House of the Dragon Episode Ten, The Black Queen Review: The Dance Commences.

The first season of House of the Dragon has come to a close with its tenth episode, “The Black Queen”, and I do not know how I am going to be able to wait until 2024 for Season Two.
Directed by Greg Yaitanes, “The Black Queen” was a fantastic way to end the season.
The episode begins, rather fittingly, with Lucerys.
He is still having doubts about his future inheritance of Driftmark, yet Rhanerya seeks to console him, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Rhaenys who has brought word of Visery’s death and the Green’s coup.
What follows is a tense scene between her, Rhanerya and Daemon, with Rhanerya being understandably distraught, while Daemon is enraged, believing the Greens have murdered Viserys.
Him coming to this conclusion is natural, given that we saw how suspicious he was of Viserys recieving milk of the poppy in Episode Eight.
There is even some suspicion around Rhaenys, due to both her unlikely escape and the fact that she did not burn the Greens with Meleys.
In the end, Rhaenys advises that Rhanerya leaves Dragonstone, before the Greens come for her and her children.
This is not possible, however, because Rhanerya’s grief and shock causes her to go into a horrific early labor.
Daemon proves himself to be quite the poor husband, as he immediately starts planning for a war, instead of being by Rhanerya’s side.
Although, he is rather smart about it, threatening the two Kingsguard on Dragonstone to swear fealty to Rhanerya or die by Caraxes’ flames.
As for Rhanerya, the stillbirth scene that follows is arguably even more graphic and disturbing that Aemma’s C-Section in Episode One.
First, there is the way that Rhanery’a screams are mixed with Syrax’s, once again showing the connection between Targaryens and their dragons.
Most of all, though, are the horrifying visuals of the stillbirth, with the amount of fake blood and prop of the baby itself being absolutley haunting.
This then leads into the funeral scene for the baby and the devestated feeling transforms into a hopeful one with the arrival of Erryk Cargyll, who stole Viserys’ crown.
And so, with Ramin Djawdi’s epic Rhanerya theme, Rhanerya is finally crowned as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
The planning for the Blacks’ war then begins, with the painted table on Dragonstone being lit up in a fantastic shot.
We can clearly see that Rhanerya and Daemon are on opposite sides, with Rhanerya being more cautious while Daemon wants war.
When it comes to dragons, the Blacks do have the advantage, and if they can sway the other lords of Westeroes to their cause then it will also boost their chances.
Before any decision can be made, Otto arrives with a delegation from King’s Landing to offer Rhanerya peace.
This is clearly Alicent’s gambit, since she won control over Aegon in Episode Nine.
Had Otto won this would have been an assassination attempt rather than a negotiation.
The meeting on Dragonstone perfectly mirrors the one from Episode Two, as Otto arrives to confront Daemon, only to be interrupted by Rhanerya and Syrax.
Only now, she stands with Daemon, and Syrax blocks the Greens’ escape as a serious threat.
Otto offers Rhanerya and Daemon control of Dragonstone, Lucerys of Driftmark, and high places at court for Aegon the Younger and Viserys.
That last one would make them, in effect, hostages and Daemon clearly picks up on this stating, “I would rather feed my sons to the dragons than have them carry shields and cups for your drunken, usurper c**t of a king.”
A classic Daemon line.
Rhanerya is not swayed by Otto’s offer, throwing away his Hand of the King badge.
However, she is convinced to think on it through Alicent’s gesture of good will, the page Rhanerya tore from their book when they were younger and closer, recalling a happier time between them.
The choice of the writers to make Rhanerya and Alicent childhood friends was an excellent one, as it creates much more compelling drama.
Alicent’s touching gesture is enough to get Rhanerya to consider the offer, angering Daemon further.
Rhanerya does make some good points in saying that relenting her claim to the throne would create peace as her father wished for.
She even brings up how this could eventually lead to the fulfilment of Aegon’s dream, thinking Daemon would understand.
Instead, Daemon grabs Rhanerya by the throat while berating Viserys’ obsession with prophecy, stating, “Dreams didn’t make us kings. Dragons did.”
This causes Rhanerya to realise that Viserys never told Daemon.
Essentially, the grief Daemon feels for Viserys’ death makes him lash out at Rhanerya when he learns that his own brother never trusted him with such vital information.
On another note, it is kind of funny that some people were annoyed by Daemon choking Rhanerya, saying he would never do something so cruel.
They seem to be forgetting that Daemon murdered his wife.
Daemon has never been a good person.
Interesting?
Definitley.
A good person?
Absolutley not.
Following Daemon and Rhanerya’s confrontation, a recovering Corlys arrives at Dragonstone and is attended to by Rhaenys.
What follows is a tense conversation between the couple as Rhaenys condemns Corlys for leaving her alone for six years, following the deaths of their children.
Their relationship is much healthier than Rhanerya and Daemon’s, however, as, upon learning of Vaemond’s death, Corlys admits his weakness for ambition, resolving to be a changed man and retire to Driftmark with Rhaenys.
Unfortunately, this has come much too late, as Rhaenys points out that their grandchildren will still be in danger with war looming, and Rhanerya being the only one showing restraint.
And so, Corlys enters the meeting room to decide which side he will choose, if any.
It honestly feels as though Corlys was still considering, right up until he looked upon his grandchildren and saw that they had chosen to stand by Rhanerya and her family.
This makes Corlys side the Blacks, revealing his control over the Stepstones means he can block all trade with King’s Landing.
Once this is done, all that will be needed is to confirm Rhanerya’s allies among the great houses and then they can force the Greens into abdicating power without the need for bloodshed.
At Jace’s suggestion, Rhanerya decides to send her sons to confirm her allies, rather than ravens, sending Jace to the Eyrie and Winterfell, and Lucerys to Storm’s End, making them swear not to fight on their missions.
As this is happening, Daemon is attending to the unclaimed dragons on Dragonstone, among them the Bronze Fury, Vermithor, King Jaehaerys’ dragon.
Singing a High Valyrian lullaby, Daemon soothes the old dragon, as it breaths fire across the room, showing the strength the Blacks could have on their side if they could just find riders to claim these dragons.
They will certainly need it because of what happens next.
Lucerys flies to Storm’s End to treat with Lord Borros Barethon, only to find he is not the first one there.
In an intimidating the shot, the head of Vhagar rises above the castle walls, like something out of a giant monster movie.
Despite the danger, Lucerys enters the castle to treat with Borros, finding that Aemond is already there, having brokered a marriage pact between himself and one of Borros’ daughters in exchange for Borros’ support.
Lucerys gives Borros Rhanerya’s letter (leading to a humorous moment where Borros needs a Maester because he cannot read, which is true to Medieval times) but he refuses to fulfill his father’s oath, since Lucerys has nothing to offer because he is already betrothed to Rhaena.
Lucerys then attempts to leave, only to be stopped by Aemond who wants him to cut his eye out as payment for his own.
Aemond removes his eye patch, revealing that he has stuck a saphire in his eye socket, in a great adaptation from the book.
Before Aemond can attack Lucerys, Borros orders Lucerys removed, not wanting blood shed beneath his roof.
Lucerys is taken back to his dragon, Arrax but, chillingly, sees that Vhagar is gone.
It is at this point that I would like to commend Elliot Grihault for his performance as Lucerys.
He plays the character’s fear well and his High Valyrian is excellently pronounced.
Lucerys takes to the sky but the stormy weather keeps Vhagar out of sight, allowing the massive dragon to fly overhead in a terrifying shot that shows just how outmatched Arrax.
Aemond then ambushes Lucerys with Vhagar, intent on taking Lucerys’ eye.
Thanks to Arrax’s small size, Lucerys manages to manuvere him through a cliff face, allowing them to temporarily escape Aemond.
However, as Viserys said in Episode One, “The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion” and this is proven in the most disastrous way possible.
First, Lucerys loses control of Arrax, as he breaths fire at Vhagar.
This agitates Vhagar to the point that Aemond cannot control her.
In an effort to escape, Lucerys flies Arrax high above the clouds.
Unfortunately, this leads to Vhagar jump-scaring them and the audience, as she flies up out of the clouds and rips Arrax apart with a massive bite, also killing Lucerys.
Aemond clearly did not wish for this happen, as evidenced by his commands for Vhagar to stop.
This is different from the book where Aemond supposedly murders Lucerys.
Although, this version of events was just from second hand accounts, and the only one who would know what really happened is Aemond.
In any case, the horrified look on Aemond’s face shows that he clearly realizes the magnitude of what he has done as he flies back to King’s Landing, fully aware that he has started a war.
This is all but confirmed in the final scene of the episode, which sees Daemon tell Rhanerya of Lucerys’ death.
The hopeful note of Rhanerya’s theme then turns dark as Rhanerya turns towards the camera, her grief and rage obvious.
Emma D’Arcy does an excellent job of portaying Rhanerya’s feelings in this ominous moment.
They do an incredible job across the entire episode as well, from the horrifying stillbirth scene all the way up to this grim ending that has me especially excited for Season Two.
“The Black Queen” is a fantastic ending for the first season of House of the Dragon.
As for where I would rank the episode, it is definitley among the top three, including Episodes Seven and Eight.
However, at this point, I am unsure if I would rank it above or below either and will probably need a few more rewatches to decide.
Nevertheless, House of the Dragon has been a fantastic spin off to Game of Thrones, redeeming the series after the horrible Season Eight, and I cannot wait to see more.


Book Spoiler Section:

In regards to what Aemond will do when he arrives back at King’s Landing, I can definitley see him acting like he meant to kill Lucerys.
Aemond is in a no win situation.
He either claims he murdered Lucerys, which will make him known as a kinslayer, or he admits that he lost contorl of Vhagar, which will make him seem weak.
Given how we saw that Aemond being bullied as a child lead to him compensating by claiming the largest dragon in the world, I cannot see him owning up to weakness.
He would rather be known as a kinslayer than weak so he will act like killing Lucerys was intentional.
Alicent will no doubt be horrifed by her son’s actions as this has ruined any chance for peace between the Greens and Blacks.
Westeroes will be plunged into civil war in Season Two, and I am excited to see many of the events from the book unfold.
I think Season Two will end either with the Battle of the Gullet or Rhanerya taking King’s Landing.
If I am right, this means that we will also see Blood and Cheese, the death of Rhaenys, and the introduction of the Dragon Seeds in Season Two.
Of all these events, I am excited for the Sowing of the Seeds the most.
Characters like Nettles and Addam Velaryon are some of my favourite characters in the entire Dance so I am very excited to see how they will be portrayed.
Although, I have heard theories that the show will replace Addam and Nettles with Laenor and Rhaena.
To be honest, I would absolutley hate it if the writers did this because it could ruin so much of the story going forward or, at the very least, lessen the impact of numerous scenes.
I do not mind if Laenor and Rhaena have more scenes but make their characters seperate from Addam and Nettles.
However, this is just a theory at the moment and hopefully a wrong one at that.
There is no reason to be concerned until there is actually evidence of this happening.
In the meantime, there is so much to be excited for in Season Two.
It’s just a shame that we have to wait until 2024 to get it but I am sure the wait will be more than worth it.
House of the Dragon has pulled me back into the world of Westeroes and I will eagerily await its return.