“When dragons fly to war,” Rhaenyra warned her husband, Prince Daemon, “everything burns.”
Throughout the season finale, only the newly crowned queen seemed to understand the allure of picking against her usurpation. She alone considers diplomatic options up to and including surrender rather than risking pushing Westeros into a war unlike anything it’s ever known. To the heat of the banners and her companions, the provocations of her old enemy Otto Hightower, and even the temptation of the divine destructive power that her faction’s dragons gave her, Rhaenyra still standing. Emma D’Arcy brings tremendous flair to Rhaenyra’s struggles throughout the episode, from their wry, troubled smiles at Lucerys’ fear of their future responsibilities to their expressions. Loss mingles with hope upon receiving proof of Alicent’s continued love in the form of childhood mementos. Peace kept the promise of love, of children, of honoring her father’s peaceful legacy and belief in the Conqueror’s Dream. War risks all.
However, the world, as Rhaenyra told her middle child, is not interested in our plans. First, a painful and exhausting miscarriage left Rhaenyra with her unborn daughter. Looking at the sweaty and bloody woman cradling her disfigured body in her arms, it’s hard not to think it’s a harbinger of things to come, a shadow of all the innocents. sins whose lives will inevitably be cut short. The fight also fosters a bond between Rhaenyra and her husband, exposing Daemon’s violent insecurities as he confronts both his own immaturity and jealousy over his wife’s closeness to his brother. his great-grandfather, the king. The scene where Daemon attacks his queen is one of the most frustrating scenes of the season, showcasing Matt Smith’s ability to simultaneously boil and detach from his surroundings. It was a bad contrast to the warmth between Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys, who, even in conflict, shared a palpable warmth and solidarity. There was no understanding on Daemon’s part, and it seemed that Rhaenyra risked his marriage by stifling the bloodshed he craved.
Director Greg Yaitanes has framed this parade of loss and instability with painterly precision, and the episode’s color grading is one of the best to date, with deep reds. , bold and sickly gray dominate against a dramatic black and light blue backdrop. The “Black Queen” is interested in directly linking the Targaryens to their dragons through artistic framing and cutting. During Rhaenyra’s difficult labor, we see Syrax roaring sympathetically at his rider. As Daemon defeated the knights of the Guard, Caraxes’ giant head filled the frame behind him, a scene repeated by a later sequence in which Daemon slays the ancient dragon Vermithor and both appear mirrored in each other’s eyes, two incarnations of unparalleled power and destruction.
The episode’s visual language asks us to consider who exactly is calling the shots here. Was it the Targaryens, driven by old grudges and delusions or by any greater sense of responsibility? Did the dragons themselves, like the proverbial blade, incite violence by their very existence? The answer, as long as one can glean from the guts and screams that closes the episode’s central action scene, it’s the worst of both worlds at the wheel. The pure indulgence of the royal family, the overwhelming power their dragons give them, and the utter inexperience with real violence and its consequences combine in one case. literally fatal collision. See Aemond and Lucerys screamed in horror as their dragons, pushed too hard by Aemond’s Evil Chicken Game, turning on each other is a heart-pounding sight, and the Yaitanes ignite the tension in their aerial encounters with brutal accuracy, hard-to-hit, and incredible sense of speed. When the final explosion of blood and gore hits home, it’s almost a relief, until you start thinking about what happens next.
Rubber meets the road, the idea of a peaceful resolution to the succession crisis goes up in smoke in a split second, and Rhaenyra is abandoned by betrayal and grief. Not only has she lost her son, but she has also lost her sense of security in her marriage and any chance of rekindling her connection with Alicent. At the same time, she gained the bannermen, the vital support of House Velaryon, and the loyalty of a further knight of the Kingsguard. Even before she learned of Lucerys’ death, marching to war had made much more sense. D’Arcy’s final look at the camera was haunting, a surer sign of things to come than any prophetic dream or lofty speech of kingdom good. Throughout the episode, we see Rhaenyra again and again pushing for peace, giving the path to compromise is not easy and often disappointing. But what awaits beneath Dragonstone, its ragged wings fluttering in the darkness, the breath of the furnace burning the walls of the cave? What monster by fire glow reflected in Daemon’s eyes even as he shined within itself?
We know what’s going to happen. Retribution. Justice. Fire and blood.