I broke down episode nine of House of the Dragon in Part I of this two-part finale review. Episode nine focused on Alicent and the Greens. Though the penultimate episode is usually the best episode in a Game of Thrones season, episode 10, The Black Queen, proved to be an exception. The Black Queen spotlighted the Blacks, and actors Emma D’Arcy and Matt Smith continued to deliver stellar performances as Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen.

Teen Problems

The Black Queen began with 14-year-old Lucerys “Luke” Velaryon standing worriedly by the Painted Table. Luke’s grandsire, the Sea Snake, Corlys Velaryon, was severely wounded while fighting in the Stepstones. If Corlys died, then Luke would become Lord of the Tides, which he wanted no part of. Though Corlys was a legendary sailor, Luke did not inherit those genes, probably because his biological father was Harwin Strong.

Luke voiced his concerns to his pregnant mother, Rhaenyra, and wished (ironically) that he was “perfect” like her. Rhaenyra assured Luke that she would prepare him for his duty. Sadly, that would become unnecessary.

Word Reaches Dragonstone

Princess Rhaenys arrived at Dragonstone on dragon’s back. Rhaenyra expected to hear news about Rhaenys’ husband, Corlys. However, Rhaenys did not bury the lead. Instead, she told Rhaenyra and Daemon immediately that Viserys died, and the Greens crowned Aegon as his successor. Rhaenyra was visibly stressed. She felt a pain in her pregnant belly. The tears in her eyes suggested that she felt not only grief for her father’s passing but also betrayal by Alicent. Meanwhile, Daemon assumed Viserys was slain.

Both Rhaenyra and Daemon wondered how Rhaenys escaped Kings Landing without swearing loyalty to Aegon. Rhaenys explained that she fled on Meleys. To this, Daemon brought up a good point. Why didn’t Rhaenys burn them all? Rhaenys explained that this was not her war to begin. She only warned them out of loyalty to her husband and her house.

Childbirth As a Battlefield

Before Rhaenys left the room, Rhaenyra pulled her bloodied hand from beneath her dress and said the babe is coming. Bad timing. Also, premature timing, which Rhaenyra knew, considering this was her sixth childbirth. While Rhaenyra screamed and wailed, Daemon strategized for the war with the Blacks gathered around the Painted Table. Why didn’t Daemon go to Rhaenyra? Was he scarred from Laena’s death? Did he think Rhaenyra wanted him to be strong? Does he want to be in power?

The Westerosi people may have seen Rhaenyra’s childbirth at this moment as a sign of weakness. However, as a viewer, it could only be seen as a strength. That said, as Rhaenyra ripped the stillborn baby, Visenya, out of her with one hand, it became quite literally the most gruesome scene of television that I have ever watched.

Play Time is Over

During this commotion, Jacaerys “Jace” Velaryon trained swords on the beach with Luke. Jace dominated his little brother and gave him tough love. You could feel Jace’s urgency to get Luke up to speed with war on the horizon.

Rhaenyra called for her boys while still giving birth. She told them everything. She also told Jace that he is her heir. Jace expeditiously went to Daemon to stop him from taking further action while Rhaenyra was…unavailable. There was an interesting tension between Jace and Daemon, which was tough to read. What kind of relationship do you think Jace has with Daemon?

Signs of Legitimacy

Daemon brought Jace outside to show him the true meaning of loyalty. There, two knights of the Kingsguard stood. Daemon summoned his dragon, Caraxes, who screeched and roared in the knights’ faces. The knights quickly affirmed their allegiance to Rhaenyra and Jace as the heir to the Iron Throne. Dragons are convincing.

In the previous episode, Ser Erryk Cargyll decided that he could not support Aegon and showed up to baby Visenya’s funeral. Erryk presented Viserys’ crown to Rhaenyra while vowing to protect her. Daemon crowned Queen Rhaenyra before 50 or so people. Everyone kneeled except Rhaenys. Though, Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was, smiled with approval. Rhaenyra now had protectors, her father’s crown, and supporters, which legitimized her claim to the throne.

Dragon Math

Queen Rhaenyra and the Blacks convened around the Painted Table again. It was time to plot the war. First, the Blacks considered their army’s size (or lack thereof) and tallied their allies. Ultimately, the conversation shifted to the math that matters most. How many dragons does each side have? If you have trouble (like me) keeping track of all the dragons, peep HBO’s Dragon Index. HBO also has an immensely helpful Character Guide.

By Daemon’s count, the Greens have three adult dragons: Vhagar, ridden by Aemond, and Sunfyre, ridden by Aegon. And Dreamfyre, ridden by Helaena.

Conversely, the Blacks have Rhaenyra’s dragon, Syrax, Daemon’s dragon, Caraxes, and (presumably) Rhaenys’ dragon, Meleys. Additionally, Jace rides Vermax, Luke rides Arrax, and the young Joffrey Velaryon has Tyraxes. Daemon’s daughter Baela rides Moondancer. Though it appears the Blacks have the dragon advantage, not all dragons are equal. The Blacks’ dragons have never been to war. Nevertheless, there are unclaimed dragons. Vermithor and Silverwing dwell on the Dragonmont. Seasmoke still resides on Driftmark.

Seasmoke is particularly interesting because his rider, Laenor, is not actually dead. Can a dragon take a new rider while its current rider is alive? Moreover, there are three wild dragons nesting on Dragonstone and a score of eggs incubating. Who would ride these dragons? Later, we see Daemon singing a beautiful song in Old Valyrian to Vermithor. After Vhagar, Vermithor is the largest and oldest living dragon, which King Jaehaerys once rode. What is Daemon’s plan? Can Daemon ride a second dragon?

Otto Arrives

Otto and Daemon hate each other. As Otto’s boat approached, Daemon grabbed his unsheathed sword and walked outside. Per Alicent’s orders, Otto came to deliver terms to Rhaenyra, who flew down on Syrax while wearing her crown. I guess she recovered fast.

The terms seemed fair. The Greens demanded that Rhaenyra acknowledge Aegon as king. In exchange, Aegon would confirm her possession of Dragonstone and confirm Luke as the legitimate heir of Driftmark. Her sons by Daemon would receive places of high honor at court – Aegon the Younger as the King’s squire and Viserys as his cupbearer. Aegon would pardon any knight or lord who conspired against his ascent. As expected, Daemon said he would rather feed his sons to the dragons than accept these terms.

After Rhaenyra exchanges some harsh words with Otto, Otto gives her a page from the history book shown in episode one that she and Alicent read together. Did you think this was a manipulation tactic by Alicent? Was Alicent making a genuine appeal to Rhaenyra’s emotion? I thought that Daemon was going to murder Otto until Rhaenyra stopped him. In the end, Rhaenyra planned to give the Greens an answer the next day.

Rhaenyra Is Her Father’s Daughter

The Blacks convened once more after Otto left. It appeared Rhaenyra was seriously considering the Greens’ terms. She recalled Viserys’ warnings about dragons. Historically, when dragons flew to war, everything burned. Rhaenyra had no plans to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone. Rhaenyra clearly viewed her duty as queen to ensure peace and unity, as opposed to sitting on the Iron Throne at all costs.

Meanwhile, Daemon wanted war. Rhaenyra cleared the room to speak with Daemon alone. She assumed Daemon knew about A Song of Ice and Fire, the Conqueror’s dream about the coming war against the darkness in the North. Daemon had no idea what she was talking about. Then, he choked her violently. Daemon asserted that dreams did not make us kings, dragons did. What did you think about this scene? Was Daemon hurt that neither Viserys nor Rhaenyra told him about this? This choking incident was not in the book, so I don’t think it should have been added. At the same time, it does show that Viserys trusted Rhaenyra with this secret over his brother.

Velaryon Support

Corlys miraculously recovered from his wounds. The episode included an impactful discussion between Corlys and Rhaenys about their family. Corlys was ready to declare for no one, give up his heedless ambitions, and retire to High Tide with their grandchildren. If only that were possible. Rhaenys reminded Corlys that their grandchildren, Jace, Luke, and Joffrey, as claimants to the Iron Throne, they would never be safe.

Though the Velaryons had plenty of reason to turn on the Blacks, Laenor’s purported death and Daemon’s beheading of Corlys’ brother, to name a few, Rhaenyra’s restraint had swayed Rhaenys. In turn, Rhaenys swayed Corlys. Thus, the Blacks earned the Velaryons’ support, which was massive because of their powerful fleet and newfound control of the Narrow Sea. Corlys is an awesome character. But, when he pressed Rhaenyra about her inaction, I agreed with her that they must know who their allies are before going to war.

Jace and Luke Step Up

Jace suggested that he and Luke take dragons to garner support because dragons are faster and more convincing than ravens. Plus, no one can deny their Targaryen blood as they ride on a dragon’s back.

Rhaenyra sent Jace North to see the Arryns and then the Starks. She sent Luke to Storm’s End to treat with Lord Borros Baratheon, as that flight is much shorter, and she expected a warm welcome based on the shared blood between the Baratheons and Rhaenys. Instead, the boys promised to go as messengers, not warriors. Rhaenyra and Luke shared a sweet moment before he left in which he called her mother instead of your grace.

R.I.P. Luke

When Luke arrived at Storm’s End, Vhagar was already there looking gigantic. Luke went inside, delivered Rhaenyra’s message (which a master read to the illiterate Borros Baratheon), and learned this mission was no walk in the park. Rhaenyra merely reminded Lord Borros of his father’s oath. On the other hand, Aemond delivered Aegon’s generous terms, which included a marriage pact. Unfortunately, Luke was too young to think on his feet of something to offer Lord Borros to secure his support.

Luke prepared to leave, but Aemond still harbored feelings about the eye Luke took from him as a child. Aemond removed his eye patch, revealing his sapphire eye, and demanded Luke’s eye as retribution. Lord Borros would not have this under his roof and sent them both away.

Unsurprisingly, there was a terrible storm as they left Storm’s End. Luke started flying home. The wind moved his baby dragon Arrax like a sheet of paper. Aemond chased him on Vhagar. Both riders appeared to lose control over their dragons. The frightened Arrax attacked first by breathing fire, then fled. Then, just when I thought Arrax was in the clear, Vhagar rose, ate Luke, and chomped Arrax to pieces. Did Aemond mean to kill Luke? What is Aemond going to tell his family? The episode ended with Rhaenyra finding out the news with a look of pure revenge. If it had not already, the Dance of the Dragons war had begun.

Who Will Win?

Season one is over. I can’t wait for season two, which may not be until 2024. Who will win the war? We will have plenty of time to debate. But, if we learn anything from Luke’s death, the answer is likely no one so long as either side wields a dragon.