'House of the Dragon' Episode 10 Recap and Review: "The Black Queen"

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As usual in House of the Dragon, something is always wrong. The wrong person sits on the Iron Throne; the wrong people are angling for war, and the wrong people are dying. If you're at all familiar with the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, you know that this is business as usual.

Related: A Guide to the Game of Thrones Houses

The entire series has led up to this point, and it was only a matter of who would actually be the first casualty of the Civil War known as the "Dance of Dragons." Blood has been spilled, and there is no going back now.

Peace was simply Viserys' dream.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon follow

Long Live the Queen

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"The Black Queen" opens with young Lucerys, aka Luke, standing at the table map of Westeros, looking somewhat anxious. His mother finds him there, where he begins to express his fears of being the Lord of Driftmark. He's no sailor like his grandfather Corlys was (or is?) and doesn't believe he's worthy of the role.

Rhaenyra reminds him that she found herself in the very same position when she was his age. Duty is of the utmost importance in this world, and she tells him she'll always be there to help him along the way.

At a meeting with Rhaenyra and Daemon, Rhaenys arrives to inform her of the bad news: Viserys has died, and Aegon has been crowned King. The information doesn't sit well with either of them; Daemon believes Viserys was assassinated and Rhaenyra feels betrayed that Alicent would crown her son King.

"The Greens are coming for you, Rhaenyra, you and your children," Rhaenys ominously predicts. Rhaenyra panics, which causes her to go into premature labor.

As Daemon makes his war plans with the leaders of their side's military, we hear Rhaenyra in the other room struggling through her labor. She calls for Jace and Luke and tells them of everything that has happened: The King is dead, and people are coming to try and kill them all. You know, normal stuff. Before they leave, she lets Jace know that now that she is the Queen, nothing will happen without her orders.

We find out that Corlys has survived his wounds and is in recovery. Daemon continues to ignore his wife's pleas from the other room, and Jace informs everyone that nothing will happen without his mother's permission. Daemon brings Jace to the Dragonmont, where he puts their Kingsguard to the test of loyalty, demanding they swear fealty (under threat of Dragonfire, naturally.)

Tragically, Rhaenyra miscarries, and the baby is brought out to be cremated in the Targaryen tradition. As they observe the fire, Ser Erryk Cargyll of the Kingsguard arrives and, after a brief but tense exchange, brings Rhaenyra a gift: Her father's crown. He bends the knee and swears an oath of protection to the new Queen. Daemon places the crown on Rhaenyra's head, and all of the funeral attendees bend the knee. Except for Rhaenys, who gives her a look of respect.

Rhaenys has yet to pick her side, so it's naturally better not to lock yourself into a contract prematurely. That's just good business.
At the painted table of Westeros, the Black War Council breaks down where everything stands. They do not have a ton of soldiers available, but they have declarations of loyalty from some of the smaller houses to bolster their forces. The most significant decision comes over three of the major houses: Baratheon in Storm's End, Arryn in the Vale, and Stark in Winterfell.

We all know that a Stark is always loyal to their oaths, so Rhaenyra is confident they'll be at their side. Rhaenyra shares blood with the Arryns; the Baratheons are the wild cards, however. The conversation shifts to where much of the power lies in this world: Dragons. Daemon believes they have a numbers advantage, 13 to 4, but Rhaenyra is less confident. Daemon being the maverick he is, thinks they'll soon be able to surround King's Landing and execute all of the Greens.

Let's take a deep breath here for a minute, Daemon.

A Showdown at Dragonstone Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Otto Hightower has arrived on Dragonstone with peace terms, and he looks to treat with Rhaenyra, who arrives on her dragon much as she did back in episode two. Flying around Otto and his ensemble, she lands behind them and gives them all a good scare.

Otto continues to call Rhaenyra "Princess" and gives his terms, which are less than favorable to her. She calls Otto and his men traitors, but he reminds her that every symbol of legitimacy belongs to Aegon. The other major houses like Stark, Tully, and Baratheon are also considering terms from them.

The odds seem to be stacked against them for the moment. Rhaenyra rips the symbol of the Hand of the King off his chest and calls him a traitor again, just for good measure. Rhaenyra is given a page from a book she ripped from Alicent's book in episode one, which she has held onto. It seems as if Alicent held out hope that their friendship may still be mended. Rhaenyra says Otto and the Greens will have her answer tomorrow.

At the next meeting of the Blacks' war council, Rhaenya reaffirms a desire for peace and to not turn the entire Realm to the torch via Dragonfire. Daemon seems hellbent on going to war and not even entertaining any notions of negotiations with the Hightowers, but Rhaenyra wants to exercise all options.

Rhaenyra brings up the fact that getting her on the throne is not just about her ruling; the Song of Ice and Fire (Aegon's prophecy) is what's most important. Daemon looks at her, confused, unsure of what she means, but before she gets a chance to elaborate, Daemon grabs her by the throat.

He believes Viserys was a "slave" to the omens put forth by his ancestors, "anything to give his feckless reign some purpose," he says. "Dreams didn't make us kings. Dragons did." Daemon lets her go, which is when she realizes that Viserys never told her of the prophecy. She laughs at him, and he leaves her.

At Driftmark, Corlys awakens with Rhaenys sitting at his bedside. He tries to joke with her, but she immediately shuts him down, scolding him for leaving her behind following the deaths of their children. She tells him that Vaemond is dead, causing him to finally realize that this quest for personal ambition is fruitless. "Heedless ambition has always been a Velaryon weakness," he says. He admits Rhaenys was right and that they should declare for no one and retire to sit out the coming war.

Rhaenys, who always seems to be the most competent person in the room, tells him there will be neutral parties. Rhaenys admires that Rhaenyra is the only person still choosing peace and that she is someone worth following.

They head back to Dragonstone, with Corlys and Rhaenys meeting with Rhaenyra and the rest of the Blacks. Corlys asks about Daemon and likely wants to ask him a few questions about the fact that Daemon killed his brother. As he is nowhere to be found, they continue with more pressing matters and address the elephant in the room.

Corlys, Rhaenys, and the Velaryons declare for Rhaenyra, offering her their fleet and the forces at their command. He tells her that the Triarchy has been routed in the Stepstones, and a garrison has been placed there. Essentially, they control the Stepstones now, and he who controls the Stepstones controls the Narrow Sea.

An effective blockade of King's Landing can now be created, with the Velaryon fleet patrolling the sea and Dragons guarding the skies. However, Rhaenyra reiterates that the first stroke of war will not come by her hand, and she still looks to garner the support of the Starks, Arryns, and Baratheons.

Rather than send slower ravens, Jace volunteers himself and Luke to ride to these houses via their dragons. Rhaenyra agrees, and Jace will go to the Starks and Arryns while Luke heads to deal with the Baratheons.

As she sees them off, she makes sure they remember that they head out as messengers, not as warriors. They must not start any fighting, simply treat with the leaders of the Houses.

Luke is clearly nervous, and Rhaenyra comforts him by saying that Borros Baratheon will be honored to host a prince of the Realm.

Surely nothing could go wrong!

An Act of War

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We see Daemon walking through the caverns below Dragonstone, and he comes across another massive dragon who isn't very excited to see him. While it's not confirmed whose dragon this is, this is likely setting up that this beast will soon be entering the fray.

Luke arrives at Storm's End, where he sees another dragon, the massive hulking beast Vhagar, parked in the courtyard. Aemond, on behalf of the Greens, has beaten him here, looking to secure Baratheon support as well.

In the Great Hall, Luke delivers his message to Borros Baratheon, who expresses some feigned confusion over whether Aegon is King or Rhaenyra is Queen. He summons a Maester to read Luke's message and is insulted by its tone, which reads as if Rhaenyra is ordering him and not offering to deal with him. Aemond has been pledged to marry one of the Baratheon daughters, something Luke and the Blacks cannot match as Luke is already betrothed.

Borros dismisses Luke and tells him to return to Dragonstone, as the Baratheons will side with Aegon and the Greens.

Before Luke leaves, Aemond insults him by calling him Lord Strong, hoping to goad him into a fight. Luke reaffirms that he's come as a messenger, not a warrior, and refuses. Aemond says that's fine, as it wouldn't be much of a fight anyway.

Demanding an eye for an eye (literally!) Aemond removes his eyepatch, showcasing that he now sports a sapphire in his empty eye socket. He tosses Luke a knife and gives him a chance to cut out his eye, a "request" he turns down.

Aemond calls him a traitor, and despite Borros saying that blood will not be shed under his roof, Aemond moves toward Luke. Borros shuts down the confrontation but Aemond, ever the psychopathic bully, knows this isn't over.

Luke climbs his dragon in the middle of a massive storm and flies away but also sees that Vhagar has left the castle already. Through the rain and wind, he tries to spot where Vhagar is, but before he sees the massive beast, it sneaks up on him with Aemond on his back.

The dragon that Luke is riding, Arrax, is much smaller than Vhagar but is also quicker. He manages to elude Vhagar by flying into a canyon that forces Aemond to pull up, and Luke almost manages to lose him. As Aemond hunts him again, Luke loses control of his dragon, which hurls fire at Vhagar and Aemond, which does nothing but annoy the two of them. Despite Luke's pleas, Arrax continues to betray Luke and rides high above the clouds. Similarly, Aemond loses control of Vhagar, who now wants blood.

Tragically, Vhagar appears out of the clouds and chomps down on Arrax, killing both the dragon and Luke. Aemond looks down at the falling corpses with an "oh shit, what did I do" look on his face.

He knows he fucked this one up.

Sometime later, Daemon informs Rhaenyra of Luke's death. After nearly falling over, she turns to face the camera, a tear falling down her face. Peace is no longer an option, and war has begun. To quote a Roman general, she will have her vengeance in this life or the next.

“Then the storm broke, and the dragons danced.”

Final Thoughts

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Amidst a massive pile of ash and pools of blood, the first season of House of the Dragon has come to a dramatic finish. Overall, I would say that the show's first season was mostly strong, with plenty of great character moments, palace intrigue, and action set pieces that should keep any viewer invested.

Much like Game of ThronesHouse of the Dragon's performances from its leads were stellar; Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy, Millie Alcock, Olivia Cooke, Emily Carey, and Paddy Considine all stole every scene they were in. Considine's acting in the eighth episode, "The Lord of the Tides," was nothing short of extraordinary, and he most certainly has earned himself an Emmy nomination.

D'Arcy and Cooke taking over for fan favorites Alcock and Carey in the middle of the season had fans a little nervous, but they slipped effortlessly into those roles. Casting has always been a strength for House of the Dragons and Game of Thrones, but these four actors were perfect for the Rhaenyra and Alicent characters.

Season one was as much about politics and backstabbing as it was the action, of which there was not much. The writing was not as tight as in the earlier seasons of its parent show, Game of Thrones. Although, to be fair, those are regarded as some of the most well-written television episodes in history, so the bar is high.

House of the Dragon's first ten episodes made for a great watch and should quell viewers' concerns about returning to the franchise after Game of Thrones' lackluster ending. If you haven't watched it already, be sure to catch up before the second season drops. Unfortunately, that's likely not to be until 2024 (pain.)

Until then, let our watch begin.

(Also, one last thing, I pledge my loyalty to Queen Rhaenyra and Team Black for life.)

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