House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 10 Review: The Black Queen

It’s tough for an episode of TV to evoke every single emotion from viewers, but House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 10 was truly one of the most shocking hours of TV I’ve watched in years — possibly ever.

Following House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 9 was an arduous task, but « The Black Queen » heightened the tension as Rhaenyral learned the truth.

It was the most traumatic moment of her life, triggering a stillbirth and forever changing how she thinks of some of the people she grew up with.

There has been much debate about the recast halfway through the season, but Emma D’arcy turned in one of the most striking performances in franchise history as this young woman whose life was crumbling around her.

Rhaenyra was in a great place the last time she met Alicent, but her friend concealing her father’s passing and installing her son as the King was a step too far. Their bond runs deep, but using the page of the novel was sheer manipulation.

It didn’t help matters that Otto showed up at Dragonstone with the gall to tell Rhaenyra that she could accept the new King or perish.

Syrax killing Otto and the men on the bridge was on my list of expectations, but the series is all about planting seeds that spread later.

Otto deserves a heinous death, but that wouldn’t align with Rhaenyra’s values and how she wanted to be a leader worthy of her father’s name.

Every moment with her father in the meetings and their chats behind closed doors paved the way for Rhaenyra to be one of the best rulers in the history of Westeros.

Viserys wanted someone who could show compassion on the throne to secure the future of House Targaryen. If he thought one of his sons or brother could do that, he would have prepared them to be rulers.

Knowing that Aegon, who abuses women and creates illegitimate children in his spare time, is on the throne is a harrowing thought and something he would hate.

Then again, his pre-death rumblings when he thought he was talking to his daughter are why we’re in this situation in the first place. It’s harrowing to think that much of this civil war could have been avoided without misunderstandings.

Rhaenys could have killed Alicent and her sons at the coronation to end this war before it started, but Rhaenys sees parts of Viserys in his daughter.

She has resentment, sure, but she also wants to do what she thinks is right when she’s in a position of power. Daemon would have murdered everyone in the Dragonpit and wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

Knowing how swiftly alliances change in Westeros, I was concerned about whether Daemon and Rhaenyra would trust Rhaenys. It didn’t help that she was always on the sidelines, refusing to bow to the Queen.

Killing someone like Rhaenys for not avoiding the war would have taken a potential ally out of the equation and sent a message to the people of Westeros that Rhaenyra needs support from that she isn’t following in her father’s footsteps.

The last thing I expected from this finale was for Corlys to show up and be in a healthy state. This could take many different directions, and you could tell he did not want to support Rhaenyra initially.

At least Rhaenys was there to talk him down from that ledge because if he didn’t extend the support to Rhaenyra, it would have probably set a precedence for the rest of Westeros to side with the Greens.

Knowing how swiftly the greens were rallying support, Rhaenyra had to make moves quickly if there was any hope of being able to fight in this war. Being on Dragonstone is excellent because we know there are more dragons, which should keep potential battles from occurring there.

It was nice to see her sons offer to go on dragonback to rally support, but it was inevitable at least one of these journies would end in disaster.

The visual of Lucerys arriving at Storm’s End with Vhagar in the distance was chilling because it highlighted the difference between one of the youngest and oldest dragons.

Aemond already offering Borros something much better than what Luke had up his sleeve highlighted the flaw that Team Black didn’t effectively consider what the Greens would have to offer.

Viserys had some deals in place, but the Greens represent a new world order, something that came back to bite Team Black in a big way.

Aemond has got to be one of the most brutal characters on the series because you never know what his next action will be. He has a constant death stare that makes him all the scarier.

Vowing to take Luke’s eye wasn’t predictable, but the events that followed were harsh.

Vhagar is a seasoned war veteran. Arrax was a baby in comparison, so there was no way the younger dragon would stand a chance against the oldest dragon in Westeros.

Sending Arrax and Luke back to the ground in pieces is a visual I won’t forget any time soon, but it highlights that this war will have many casualties.

Aemond’s shock and horror at his dragon’s actions was surprising, at least it confirmed that he wanted to frighten his nephew and send him back to Dragonstone to tell everyone that Vhagar would be unbeatable in most of the coming fights.

It has long been teased that the riders don’t have complete control of the dragons, despite what the people outside House Targaryen believe, and this was a great example of it.

The dragons form a bond with their riders, and, understandably, Aemond would have strong feelings towards his nephew after everything that’s transpired between them.

There was genuine regret and fear in his voice as he shouted at his dragon, thinking he stood a chance at stopping what had happened.

Rhaenyra learning about her son’s murder was yet another showcase of fine acting from Emma D’arcy, but we don’t know what she was told about the death.

Fire & Blood book painted Aemond as more of a villain in that scene, but we need to remember that the book was told from a third-person perspective, whereas the beauty of House of the Dragon is that we see the story from the eyes of all of these pivotal players.

It’s been great because it leaves nothing up to debate and enhances the source material instead of disregarding it. Fire & Blood could be described as a framework of the downfall of the Targaryens, but that’s about it.

Rhaenyra had lost so much, and that chilling look on her face signaled that she was a merciful Queen no more. Now, the war is well and truly underway, and it would be an understatement to say that we shouldn’t get attached to any of the characters.

At this stage, I’m Team Black, but it’s easy to understand why a large part of the fandom is Team Green. The show should be credited for making a one-dimensional conflict from Fire & Blood three-dimensional.

The long wait for House of the Dragon Season 2 will be challenging, but I have few concerns about it. Now that the war is underway, the battle lines have been drawn, and a part of the fun will be on which side everyone lands.

What did you think of the finale? Did you struggle to watch Rhaenyra’s scenes?

What are your thoughts on Luke’s death?

Team Black or Team Green: Which side are you on?

Hit the comments.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.