‘House Of The Dragon’ Season 1: Ending, Explained – Why Was Rhaenyra Reluctant To Go To War? What Changed?


Suleiman was called “The Magnificent” because he realized that good governance didn’t only mean that one had to annex kingdoms and display their power. History tells us that the accomplishments of great rulers always go beyond their military expansions. In “House of the Dragon,” Rhaenyra possessed that awareness. She knew that she had to lead by example. She wanted to be the flagbearer of peace, and she was adamant about not resorting to violence unless and until she had exhausted all the other options. The death of Lucerys Velaryon, her son, in the 10th episode of “House of the Dragon” did bring about a change in her motivations. In this article, we will try to understand what drove her to that point and how, even after reaching there, her motivations could be differentiated from the men who surrounded her. 

Spoilers Ahead

Why Was Rhaenyra Reluctant To Go To War?

As soon as people see a privileged person, a preconceived notion about them rises in their mind. They presume that a privileged person will always be wrong. They feel that he or she would take things for granted. They feel that they don’t know what price people have to pay to climb the ladder. Rhaenyra might have been privileged enough to be made the heir to the Iron Throne, but she had earned her inheritance. Yes, it couldn’t be denied that, at one point, she was also a hot-headed individual who acted recklessly, without thinking twice. But she had changed over a period of time and realized her responsibilities. When her father told her about Aegon’s dream, she didn’t understand in totality what it signified. She just knew that it was something important, but at that moment, her actions were not influenced by it. But slowly, when Viserys’ health started to decline, and the matter of succession was raised more often than usual in King’s Landing, it started seeping inside Rhaenyra’s mind that she was vested with responsibilities that could define the fate of entire Westeros. But she was still in a state of dilemma. She wanted to know if Viserys, her father, actually believed the “Song of Ice and Fire” to be true. It was important for her to understand what her father felt about her sitting on the Iron Throne. She wanted to know if he actually saw some merit in her or if he was doing it just because she was his daughter.

Rhaenyra was often told by people that her claim to the Iron Throne would be questioned as soon as Viserys had a son. She never understood how gender was given so much importance and how it became the main criteria on which people based their judgments on. She had never felt that she was not capable of doing something just because she was a woman. Rhaenys had told her very early in her life that the odds would never be in her favor, no matter how capable or deserving she was. Rhaenyra’s theory was a bit different from that of Rhaenys. If Rhaenyra didn’t like how the table was set, she had an incessant urge to turn it over. Rhaenyra wasn’t greedy for the Iron Throne like Otto Hightower, but she was only doing her duty because she believed in herself, and she found herself capable of ruling the Seven Kingdoms. With time, there was a kind of magnanimity that had become an indispensable part of her subconscious. She acted like a queen. There was a desire to rise above personal ambitions and yearnings and actually become a good ruler, one who is remembered by history.

After Rhaenys, she was probably the only one who had the will and the drive to look above petty issues and think about the greater good. At the very end, we saw that Rhaenyra was inquisitive about what her father thought. She just wanted to know if there was some truth to Aegon’s prophecy. Maybe she sought validation through it. Rhaenyra’s privilege made her more devoted to her cause. She became even more certain when she got to know that Viserys had never told Daemon anything about Aegon’s dream. That instilled in her a sense of responsibility. She didn’t want to wage war just because she was feeling angry. She didn’t want to fight Alicent because she wanted to sit on the Iron Throne. She wanted to rule by setting a precedent. She wanted to do things the right way. She didn’t seek immediate gratification but a stable future that, for some, was too far-fetched. She knew that it was the responsibility of a ruler to rise above personal desires, greed, ambitions, and all the other vices. She knew that she had to put her people before herself. She knew that she had the moral responsibility to keep her realm unified at all costs. She was not oblivious to reality. She knew that though women were considered to be weak, there was nothing more fragile than the male ego. She knew that to do what she wanted to do; she would have to battle her way through. She constantly reminded everybody that her duty as a ruler was to not just sit on the Iron Throne but do it in an honorable and justified manner. In the 10th episode of “House of the Dragon,” we see that Rhaenyra, time and again, reiterates the fact that she wouldn’t go to war unless she felt that there was no other option left.

See More: ‘House Of The Dragon’ Episode 10: Recap & Ending, Explained – What Happens Between Aemond And Lucerys?

Why Was Daemon Desperate To Go To War?

There was a reason why Viserys never told his own brother about the “Song of Ice and Fire.” It needed a mature and responsible person to understand the essence of a prophecy that had been made a long time back. It was not easy to put all your faith in something that you didn’t even know was true or not. One had to look beyond material gain, and for that, Viserys needed someone who had that depth of understanding. Daemon was a great warrior, and he showed strains of loyalty, but he still lacked the magnanimity that was present in Rhaenyra. There was a difference in Daemon and Rhaenyra’s thinking. For Daemon, his personal ambitions took priority over everything. But there was still a bigger behavioral problem he had. He was prioritizing his goals because he didn’t know any other way of going about things. It was as if he had forbidden himself from introspecting his own motivations, actions, and the impact that it had, or maybe he was merely incapable of doing that.

Daemon didn’t care about the process as long as he reached the desired end goal. This is where there was a stark difference between his and Rhaenyra’s approach. It didn’t matter to him if he took over the Iron Throne in an unjustified or dishonest manner. And that is why we believe that he never would have been a great ruler even if he was made one. Daemon’s desperation to go to war arose in a very personal space. He was not fighting the battle of good versus evil. He wasn’t ready to fight only because he felt that his wife was being deprived of her birthright. Daemon wanted revenge. From the very first episode of “House of the Dragons,” we saw that Daemon always felt that he was a deserving candidate for the position of the Hand of King. Otto had that position for the longest time, and he also didn’t leave any opportunity to influence Viserys to act against his own brother. It is said that a person can only win when their ego loses.

The day Daemon was banished from King’s Landing for indulging Rhaenyra in Flea Bottom, his ego was bruised. From that day, he was just lurking in the shadows and waiting for that opportunity to arrive when he would balance the scales. Even the other experienced campaigners of the Black Council didn’t show the kind of maturity that was expected out of them. They also wanted to attain immediate gratification rather than look for long-term stability. It almost felt as if they had got a reason to show their prowess and prove their manhood. They just needed an excuse to pick up the sword without caring about its consequences. Daemon was so eager to go to war that he was acting out like a child. He didn’t want to hear anything that was opposed to his thought process. He was being rude and selfish. Maybe we are responsible for glorifying his image and giving him more credit than he actually deserves. Maybe he was just a victimizer who only looked out for his egocentric needs and didn’t care whether he burned everything else in the process.

How Did Lucerys’ Death Make Rhaenyra Change Her Decision?

Rhaenyra wanted to live up to the legacy of her father, and that meant she had to justify the title he held, i.e., Viserys “The Peaceful.” People like Daemon often thought that the word peaceful was analogous to weakness. But it was not so. It takes courage to rise above one’s own ambitions and desires. It takes courage to put others before oneself. Rhaenyra was able to do that after she had been crowned queen. In the 10th episode of “House of the Dragon,” when Lord Corlys came to extend his support and swear his allegiance, Rhaenyra was elated. Her excitement was visible on her face even when she was trying to be very calm and composed. But still, she didn’t let that little victory get to her head. She still told the men in the room that she wanted to assess her options before waging war. She still held onto the beliefs of her father and what she had set out to accomplish. She was looking out for the entire kingdom. She knew that she had to take a dignified approach. But grief is a powerful emotion. It has the power to transform even the mightiest individual. Lucerys was an innocent boy. He never intended to harm anybody. He had stabbed Aemond in the eye, but it was not something that he had done consciously. It was an accident. The kids were not prudent enough to understand the ramifications their actions would have.

Rhaenyra felt very protective towards both her kids and especially towards Lucerys, who was still very young. Probably, if it was left to her, she wouldn’t have ever sent them as messengers. When the news of Vhagar killing Lucerys reached Rhaenyra, she couldn’t process what she was hearing. The shaky ground on which she was standing finally collapsed. The last thread that was somehow holding the pieces together had now become crimson. Hate had finally won the battle. Aegon’s prophecy became irrelevant in front of the colossal loss that a mother had to bear. That loss had the power to once again forge her volatile relationship with fire. She was able to control the fire up until then. She had shown restraint. She wanted to be the queen of the people and for the people. But after her son’s death, the conqueror inside her took charge of things. She didn’t care about the consequences. Her motives became driven by personal agendas. The grief made her cross that line. She didn’t care about setting a precedent anymore. She didn’t care about how history would remember her. Rhaenyra looked at the fire in the Chamber of the Painted Table but felt the heat of the flames inside her. There was indignation in those eyes, and she was ready to annihilate the very foundation of the Hightowers. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned. She was going to take what was hers through fire and blood, and the Greens would regret it for years to come.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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