The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon season 1, episode 10
House of the Dragon executive producer Ryan Condal explains the finale episode Rhaenyra line that nods to Daenerys. House of the Dragon season 1 came to a close Sunday on HBO Max. And to say the episode set up big season 2 drama would be a massive understatement.
It’s no surprise of course that Emma D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra was at the center of things in the final episode of season 1. The bad news came fast and furious for the House Targaryen princess and presumptive heir to the Iron Throne: in short order she learned of her father King Viserys’ death and Queen Alicent’s treasonous crowning of her son Aegon, then suffered a miscarriage amid the emotional turmoil. But even with all this motivation to mount a dragon and burn things, Rhaenyra elected to exercise restraint, uttering that she doesn’t wish to “rule over a kingdom of ash and bone.”
Long-time Game of Thrones fans naturally connected this line to the famous moment in the original series when Daenerys uttered something similar, saying “I am not here to be queen of the ashes” in response to her advisors’ hawkish longing for war. But while Daenerys ultimately went against her instinct for restraint, finally burning down King’s Landing and dooming herself, fans shouldn’t assume Rhaenyra will go down the same path. Speaking to Variety, House of the Dragon EP Condal addressed the show’s nod to Daenerys, and admitted that while the parallels are there, Rhaenyra is her own person. Check out his remarks below:
She’s going through a whole lot in this episode, but I don’t think the Rhaenyra that we’ve seen up to this point would believably just turn immediately and say, you know, “Launch all the nukes, we’re going to war.” She’s very angry. She’s not just backing down and saying, “I’m not going to stand up for my claim in any way whatsoever.” But [she is saying,] “I am going to be cautious and practical about the next steps that I take.” You see her weighing her decisions — weighing her responsibility that she took with the Song of Ice and Fire, the thing she promised her father, that she would hold the realm united and at peace as he tried to do. But at the same time, her birthright has been stolen. Those things are diametrically opposed to one another. “How do I serve both? I can’t. It’s paradox. What do I do?” She’s just not going to rush headlong into anything. You’re seeing what Viserys probably saw in her, that she’s capable of nuanced thought and the ability to think through problems. While all the men around the table, including Daemon, just want to immediately jump on dragons and go burn King’s Landing, she’s not quite ready to do that just yet. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t.
It’s ominous that Condal implies Rhaenyra could still do a Mad Queen turn a la Daenerys – a possibility that indeed seems much stronger after the finale episode’s other tragic developments. The presence of Daenerys Targaryen of course can be felt strongly throughout House of the Dragon season 1, beginning with the show’s early shots of the young Rhaenyra looking very Dany-like atop her dragon. House of the Dragon has also implied another direct connection to Daenerys, confirming that the dragon Dreamfyre is laying eggs, leading to theories that Daenerys’ dragons may have been the children of Dreamfyre.
There are Daenerys connections too in the way the show has depicted both Rhaenyra and Alicent struggling to assert their identities as more than mere trophies, and make their way as female rulers in a world run by men. Indeed, in many ways the storytelling on House of the Dragon feels like a deliberate attempt to redeem the questionable writing decisions that were made with Daenerys throughout Game of Thrones. But it remains to be seen if Rhaenyra’s own destiny will ultimately lead her away from ruling over ash and bone, or right into it.