As a big fan of Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin’s books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I was convinced that House of the Dragon would be a major flop and that the mess they’ve made out of GoT Season 8 is unsalvageable. Boy, was I wrong! One could argue that Season 1 of HotD was just as awesome – if not better – than Season 1 of Game of Thrones.
The showrunners used the source material incredibly well, which was narrated by unreliable sources. Hence, wherever there was room to make a change from the material, they made it – and they made it so epically. Quite frankly, it was incredibly difficult for me to pick which scenes were the best, but I narrowed it down to fifteen.
Hence, here’s a ranked list of the 15 best House of the Dragon Season 1 Scenes, ranked from worst to best (or least to most awesome). WARNING: This article contains spoilers for HBO’s House of the Dragon. If you haven’t watched the show yet, proceed reading with caution!
15. Viserys’ Death
The realm was in a state of limbo, in a Status Quo, so to speak. It felt like everyone just waited for the King to finally die from his illness so that the battle for the Iron Throne could begin. And then, it happened, and all hell broke loose.
The scene of Viserys’ death was epic, just as it was frustrating. In his delusional state, Viserys mistakes Alicent for his daughter, Rhaenyra, and reveals to her the prophecy of Aegon the Conqueror. She thinks the King was referring to their son, Aegon, and that he wanted him to rule the Seven Kingdoms instead of Rhaenyra, his designated heir.
In the end, it didn’t even matter, as the Greens – with Otto Hightower leading the charge – already had a plan in place after the King’s death to usurp the throne and crown Aegon. The scene of King Viserys’ death was so epic and so crucial because it marked the beginning of the end and the downfall of the House of the Dragon.
To add to the scene, Paddy Considine’s performance was amazing. He actually improvised the King’s last words, where he saw his late wife Aemma and said, ‘my love.’ Paddy said: I’ve made a choice that as he [Viserys] dies, he sees Aemma. When he reaches out and says, “My love,” that’s what he sees the moment he dies.”
14. Rhaenyra walking up the stairs after giving birth
I loved this particular scene so much for at least three or four different reasons. First, it was the first scene where we saw the change of cast from younger to older versions of the characters. Namely, Emma D’Arcy took over as Rhaenyra after Milly Alcock’s great performance in the first five episodes of the show.
Second, we see Laenor actually showing love and care towards Rhaenyra, and the child that we all know wasn’t his. The fact that he helped her climb those stairs and stand up to Alicent made him one of my favorite characters.
Third, we see just how crooked Alicent Hightower has become, how deteriorated the relationship between the two former best friends became, and how cruel she is, making Rhaenyra walk to her upstairs chambers moment after labor.
And last but not least, we see just what a boss Rhaenyra Targaryen is!
13. Aemond claiming Vhagar
It was a huge upgrade from the Pink Dread, am I right? Jokes aside, the moment when Aemond summoned the courage to approach Vhagar – the oldest, biggest, fiercest dragon alive – was the moment that tipped the power scales between the Greens and the Blacks in a balance.
Had Vhagar been claimed by one of the daughters of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon – as it should’ve been – the battle of the dragons would be a no contest, and the Greens wouldn’t stand a chance. However, claiming Vhagar meant that the dragon game wasn’t so one-sided anymore.
Also, it was a major character build for Aemond, going from being the laughing stock among the boys to being the best warrior among them – by far. Sure it cost him an eye when Lucerys poked it out, but as Aemond said – it was a fair trade.
12. Rhaenyra and Alicent fighting
This scene closely follows the scene where Aemond claims Vhagar and loses his eye. Alicent is livid and requests for Lucerys’ eye to be poked out as well. Viserys tries to de-escalate the situation but to no avail.
Alicent completely loses it, takes a dagger, and charges towards Lucerys, but Rhaenyra staps her by standing in front of him. Alicent slices her arm with the dagger, leaving a gaping wound and pool of blood, before realizing that she has gone too far.
The scene was so powerful, again, for several reasons. It showed how cool and composed Rhaenyra is, even when the situation is dire. It also showed that Viserys had no control over Alicent, or the Greens, for that matter, and that him being the King, was absolutely weak (at least by that time, but we’ll get there).
Finally, it was the moment when things went from bad to completely unsalvageable and when Alicent showed what she was actually capable of behind the facade of the sweet, loving wife queen.
Interestingly, Alicent used the same dagger that Arya Stark uses to kill the Night King.
11. Viserys’ last supper
If you didn’t sit on the edge of your seat for the entirety of this scene then you’re made of stone. You could slice the tension and the awkwardness in the air. And it actually got better before it eventually got so, so much worse.
Viserys taking off his mask and showing his rotten, deteriorated face certainly made everyone lose their appetite. However, his speech was beautiful, and it almost worked. For a brief moment there, it felt as if the situation between the divided family members could be mended. Everyone was giving toast to the opposing sides, and all was well.
That is until Viserys left the table, and Aemond stood up for his toast, calling Jace and Luke fine, ‘Strong’ boys. Honestly, I hate Aemond so much, but I love to hate him – the character is just so well-written it makes me want to slap him every time he’s on screen.
10. Two sides collide on the bridge on Dragonstone
This particular scene actually happened two times in the show, and I don’t know which one was more epic. The first was when Daemon stole the dragon egg for his ‘unborn child’ with a ‘wh*re,’ and Rhaenyra flew to Dragonstone on Syrax to retrieve it. It ended up being a bloodless encounter, with Daemon and Rhaenyra being on different sides but finding a common tongue.
The second scene was when Rhaenyra and Daemon were already living together on Dragonstone, and the Greens – led by Otto Hightower – came to deliver the news about a ‘new king’ being coronated. The moment when Rhaenyra flies in with Syrax and lands behind the Greens to essentially trap them on the bridge had me going, ‘oh crap, this is it.’
She showed constraint once again, however, which is only fitting for a future queen to be. As Lady Rhaenys would later say – she is the only one showing restraint while all the men are pushing her to plunge the realm into war. The scene gave me chills, and it’s only fitting that it breaks the top ten.
9. Rhaenyra spots the white stag but lets him go
The white stage is a symbol that, according to legends, only appears to the true, rightful heirs to the Throne. Viserys were going after him after he was allegedly spotted, but it turned out to be just another big brown deer.
However, the white stag appears to Rhaenyra in the very same episode, showing that she is, indeed, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and the ruler the Seven Kingdoms desperately need. But, instead of having Ser Criston Cole kill the stag to prove it had appeared to her, she lets him go. It was enough for her to know, and it was the moment I fell in love with the character.
8. Daemon slays the Crabfeeder
The first few episodes of the show included a war that broke out at the Stepstones against the Triarchy, and their leader – the so-called Crabfeeder. Daemon Targaryen and Corlys Velaryon went to war despite the lack of support from the Crown.
They were losing mightily because the Triarchy set up in the caves along the shore. So, dragons couldn’t help because, as soon as they attacked, they would just retreat inside the caves. When the Crown wanted to intervene, Daemon beat the living day out of the messenger and went on a solo mission that was basically suicide.
The whole point of the war for Daemon was to prove himself, and my god, did he do it. He went on a solo spree to lure the Triarchy out of the caves, and once they were out, Daemon’s troops swooped in with dragons, destroying the enemy troops.
The icing on the cake was Daemon going after the Crabfeeder in the caves, and just causally walking out covered in blood, carrying half of his enemy’s body in hand. It was an interesting choice not to show their battle, but it just worked perfectly. It’s probably my favorite fight scene in the entire season.
7. Vaemond Velaryon gets to keep his tongue
This was one of the best ‘that escalated quickly’ moments in the entire show that is perhaps my favorite Daemon Targaryen scene as well (other than the number three on this list). Vaemond Velaryon came to invoke his right to Driftmark and the Velaryon fleet, even though Corlys was still alive, and Lucerys was named the heir of Driftmark.
Vaemond proceeds to call Jace and Lucerys bastards, and Rhaenyra a whore, to which they tell him will cost him his tongue. In that moment, a blade swiftly slices through his head, just a bit above the mouth, and it falls to the ground. Daemon lowers his bloody sword and says: ‘He can keep his tongue,’ as Vaemond’s lifeless body drops. It was just epic.
6. Rhaenyra embracing the Black Queen
This was the final moment of the season, and it was so powerful that I wanted to scream out loud in agony that I have to wait for nearly two years to get Season 2.
Just a scene or two ago, the Dance of the Dragons officially began after Aemond and Vhagar killed Lucerys and Arrax in a heartbeat. The last scene is a closeup shot of Rhaenyra in the moments after she heard about Luke’s passing.
Emma D’Arcy just blasted acting out of the gate. You can feel her emotions going from surprise, to shock, to sorrow, and ultimately rage, just by looking at her facial expressions. It’s the moment when sh*t hits the fan and Rhaenyra goes from ‘Let’s try to preserve peace’ to ‘I’ll burn all of you alive.’ It’s the moment she truly embraces being the Black Queen.
5. Lucerys and Arrax meet their end near Storm’s End
I can see why many have this scene in their top three, and I can see how it would come as a shock to fans who haven’t read the books or heard spoilers from them. To those who read the books, it didn’t come as a surprise, as the moment when Ameond and Vhagar kill Lucerys and Arrax is the first bloodshed of the Dance of the Dragons in the books.
So, when I saw Aemond and Luke visiting Lord Baratheon at Storm’s End to ask for his allegiance at the same time, I knew what was coming. Still, the scene itself was just brutally epic, and did break away from the source material – slightly, but very intelligently.
In the books, nobody saw the battle due to the storm and the clouds. All they knew was that Vhagar flew into the clouds, going after Arrax, and the dismantled body of the smaller dragon was later found washed ashore. However, nobody knew exactly how the battle took place.
So, the writers shook up the narrative a bit and showed that Aemond didn’t really want to kill his cousin – it was the dragons that went after each other, with both Luke and Aemond completely losing control of their dragons’ actions. It just confirmed what Rhaenyra already knew – they never really control the dragons – the dragons sometimes just choose to obey.
4. Daemon coronates Rhaenyra with Viserys’ crown
After the King died, the Greens usurped the throne hastily and coronated Aegon Targaryen, giving him the crown and blade of Aegon the Conqueror. His coronation was witnessed by the entire King’s Landing but was cut short too, well… you’ll see later on the list.
Arryk Cargyll sides with Aegon and the Greens, whereas his twin brother, Erryk, steals Viserys Targaryen’s crown and carries it to Dragonstone. He gives it to Rhaenyra, who he sees as the one true queen.
Then later, we see Daemon coronate Rhaenyra, carefully placing the crown on her head, just as he once did to his brother, King Viserys. It was a wholesome, and emotional moment that was a long time coming.
3. Daemon aids Viserys on his way to the Iron Throne
This particular scene was insanely powerful, and one of the best moments between Paddy Considine and Matt Smith, or Viserys and Daemon Targaryen. Otto and Alicent Hightower, along with Vaemond Targaryen, were eager to make him the rightful heir of Driftmark.
They slowly take over the Crown as the King lies ill in his chambers, high on poppy milk. However, before the auditorium begins, Viserys enters the Throne Room. He can barely walk, and he lets nobody aid him up the stairs to the Throne. Then, his crown falls down, and at that moment, his brother picks it up, places it back on Viserys’ head, and helps him sit on the Throne.
After everything they’ve been through, Daemon loves his brother, and Viserys loves him, and it was by far my favorite scene in the show.
2. Rhaenys and Meleys disrupt Aegon’s coronation
This moment was just an absolute boss move that had been rewound several times to collect my thoughts after. As Aegon gets the Crown and officially usurps the Throne, the crowd is silent at first, but slowly begins to cheer for the new ‘King.’
It breaks into an all-out cheer, and although Aegon is reluctant at first, it seems he got into the role as he saw the support of the crowd. However, it’s suddenly interrupted as Rhaenys emerges on Meleys’ back from below, where the Dragonpits are. It gave a whole new meaning to Helaena Targaryen’s prophecy, “there’s a beast beneath the boards.”
Some fans were annoyed by the scene, wondering why she didn’t simply burn them all alive in a second, but Rhaenys just turned around on Meleys and flew away. She later explains to Rhaenyra that it was not her war to begin.
1. Laenor Velaryon lives!
Last but not least – this scene was another perfect example of incredible writing – the showrunners changed the source material ever so slightly, using the ambiguous, unreliable nature of the narrators in the book Fire & Blood.
In the book, Laenor Velaryon is slain in public by his lover, Ser Qarl Correy, for nothing more than money. In the series, however, the fate of Laenor Velaryon is much more fulfilling.
We see Daemon and Rhaenyra plot Laenor’s death so that they could be married, despite Rhaenyra saying she genuinely loves Laenor – just not as a husband. We see Daemon pay Ser Qarl, and slay a guard in the main hall of Driftmark. Then, Ser Qarl and Laenor start fighting in front of a servant, who is sent to get help by Laenor.
By the time they return, all they find is Laenor’s charcoal body in the fireplace, and Ser Qarl is nowhere in sight. We’re led to believe that Daemon and Rhaenyra plotted his murder, paying Correy to kill him.
However, the final scene of the episode allows us to see Laenor sit on a small boat with Ser Qarl, with his signature silver dreadlocks shaved, rowing into a different future.
You see, Rhaenyra and Daemon didn’t kill Laenor – they set him free, making it look like he was murdered, but in reality, letting him go to Pentos and live freely and happily with his true love, Ser Qarl.
I was ready to give up all hope on the show because, if Rhaenyra and Daemon just blatantly killed Laenor in cold blood, I would have nobody to root for anymore. Seeing that they didn’t do it made me absolutely rejoice, which is why this is, hands down, my favorite scene in the show.
It would be awesome if Laenor returned later in the series to help Rhaenyra, but that’s just wishful thinking. We’ll wait for season two to see what happens, which will premiere somewhere in 2024.