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'House of the Dragon' Season Finale: That Brutal Ending Explained

Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

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Daemon bows to the queen.
HBO

House of the Dragon season 1 is done. Excitement was high for HBO's Game of Thrones prequel, and with around 30 million people watching each episode, it's become a massive hit. The quality and reception to the show is almost surprising -- Game of Thrones itself has a complicated legacy. We got some answers about House of the Dragon's scope early in the season when it was renewed for a second season, revealing it'd take more than 10 episodes to tell the tale of the Targaryen civil war.

On Sunday's finale, we saw the precursor to the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. Word of King Viserys' death finally reaches Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen, yet the queen is reluctant to go to war for the throne. Aegon the Conqueror's prophecy rings in her head as she declares the need to preside over a united realm, not smoke and rubble.

Yet the closing moments of the show test her resolve, such that we know war is assured. Last warning: House of the Dragon spoilers below.

Vale, Lucerys and Arryx

The top-line news from House of the Dragon's finale is the death of Lucerys Targaryen, Rhaenyra's youngest child, whose true father is Harwin Strong. Lucerys, you may remember, was named heir to Dragonstone in episode 8 -- a decision that a disgruntled Vaemond Velaryon died contesting.

In the course of House of the Dragon's finale, Rhaenyra and Daemon decide they need to shore up support from the Eyrie, Winterfell and the Stormlands if they're to have a credible force to challenge the Hightowers. Toward the end of the episode, she sends her two eldest children out to petition the lords and ladies of these regions. Jacaerys will go to the Eyrie to procure Lady Arryn's forces, then head over to Winterfell to speak with Cregan Stark. Lucerys, meanwhile, needs to go to Storm's End to chat up Borros Baratheon.

When he gets there, however, we see that Aemond Targaryen has beat him to the punch. That's the same Aemond Targaryen who lost an eye thanks to Lucerys -- the same Aemond Targaryen who's been fantasizing about revenge for years. Lord Baratheon rebuffs Lucerys: Aemond at least came with a marriage proposal to wed the two houses, while Lucerys only had a reminder from Rhaenyra that House Baratheon had years ago pledged their swords to her succession.

Lucerys tries to leave, but Aemond isn't about to let the prince escape him. He demands Lucerys pluck out his own eye to pay the debt he incurred when he de-eyed Aemond. Lord Baratheon demands the two break it up, that no blood will be spilled in his castle.

Lucerys mounts Arryx, his dragon, to fly back to Dragonstone. Unfortunately, a hectic storm has broken out -- it is Storm's End, after all. Aemond and his enormous dragon Vhagar chase Lucerys. Aemond just wants to capture Lucerys and take out his eye, but his dragon has a mind of its own. After Arrax blazes Vhagar with dragonfire, the angered beast takes a bite out of Arrax. But because Vhagar is so huge, Arrax is chomped in half.

Lucerys is gone, as is Arrax. Crucially, Aemond Targaryen looks overwhelmed with regret at seeing his cousin killed. That's not out of familial feeling, but rather knowing how much of an escalation his death is likely to provoke.

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Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen.

HBO

The Dance of the Dragons

Dragonfire was a motif throughout the finale, which you'd expect from a show called House of the Dragon. But one recurring argument was the same one Daenerys Targaryen faced in Game of Thrones: Should Rhaenyra try peace or traditional warfare? Or should she just burn King's Landing down with dragons?

Aemond has Vhagar, the most powerful dragon of all, it's true. But the dragon numbers are on Rhaenyra and Daemon's side -- even without Arrax. One brief scene in the episode may end up having extra importance: We saw Daemon walking through a pitch black cave, where he found another titanic dragon. He sang a song in Valyrian, apparently successful in his attempt to bond with the beast. More dragons mean more trouble for the Seven Kingdoms.

In the final scene of House of the Dragon, Daemon informs Rhaenyra of Lucerys' death. Rhaenyra doesn't say anything, but her determined rictus is reminiscent of Daenerys' after Missandei's public execution. "If it's war you want," her facial expression said, "it's war you'll get."

Though we saw Lucerys' journey ended with tragedy, we saw nothing of Jacaerys' travels up north. If I'm a betting man, I'm putting my money on House of the Dragon season 2 kicking off in Winterfell. It'll be nice to be back.

How long do we have to wait for season 2?

We don't know yet, but my guess is 2024.

After the finale aired, House of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety that the second season will begin shooting in "early" 2023. When the publication asked him whether the season 2 would air in 2023 or 2024, he answered that's still "to be determined." 

So although a 2023 airing is certainly possible, it would be a best case scenario. For comparison, the first season of House of the Dragon started filming in April 2021 and began airing 16 months later in October. Whether it hits in 2023 will depend on both the filming schedule and where HBO wants to slot the show in. George R.R. Martin has confirmed reports the company is working on a Jon Snow show, so plans for that will surely affect when House of the Dragon season 2 airs. 

In another revealing statement about season 2, this time given to Deadline, Condal said that there will be no more time jumps in House of the Dragon. Season 1 had gaps of up to 10 years in between episodes, which necessitated characters like Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower being recast. We won't be seeing any more of that, according to Condal. 

"The actors are playing these characters until the end," Condal said. "We're not making any huge jumps forward in time. We are now in the Dance of the Dragons, and we're gonna tell that story."