Spoiler alert: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for the House of the Dragon Season 1 finale.
In the House of the Dragon Season 1 finale, everything comes to a head as we see how the Dance of the Dragons begins. Every moment in Season 1 leads up to the very last moment of the season finale, when Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) is ready to wage war for her seat on the throne. And what sets her over the edge? It is, of course, the tragic death of her son, Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault).
The finale ends with a battle between dragons, perhaps the first of many that we’ll see over the course of HBO’s highly lauded series. But this battle is more complex than good versus evil (although it’s clear that we’re rooting for Lucerys). When characters battle with dragons, it’s easy to forget that dragons have a mind of their own. So, did Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) actually want to kill Lucerys?
Lucerys Velaryon’s death came suddenly and tragically in the ‘House of the Dragons’ finale.
While Lucerys’s death came suddenly, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as the episode had been leading up to something major occurring by the end. Sadly, that major event is Lucery’s death. Throughout the episode, Rhaenyra is trying to avoid war, but knows that regardless of what happens, she’ll need allies. So, she sends her sons, Lucerys and Jaecerys, on dragonback to deliver her message of goodwill and loyalty to her potential allies: the Starks, the Tullys, and the Baratheons.
She sends her younger son, Lucerys, to the Baratheons, as she expects him to be greeted with open arms after her last interaction with them. However, when Lucerys arrives, he realizes that Aemond beat him to the punch. Not only does Aemond arrive with the request of loyalty to the greens, but he also promises to marry one of the Baratheon daughters. Lucerys cannot do the same because he’s already betrothed to one of Daemon’s daughters with Laena.
Before his journey, Rhaenyra reiterates that he’s to go “as a messenger and not a warrior.” Because of this, he tries to avoid conflict with Aemond, who requests Lucerys’s eye in an act of revenge. However, Lord Borros Baratheon doesn’t want a fight in his castle, so he sends both the princes out to deal with their squabble in the harrowing storm. As Lucerys mounts his dragon, Arrax, he notices that Vhagar is already in flight.
While we think for a moment that perhaps Lucerys and Arrax will be okay even in the stormy weather, Vhagar and Aemond fly above them, and we can see how unmatched the two pairs are. Vhagar is at least five times the size of Arrax, and with Aemond’s vengefulness, Lucerys has no chance. The dragons sense their owners’ ferocious spirits left over from their exchange in front of Lord Borros and go at it.
As Vhagar gets close to Arrax, Arrax breathes fire onto his opponent. Lucerys tries to calm Arrax down, telling him “Obey!” and “Calm!” in High Valyrian. Despite this, Arrax isn’t strong or fast enough to escape Vhagar’s wrath.
Aemond may not have wanted to kill Lucerys, but his dragon doesn’t obey him.
What many of us have to remember about the original source material, Fire & Blood, is that it’s written as historical speculation and not fact. So while in the book, Lucerys’s death is a purposeful move by Aemond, that may have just been the story as told. It could have happened exactly as it does in House of the Dragon, with Vhagar pursuing Arrax until she can attack, even without Aemond’s command.
Aemond knows that killing Lucerys could start an all-out war, and while he wants revenge against his nephew, he doesn’t necessarily want to kill him. So Aemond is quite literally playing with fire when he pursues Lucerys on dragonback. At a certain point, dragons will be dragons, and they can’t be controlled by men (even men who think they are gods). So after Arrax breathes fire onto Vhagar, Vhagar fires back with one big bite that tears Arrax and Lucerys apart.
Even if that bite doesn’t kill Lucerys, he’s miles high in the sky, and has no path to safety. It’s likely that because Storm’s End isn’t too far from Dragonstone that Lucerys and Arrax wash up ashore, like in the book. It’s also possible that Aemond decides to own his actions and stretch the truth, which would lead historians to believe that he does kill Lucerys with intent — because in the end, it's the action, not the intent, that matters.
In Episode 1, Viserys instructs Rhaenyra: "The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion, they’re a power men should have never have trifled with." It's this illusion of power that led to the Doom of Valyria, and that could lead to the eventual downfall of House Targaryen.
All of House of the Dragon Season 1 is now available to stream on HBO Max.