House of the Dragon episode 10 Review
When it came to on-screen sex and violence, Game of Thrones took delight in pushing the boundaries. However, towards the end of its run, this had backfired. Up until this point, House of the Dragon has been quite restrained, revelling in quick violence rather than protracted animosity. However, this changes approximately 15 minutes into this final episode. The premature stillbirth of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy) sixth child, which I count as the fourth bloody, screaming delivery in the series, and the gory pictures of the dead child and its mother’s sorrow feel gruesome in a completely new and distasteful way. These scenes from House of the Dragon must have been intolerable for anyone who has lost a child; for this mom, they were just unpleasant.
Elliot Grihault’s character, Prince Lucerys Velaryon, faces the possibility of succeeding his uncle, Lord Corlys in House of the Dragon (Steve Toussaint), to the throne of Driftmark, and this episode opens with his adolescent worries. Though he describes her as “perfect,” his mother Rhaenyra’s attitude is just barely more compassionate than “man up and deal with it.” It is also quietly charming. The appearance of Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), fresh from saving the lives of the entire Hightower clan and prepared to break the news of King Viserys’ passing, interrupt this mother-son interaction. Rhaenyra goes into early labour as a result of the shock, but what has upset her more—the death of her father or the revelation that her half-brother Aegon has been seated on the Iron Throne?
But at least Rhaenyra isn’t actively seeking retribution just yet. Instead, her uncle and spouse Daemon (Matt Smith) rushes into action by directing the despatch of ravens to their friends and requesting the assistance of their bannermen to rally the warriors. It is up to Prince Jacaerys (Harry Collett) to convince his stepfather to change his mind by pointing out that Rhaenyra is the only person on this island with the authority to declare war. When Ser Erryk (Elliott Tittensor, House of the Dragon) arrives with a crown and pledges his allegiance, Daemon is able to lay it on his wife’s head and guide the court of Dragonstone in proclaiming her Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. The revelation of his son’s birth and death appears to have focused Daemon. Rhaenys is the lone holdout, but even he won’t last.
Then it’s back to the keep for, if not a war council, then at least a council of strategy. Stannis Baratheon never used that function, but then again, he was a gloomy bugger. That picture of the up-lit Painted Table was stunning. The situation, however, doesn’t appear to be encouraging given Rhaenyra’s weak armies and unreliable allies (as Corlys will later observe, “hope is the fool’s ally”). Although the enemy also has dragons, these ones are more battle-tested than hers. However, Rhaenyra isn’t about to back down, so when Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who she refers to as a “fucking traitor,” has the audacity to reveal his face, she repeats the manoeuvre she used in episode two, bringing her dragon Syrax down directly on the walled walk in an effort to make Otto and his men quake.
It’s not really effective – Otto still has the upper hand, displaying trinkets to bring back memories of Rhaenyra’s childhood relationship with Queen Alicent and make her consider the destruction that would result from the war between the two clans.
But Rhaenyra’s hesitation to set the realm on fire comes off to the increasingly haughty and angry Daemon as cowardice. It’s time for him to remind her, as well as the audience, just what a disgusting piece of work she married, putting his hand on her throat to coerce her into making a war declaration. However, the only outcome is their separation, which is unlikely to be helpful to him when the stakes are high.
Fortunately, Rhaenyra has a saviour, and it’s just this reserve that persuades him to stand with her. Lord Corlys awakens on Dragonstone looking unexpectedly healthy despite frequent allegations that he was on the verge of death. If the usurpers succeed, his first reaction might be to flee to Driftmark and wait out the storm, but his wife Rhaenys reminds him that his grandchildren—legitimate or not—will be the first in line if they inherit. Corlys swings in behind Rhaenyra with his fleet and the recently freed Stepstones, a group of islands whose possession should enable the Blacks to blockade the Narrow Sea and besiege King’s Landing. They just need the Starks, Arryns, and Baratheons to join them for those alliances to become more than just theoretical ones.
The queen sends her lads, Jace and Luke, in that direction, hoping to win the Lords’ support by virtue of their royal stature. Rhaenyra is correct when she tells Luke that Lord Borros Baratheon (Roger Evans) will be “honoured to host a prince of the Realm and his dragon,” but she makes a terrible error in judgement because he already has one of both.
Luke should have run back to his mother as soon as he saw Vhagar in the Storm’s End courtyard, but he perseveres despite Lord Borros’ mockery and his uncle Prince Aemond’s (Ewan Mitchell) taunting, who orders the youngster to pull out his own eye.
Aemond may not have intended to murder Luke, but dragons don’t understand the concept of restraint, so the rain-soaked dragon chase that follows can only have one outcome. Vhagar just has to be pushed over the edge by a fire burst from Luke’s dragon Arrax before the Greens land their first blow. Any complaints that it was the dragon’s fault really aren’t going to go over well, based on the expression on Rhaenyra’s face in the final moments.