Forgot What Happened in the 'House of the Dragon' Season 1 Finale? Here’s a Refresher.

house of the dragon
'House of the Dragon' Season 1 Finale RecapHBO

This story was originally published after the House of the Dragon season 1 finale aired on Oct. 23, 2022. We’re republishing it ahead of the season 2 premiere for viewers who, like us, might need a refresher before the new episode airs.

Spoilers below.

Tensions seem higher than ever as House of the Dragon’s season 1 finale begins. The last couple of episodes brought King Viserys’ death, Queen Alicent revealing that his dying wish was for their son to be his successor instead of his daughter, Rhaenyra, a wild chase for the missing Prince Aegon and his coronation as king in the dragon pit, and Princess Rhaenys’ escape on dragonback during the ceremony. But Princess Rhaenyra, who’s been in Dragonstone with her family all this time, doesn’t know any of that yet.

When we find her at home, she’s comforting her second son, Lucerys, who is experiencing a bout of imposter syndrome. (Targaryens, they’re just like us!) The heir to the Driftwood throne is having second thoughts about his future inheritance; he doesn’t feel ready to be Lord of the Tides, he’s too young, he’s inexperienced, and worst of all, he gets seasick! A horrible fate for the future leader of Westeros’ greatest fleet. But Rhaenyra feels for her boy. When she was a child, she hardly felt prepared to be queen, but she knew it was her duty to earn the title in time. Luke is touched by his mother’s empathy, but he’s not convinced. He’s not perfect like her, he says. “I am anything but,” Rhaenyra replies. She promises to help him prepare for his role just as her father Viserys did for her. But the sweet mother-son moment is soon spoiled by bad news.

Princess Rhaenys, who burst through the floor of the sept with her dragon during King Aegon II’s coronation, arrives in Dragonstone to update Rhaenyra and Daemon: Viserys is dead, and worse, Rhaenyra’s claim as heir has been overruled. Aegon has been hastily crowned before the masses of King’s Landing, who all acknowledge him as king. Daemon is critical of his brother’s death; he thinks his Viserys was slain by Alicent Hightower. Overwhelmed by grief and shock, Rhaenyra, who is pregnant, starts feeling contractions. When Daemon asks Rhaenys the question we were all thinking—Why didn’t you just have your dragon live-barbecue Aegon, Alicent, and the greens at the coronation?—she explains that though she knows war is inevitable, she didn’t want to be the one to start it. She adds that their family must leave Dragonstone at once, now that the greens are after them and their children.

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The bombshell sends Rhaenyra into labor with her sixth child, even though her pregnancy has not yet reached full term. Even the maester says this shouldn’t be happening. Meanwhile, Daemon is already plotting war and arranging defenses at Dragonstone. Rhaenys summons Rhaenyra’s sons, Lucerys and Jacaerys, who are in the middle of combat training on the beach, to see their mother in her room. Writhing in pain, Rhaenyra tells her boys that their grandsire has died and Aegon has been crowned king. She also reaffirms to her eldest, Jacaerys, that he is her rightful heir, just as she was to the late Viserys. She orders them that no military action shall be taken while she’s in labor. When Jacaerys brings this decree to the men around the Painted Table, Daemon is hesitant to obey. Ultimately, hearing Rhaenyra’s cries of pain echoing through the castle, he decides not to send troops, but sends ravens to their closest allies. He takes Jace and Luke with him to test the loyalty of the knights of the Kingsguard who’ve joined them at Dragonstone. These men swore to protect the last sovereign, but now that he’s dead, to whom will they pledge loyalty? Daemon makes it an easy decision for them: pledge fealty to the rightful heir Rhaenyra and live, or side with Aegon II and die by dragonfire.

Still in labor, Rhaenyra is keeled over at the side of her bed, her dress drenched in blood and sweat. She is in so much pain that the nurses are concerned. “Let us help you!” one pleads through the princess’ wails, but Rhaenyra keeps them at bay. Then, as if we haven’t had enough graphic birth scenes on House of the Dragon, Rhaenyra is shown, in detail, having a stillbirth. A bloody, dead fetus falls out between her legs and splats on the floor in front of her. She picks it up and holds it in her arms, defeated and exhausted. (The camera does not shy away from close-ups here.) Rhaenyra later wraps the tiny corpse up herself, still disheveled and bloodied from labor, to prepare for the late child’s funeral. Daemon falls to his knees on the beach, overcome by grief.

While the Targaryens hold a funeral on the cliffs of Dragonstone, Ser Erryk Cargyll arrives from King’s Landing, bringing Viserys’ crown. (Aegon II was crowned with Aegon the Conqueror’s crown, so Viserys’ is free to use.) Erryk pledges his loyalty to Rhaenyra, unlike his twin brother, Arryk, who has sided with the greens. Daemon crowns Rhaenyra right then and there. He kneels and the rest of the congregation follows, except for Rhaenys. Now we officially have two warring sovereigns.

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Following an epic strut with her knights, Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen joins the men at the Painted Table. Her stepdaughter Rhaena offers her a cup of wine, perhaps foreshadowing that she’ll become the queen’s cupbearer. Rhaenyra invites both her and her sister Baela to observe the meeting by her side. She once was a young girl like them who sat in on her father’s small council gatherings; she knows how useful that knowledge and access can be. The council informs Rhaenyra—and the audience—of her standing: The blacks have 30 knights, 100 crossbow men, and 300 men in arms. Daemon should have some support from the men in the City Watch. They have confirmed support from Houses Celtigar, Staunton, Massey, Darklyn, and Bar Emmon. Rhaenyra’s late mother was an Arryn, so they could have support from that house, too. Plus, Riverrun was always supportive of King Viserys. If the ever-loyal House Stark pledges fealty to Rhaenyra, the rest of the North will follow. Daemon plans to negotiate with Lord Grover. Boros Baratheon, on the other hand, will need to be reminded of the promises his house made to the crown. Lord Corlys Velaryon is in good health and sails for Dragonstone, so the support of the Velaryon fleet is all but confirmed. And then, there are the dragons: The greens have three adult dragons, but the blacks have 13 on their side, with more eggs incubating in the dragonmount.

Daemon plans to make Harrenhaal a meeting place for the blacks. It’s a strategic spot where they can cut off forces to the west and surround King’s Landing with their dragons and quickly take over. Before further plans are made, a ship with a three-headed green dragon flag is spotted arriving at Dragonstone. Daemon tells everyone to be on high alert.

It’s Otto Hightower. In a scene mirroring their standoff in episode 2, the Hand of the King faces Prince Daemon on the bridge. And just like last time, Rhaenyra arrives on dragonback to join them. “I’m Queen Rhaenyra now,” she declares to the greens, and accuses them of treason. Otto presents a lengthy offer: If Rhaenyra acknowledges Aegon as king, she can keep Dragonstone and it will pass to her trueborn son Jacaerys; Lucerys will inherit Driftmark which will continue to be passed down to Velaryon heirs; her sons by Prince Daemon will have places of high honor in court as the squire and cupbearer; and any knight or lord who conspired against Aegon II’s ascent will be pardoned. Daemon nearly spits at the terms; he would rather feed his sons to a dragon than have them serve the usurper king.

Otto adds that Houses Stark, Tully, and Baratheon are already considering generous terms to pledge for King Aegon. Rhaenyra points out that those lords already swore oaths to her when King Viserys named her his heir, but Otto brushes them off as “stale oaths.” She responds by removing his Hand of the King pin. In a final plea, Otto has the Grand Maester present to Rhaenyra a page ripped from the history book she and Alicent Hightower used to read together as children—and as friends. Queen Alicent “has not forgotten the love you once had for each other,” Otto tells Rhaenyra, trying to appeal to her emotions. No blood needs to be spilled and the realm can remain in peace, he adds. Daemon draws his sword, itching to fight, but Rhaenyra stops him and promises to have an answer for Otto in the morning.

The queen continues to show restraint to war and violence as she and her council meet again on the Painted Table. Daemon says their dragons will easily defeat Aegons’, but Rhaenyra is wary. Viserys once told her that when dragons flew to war in Valyria, everything burned. “I do not wish to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone,” she says. It almost feels like a wink to the future destruction of King’s Landing during Daenerys Targaryen’s conquest, which reduced the city to rubble and embers.

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In a very Viserys move, Rhaenyra would prefer to defend and unify the realm instead of fight. But Daemon states the obvious: We’ve already declared war by crowning you queen. Speaking to Daemon in private, she explains that she won’t just declare war to see her enemies’ heads on spikes or just because she’s angry, like he is. (Here, it’s clear Dragon is comparing how men and women deal with conflict, and how they seize and protect their power.) Rhaenyra tells her husband what her father once told her: that the role of sovereign is bigger than who’s in power—it’s also about ensuring Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy about the Song of Ice and Fire. But Daemon, like Queen Alicent, has no idea what this means. He chokes Rhaenyra as he denies whatever Viserys told her. “Dreams didn’t make us kings, dragons did,” he says before letting her go.

Lord Corlys is back, and he has a lot to catch up on. Waking up from his bed, he finds his wife, Rhaenys, who immediately scolds him for abandoning her and their family in pursuit for “more adventure at sea” when they needed him. She reveals to him that his brother, Vaemond, was killed by Daemon for questioning their grandchildrens’ parentage as he vied for the Driftwood throne. “Heedless ambition has always been a Velaryon weakness,” Corlys says, acknowledging his own foolish quest for power. Thus, he doesn’t want to take any side in the Targaryen civil war. He just wants them to go home and live peacefully with Rhaenys and their grandchildren. He won’t support Rhaenyra; he still thinks that she arranged the murder of their son Laenor. But Rhaenys, surprisingly, stands up for her. Rhaenyra is actually holding the realm together, she says. Every man who stands around the Painted Table is about the “plunge to the realm into war,” but Rhaenyra is the only one who’s demonstrated restraint. Rhaenys seems to admire that about her.

Corlys joins the lot at the Painted Table, hobbling on a cane with Rhaenys beside him. He sees Rhaenyra’s declared allies marked on the map, noting there are too few to win a war for the throne—but he can help change that. He pledges the full support of the Velaryon fleet and house to Queen Rhaenyra. He now wields control of the Stepstones after his recent battles, and the Velaryon fleet can cut off the Gullet and blockade trade into King’s Landing. Rhaenys jumps in, saying she can patrol the Gullet herself on her dragon Meleys. After that, the blacks could surround and siege King’s Landing and force the greens’ surrender. But, that would require more military force on land. Rhaenyra wants to confirm the support of Winterfell, The Eyrie, and Storm’s End first. Instead of sending ravens, she’ll send her sons on dragons, which are far faster. Her oldest, Jace, will go to The Eyrie then Winterfell, while Lucerys will head to Storm’s End to meet Lord Baratheon. They’ll remind the lords the cost of breaking their oaths.

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Rhaenyra knows the kind of risk she’s putting her sons under. A protective mother at heart, she makes them swear to take their errand as messengers, not warriors. The brothers agree. In a heartfelt pep talk, she hypes up Luke for his trip. He has Baratheon blood through grandmother Rhaenys and Lord Borros Baratheon should give him a warm welcome. With Storm’s End just a short flight away, this should be easy for him. (We already have a bad feeling about this.) The boys and grandmother Rhaenys fly off on their respective missions while Daemon takes a trip into the dragon den to summon Vermithor.

As Lucerys lands in Storm’s End, he notices another dragon in the distance. It’s the great Vhagar, nearly towering over the castle reinforcements—which means his rider is probably there too. Sure enough, when Luke steps into the hall to meet Lord Borros, his nephew and nemesis Aemond is already there. Unlike what his mother predicted, this is everything but a warm welcome. Lord Borros scoffs at Luke’s message from Queen Rhaenyra. The boy came all this way just to remind him of his father’s oath? At least King Aegon II made an attractive offer: the Baratheon swords and banners in exchange for a marriage pact between Aemond and one of Lord Borros’ daughters. Luke can’t compete with that; he’s already betrothed and has nothing to give. Alas, Lord Borros sends him home. But wait! Aemond wants Luke punished for challenging his brother’s claim to the throne. Echoing his mother Alicent’s demand years ago, Aemond wants Luke to take out his own eye in retaliation for cutting his out years ago. Aemond is not kidding; he even removes his eyepatch to reveal a sapphire in the place of his right eye, proving he’s not joking around. Luke refuses. The two draw swords, but Lord Borros does not want blood shed under his roof. He has Luke escorted to his dragon.

Rain is pouring when Luke mounts Arrax for the ride home, which means he can’t see the threat lurking right above him. As he soars through the storm clouds, Aemond intercepts his flight on Vhagar, who is so enormous in size she makes Arrax look like the size of a bird. Aemond chases down his nephew in the air, intent on getting his revenge. But in an unexpected move, Arrax breathes fire onto Vhagar, which startles both riders and sends the ancient Vhagar into a rage. Aemond is flustered and orders Vhagar to obey him, but the dragon acts on her own instincts and chases Luke and Arrax in a fury. When Luke and Arrax break through past the storm clouds, it seems as if they’re finally safe…but they’re not. Vhagar emerges from the clouds and chomps down on Luke and Arrax, killing them both. Aemond looks down in horror. He understands the gravity of what he’s just done.

News reaches Dragonstone, and Daemon is the one who tells Rhaenyra that her son has been killed. In the episode’s closing shot, Rhaenyra looks straight into the camera, consumed with grief and rage. (Emma D’Arcy says it all with their expression here.) The queen has so staunchly avoided war, even though she has been tested repeatedly to do otherwise. But this time is different. After Lucerys’ death—on top of her father’s passing and a stillbirth—there is no way Rhaenyra will stay neutral any longer. Now it’s her move, and if the greens know anything about Targaryen rage, they’d better watch out.

<< Read last episode’s recap

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