The Best Fight Scenes In House Of The Dragon Season 1, Ranked

Warning: The below article contains descriptions of violence, miscarriage, and abuse.

"House of the Dragon" flew onto our screens and did the impossible — it made us (mostly) forget about that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad final season of "Game of Thrones." But more importantly, it made us excited to return to Westeros. The captivating characters in "House of the Dragon" and the nuanced storytelling are all part of what makes this HBO series soar. Plus, it has dragons galore!

You can't tell a "Game of Thrones" story without conflict, and most Westeros conflicts inevitably devolve into bloodshed. That probably has something to do with everyone wearing swords like they are some kind of belt accessory. Here, we'll rank this debut season's best fight scenes and their action set pieces. One note: Of the 12 items on this list, one-third of them include Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). (That dude loves to mix it up!) It probably has something to do with him being really good at fighting. As the saying goes, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

12. Viserys vs. the stag

This scene is only nominally a fight, as it illustrates how soft Viserys (Paddy Considine) is — a powerful contrast with his daughter's animal-killing scene from the same episode. Part of the reason we love Viserys is that he's a lover, not a fighter. He's a peaceful man who would rather spend time playing with his miniatures than start conflict.

The royal hunt in "Second of His Name" is a big to-do. A white stag was spotted in the wood, which is a good omen for baby Aegon Targaryen. (Frankly, killing such a rare creature seems like the wrong way to treat such a wonderful animal). A Lannister bootlicker gives Viserys a mighty spear to slaughter the beast. Viserys handles the spear like it's a foreign object, and isn't enthused about it either.

What comes next is only a hunt in the broadest, most imaginative sense of the word. Men with dogs corner a stag and then rope it twice over to hold it still. It's not the precious white stag, which may be a grace or a sign all its own. In any case, the stag is held still so Viserys can land the killing blow. But he only maims the poor animal and has to take another stab at it. Even the stag looked a bit embarrassed about the whole ordeal!

11. Criston Cole vs. the Knight of Kisses

You know how Michael Scott could never keep a secret on "The Office," even when it was in his best interest? That's what Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod) is like. Joffrey is Laenor Velaryon's (John MacMillan) secret lover — though it's more of an open secret. Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) recognizes her marriage to Laenor is a political one. They agree to do their duty and have their separate dalliances. 

During their pre-wedding reception, Joffrey discerns that Criston is Rhaenyra's secret paramour but can't keep his mouth shut about the whole thing. First, he smugly reveals this to Laenor. Fine, that makes sense. But then he throws it in Criston's face, brazenly stating, "Ser Laenor is quite dear to me, as I know the princess is to you. We should swear to each other to guard them, and their secrets, because if those are kept safe... Then so are we all."

Joffrey couldn't know that Criston was one psychotic break from becoming a heel: Nobody knew. But it was still poorly done. I guess that's why Joffrey is called "The Knight of Kisses" and not "The Knight of Subtlety" in George R. R. Martin's lore. Criston beats Joffrey to a pulp. One of the tropes that Westeros loves disavowing is that of the "honorable knight." Criston's fall is as sudden as it is brutal.

10. Aemond Targaryen's cave fight

Kids fighting other kids on screen usually lack the drama of older people fighting. But this cave fight in "Driftmark" has far-reaching effects. After he braves riding the world's oldest and largest living dragon — and sadly isn't eaten — Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton) immediately develops the douchebaggery typically reserved for New York yuppies. He shows no remorse for stealing Vhagar after the death of Lady Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) and punching one of her daughters in the face. (Aemond is pretty much the worst!)

Rhaenyra's two eldest boys — Jacaerys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler) — join the fray. The four of them push Aemond onto the ground and it becomes an old-fashioned beatdown. Aemond is strong and crafty and manages to get back on his feet. He holds a rock and is about to hit one of the boys with it. Instead, he does something worse: He calls the boys bastards. If you know one thing about Westeros, you know that "them's fighting words." Aemond gets his eye sliced out in the commotion — though you honestly don't really feel that bad about it.

9. Criston Cole vs. Arryk Cargyll

After King Viserys dies, the Greens are ready to crown Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) the new king but first, they must find him. Likely, it's a bad sign of things to come — something even Aegon recognizes. He tells his brother Aemond, "I have no wish to rule. No taste for duty. I'm not suited." From everything we have seen, that is entirely true. But the cogs of power stop for no man. 

The missing king-to-be leads to a strange sort of buddy cop dynamic, as Criston Cole and Aemond go searching Flea Bottom's unsavory establishments to find Aegon. They discover him in the clutches of the Cargyll brothers, who the Hand of the King tasked to find Aegon. From his time as Aegon's sword protector, Erryk Cargyll (Elliot Tittensor) has developed opinions about the prince. He stands down when Criston demands Aegon be handed over. Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) refuses, leading to spirited swordplay, including a brief timeout as both men navigate a separate flight of stairs before resuming the bout. The fight itself is nothing all that special. No blood is spilled, though Arryk is disarmed with a nifty move.

8. Bracken vs. Blackwood

The "King of the Narrow Sea" episode includes an easter egg sure to delight fans of "A Song of Ice and Fire," the book series on which "Game of Thrones" is based. The books include brief snippets about the familial squabble between the Brackens and Blackwoods, two noble families from the Riverlands. They are the Westeros equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys. The Brackens and Blackwoods conflict occurred off the pages and was mostly world-building asides tossed into the books. But for one brief — yet glorious — moment, the beef took center stage in the "House of the Dragon."

Resigned to do her duty, Rhaenyra sits in a roomful of potential suitors. Each is given a few minutes to state why they're a great match — like "The Dating Game" meets "Shark Tank." After dismissing a blowhard who is too old and boring, young Samwell Blackwood (Jonathan Weldon) steps forward. He looks about 12 years old, which makes his pronouncements about the long bonds between his and Rhaenyra's family feel silly. The only thing missing is a few unfortunately-timed voice cracks.

Jerrel Bracken (Gabriel Scott) heckles Samwell like an amalgamation of every bully from a teen rom-com. Samwell earnestly tells Rhaenyra, "Your days shall be easy and your nights safe, under my protection." Jerrel calls Samwell "craven," and then the swords come out. Since Jerrel is twice the size of Samwell, it feels like an unfair fight. That's true — Jerrel never stood a chance.

7. Aegon Targaryen vs. Jacaerys Velaryon

After Criston Cole kills a man during a wedding reception, he gains an entirely reasonable (*side-eye*) assignment: training King Viserys' children and grandchildren in combat. What could go wrong? To be fair, 10 years have passed. Perhaps Criston spent that time in therapy and is a changed man.

He still openly harbors resentment toward Rhaenyra, and those feelings are reflected in his interactions with her children by way of Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). Criston's teaching mostly involves ignoring Rhaenyra's children. After Harwin calls him out on it, Criston pairs Aegon Targaryen and Jacaerys Velaryon in a match. That Aegon is about 10 years older doesn't sway Criston. "When steel is drawn, a fair match isn't something anyone should expect," Criston says by way of a flimsy explanation.

Aegon initially overpowers Jacaerys, pushing him down. Jacaerys responds with pure outrage, driving his uncle back to cower behind a straw dummy. Both are pulled apart and given coaching. It's clear that the bout is really a proxy fight between Harwin and Criston. After the time-out, Aegon overwhelms Jacaerys. Harwin intercedes, throwing the prince aside. Criston observes that Harwin's interest in Rhaenyra's children is unusual. "Such devotion is usually reserved for a brother... or a son," he states. Harwin loses his cool and shows why he goes by the name 'Breakbones,' pummeling Criston senseless.

6. Aemond Targaryen vs. Criston Cole

"House of the Dragon" uses time jumps so the series can arrive at the Dance of Dragons faster. It's much appreciated – though often disorienting. New faces are the norm, as are first impressions of characters we've already met. Of all the characters who go through a metamorphosis, Aemond Targaryen comes through the most positively. Young Aemond is a mopey, vaguely psychotic kid. Adult Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) is a cross between a pirate and Legolas. He's a complete badass.

We get our first peek of the new-and-improved Aemond as he spars with Criston Cole at the tail-end of season 1. Cole easily splinters Aemond's shield. But Aemond is light on his feet, a lithe and nimble dancer. He makes Criston look slow and clumsy, easily getting inside his reach and bringing his blade up to Criston's throat, ending the bout quickly. Between his dragon and his fighting ability, Aemond is possibly the most dangerous person in Westeros.

5. Rhaenyra Targaryen vs. the boar

Tired of being treated as something to fawn over, Rhaenyra jumps on a horse and angrily storms off during the royal hunt. (Honestly, it may be the most recognizably teenage moment we've seen so far in Westeros.) Criston Cole, her sworn protector, gallops after her. The two spend an idyllic day riding and chatting and camp down for the night in the woods. 

A wild boar interrupts the quiet reverie, charging in from the darkness. The boar, with its long tusks and slobbering rage, charges at them — sending the burly knight flying. (In hindsight, this makes Robert Baratheon dying from gouge wounds suddenly make a lot more sense.) Then the boar turns its attention on the young, seemingly-defenseless princess.

Rhaenyra manages to hold off the crazed boar until Criston stabs it in the neck. The boar collapses briefly before surging back to its feet. Never send a knight to do a princess's job! Rhaenyra snatches a dagger and slays the boar. The scene is surprisingly visceral: Rhaenyra ends up bathed in blood, and this moment establishes that she isn't some weak little girl that needs protecting.

4. Vhagar vs. Arrax

The season 1 finale of the "House of the Dragon" finally gives us a taste of what has been foreshadowed since the beginning: dragon-on-dragon action. (No, not the mating kind—that would be an entirely different kind of show, though given how sexualized Westeros can be, still a possibility.) In this case, we're talking about dragon combat. 

Once Aegon is declared king, usurping Rhaenyra's throne, a civil war seems inevitable. The queens on both sides are models of restraint, but they are continually butting heads with their advisors — most of whom have sabers in hand. As Daemon (Matt Smith) points out, dragons make all the difference. "Dragonstone has 13 to their 4," he says, claiming it's a numbers game and they have a distinct advantage. However, not all dragons are created equal — especially not when Vhagar is the size of 3 of Rhaenyra's dragons.

To reaffirm commitments made to her decades ago, Rhaenyra dispatches her eldest sons to supposed allies in the realm. Lucerys flies to Storm's End to see Lord Baratheon. However, Aemond arrives there first. He casually calls Lucerys a bastard, demands his eye, and pursues him on dragonback. Arrax broadsides Vhagar with a burst of fire — against Lucerys wishes. Vhagar ignores Aemond's attempts to calm the situation. Vhagar bites Arrax in half, killing Lucerys. At least, Aemond has the decency to look shocked. But that could be his realization that he jumpstarted a Medieval nuclear war.

3. Daemon Targaryen vs. Criston Cole

If you need any proof that "House of the Dragon" is better funded than the early seasons of "Game of Thrones," look no further than its jousting scenes. Season 1 of "Game of Thrones" included a joust held in the Westeros equivalent of an empty parking lot. In contrast, "House of the Dragon's" joust takes place in a magnificent colosseum. But it's not just the aesthetics that have been upgraded. We are placed directly on horseback as the camera gives us a first-person view of the carnage.

As a pure spectacle, a good joust is hard to beat. Horses thunder down the line as lances and shields splinter. "House of the Dragon" wisely uses the action to set up two of its main characters, Daemon Targaryen and Criston Cole. They are brought into thundering conflict, swapping broken lances for new ones twice. On the third tilt, Daemon is partially unhorsed. His upper body rides along the railing that separates the field. Daemon then gains his feet and angrily calls for his sword. Criston fights with a flail, a particularly nasty and spiky weapon. 

This is supposed to be a celebratory tournament. However, these men fight as though their lives are on the line. Shields become weapons and kicks are thrown. It is intercut with scenes of Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) being cut open to save King Viserys' son: The grotesque scene both trivializes the combat and saturates it with fatal bloodletting.

2. Rhaenyra's stillbirth

"House of the Dragon" has several scenes of childbirth battles. All of them are as unflinchingly brutal as any scene involving swordplay. Having a baby in medieval times endangered lives. The most sophisticated drugs in Westeros can only dull senses. If things go awry, mom and baby will likely die. The Silent Sisters are essentially death nuns — they're the shrouded ladies who only pop up when somebody has died. But in exchange for their vows of chastity and silence, they sidestep that whole "death by baby" gamble.

After receiving news that her father has died and her half-brother has stolen her throne, Rhaenyra goes into premature labor. All the while, she's trying to keep a lid on Daemon's ambitions to start a war in her name. Though Rhaenyra is attended by a roomful of midwives and at least one Maester, they mostly stand back and wring their hands. Rhaenyra fights through it. Daemon can hear her calling for him but won't come to her side. Eventually, she passes the stillborn baby. Overall, it's the series' most brutal and painful scene.

1. Daemon Targaryen vs. Crabfeeder's army

Disappointed that Viserys spurned them in favor of naming Rhaenyra his heir, Daemon Targaryen and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) brood over their cups while making vaguely treasonous statements. They elect to take out their frustrations the old-fashioned way: making war. A disfigured fellow named Crabfeeder (Daniel Scott-Smith) has been making trouble for the Velaryon fleet around the Stepstones. Per his name, he enjoys leaving prisoners on the beach to be devoured by bloodthirsty crabs.

Despite their superior firepower, Daemon and Coryls are unable to resolve the matter to their satisfaction. Crabfeeder and his men disappear into a network of caves rather than fight. True to his ready-shoot-aim mentality, Daemon approaches Crabfeeder as though to surrender. If only they knew Daemon as well as the rest of us! 

Daemon abruptly turns the tables, killing about 20 men as he charges across the beach toward Crabfeeder. Up to this point in the series, Daemon has been a petulant man-child, with no redeeming qualities. This sheer act of foolhardy bravery is awe-inspiring — especially since such heroics don't tend to end well in Westeros. He's surrounded by a veritable army. It's clear there will be no fighting his way out of this. But then the Velaryon army arrives! Daemon's dragon turns Crabfeeder's army to ash. Front to back, this is a thrilling sequence and the best we've seen yet from "House of the Dragon."