House of the Dragon Review/Recap Roundup Season 1 Episode 10 – The Black Queen

Dragonstone Castle, Jace Velaryon (Harry Collett), Luke Velaryon (Elliot Grihault), 1x10 (1)

Episode 10s in the Game of Thrones universe historically process the insanity that happened in episode 9 at a slower pace, so that we as an audience can digest what happened the previous week, and watch the pieces get put into place for next season. Did House of the Dragon episode 10 follow suit in its forebear’s tradition? Did the critics of the Internet play along? Did they like it? Did I like it? All this and more can be found within. Who am I? It’s me from just last week. Silly you; you knew that! Every week, for each new episode of HOTD, I deconstruct the multitude of reviews out there, boiling them down to one short summary sentence that will perfectly encapsulate what the original author was saying, no questions asked…and by that I mean that I deconstruct whole essays down to one sentence apiece, often quoting them verbatim. So don’t @ me!

What I will do is attempt to summarize the original review as best I can, and if my tease whets your appetite for their style of review, you are encouraged to head over to their site and let them know…after of course letting us know your thoughts in the comments below. At the bottom, I will summarize my review of the reviewers’ reviews.

All squared? Jolly good, let’s dive in.

What did the Internet think of HBO’s House of the Dragon episode 10, “The Black Queen?” Hey, here’s a recommendation: Before you dive into any of these other critics I’ve rounded up (pfft – boring! Who would do that/write about that/etc.?), why don’t you check out Sue’s recap of last night’s episode? Once you’ve done that, here’s what the rest of the Internet had to say about last night’s episode:

Alec Bojalad, Den of Geek – In which not much can truly prepare you as a viewer for a graphic and tragic depiction of a miscarriage.

Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone – In which Ryan Condal has all the money in the world, so he is racing to get to the flashier stuff without fretting nearly as much on the foundation on which this House rests, and until the people matter as much as the dragons, the prequel will have a hard time living up to the show that inspired it. (Insert from David – I should note that Alan FREQUENTLY criticized “the show that inspired it” when it was airing…..Cool.)

Aja Romano, Vox – In which it’s hard not to find the whole thing anticlimactic, even if the episode does culminate in an explosive moment.

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Belen Edwards, Mashable – In which the kinslaying is a preventable tragedy, as well as a reminder of just how powerful dragons are.

Daniel Van Boom, CNET – In which it’ll be a long journey ahead, and House of the Dragon’s first season was a good start.

Glen Weldon, NPR – In which the characters on the show are drawn with a lot more nuance and ambivalence than their comparatively sketchy and ruthless counterparts in Fire & Blood.

Helen O’Hara, IGN – In which the emotional impact of this finale shows that all that ground-laying has established characters to care about and invest in, and kicks off the Dance of the Dragons in earnest with the best action scene of the season.

Hillary Kelly, Vulture – In which after an entire season of war reports from the allegedly integral Stepstones, they finally do matter.

Jeremy Egner, New York Times – In which it was a stirring, often moving season finale that included many of the show’s signature elements as it set up the Dance of the Dragons.

Jenna Scherer, AV Club – In which in the infodump to end all infodumps, showrunner Ryan J. Condal squeezes in enough information to make a grand maester’s head spin.

Kim Renfro, Insider – In which the show went with a much more solemn, tragic route instead of inserting any supernatural elements to Rhaenyra’s baby, as the book did.

Kimberly Roots, TVLine – In which HOTD brings us to the precipice of a legendary entanglement and then dragon-dives us right into the fray.

Lauren Sarner, New York Post – In which Aemond “One-eye” Targaryen has just made sure that everyone in HOTD is now hurtling towards death.

Meghan O’ Keefe, Decider – In which Cregan Stark is hands down one of the coolest characters in this entire saga and it’s exciting that we might get to meet him (and some other members of his family) next season.

Rob Bricken, Gizmodo – In which everything you need to know is stated in in Emma D’Arcy’s unbelievable body language as Rhaenyra’s knees buckle, staggering at the news, and how the Black Queen twists in rage and pain and anguish to face the camera, declaring war better than the word ever could.

Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone – In which it’s directed with keen attention to color and composition by Greg Yaitanes.

Zach Kram, The Ringer – In which the finale bookends its pilot episode, when Rhaenyra’s mother died in childbirth.

Summary: Episode 10’s The Black Queen ended the season in rousing good form that didn’t rankle many feathers. Some were surprised by Daemon’s sudden marital violence, while others indicated his duplicitousness was there along. Some found Rhaenyra’s miscarriage gratuitous, while others thought it essential. Nearly everyone liked the Aemond/Vhaegar vs. Lucerys/Arrax dragon rider chase sequence. People are excited for season 2.

My Review: I thought the season finale lived up to its potential, on the backs of a season full of buildup, and sent us into the off season with much to talk about. As always, the music killed, and the cinematography in this episode was notably better than some of the episodes along the way. There are numerous changes to the entire trajectory of the season I personally would have made, but I am not the showrunner. With the season finale that we DID get, I was extremely happy, and thought it was appropriately tense. I was thrilled to return to Westeros after all these years, can’t wait to see what we get next. Emmy noms for Paddy ConsidineMilly Alcock, and Emma D’Arcy please. Thanks for reading all season – hope to see you around!

Well, anyway what do you make of these reviews/recaps? Sound off in the comments below, politely, but with a firmly gloved hand. Just don’t throw any gloves.

11 Comments

  1. ”There are numerous changes to the entire trajectory of the season I personally would have made”

    Can you name a few?

  2. Kattimaijanen:
    ”There are numerous changes to the entire trajectory of the season I personally would have made”

    Can you name a few?

    Glad you’ve honed in on my review – my changes would be unpopular, but here goes!

    1. Spend an entire season with young characters. End a full 10 episode season 1 where episode 5 ended instead. Endings don’t need to be “epic,” they just need to be narratively satisfying. Concluding with Rhaenrya’s wedding to Laenor as Alicent “declares war” by wearing green, then extends her hand of protection to Criston as the final blow would be a great ending. This would have worked because:

    2. The vast majority of the season, Alicent and Rhaenyra would have been friends. It wouldn’t have simply been a 2 episode friendship, the way we saw it. Having their camaraderie built up more thoroughly makes it all the more heartbreaking when they get torn apart.

    3. Spend the rest of the season actually building up other characters, like Laena and Laenor so that their eventual ends in season 2 are more tragic. Fill the rest of the time with more fleshed out stories, and invent some other stories. Maybe Dorne rebels, for example. Maybe we can actually SEE what’s going on with the Triarchy and the Stepstones, and the Crabfeeder instead of just hearing about it. Lots of ripe possibility for stories.

    4. Season 2 would then flash forward to the episode 6 time jump. Having the characters aged up between seasons would have been way less jarring. Then, end season 2 the same way that season 1 ended, meaning we would have also dragged those stories out for a full season. It would have been cool getting to fill in a lot of those blanks instead of merely hearing about them. We don’t NEED to get to the “Dance” until season 3. I understand that they were eager to get there ASAP but I’m still not sure why. Had they told a more padded story, we would have stuck around because the characters and the plots would have been interesting. Luke dying could have been more tragic for Luke instead of just tragic for Rhaenyra, had we had time throughout the season to get to know Luke.

    Alas – the show we DID get was still great. I just wish they had more faith in the audience. I don’t care if the book nerds were like “but you can’t do that because the Dornes didn’t rebel until the year 173 or 216” blah blah. I care that there is good storytelling along the way. I’d have loved to see how a hesitant and ultimately ineffectual Viserys dealt with incursions instead of merely hearing how it went in passing.

    Anyway. You asked.

  3. David Rosenblatt,

    I utterly and completely disagree with. I feel that would make a horribly drawn out story, on par of what AFFC/ADWD are to me. This is like if GoT tried to stretch its first 2 episodes into a entire season and make Ned die at the end of S2. There’s absolutely no escalation by the end of episode 5 and no, Alicent wearing green gown is not escalation at all in my eyes because 10 years later, things are still fully stable. This seems just a horrible idea to me that would make a bloated mess of a story with no climax.

  4. As much as I very much loved the TV show and have no complaints in a way that would diminish my enjoyment, I am of firm opinion now that we didn’t really need young Rhaenyra and young Alicent. I feel everything that happened from episode 1 to 5 could have been what Robert’s Rebellion, Greyjoy Rebellion, Littlefinger’s duel with Brandon and such have been to GoT.

    In my eyes, the story could have started at similar point as episode 6, maybe a bit sooner, and we would be in similar situation as GoT… stable yet tense beginning. And then the story could escalate across 10 episodes to similar ending we got this season. The only thing I would really regret in such case would be less Viserys because he was outstanding in every scene. But characters like Laena and Harwin could be fleshed out more and we wouldn’t need to deal with (for our eyes) personality-shift of Rhaenyra and Alicent off-screen during 10 year time skip. D’Arcy and Cooke would be “The Rhaenyra” and “The Alicent” (I think they’re both awesome in their roles) that we would follow and feel from very beginning and we could have half a season with younger kids, when they’re more in supporting roles, and the rest with grown-up kids when they truly become prominent.

    I feel that with young Rhaenyra, the writers really wanted to play Daenerys & Arya card when it comes to audience but I don’t think it really fits compared to who adult Rhaenyra is and what vibe she gives. I don’t think we really “needed” to spend 5 episodes with the young Rhaenyra because when you come to the adult character, you kind of have to “forget” the young character because adult character is (in my eyes at least) quite different to “feel”.

    Bottom line, I very much loved HotD, even more than I initially imagined (and I already had high hype for it) but I feel I may have loved it even more if we got entire season starting from adult Rhaenyra and Alicent.

  5. Rob Bricken , Gizmodo

    You read my mind! I am speechless at how I completely agreed with every word you wrote.
    Thank you for putting my thoughts and emotions into words.
    Watching Rhaenyra struggle to give birth to a child she knew would not survive was gut wrenching as was watching her receive the news of Luc’s death. Emma D’Arcy has been a stand out for me. I don’t know where she is pulling her acting choices from but BRAVA.
    She has a wonderfully expressive face. 🖤👑
    I’m quite happy with the writers going with the cord wrapped about the babe’s neck than a malformed monster. Rhaenyra’s refusal to let anyone help her, including the midwives and then the Sisters, touch my mother’s heart.
    RIP sweet Lucerys and Arraxes
    Daemon , you did not have to go there to make your point.

  6. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas:

    That’s OK and you are welcome to disagree; I did say my version would prove unpopular round these parts. However, you’re falling into the “but the book” trap. I agree that A Feast for Crows is (comparably) a slog compared to the other books. I enjoyed it much more the 2nd and 3rd time, when I wasn’t anxious to find out what all the other characters were up to, but it is still very slow that first time.

    However, just because “the book” didn’t have storylines for the season doesn’t mean that Ryan Condal and team couldn’t have gotten inventive and just…made stuff up. There’s really very little for them to go off of, as is. So I would have much rather just devoted time to creating drama and seeing how the characters interact with it. I always go back to Dorne. I think a Dornish rebellion could have been very cool and taken up multiple episodes, the same way the Triarchy was always talked about but never shown. Seeing how Rhaenyra dealt with Dorne as the heir presumptive in her teenage years could have been as interesting as watching Viserys deal with the Triarchy. The page is one thing. The screen is another. The best adaptations go big and take chances. This show was as loyal to Fire and Blood as it could be, knowing that The Dance is the eventual meat and potatoes of the story…but it didn’t have to be. It could, like the White Walkers, have just been the eventual climax we build towards over several seasons. I would have loved to see much more of their childhood and the problems around Westeros than we got a chance to see. I think it would have been very popular. Don’t forget that, whatever loud voices you hear on the Internet, almost no one has read this book. Adaptations can do great things when they venture boldly off the text. This one mostly didn’t. And that’s OK! I liked what we got. But I would have done it differently.

  7. David Rosenblatt,

    Well, you pretty much want it to be a different story altogether then. I don’t get it at all though… the story must have a premise which escalates after the first act and HotD has always been about civil war for succession, just like GoT overall’s premise was .. well, game of thrones (no, not the White Walkers. For majority of the time, White Walkers were just a side plot. They’re indeed the biggest threat in existence but they’re not the main story). That’s what HotD is… a story about Dance of Dragons and nothing more than that. It was never meant to be anything else.

    And believe it or not, I haven’t read and have no intention to read Fire & Blood. I’ve distanced from GRRM’s stuff save for first three ASOIAF novels long ago. What I know about Dance of Dragons is mainly from GoT Histories & Lore and what I’ve read online.

  8. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas:
    David Rosenblatt,

    Well, you pretty much want it to be a different story altogether then. I don’t get it at all though… the story must have a premise which escalates after the first act and HotD has always been about civil war for succession, just like GoT overall’s premise was .. well, game of thrones (no, not the White Walkers. For majority of the time, White Walkers were just a side plot. They’re indeed the biggest threat in existence but they’re not the main story). That’s what HotD is… a story about Dance of Dragons and nothing more than that. It was never meant to be anything else.

    And believe it or not, I haven’t read and have no intention to read Fire & Blood. I’ve distanced from GRRM’s stuff save for first three ASOIAF novels long ago. What I know about Dance of Dragons is mainly from GoT Histories & Lore and what I’ve read online.

    You’re right in that it’s “about” the Dance. But we only feel that way because that’s what’s been teased….but the entire season was a prologue to get to that plot anyway. So…it’s not even really about that altogether? So, given that we didn’t start DIRECTLY at the Dance, why not just flesh out what they DID show us? Instead of one season of prologue, why not 2 seasons of story? Then, the story of seasons 3+ would be at the Dance part, but it wouldn’t have felt like a mad dash to get to the Dance altogether. It feels they split it both ways and tried to have their cake and it eat it too. It is what it is, as I said. I still very much enjoyed it overall, but it’s an entirely different take than I would have had.

  9. “In which Aemond “One-eye” Targaryen has just made sure that everyone in HOTD is now hurtling towards death.”

    And I love to see it 🤭

  10. Rob Bricken, Gizmodo

    For me, you have put my thoughts on “paper”. I was amazed at how I was nodding in agreement with every word.
    My heart broke for Rhaenyra for so many reasons tonight. Her father has died.her baby is born dead and her second son is murdered all in a few days. Emma D’Arcy was absolutely marvellous in this episode. They have a way of wordlessly acting that is mesmerizing. I could understand their motivations clearly. The pain and rage was so evident in their eyes in the last scene.
    Poor Luc to die in such a horrific manner. Corlys will be deeply affected.
    RIP wee babe.
    Daemon, just don’t go there again.

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