REVIEW: House of the Dragon – Season 1, Episode 10, “The Black Queen”

The long-awaited conclusion to the first season of House of the Dragon has come with this week’s “The Black Queen.” This episode is far from the worst of the season, but also far from the best. It’s a very middle-of-the-road episode that neither elicits anticipation for the next season nor satisfactorily resolves the plot lines of this one. As predicted upon the release of last week’s trailer for “The Black Queen,” whiched promised bombastic action and the beginning of the Targaryen civil war, the former was merely a marketing ploy. “The Black Queen” only has one substantial action sequence, and while it is phenomenally done and beautiful, if not sufficiently justified from a character perspective. Overall, “The Black Queen” is very drawn out and does not proceed at the pace necessary for a finale. There are definitely some great characters and pieces of dialogue, as with the entirety of this season. However, a full season of setup has just gone too far.

Narratively, “The Black Queen” would have worked far better as the premiere of season 2. The over-the-top, if inexplicable, ending of episode 9 was a far more rousing moment on which to end the season. With the recent crowning of Aegon, the question of “What will happen next?” was the strongest. “The Black Queen” answers this question but does not provide enough else to be a swelling conclusion to the season. When the credits roll, the question is not “What will happen next?” but rather, “Is that it? That’s where you decided to end the season?”


“The Black Queen” begins with Rhaenys arriving at Dragon Stone to tell Rhaenyra of Aegon’s crowning. In response, Rhaenyra begins her political maneuvering to secure as many allies as possible in preparation for any coming conflict. The stress of these preparations sends her into premature labor, leading to a tragic stillbirth. In a feet of naivete, Rhaenyra sends her sons on dragonback to some of her most pivotal allies to secure their loyalty, leading to the murder of one of her sons at the hands of Prince Aemond. The episode closes with Rhaenyra hearing this news, her face set and her blood calling for war. Nearly the entire episode is focused on political conversations and maneuvering. Many of these conversations are great, with some compelling dialogue, but it isn’t enough to sell this season and put a bow on it.

The biggest negative of “The Black Queen” is a holdover from the last episode. The writers ignore Rhaenys’ mass murder in King’s Landing to focus on why she didn’t burn the Greens. The excuse of “It’s not her war to start” does not hold water because she murdered hundreds if not thousands of innocent civilians, which is an act of war. Whether or not it’s her war to start, she started it. After all this, she’s the one who convinces her husband to back the Blacks, so it is, again, a moot point. Rhaenys is a broken character full of contradictions and feigned moral superiority. As such, any contribution she has in this series going forward will be tainted by the ineptitude of her decisions in episode 9.

House of the Dragon The Black Queen

For the first time in Game of Thrones history, they may have taken things too far with a graphic scene. Even viewers with a high tolerance for blood and sensitive material will likely feel averse to it. Rhaenyra’s stillbirth scene is quite disturbing, with cascades of blood pouring onto the floor for several minutes before a deformed and twisted baby’s corpse slides out. This model of the child is haunting to look at and may have been just a step too far, even for this show. The decision to add this to the story also offers very little to the overall narrative. Within hours, Rhaenyra is back on her feet and ready to go as if nothing has happened. Beyond the birth and the funeral, none of the events or Rhaenyra’s character refer back to that tragic event. It could be cut from the episode and affect virtually nothing. So, not only is the scene over-the-top, but it also may be entirely unnecessary.

As always, the standout of this episode is Matt Smith’s Daemon. The intensity he brings to “The Black Queen” rivals his best performances of the season. Two scenes, in particular, stand out above the rest. When he sees Rhaenyra slipping into the worst pitfalls of his brother’s personality, he lashes out at her, choking her and staring deep into her eyes, saying, “Dreams didn’t make us kings; dragons did.” Matt’s performance in this scene is stellar, beautifully portraying his anger at seeing his brother’s biggest flaws in his wife. Matt’s other scene of note also comes as one of the most beautiful of the season. In hopes of procuring one of the wild dragons, Daemon risks the deepest caverns of the dragon pit, singing in High Valyrian the whole time. The image of him standing small when compared to a fire-breathing dragon igniting the roof of the cavern is beautiful.

House of the Dragon The Black Queen

All the best moments of the episode not involving Daemon center around Aemond. Aemond can simply stand in the background of a scene, saying nothing for most of it, and still come across as the strongest personality in the room. His initial scene at Storm’s End is incredibly compelling. He merely needs to stand there and stare down his nephew to convey all his emotions. However, many of his subsequent decisions are a tad contradictory. He has not been portrayed as the bully or the foolishly antagonistic sort so far. These personality traits apply more to his brother, Aegon. Despite this, he taunts his nephew, demanding the price of his eye to leave the castle. That matter was settled long ago, and Aemond is the one who settled it when he said his eye was a price worth paying for a dragon. His sapphire prosthetic eye shown in this scene is visually stunning, but his motivation for attacking his nephew seems unfounded for his character.

The subsequent scene with Aemond also falls prey to beautiful visuals yet poor justification. The dragon battle between Aemond and his nephew is intense and well-animated. However, Aemond has always been portrayed as incredibly intelligent, his loyalty and duty driving him. He would never have put himself in so precarious a position that any accidents may happen, inciting inevitable war. He would have known that teasing his nephew was foolish. If this were Aegon, the decision would have been wholly justified by his established personality and priorities. While not to the same degree as with Rhaenys in the last episode, the writers once again disregard a character’s personality for a bombastic moment. The cool factor for this dragon battle is extremely high, partially compensating for this lack of cohesive motivation. The shot of the dragons above the storm looking down upon it is another beautiful image that feels so fantasy. Additionally, the moment that Vhagar just annihilates the other dragon is visceral and shocking. However, despite all this, the scene is ultimately ruined by poor writing.

House of the Dragon The Black Queen

Overall, this first season of House of the Dragon is very middle-of-the-road, with some high highs and some very low lows. It will likely be enough to inspire fans to wait in anticipation for the next season, and that is the ultimate goal of every season of television. For “The Black Queen,” the strange choice in ending and several character-breaking moments are balanced out with some great dialogue, a couple of great actors, and some beautiful CGI. To end a meh season, “The Black Queen” delivers a meh ending.

House of the Dragon – Season 1, Episode 10, "The Black Queen"

Plot - 5
Acting - 7
Progression - 6.2
Production Design - 7.5
Intrigue - 4.5



For "The Black Queen," the strange choice in ending and several character-breaking moments are balanced out with some great dialogue, a couple of great actors, and some beautiful CGI. To end a meh season, "The Black Queen" delivers a meh ending.

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