‘House of the Dragon: The Black Queen’ Spoiler Review and Season One Thoughs – ScreenHub Entertainment

Last week’s episode, The Green Council focused on the Green half of the upcoming war, so it makes sense that this week’s season finale of House of the Dragon should give us the perspective of the Blacks. The finale doesn’t pull any punches and firmly sets the board for the seasons to come. The storm indeed broke, and the dragons will dance.

Season Finale Thoughts

The episode gets straight to the point as Rhaenys flies to Dragonstone to inform Rhaenyra about the passing of her father, as well as the usurping of her throne by Aegon and Alicent. Whether due to poor timing or emotional trauma, Rhaenyra goes into labour and, yikes…it’s a harrowing ordeal to witness. Rhaenyra refuses aid, opting to suffer through the pain of childbirth on her own terms, a stark contrast to her mother’s forced cesarian in the premiere. Despite taking control of the birth and forcing the audience through an uncomfortable few minutes, Rhaeynera’s child is stillborn while also showing signs of being misshapen, perhaps a byproduct of incest. In what must amount to a matter of hours, she’s lost her throne, her father and her child. But the show isn’t done taking from Rhaeynera just yet.

Meanwhile, Daemon is ready for the prospect of war, believing Alicent and the Greens murdered his brother to make a grab for the Iron Throne. To be fair, we don’t know if the milk of the poppy directly killed him or not, so this accusation isn’t 100% crazy, but given he’s presented with limited information and his own bias, he rushes to conclusions. This episode and its predecessor have both made it clear that Rhaeynera and Alicent aren’t actively seeking war, with Rhaeynera making it clear she doesn’t want to throw the realm into chaos, and Alicent legitimately believes to be in the right. These two aren’t drawing swords, but men like Daemon are quick to send ravens out to allies and send troops onto the castle walls, fortifying their position and bolstering their position. We’ve seen similar behaviour from Corlys, who often retreats into conflict when faced with emotional challenges.

Daemon, in his anger and bloodlust, is something of an enigma this episode. One minute, he’s bowing to his queen and presenting her with her father’s crown, the next he’s choking her over Aegon’s Dream (the Song of Ice and Fire) and threatening firey death on the former Kingsguard members, which makes it hard to know if we’re supposed to be rooting for him again. In the first half, Daemon was something of a wild card anti-hero who would eventually soften over the course of his second and third marriages. He seemed emotionally distraught over the death of his brother, but lashes out at his wife with hostile violence and as such, the audience is left confused (in a good way) about whether we’re supposed to root for this something good, sometimes bad co-lead.

[Credit: HBO Max]

We also see that Lord Corlys has made a recovery and despite some reservations about pledging loyalty to Rhaeynera due to the “death” of Laenor, he eventually pledges fealty to the Black Queen. This means that Rhaeynera now controls the Stepstones and the powerful Valeryon fleet, which will block trade to King’s Landing from Blackwater Bay. But once more, Rhaeynera states she isn’t seeking war and when faced with a proposition from Otto Hightower, she actually considers it…after throwing his Hand of the King pin into the abyss and declaring him a traitor. Once more she shows restraint in the grand scheme of things, thinking about the good of the realm versus her own position and power. Daemon would rather burn his children alive than have them be cupbearers to Aegon, but Daemon isn’t thinking about some random farmer in the Riverlands-Rhaenyra is, at least in that moment.

[Credit: HBO Max]

Rhaeynera opts to look to her allies to gauge her position before making any declarations of war or promises to Otto and sends her eldest children, Jacaerys and Lucerys to the Targaryan oath keepers to hold true to their word. Jacaerys ventures north to the Vale and Winterfell and Lucerys ventures a short journey away to Storm’s End….and this is where it all goes to hell.

[Credit: HBO Max]

Even when Rhaeynera was saying that Lucerys would be welcomed as a prince with open arms, I knew something was off. Rhaeynera was too confident in Borros Baratheon’s loyalty. That feeling only intensified with Lucerys landed at Storm’s End, which per its namesake, was being pelted by a storm. But Lucerys and his dragon, Arrax, weren’t the only guests at the keep; Aemond and his behemoth dragon had arrived first, securing the loyalty of the Baratheon’s to the Greens. Lord Baratheon kind of had a point when chastising Lucerys. Aemond brought with him a marriage proposal, which would unite the Baratheons with the Targaryens once more, while Lucerys’ reminder of old oaths only made Borros Baratheon angry, stating that his house aren’t attack dogs, waiting for their master to unleash them onto their enemies. Considering Lucerys is already betrothed, he couldn’t claim one of Borro’s daughters and was promptly kicked out of the keep, but not before Aemond requests the young messager cut out his own eye. Aemond reveals his own false eye, a blue sapphire, which gives the desired effect to make one both mystified and freaked out. Lucerys refuses his uncle’s request.

[Credit: HBO Max]

While this conflict is quickly put down, the issue doesn’t end there. As Lucerys escapes Storm’s End on Arrax, we see the utterly massive Vhagar chase Lucerys and his dragon down. Aemond doesn’t seem to want to kill Lucerys, only torment and bully his nephew for maiming him all those years ago, but Lucerys’ dragon does not take kindly to being hunted and attacks Vhagar without command and before you can say Storm’s End, Vhagar has disobeyed Aemond’s commands and kills Lucerys and his dragon. I really like how the dragons are seen as unpredictable beasts here instead of broken-in horses and they can disobey commands. Characters like Aemond, who can’t be much older than 18, are essentially in partial command of a nuclear arsenal and don’t fully grasp the full power they can sow.

Rhaeynera may have been looking for a diplomatic solution out of this war to protect the realm. But now that her son has died at the hands of one of the Green’s dragons, those reservations are now off the table. She’s lost her son, her daughter, her father and her crown. She’s lost so much in such a short matter of time, but the murder of her son was the final straw. After ten episodes of setup, the war is finally on.

Season One Thoughts

So how was House of the Dragon overall? That’s an interesting question, I think. After the first episode concluded, my first reaction to the show was “it was okay”. It had some interesting moments but I didn’t find myself emotionally invested in the characters right away, which was a stark contrast (heh) to the premiere of Game of Thrones, where I was instantly onboard with the likes of Jon, Tyrion and others.

[Credit: HBO Max]

This sentiment largely continued over the next three episodes. While the story was interesting, I wasn’t super invested in the characters at this point. Who was I supposed to root for? Rhaenyra wasn’t a sympathetic lead, opting to pout and rebel, while Viserys didn’t really do anything to prepare his heir for the duty of ruling. Rhaenyra was still serving as a cupbearer at this time, instead of getting an education in ruling. There were a lot of interesting things in concept, such as the stag hunt and Otto manipulating his own daughter into the heart of the King, but the Crab Feeder arc felt kind of tacked on, Daemon didn’t do too much and Rhaeynra wasn’t a terribly interesting lead.

[Credit: HBO Max]

I also mentioned it numerous times throughout my weekly reviews, but the CGI in this show felt much more obvious and noticeable compared to Game of Thrones, largely due to the lack of on-location photography this time around. King’s Landing, for instance, is shot largely in studio with additional photography in England, whereas it was originally filmed in Dubrovnik, which has much more dynamic natural lightning than dreary England does. The colour pallet also feels muted and flat at times. When looking at clips from Game of Thrones, that show really pops and features a lot of scenes outdoors. House of the Dragon often felt boxed inside or suffered from uncanny valley due to the green screen backgrounds or artificial lightning and the dragons themselves felt much more artificial than they did in Game of Thrones. That said, the finale’s effects were noticeably improved over the rest of the season, suggesting they allocated far more budget for that episode than the rest of the season when it came time for VFX. The bridge at Dragonstone, for instance, looked far better than it did in episode three.

[Credit: HBO Max]

But things changed in terms of the story by the time episode five happened and the show took a massive swing upwards. From that episode onwards, House of the Dragon was firing at full power. In episode six, the actors playing Rhaeynra and Alicent were aged up and the next few episodes featured massive skips in time, allowing their children to age up from youngsters to teenagers. It was a little jarring, true and allowed for some critical character moments, chiefly between Daemon and Laena to pass undeveloped. But what we were seeing was pretty solid stuff, with exceptional writing and acting all around. I found myself fully engrossed in the story and learned to appreciate some of the foundations established in earlier episodes. The show was presented a clear case for us, the audience, to root for the Blacks, but due to the foundations in place, we understood that this war isn’t as simple as good versus evil. There are a slew of agents with their own agendas, loyalties, beliefs and ambitions. With her son murdered while serving as a messenger, I’m willing to bet that Rhaenyra, who has gone from uninterested youth to peace-seeking Queen, will now unleash firey hell upon her enemies.

The show had exceptional acting, particularly from Paddy Considine as Viserys, complex and layered characters, really good writing and lots of intrigue and subtext. Despite a rocky foundation and some rough CGI throughout, House of the Dragons ended up delivering a satisfying and, ahem, strong first season that excelled in characterization. I’m definitely excited for its return, whenever that may be. Homework for myself before season two returns: read Fire and Blood. Thanks for joining me on this adventure over the past ten weeks!

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