Chris Connor reviews the season one finale of House of the Dragon…
After its ninth episode focused on the Greens, led by Queen Alicent, the finale of season one of House of the Dragon, ‘The Black Queen’, shifts focus to Rhaenyra and Daemon as the pair learn of the death of King Viserys and installment of King Aegon II before trying to draw up potential allies to support her claim to the throne. The episode serves to drum up further political tensions and battle lines for the coming war, reuniting us with some familiar houses, yet unfamiliar men who run them.
‘The Black Queen’ sees the sharp mindedness of Daemon on full display, constantly trying to seek some way they can come out on top of their rivals. Meanwhile Rhaenyra plays a more slow, calculating game to ascertain the strength of her allies and their number, before committing to an all out conflict. Again placing the emphasis on one specific camp gives us their perspective, mirroring the events of last week.
We now get a sense of where the power dynamic in Westeros lies and this episode builds on both the major story threads and also more subtle moments that have been developed across this opening season to really capture what is at stake here – families being torn apart and lasting alliances pushed to their limit. House of the Dragon across its opening season has managed to capture Game of Thrones’ most successful traits and focusing on the political intrigue behind the battle for the throne, and succeeds at whetting audiences appetites for the full on conflict to come in season 2.
We also see the most action from the dragons in this episode with a thrilling sequence involving Princes Luke and Aemond. It is refreshing how isolated action sequences involving dragons have been employed with much of the drama and intrigue stemming from the halls of King’s Landing or Dragonstone.
Emma D’arcy has grown magnificently into the role of Princess/Queen Rhaenyra showing their range and contrasting emotions over their once close friendship with Queen Allicent. This episode also shows Rhaenyra to be among the more sensible of those involved in the coming conflict, not desiring an all out war.
Matt Smith is afforded more to do here too, showing Daemon’s reckless nature and desire to succeed. Otto Hightower trying to make amends between the factions opposite Daemon is among the episodes highlight, with neither wanting to give an inch or cede to the other.
‘The Black Queen’ sees the stakes of House of the Dragon come to a head as all out war seems unavoidable and the Blacks assess their position, jostling for favour among their allies. If short on sword fights, this episode is full of intrigue bringing the threads of the series together in a pleasing manner and setting up what is to come.
The final ten minutes are thrilling and feel fully earned, ending on a devastating and powerful note for what has been an incredibly promising follow-up to Game of Thrones to finish on. One can only hope the series continues in this vein, even if it may be at least two years before we are reunited with Rhaenyra, Daemon and Alicent.