house of the dragon The season 1 finale, “The Black Queen,” delivers the kind of visual spectacle that television hasn’t been able to conjure up since game of Thrones ended It does it in a less surprising way: fans of the books had been anticipating and even dreading the moment between Aemond and Lucerys, but the show never falters when it comes to scale or the performances behind it. The writing, however, undermines both the source material and the actors in Episode 10, leaving what should have been an epic finale a bit lackluster.
The show’s first season, riddled with time jumps after time jumps, has been uneven at times. However, while its predecessor elevated the actors to stars thanks to good writing, the cast of house of the dragon has managed to salvage what could have been an uninspired show that often relied too heavily on viewers to fill in the narrative gaps. Any other artist would have made Rhaenyra one-dimensional in his pain and unpleasant in her rage at the end. Emma D’Arcy turns that hurt and anger inward and makes her not just justified but relatable. The final frame of this episode is worth, if not an Emmy, at least an Emmy nomination.
Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen had the makings of being, if not an outright villain, then at least a wildly divisive figure. Instead, the performance manages to maintain Daemon’s impulsive and often destructive nature while giving him an outlet that feels justified in the eyes of viewers: protecting the family’s legacy from him. These aren’t the heroes Jon Snow becomes all those years later, but they are people driven not just by a thirst for power but by a genuine, if often messy, love for one another.
At least, they were until “The Black Queen,” an episode that shows viewers the blacks after Viserys’s death and goes to great lengths to make both sides equal in a way that not only doesn’t make narrative sense but It doesn’t respect progression. that the show itself had mounted. Daemon goes from being a chaotic and tortured antagonist who truly loves her family to a man who rages against her wife’s power and resorts to violence against her for no good reason. Aemond’s dangerous edges are softened enough to make him not only unrecognizable but also boring. Although Daemon’s turn is at least consistent with the character he was in the earlier episodes, house of the dragon they spent way too much time setting up a character change that never paid off before bringing him back to his old character with very little explanation.
House of the Dragon’The major deviations from the books – Alicent’s motivations for crowning Aegon and Aemond’s motivations for killing Lucerys – are, in many ways, part of the same problem: a desire to sanitize history, to make the greens and blacks are equally bad. If everyone is covered in mud, it’s hard to worry about who’s cleaner. This is probably the reason for Daemon’s actions in this episode as well. It’s fine for him to bend the knee to Rhaenyra and wage war on her behalf, but make it seem like he cares for her. either she for him firmly establishes blacks as the clear heroes of a story that should have no heroes.
Then there’s Rhaenys, whose journey from “I won’t start this war” to “Let’s fully support Rhaenyra” privileges plot over character. Rhaenyra herself is stripped of agency from her in favor of the moral relativism the series seems to prefer. She shouldn’t be “The Black Queen” just for revenge, but that’s what she ends up being, even though everything she’s done up until this episode, including her marriage to Daemon, has been to secure her own. her position as his heir. the Iron Throne. The show’s progression translates to fickle rather than nuanced characters.
The biggest problem is that after nine episodes of setup, it’s hard to put up with the in-between storytelling that “The Black Queen” attempts to provide through both the storytelling and directing choices. Maybe if the show had spent a little more time depicting these characters as what they presumably wanted them to be in the end, this hour would make sense. As it stands, Episode 10 feels too much like the show trying to gain an advantage it hasn’t earned and didn’t need.
Ironically, house of the dragon‘s “The Black Queen” had everything in place for a legacy episode. Coming to the end, it seemed that what was driving Rhaenyra, Daemon, Corlys, Rhaenys, and all of Team Black was the desire to live in the next generation. That, in turn, could have translated into the next generation’s desire to live up to the example they set. That could have been the perfect spark for the Dance with Dragons.
However, “The Black Queen”, like “The Green Council”, is an episode about how, despite the power women have, the power to which they are entitled, it is the men around them who ultimately take the stand. decisions that will decide. this war. Alicent and Rhaenys before her and Rhaenyra in this episode may have power, but the kingdom and the narrative will always look to men first. The continued marginalization of these powerful women makes Episode 10 even more frustrating.
even more appalling, House of the Dragon’The season 1 finale once again reinforces that the greatest civil war in Westeros came down to a misunderstanding and an accident. Maybe that makes for a more nuanced story, but the setup just wasn’t there. For a show that billed itself not as a morality tale but as a cautionary tale against family infighting, the decision to go this route is not only shocking, it’s immensely disappointing. Fans tuned in to a story of fire and blood, but all they got was basic, predictable storytelling.
Perhaps the saddest thing about “The Black Queen” is how unsurprising these mistakes are. Fans have been here before, with this very property. It’s the last season of game of Thrones all over again, except now at least the show is letting everyone down from the start. On the plus side, that means maybe the house of the dragon has a chance to fix the problems with “The Black Queen” in the future.
To catch up on the Targaryen family drama that led up to Dance of the Dragons, House of the Dragon Season 1 is available to stream on HBO Max.