The House Of The Dragon Season Finale Is All About How Planning A War Is A Pain In The Butt

"House of the Dragon" went out with a bang — not much of a battle, just a recipe for no-holds-barred dragon war. Rhaenyra gets word that her father has died and, through her stepmother's intervention, their son Aegon has been named successor. Rather than plunge the realm headlong into war, she takes some time to consider her stepmother's peace offering. Although she wants to be queen, her priority is to avoid unnecessary casualties.

Her battle plan plays out as intensely as a high-speed dragon chase. The future of the war is calculated right before our eyes. Rhaenyra and Daemon's crucial differences are brought to the light of day, particularly surrounding the ancient prophecy, the Song of Ice and Fire. She wants to be ruler so she can keep the realm at peace, but she doesn't want to destroy the realm's peace to instate herself as ruler. "How [does she] serve both of these ends? The answer is a bit of a paradox. And Daemon's frustrated with her because she won't just immediately go to war," showrunner Ryan Condal explained to The Hollywood Reporter. Daemon, as Rhaenyra discovers, was never told about the prophecy, and still has unchecked violent impulses.

Planning a war is a minefield of Catch-22s. The Blacks' ultimate trump card is dragons, but Rhaenyra wants to avoid using them because of how destructive they are. Daemon, as he exhibited at the Stepstones, has no qualms about using dragons to wipe out everything in his path. Rhaenyra's restraint angers Daemon but earns her a crucial alliance with the Velaryons, who have just secured the Stepstones and can now block all of King's Landing sea trade. The pieces begin, very delicately, to fall into place.

Peaceful efforts don't always go as planned

Even without using their dragons, things start to feel promising in the Dragonstone war room before Luke and Jace are sent off to suss out their allies. Unfortunately this strategy ends in tragedy when the younger brother's mission with the Baratheons at Storm's End is impeded by Aemond, Aegon's younger brother. Aegon chases him out on his enormous dragon and Luke's baby dragon lashes out and spits fire at it. This enrages the beast so much that it ignores Aegon's command and kills Luke, undoubtedly plunging the entire kingdom into war.

We weren't privy to the Greens' strategic discussion at King's Landing, which made the episode extra suspenseful. There was no telling what obstacles would arise because, like the Blacks, the audience was unaware of their enemy's next move. Seeing Aegon at Storm's End with a better offer in hand was just as surprising for us as it was for Luke.

That being said, killing Luke with a dragon was definitely not part of Aegon's plan. "That would be very un-calculated and stupid of Aemond to do at the outset when the pieces are moving about the board and loyalties are being set," Condal explained. "For Aemond to launch nukes right out of the gate and go for an all-out dragon war would be very foolish, but that's exactly what he ends up doing because things get out of hand and out of control."

Not only did Aegon underestimate his dragon's free will, but Rhaenyra underestimated how much danger she was putting her son in. Both sides miscalculated in a major way that cost them greatly.

A non-violent mission ended in bloodshed

It doesn't seem like Aemond intended to kill Luke in the "House of Dragon" season finale, but what other outcome did he expect? In the scene just before, he had threatened to cut Luke's eye out. Even though the young boy and his little dragon clearly weren't a threat, he chased him out on his fire-breathing behemoth. Did he let his own violent impulses get the best of him, or did he overestimate his control over his dragon? "I think [Aemond] was showing his rival that he will not be intimidated and trifled with is probably more in play there than trying to become a kinslayer," Condal said. "It's a complex scene. Aemond is not blameless, but he's also not a psychopath without a logical line of thinking."

Aemond is more level-headed than his brother and, like many a second son before him, more cunning and ambitious. He seems to truly regret what happened to Luke. As for why he might have lashed out in the first place, Condal reminded THR that he was only very recently an insecure child himself, bullied by Luke's brother. "Aemond is definitely not blameless in what happened to Luke. But Aemond was also a kid who was bullied and was made a mockery for part of his life for not having a dragon. Now he does, and he rides the biggest dragon in the world," Condal recounted.

Rhaenyra found out that her son has been killed at the very end of the season finale, and Aemond's mistake was likely interpreted as the first act of war. The finale may not have culminated in an all-out battle, but it did set up what is sure to be an incredible — and bloody — second season.