or Alicent more powerful by the end of Season 1?
A large part of the finale establishes how much fighting power each side of the war holds, before Season 2 begins (hopefully) with the lead up to the Targaryen civil war’s first battle. By the end of the episode, Team Black (led by Rhaenyra and Daemon) has Dragonstone, the allyship of several houses, the massive Velaryon fleet, control of the Narrow Sea, and six tamed dragons (maybe seven if Daemon did claim Vermithor).
In King’s Landing, Team Green (led by Alicent and Otto) has the forces of the Kingsguard and the City Watch, as well as the allyship of the Lannisters (who have a sizeable fleet of their own) and the other members of the Small Council. They only have four dragons, but one of them is the largest in the world. At this point, the two sides seem pretty evenly matched.
What could happen in Season 2?
This episode ends on the ultimate cliffhanger, so it’s likely that the show’s second season will continue soon after Luke’s death. If so, we’ll probably see Jace’s attempt to bring the Starks into Team Black (which means a return to Winterfell!). There could also be a scene where Alicent confronts Aemond about killing Luke, and it will be interesting to see whether the prince admits that he lost control of Vhaghar, or pretends that he meant to kill his nephew. Besides that, there’s so many options for where this war could head.