House of the Dragon
HBO

‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: The Dance Begins

'House of the Dragon' ends its first season on a bleak note, and nothing less than all-out war is in store for Westeros. Here's how the pieces fell at the end of the season.
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House of the Dragon is an adaptation of a “historical” text, Fire and Blood, which chronicles the Dance of the Dragons. The Dance was a cataclysmic civil war between two factions within the Targaryen family. The Blacks, led by Queen Rhaenyra, struck out against the Greens, led by King Aegon II, after accusing Aegon of usurping the throne that the late King Viserys intended to go to his daughter.

In the book, the events are presented as a historical narrative written by various scholars with competing agendas. Characters who are presented in the book as being strictly villainous are imbued with more humanity in House of the Dragon, and events are given more moral ambiguity to make both sides of the conflict more relatable. The season finale doubles down on this “revisionist” approach, giving Season 2’s upcoming all-out war even more of a tragic underpinning.

This week on House of the Dragon, the continent of Westeros is fully plunged into war after Queen Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower, install Aegon as king. This spills over into a full-scale conflict after a tragic incident sees one of the princes lose his life–and Westeros will never be the same.

Rhaenys Makes for Dragonstone

Rhaenys, fresh off of stealing her dragon back from underneath King’s Landing, scrambles to Dragonstone and warns her cousin Rhaenyra that the Greens have betrayed her and appointed Aegon as king. They’re all awaiting news of Lord Corlys, who seems to be making a recovery, to see if he’ll swear Driftmark’s fealty to Rhaenyra’s claim on the Iron Throne.

Daemon is so incensed that he’s eager to jump right into battle. Rhaenyra goes into early labor, as the stress of this news causes her to suddenly experience contractions. In a painful scene, she gives birth to a stillborn baby–the lifeless form of the child serves as both a heartbreaking test for Rhaenyra and her family and an ill portent of things to come. Many more Targaryen heirs will lose their lives in the conflict to come.

Daemon does some quick dragon math, noting that King’s Landing only hosts four of the winged engines of destruction. Dragonstone, meanwhile, has the benefit of several more, albeit several of the dragons have no riders to claim them. Rhaenyra urges caution, though, saying that Dragons aren’t exactly subtle or easy to control. When they’re used for war, they usually leave little but ashes in their wake.

Luke Still Has Doubts

Throughout the episode, Lucerys expresses his doubts about his place in the world. He’s set to inherit Driftmark from his grandfather, Corlys, but he gets seasick when he even looks at a boat. He’s hardly ready for war, and he’s so timid that he’d rather stick to his books than set out into the world. Still, Rhaenyra comforts him, noting that she’ll help prepare him for his destiny.

When the Black Council starts counting its allies, the nobles realize there are a few nearby lords that they need to court directly. Chief among them is House Baratheon, whose current ruler, Borros, needs to be reminded of his father’s oath to Rhaenyra. Likewise, Houses Tully and Stark are likely to ally with the Black faction, so the team dispatches the princes, Lucerys and Jacaerys, to treat with these lords. Jace takes the lengthier of the two journeys, heading north to treat with the Tully family and then Cregan Stark. 

Meanwhile, Luke heads to Storm’s End to meet with Borros Baratheon. Rhaenyra is convinced things will go fine and has her sons swear to her that they will go as messengers, not as warriors. Little does she know that this will be the last time she’ll see Luke alive.

Storm’s End

Riding atop his tiny dragon Arrax, Luke arrives in the rainswept Storm’s End and makes his way toward the keep. In the distance, he sees the massive dragon, Vhaegar, illuminated briefly by strikes of lightning. This could only mean one thing: his uncle and nemesis, Aemond, is already here.

Within the castle, Aemond glowers at the boy who gouged out his eye, and Lord Baratheon nearly laughs Luke out of his court when he realizes Rhaenyra has nothing to offer him. All of Rhaenyra’s boys are already betrothed, so she can’t make any political allegiances with House Baratheon. Before Luke can leave, Aemond demands an eye as recompense for the childhood brawl that claimed his own.

Luke balks and beats a hasty retreat, but notices that Vhagar has already left by the time he and Arrax are airborne. The massive dragon, spurred on by Aemond, isolates Arrax in a tense sequence, and, before Aemond can stop her, devours both the smaller dragon and its rider in a single bite. Back in Dragonstone, Rhaenyra steels herself for war after receiving news of this open declaration of hostilities.