The House Of The Dragon Season Finale Is Summed Up In Two Close-Ups

This post contains spoilers for the "House of the Dragon" season 1 finale.

History is never as mythical as people make it out to be. Take "Fire & Blood," the 2018 George R.R. Martin novel that inspired "House of the Dragon." Within the "Game of Thrones" universe, "Fire & Blood" is a historical text that alleges to reveal the truth about the fall of House Targaryen, as written and researched by Archmaester Gyldayn. With a name like that, one would anticipate an epic, sweeping tale of disloyalty, death, and dragonfire, and for the most part, Gyldayn's treatise delivers on this promise.

However, where "Fire & Blood" is based on first-hand sources that might not be accurate (hence the number of times accounts of key events conflict with one another in the book), "House of the Dragon" explores this era in Westeros history from an omniscient point-of-view. The truth, as the show has revealed, is that House Targaryen didn't fall apart in a blaze of glory. No, it steadily tore itself to shreds thanks to a whole lot of clashing egos, trivial grudges, malicious blunders, and tragic misunderstandings. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the season 1 finale, which puts the final pieces into place for the infamous Targaryen civil war (aka "the Dance of Dragons").

In fact, both this idea and the season's over-arching narrative can be summed up by a pair of close-up shots in the closing minutes of the season 1 finale. Let's dig into it, shall we?

Life, like a dragon, moves pretty fast

Kids having to grow up too fast is a common occurrence in Westeros. Such has been the case for many of the leads on "House of the Dragon," whether it entails them getting married and becoming parents before they're 18 years old or undertaking life-threatening tasks in the lead-up to a potential war. 

Likewise, the season 1 finale sees Lucerys (Elliot Grihault) and Jacaerys (Harry Collett) acting as messengers for their mother Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) after volunteering to ride their dragons to recruit allies for her claim to the Iron Throne. The episode actually starts with Lucerys begging Rhaenyra not to make him the next Lord of Driftmark (prior to Lord Corlys' surprise recovery from his near-death), as a way of driving home just how young and in over his head the young Targaryen boy is. To his credit, though, Lucerys braves a harsh rainstorm and keeps his wits about him, even as his bid to bring House Baratheon over to Rhaenyra's side quickly goes south when his uncle Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) beats him to the punch with a far better deal.

Aemond, still bitter about that time Lucerys slashed his eye after Aemond attacked him, tries to return the favor before gleefully pursuing Lucerys and his dragon Arrax atop Vhagar on their way home. But where Aemond clearly has no intent of murdering his nephew (to him, it's all a sadistic game), it turns out dragons don't really get that kind of nuance and the whole thing ends with Vhagar ripping Lucerys and Arrax to pieces. The subsequent look of disbelief on Aemond's face says it all. In crossing the line between instigating their feud and keeping it going to actually killing Lucerys, Aemond just f***ed up big-time, and he knows it.

There go the peace talks

Where Aemond enjoyed the privilege of being able to start fights without causing any lasting harm (right up until he didn't), that was never the case with Rhaenyra growing up. Even as an adult in the season 1 finale, the would-be Targaryen queen is the rare person on her side who's hesitant to plunge the Seven Kingdoms into war. What's more, it's Rhaenyra who stops Daemon (Matt Smith) from burning Otto (Rhys Ifans) to a crisp when he's bold enough to show up at Dragonstone, having brazenly usurped her claim to the Iron Throne, and dictate the terms under which she might recognize Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) as the rightful new king.

Much like the episode begins with Lucerys predicting his imminent demise before his actual death near the end, the season 1 finale opens with Rhaenyra giving birth to her stillborn daughter and then closes with her losing yet another child under very different but equally horrible circumstances. This ghastly turn of events, along with the season as a whole, caps off with a shot of Rhaenyra receiving this news and silently turning to the camera, her expression hard as stone even as her eyes well with tears. There's no need for her to speak, either. The time for peace is over, and she knows it.

And why? Because a reckless, arrogant boy couldn't let go of the rivalry he created. Now, the entirety of Westeros will suffer for his mistake, much like the woman he wronged (which is not to suggest Rhaenyra is blameless in the lead-up to all this, as she herself more or less confides to Lucerys in the episode). Not exactly the awe-inspiring tragedy Westeros' historians would have you believe, is it?

"House of the Dragon" will return for season 2.