Since the first episode of House of the Dragon premiered in August, social media was flooded with fans' reactions each time an episode was released. Last Monday, HBO finally aired the tenth and final episode of the first season. Despite the episode being leaked one day prior, the finale which was titled "The Black Queen" still attracts a high number of viewers. Over 9 million people watched the episode, making it the most-watched series finale since Game of Thrones.
House of the Dragon is a prequel that focuses on the Targaryen civil war, based on George R. R. Martin's book Dance of the Dragons. Unlike Game of Thrones, the conflict in this series escalates gradually throughout the show. There were many time jumps, spanning almost two decades from episode 1 to episode 9. During these time jumps, the plot consistently centers on the shifting dynamics between the characters. So, what has happened so far and what can we expect from season 2?
Two Heirs, One Iron Throne
In the first episode, King Viserys proclaimed her daughter the young Princess Rhaenyra as his heir-as opposed to what his councilmen advised. The Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, believed that choosing Rhaenyra as heir will threaten the stability of the realm since women never ascended the Iron throne. But Otto had an agenda of his own, he encouraged his teenage daughter who was also best friends with Rhaenyra, Alicent, to comfort the newly widowed Viserys.
Viserys ends up choosing Alicent as his new wife and queen, which makes her Rhaenyra's stepmother. Not long after, Alicent gave birth to a son-Aegon II Targaryen. This changes everything including the relationship between Alicent and Rhaenyra because some of the lords want Aegon to be Viserys' heir. This turn of events was the first step that led to the divided fraction of Targaryens-the Greens versus the Blacks.
The plot thickens when old Viserys on his deathbed mistakes Alicent for Rhaenyra and tells her the prophecy about The Song of Ice and Fire. Despite her knowledge of Aegon's problematic behavior, Alicent believes it was Viserys' last wish for their son to be King. In episode 9, Otto and the rest of the council sneakily planned Aegon's coronation and killed anyone who opposed their cause. Meanwhile at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra hadn't even known that her father whom she loved so dearly had passed away.
Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen
This brings us to the finale where tension gets higher as the war between the Greens and the Blacks becomes inevitable. On receiving the news of her father's death and Aegon's coronation, Rhaenyra suffers a great deal of stress that affected her pregnancy. She gave birth prematurely and lost her child in painful labor. When the family gathers around the child's funeral pyre, Ser Erryk Cargyll arrives after having fled King's Landing. He didn't come empty-handed, as he brought Viserys' crown with him and swore his loyalty to Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen.
But major obstacles await the Black Queen. While still grieving for her child, Rhaenyra has to lead a war council. Every person in the room wished for her to retaliate, especially Daemon who insisted on releasing the full might of their dragons. But Rhaenyra refused by saying "when dragons flew to war, everything burned." To gain allies, Rhaenyra sent her sons, Prince Jacaerys and Prince Lucerys as a messenger to the North and the South respectively.
While arriving in Storm's End, Lucerys found that Vhagar, Aemond Targaryen's dragon, was waiting outside the castle. This means Aemond-who had been craving revenge-had already arrived ahead of him to persuade Lord Borros Baratheon into supporting the Greens. After being rejected by Lord Borros Baratheon, Lucerys was planning to leave when Aemond challenged him to a fight. Aemond wanted payback for his eye, but Lord Borros didn't allow it. So the princes ride their dragons in the pouring rain.
Aemond and the battle-trained Vhagar taunted Lucerys and young Arrax. Feeling threatened, Arrax spews fire at Vhagar. Against Aemond's command, Vhagar follows them and chomps Arrax's body in two, which also results in the death of the 14-year-old prince. In a heartbreaking scene, Daemon approached Rhaenyra and delivered the horrifying news. In just one episode, Rhaenryra lost her father, her throne, and her 2 children. In the end, her expression changes from despair to anger. This means, war is coming in season 2.
Even though there aren't many schemings and killings happening in season 1, this season provided context and build-up for the main event-the war between princesses, princes, and dragons. Expectations for this show are high, since many fans are still disappointed with Game of Thrones' ending. But the finale of House of the Dragon season 1 has proven that this show is worth watching. After the tragic finale of season 1, showrunners say that the action in season 2 will expand beyond the territory of King's Landing. There will be new characters, and we will be returning to Winterfell. Season 2 will be arriving in 2024.