House of the Dragon Finale Review: Westeros gears up for war after an eventful Season 1
House of the Dragon's Season 1 finale has dragons go head to head resulting in a shocking death. Read Pinkvilla's review of the tenth episode below.
Cast: Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy, Steve Toussaint
Creators: Ryan Condal, George R. R. Martin
After the penultimate episode of the show was dedicated to the Hightowers and their crowning of Aegon as King, the big finale of House of the Dragon keeps its eyes on Princess Rhaenrya (Emma D'Arcy) who is informed about the death of her father Viserys (Paddy Considine) by Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) who flees King's Landing on her dragon Meleys. Although the real news that Rhaenys wishes to inform Rhaenyra is not that of her father's passing but that the throne that she was promised to succeed has now been usurped by Aegon who was crowned before the masses in the Red Keep. Pregnant Rhaenyra is unable to fathom the dual shocks and goes into early labour. In the meantime, her husband Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) begins to prepare for war.
The season delivers yet another painful childbirth sequence as Rhaenyra (D'Arcy) herself pulls out her stillborn baby out of her body. Amid agonising pain, she also informs her sons, Jacerys (Harry Collett) and Luceyrs (Elliot Grihault) that no decision be made unless decreed by her, seemingly as a warning for Daemon who seems to be thrilled with the idea of going to war with the Hightowers. At the funeral of her baby, Rhaenyra is crowned Queen as Ser Erryk (Elliot Tittensor) pledges his allegiance to her and brings her the crown that was worn by her father and that which sits on the head of the ruler of the seven kingdoms.
While Rhaenyra gathers her council and discusses plans for her next move, Ser Otto Hightower makes a visit to Dragonstone to send a message for Rhaenyra from Queen dowager Alicent (Olivia Cooke). Rhaenyra arrives on her dragon to converse with Ser Otto whose visit is to offer some terms to Rhaenyra and her children to safely keep their Dragonstone and Driftmark thrones while her boys serve King Aegon. While Rhaenyra sends Otto off, she's still not ready to go to war and is hoping to maintain peace in the seven kingdoms but wants to make sure she still has her allies. One of her biggest allies also makes a return as SeaSnake aka Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) returns safely and also pledges his allegiance to her as the Queen. To secure more allies, Jacerys offers that he and his brother Lucerys who are both Dragon rides speak to the Starks and Baratheons to gather their support while also reminding them of the Targaryen power. Agreeing to the same, Rhaenyra sends Jace to the North whereas Lucerys is sent to Storm's End where he ends up having an encounter with Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). Although things soon get heated between Aemond and Luce as they ride off on their dragons from Storm's End and it's here that Vhagar plots his first kill.
All through the first season of House of the Dragon, fans have been waiting to see a Game of Thrones-style twist and they finally get that big moment in the finale. It's a death no less shocking than Ned Stark's and the one that will change the history of Westeros forever. The true beginning of the Civil War starts here. Aegon's crowning was only a trigger but it's Lucerys' death that will turn things around for Rhaenyra as she will not only seek justice for what she has lost but also avenge everything that comes between the same. In the last episode, there are various points where we see why Viserys chose Rhaenyra to be his successor and it's visible now how much she resembles him when it comes to being a ruler of resilience and patience as opposed to Daemon who would rather burn down the Red Keep and everyone in it to sit on the throne. These little details also give a glimpse of the future of Rhaenyra and Daemon's relationship and what's to become of it.
The first season has merely been a setup for the much-awaited civil war aka Dance of the Dragons that is set to change the course of Westerosi history as Dragons will come to the verge of extinction by the end of it. While the season has managed to create the right tension as a lead-up to the war, on the action front, overall the season has stayed on the back foot. There has been inconsistency when it comes to the ageing of the characters and it's particularly confusing how Matt Smith's Daemon doesn't seem to have aged as much despite the several time jumps.
When a prequel to Game of Thrones was first announced, it didn't seem like a good idea given how the original series had wrapped up with a final season that didn't seem to do much justice to the entire journey. Although with the first season of House of the Dragon now complete, I can safely say that the re-entry to Westeros has been a fascinating one and it's probably best that the storytellers are different given how the prequel is bringing its own flavour rather than following the footsteps of Game of Thrones. In many ways, the first season of the show has been a prologue of sorts as we get to align all our pieces on the chessboard before the actual game begins in the second season. True intentions will be tested when the war begins.
In many ways, the last episode also reminds us of the true nature of Daemon (Smith) who after showing his dark side in the first episode, has managed to embrace a quieter side although, with the Iron throne once again in his reach, Daemon seems to be going back to his old ways, which even come to a point of physically asserting his dominance of Rhaenyra in one fleeting scene. Despite multiple time jumps, House of the Dragon managed to impressively keep us invested and with its last episode it leaves us with a clear understanding of the characters and their journey as they enter the civil war era. The second season will also add more to characters such as that of Mysaria who were merely teased but will take more important roles in the future.
In terms of performances, it has been a treat to start the journey with Milly Alcock and Emma Carey and to eventually reach a completely different equation of Rhaenyra and Alicent through Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke by the end of the season. The final episode showcases D'Arcy delivering a heartbreaking childbirth scene and also excels in the portions where she quietly contemplates at her council on what lies ahead for House Targaryen. Matt Smith has managed to give Daemon so many layers all through the season that it's a role that seems to be simply made for him. Steve Toussaint, Eve Best and Rhys Ifans have also led impressive performances all through and continue to bring the same for the big finale.
- Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith's performances
- Vhagar and Arrax's fight sequence at Storm's End
- Queen Rhaenyra's crowning scene
House of the Dragon's first season took off impressively as it laid the foundation for Westeros' biggest war to commence. The finale managed to incur enough shock as well as create a build-up that certainly has left us looking forward to what's next to come. With commendable performances from the cast and achievements of the technical department with costumes and production design, the first season of the show has been an absolute banger, a rarity in terms of prequel successes.
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