‘House of the Dragon’: Luke’s Death, Dragon Fight End Season 1 Finale

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched the Season 1 finale of HBO’s “House of the Dragon,” currently streaming on HBO Max. 

The Dance of Dragons finally kicks off as the body count for “House of the Dragon” continues to rise.

The Season 1 finale mirrors some key moments from earlier in the season, like Rhaenyra Targaryen’s bloody childbirth, Otto Hightower confronting the blacks at Dragonstone and Aemond Targaryen and Lucerys “Luke” Velaryon’s deadly “eye for an eye” fight. The episode begins with foreshadowing at Luke’s fate as he complains to his mother Rhaenyra that he’s not “perfect” like her and cut out for ruling Driftmark, as is his new right.

Picking up from last episode, Rhaenys Targaryen arrives in Dragonstone and delivers the bad news to Rhaenyra and her family: King Viserys Targaryen is dead and Alicent Hightower has installed her son Aegon Targaryen as king, despite Rhaenyra being the heir for years. This surprising-but-not-completely-unexpected news upsets Rhaenyra, who’s pregnant, and causes her to go into labor. Daemon Targaryen, meanwhile, goes into full-on war mode upon hearing that Aegon has usurped the Iron Throne.

As Daemon begins assembling the blacks’ council and their loyal knights, Rhaenyra’s screams echo through Dragonstone. The scene is a clear parallel to her mother Queen Aemma Arryn’s bloody childbirth in the series premiere, but Rhaenyra is built different. Her screams of pain are intercut with shots of a roaring dragon, and Rhaenyra pulls the baby from her womb, but it’s stillborn.

Not long after this horrible, bloody scene, Rhaenyra is officially named Queen of Westeros with her father’s crown. Everyone in the Dragonstone council room bends the knee, except Rhaenys, who gives a stone-cold stare. The blacks tally their troops, and it’s clear they’re outnumbered by the greens’ forces, but they do have more dragons. Their first course of action is to reaffirm the support from the Baratheons in Storm’s End, the Arryns in the Eyrie and the Starks in Winterfell.

Suddenly a green ship from King’s Landing crashes their party. Otto Hightower, who’s Aegon’s Hand, arrives to demand that Rhaenyra bends the knee to the king, and in return she’ll gain control of Dragonstone and Driftmark. The last time Otto sailed to Dragonstone, he was met with an icy reception, and this time is no different. Rhaenyra rips off his Hand pin, and Daemon wants to kill Otto where he stands, but Rhaenyra stops him. As a final gesture of good faith, or perhaps a manipulative one, Otto hands her the page from young Alicent’s history book that Rhaenyra had ripped out when they were kids in the series premiere. Rhaenyra lets Otto go free and says she’ll have her answer tomorrow. If only things were that easy!

Later, Rhaenyra and Daemon get into an argument about how to deal with the coming war. Rhaenyra wants to protect the realm, not rule over a land of ash and bone — perhaps a nod to her descendant Daenerys Targaryen’s destructive move to burn King’s Landing down in the finale episodes of “Game of Thrones.” Tensions rise, Rhaenyra clears the room and explains Viserys’ vision of a Song of Ice and Fire to Daemon, who had never heard it before. He gets angry, viciously chokes her and says that dreams didn’t make them kings, dragons did.

Meanwhile, we get a (slightly) happier moment between the other Dragonstone couple, Rhaenys and Corlys Velaryon. Rhaenys catches him up to speed on what’s happened while he’s been away, and they agree that they should side with Rhaenyra, who has shown restraint and not called for war. Corlys pledges support to the blacks and reveals that his navy has secured the Stepstones and Narrow Sea, meaning they can cut off trade routes to King’s Landing. Rhaenyra’s older son, Jacaerys “Jace” Velaryon, offers himself and Luke to fly to the Barratheons, Arryns and Starks to confirm they will not betray their oaths to Rhaenyra.

We follow young Luke as he flies to Storm’s End during heavy rainfall (but not before we get an odd scene of Daemon singing to one of the dragons in High Valyrian). Luke lands at the castle, but the massive dragon Vhagar, ridden by Aemond, is already there. Sure enough, Aemond flew to Storm’s End earlier in the day and made a deal with Lord Borros Baratheon to marry one of his daughters. Luke has to leave empty-handed, but Aemond stops him and demands that he cut out his own eye in retribution for Luke slicing Aemond’s eye when they were kids. Aemond also reveals that he’s filled his empty eye socket with a fashionable sapphire. Borros refuses to have bloodshed in his hall, so Luke flies away on his speedy, little dragon Arrax as the storm worsens.

The dark clouds obstruct Luke’s vision, but we see the mighty outline of Vhagar below Arrax. We finally get a proper dragon vs. dragon battle, and the nimble Arrax stays out of Vhagar’s snapping jaws as Luke flies him between narrow cliffs for safety. Both Luke and Aemond lose control of their beasts, as Arrax flanks Vhagar and spits fire at her. Just as it seems like Luke and Arrax escape and break through the storm, Vhagar takes one giant bite and shreds them both to pieces. Aemond looks distraught, but the damage is done and the first stone of the Dance of Dragons has been thrown. Back in Dragonstone, Daemon shares the news with an infuriated Rhaenyra, but we’ll have to wait until Season 2 to see what move she takes next in the Targaryen war.

Originally published at variety.com

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