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The Ending Of House Of The Dragon Season 1 Explained

After 10 episodes of betrayal, subterfuge, plotting, rampant incest, and numerous murders, "House of the Dragon" Season 1 ends with big things looming on the horizon. The "Game of Thrones" prequel's debut season covers a ton of ground, following its core group of Targaryen, Velaryon, and Hightower characters across decades — and, in some cases, multiple actors. While the reign of King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) is filled with drama and tragedy of its own, the geriatric monarch generally serves as a buffer to the many conflicts lurking in the shadows of his court. With the matter of his succession finally at hand, it seems that the real action of the show is only just beginning.

The "House of the Dragon" Season 1 finale begins to properly fulfill the promise of the series title. We get affecting glimpses of what a war amongst the dragonriders could look like, and the battle lines between Rhaenyra Targaryen's (Emma D'Arcy) Blacks and Alicent Hightower's (Olivia Cooke) Greens are drawn out on the map of Westeros. The final few episodes of Season 1 are as brutal and shocking as fans should expect from George R.R. Martin's grim fantasy world, and they set the stage for what could be many more seasons of action-packed drama to come.

From character motivations and shifting allegiances to what could happen next, here's everything you need to understand about the end of "House of the Dragon" Season 1.

Viserys the Peaceful

"House of the Dragon" Season 1 depicts much of King Viserys I Targaryen's tenure as King of Westeros — a tenure that, for the most part, is a time of peace in the realm. We see the questionable circumstances under which Viserys wins the crown over his more qualified cousin. We see the decisions that lead to his family slowly falling apart, and we see his ugly death. With the old king gone, the Blacks and the Greens are free to battle it out for the Iron Throne. However, is that the only legacy that Viserys is to leave behind?

When he announces the king's death to the small council, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) refers to the him as "Viserys the Peaceful." It's not an untrue title. Aside from the frequent fighting with the Triarchy in the Stepstones, no major conflicts seem to occur under Viserys' rule. Still, the king's legacy isn't simply one of peace. Though the realm remains united throughout his reign, his own house begins to crumble. Viserys never really earns forgiveness for his part in the death of his first wife, Queen Aemma, and the man we see at the end of Season 1 is barely a man at all — more a wisp of one trying desperately to believe that all will be right after his death.

"What will they say of me when the histories are written?" Viserys wonders midway through the season. "There is a part of me that wishes I'd been tested," he says. "It is perhaps best not to know."

The Hightower conspiracy

To King Viserys' credit, he never falters from his conviction that Rhaenyra should be queen after him, despite the urges from others to name Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) heir. However, the longtime Hand of the King Otto Hightower has other plans, which begin with him matching his own daughter with Viserys and end with him arranging for Prince Aegon to be named king after Viserys' death.

As Alicent learns at the small council meeting, her father and his allies have been planning to usurp Rhaenyra's birthright for years. Her misunderstanding of Viserys' final words — meant to confirm Rhaenyra as his heir but interpreted as a desire for Aegon to rule — is helpful to that end but hardly necessary. Otto would probably have pushed to install Aegon regardless, and given how Alicent has acted throughout the season, it's unlikely that she would have resisted. Not even the brutal killing of Lord Beesbury (Bill Paterson) by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) or her father's executions of political dissidents are enough to sway Alicent.

Though it's brought about by schemes, Aegon's coronation almost feels inevitable when it happens. As Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) says, "Men would rather see the realm put to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne" — and she would know. Otto claims to be serving the realm, but he just wants his progeny to rule. While Alicent feels conflicted, her sense of duty compels her to support her son's claim.

King Aegon II

Most of "House of the Dragon" Episode 9 concerns the frantic hunt for Prince Aegon after King Viserys' death. Apparently, the young prince has no interest in ruling the Seven Kingdoms, which would seem to suit his younger brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) just fine. However, both Otto and Alicent are determined to seat Aegon on the throne, and they eventually track him down to do just that.

Though hesitant at first, Aegon responds quite positively to the bows and cheers he receives at his coronation. That newfound sense of power and importance is sure to be bad news for the realm, however. Aegon's list of known crimes includes multiple instances of sexual assault, patronizing child fighting rings in King's Landing, and being an all-around horrible monster. The images of him lifting his sword as king are sure to conjure unfavorable comparisons to "Game of Thrones" characters like Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton.

With the crown on his head, Aegon's behavior will likely grow even more harmful. Alicent expresses frustration and even rage at her son throughout Season 1, but at this point, would anything compel her to denounce him? Doing so wouldn't just hurt her family, but it would also leave her without any allies in King's Landing. For now, Alicent seems locked in a trap that she helped build.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Rhaenys' dramatic entrance

King Aegon II Targaryen's coronation is cut short by a surprise appearance from Princess Rhaenys on dragonback. As the coronation takes place within the Dragonpit, it's a simple thing for her to sneak away, climb aboard Meleys, and smash through the floor building to escape. Sure, there are thousands of innocent people in the way, many of whom are likely killed during the incident, but that seems to be beside the point for the Queen Who Never Was.

Despite the violence of her appearance, Rhaenys chooses not to kill any of the Greens. Instead, she simply flies off to Dragonstone to warn Rhaenyra, ultimately allying herself and the Velaryon fleet to Rhaenyra's side.

One of the most powerful moments in the "House of the Dragon" Season 1 finale is Rhaenyra's own coronation, where she dons the same crown that her father wore. While all others present bend their knees to the queen, Rhaenys remains standing, looking on with obvious pride. Rhaenyra accomplishes that which Rhaenys was blocked from doing herself so many years before. Though she briefly considers allying herself with the Greens, the princess refuses to embrace Alicent's belief that women must remain in the background. Her alliance with the Blacks is clearly one of moral conviction, and she seems ready to do whatever's necessary to be the first woman to secure the Iron Throne.

Daemon the violent

No one has a wilder journey through "House of the Dragon" Season 1 than Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). He starts off as the King's bitter younger brother, only interested in ascending to the Iron Throne himself. When his mocking of Viserys' dead son gets him banished, he steals a dragon egg and claims Dragonstone as his own. He eventually winds up fighting in the Stepstones, grooms his niece like a full-on predator, murders his wife, remarries, loses his second wife, and ultimately marries Rhaenyra after attempting to get her own husband killed. For just 10 episodes, it's an impressive tale of treachery.

The question that still lingers, however, is whether or not Daemon can actually be trusted. The finale of Season 1 shows him clashing with Rhaenyra on several issues. He wants to go straight to war and use their greater dragon numbers to beat the Greens into submission, but Rhaenyra pushes for a less violent solution — at least at first. When she brings up Aegon's prophecy for why peaceful methods should be embraced, Daemon flips out, choking her and telling her that Viserys' historical obsessions were only delusions of grandeur.

Though he's currently on Rhaenyra's side, this moment of aggression is a grim reminder of the kind of person Daemon really is. He's a power-hungry murderer with an inferiority complex who married his niece for clout. How much longer should Rhaenyra trust him — and what else might he do for the throne?

The White Worm

One of the smaller subplots of "House of the Dragon" Season 1 is the story of Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), Daemon's former lover and an information broker in King's Landing. In Episode 9, Mysaria reappears after an extended absence from the show when she reveals the location of Prince Aegon to Otto Hightower. Spymaster Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) brings Mysaria's network to the attention of Queen Alicent, who authorizes a mission to eliminate her. A later scene shows one of Mysaria's brothels burning, suggesting that she could be out of the picture for good.

There are several differences between "House of the Dragon" and "Fire & Blood," the George R.R. Martin book on which the show is based. As such, it's possible that Mysaria could have simply been killed off-screen. However, in the world of "Game of Thrones" little is ever that simple and Mysaria isn't so easily done away with in the book.

In Martin's story, the White Worm (as she's often called) continues to be a powerful force in Westeros long beyond the point when she appears to die in "House of the Dragon." Hopefully, that means that her crusade to rid Flea Bottom of child fighting pits will continue. Maybe she'll even fight back against the grotesque and murderous Larys. Now that Alicent has tried to kill her, Mysaria could become a powerful ally to Rhaenyra Targaryen. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not she's even alive.

Dragons vs. dragons

Daemon Targaryen is right about one thing at the very least — the war between Alicent Hightower's regime and Rhaenyra's faction will come down to whose dragons are stronger. Fans of George R.R. Martin's books will know that the coming conflict is referred to as "The Dance of the Dragons" and at the very end of "House of the Dragon" Season 1, we get a dark glimpse at what that could look like.

Rhaneyra sends her son Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) alone as an envoy to Storm's end to try to secure the Baratheons as allies. However, when he arrives, Prince Aemond is already there, along with his massive dragon Vhagar. When Lucerys leaves, Aemond pursues, leading to a tense chase through a storm offshore. In the end, neither rider is able to fully control their mount, leading to Lucerys and Arrax perishing in Vhagar's gaping maw.

A tragedy in its own right, Lucerys' death also shows just how dangerous the Greens could become. Sure, Rhaenyra and Daemon have the numbers when it comes to dragons by a lot, but that doesn't guarantee them a victory. It's hard to imagine any dragon, even Caraxes or Meleys, standing up against Vhagar. That may be why Daemon starts trying to recruit the remaining riderless dragons, beginning with Vermithor, the next largest after Vhagar and the former mount of King Jaehaerys I. Turns out, a little Valyrian singing is all it takes to win the dragon's heart.

War on the horizon

Before her son Lucerys is killed, Rhaenyra seems hesitant to engage in an all-out war against the Greens. Since "House of the Dragon" Season 1 ends the moment she learns of the murder, we don't quite know yet how it may change her plans. Earlier in the episode, she claims that she won't be the first one to draw blood. However, now that a painful blow has been struck against her family, war may be coming much sooner than she intended.

Regardless of her heightened rage, much of Rhaenyra's original plan will likely play out unaltered. Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and the Velaryon fleet can still put King's Landing under naval siege, though that might be tricky with Vhagar and the Greens' other dragons flying about. At the same time, Rhaenyra still needs more allies to make a war feasible, which is why Prince Jacaerys' (Harry Collett) mission to the North is so critical. The Arryns and the Starks are hugely important during the original "Game of Thrones" timeline, and they could enter the "House of the Dragon" story in a big way in Season 2. For most fans, it would probably be fun just to see Winterfell again.

A story of three women

At its core, "House of the Dragon" Season 1 is a story about patriarchy. It's a story about two women who grow up as friends and are torn apart by the society they live in — one that demands that men rule while women stand in the background. At the behest of her father, Alicent Hightower buys into this world and makes herself a part of it, believing it's the only way she can have a positive effect. Rhaenyra takes the opposite approach, putting everything on the line to assert her own right to rule as a woman.

Where Alicent prioritizes duty above all else, her friend and rival prioritize loyalty. Where Rhaenyra believes in progress, Alicent believes in maintaining peace through the status quo. To both of them, Princess Rhaenys represents a beautiful "what-if" — a woman who could and should have been put on the Iron Throne but whose birthright was rejected by an oppressive society.

When Alicent invites Rhaenys to join her in the fight against Rhaenyra, she rejects her. "You desire not to be free, but to build a window in the wall of your prison," Rhaenys says in one of the best lines of "House of the Dragon." For all her flaws, Rhaenyra dares to dream of a better world, which is why Rhaenys chooses to ally herself, her dragons, and her fleet to Rhaenyra's cause.

The Song of Ice and Fire

Aegon the Conqueror's dream, referred to by Viserys I as the Song of Ice and Fire, looms large over everything that happens in "House of the Dragon" Season 1. It's the thing that makes Viserys believe that his reign might yet be legendary — the idea that he alone is preserving protection for the realm. He clearly believes in Aegon's prophecy, and he makes Rhaenyra believe it too. When she's crowned as Queen, the conviction that only a Targaryen can defend the realm from darkness is still at the forefront of her mind.

Given what happens in "Game of Thrones" Season 8, this is a curious thing to focus on. The prophecy of the "prince that was promised" is thought to be fulfilled by Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, but neither of them is the one to actually kill the Night King and end the White Walkers' rampage. That honor falls to Arya Stark. With this in mind, it's hard to see Rhaenyra's belief in the prophecy as anything other than misguided. Yet, it's a good enough reason for her to prepare for war, even before the death of her son.

Though Aegon II is indeed a Targaryen, he represents a new line spawned by the Hightowers. All the old Valyrian blood — Rhaenyra, Daemon, Rhaenys, and Corlys — is allied against him. Perhaps that means they also have the power of fate on their side.

What is the duty of a Queen?

"As Queen, what is my true duty to the realm?" Rhaenyra asks her council on Dragonstone in the "House of the Dragon" Season 1 finale. "When dragons flew to war, everything burned. I do not wish to rule over a kingdom of ash and bone." She says these things in counter to her uncle-husband Daemon's warmongering. Ever the thoughtful and strategic leader, Rhaenyra clearly takes the safety and well-being of Westeros seriously. So the question remains — what is her duty as queen?

Is it to ensure the least possible bloodshed? If so, then bending the knee to Aegon II might be the best course of action. Doing so would prevent war and certainly save the lives of countless civilians and foot soldiers. However, one must also consider Aegon himself — a cruel young man with no sense of decency or honor to speak of. Then there's the fact that only Rhaenyra fully understands the Song of Ice and Fire, which compels her to maintain her claim to the Iron Throne.

What is the duty of a queen? For Alicent Hightower, it's maintaining a peaceful status quo while protecting your family at all costs. Rhaenyra seems to have a more holistic view of things, but that's before her son Lucerys is killed by Aemond and Vhagar. Perhaps now, her duty as a mother and a warrior may supersede her distaste for violence. Her world is full of power-hungry schemers and corrupt aristocrats, but we've yet to see exactly what kind of queen she will be.

Where to from here?

All in all, "House of the Dragon" Season 1 leaves a lot of loose ends blowing in the wind. In retrospect, the whole saga feels like a setup for the real story — the Dance of the Dragons itself — which will begin in Season 2. HBO officially ordered Season 2 early on in Season 1's run, so there's no doubt that it's coming. However, according to series co-creator Ryan Condal, filming for Season 2 won't begin until 2023 (per Variety).

That means that fans may have a while to wait for the next chapter in Rhaenyra's story. A premiere before 2024 seems unlikely, given the massive undertaking of producing the show, but it will return eventually. When it does, we may see some new faces, including ancestors of "Game of Thrones" favorites like Cregan Stark and Jeyne Arryn. There are also sure to be plenty of dragon-on-dragon battles as the conflict heats up, and unfortunately a lot more incest as well. There are several engagements currently in the works, and yup, most of them are between relatives. Yikes.

If the show stays true to what happens in the book, then viewers will definitely get some epic showdowns in Season 2 and beyond. There are a lot of small details in "House of the Dragon" Season 1 that could become major storylines in the future, and it should be exciting to see how it all plays out.