House of the Dragon aired its Season 1 finale almost two months ago. It still lives rent-free in my head, which is impressive considering how much stuff, both inconsequential and significant, is jam-packed there. This Game of Thrones prequel based on George R.R. Martin‘s Targaryen compendium Fire & Blood thrust the franchise back into the spotlight, making it, once again, the source of all water cooler talk and social media fervor. 

Unfortunately, we must wait until 2024 to see the ramifications of that fatal dragon chase above Shipbreaker Bay. Thankfully, filming for Season 2 will begin in March 2023, so we might get casting news during that time to sate our appetites. For now, I’ll stick to writing countless listicles and think pieces about the dragon show. 

Below, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite moments from Season 1. As expected, the night is dark and full of spoilers, so make sure you’re caught up before scrolling. 

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Viserys Entering the Throne Room in “The Lord of the Tides”

King Viserys stands in front of the Iron Throne while gesturing with a dagger in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

House of the Dragon Season 1 boasts compelling performances across the board, but Paddy Considine outshines them all in episode eight, “The Lord of the Tides,” a.k.a. Viserys’s swan song. Considine is one massive highlight in the entire episode; however, the throne room scene is an acting masterclass. Considine, an ostensibly healthy man, persuades us he might be dying of leprosy as Viserys trudges slowly yet proudly to the Iron Throne. It’s a part that’s as physical as it is emotional.

Matt Smith‘s choice to have Daemon pick up the crown and place it on Considine’s head is the cherry on top. It’s proof positive of the truthfulness that can blossom from an accident or scene flub. 

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Another heavy-hitting Viserys moment in “The Lord of the Tides” is his death scene. His calling out to Aemma is a poignant, impactful button for a multifaceted character. 

Aemond and Luke’s Fatal Chase Scene in “The Black Queen”

Arrax and Lucerys Velaryon fly above Storm's End in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 10, "The Black Queen."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 10, “The Black Queen.” Photo courtesy of HBO.

While Viserys’s death undoubtedly opens the doors to the Dance of the Dragons, Aemond’s (Ewan Mitchell) and Luke’s (Elliot Grihault) encounter above Shipbreaker Bay pushes our players right through them. Firstly, the beauty of the show’s source material is its pliability. Fire & Blood is a loose historical tome of major Targaryen events relayed by unreliable narrators whose accounts often conflict with one another.

While it’s implied in the book that Aemond kills Luke on purpose, House of the Dragon decisively makes it an accident. I love this choice. Making Aemond a gray character is more true to life (without the dragons), and it’ll be interesting to watch how Luke’s death impacts and shapes him moving forward. It’ll give Ewan Mitchell more to work with on the character front. And that shot of Vhagar looming above Arrax? Bone-chilling. 

Daemon Fighting in the Stepstones in “Second of His Name”

Daemon Targaryen stands in the middle of a battlefield while holding a sword above his head in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 3, "Second of His Name."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 3, “Second of His Name.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

There aren’t a ton of battle sequences in Season 1, and certainly nothing on the scale of Game of Thrones. Of course, there’ll be sprawling fight scenes aplenty now that the Dance is here, but I digress. Daemon’s fight in the Stepstones is a wordless, bloody highlight. Matt Smith’s captivating onscreen presence lends itself to how thrilling it is, from Daemon pretending to surrender to him dragging the Crabfeeder’s corpse from that cave. While it would’ve been nice to see a combat sequence between Daemon and his foe, Daemon’s badass solo takedown preceding his victory makes up for it. 

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Aemond Claiming Vhagar in “Driftmark” 

Aemond Targaryen sits in a chair with a bloody face while looking serious in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 7, "Driftmark."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 7, “Driftmark.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

How does one claim the ancient dragon ridden by Queen Visenya herself when she and her siblings conquered Westeros? By being Laena Velaryon and Aemond Targaryen, of course. After burning Laena at her tearful behest, Vhagar returned to Driftmark riderless. That is until one small boy approaches her, armed with beautifully spoken Valyrian and a dream.

Aemond claiming the colossal creature that is Vhagar (Balerion was even larger in his day) is such a fun moment (despite the sore lack of lighting). Something about this scene feels like Bastian riding Falkor in The NeverEnding Story, or perhaps I’m only equating the two because their vague tether consists of kids riding sky beasts. 

Anyway, Leo Ashton kills it in this scene and in the next moments when he inevitably loses his eye. Who can forget that killer line: “I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon”? 

Rhaenyra and Alicent’s Climactic Fight in “Driftmark” 

Alicent Hightower lunges at Rhaenyra Targaryen with a dagger in her hand in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 7, "Driftmark."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 7, “Driftmark.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

I had been waiting with bated breath for this moment since seeing it in the trailer — Rhaenyra and Alicent going head-to-head in an emotional clashing of swords. Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke are revelations, delivering painfully vulnerable and blistering performances. Especially Cooke. I’ve always enjoyed her work, but she sets the acting bar impossibly high during this episode’s climax.

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“Where is duty? Where is sacrifice?” Those words are heartbreaking when you put Alicent’s life into context. Cooke does a brilliant job of making us feel for Alicent’s plight. It’s easy to see where she’s coming from in this scene. D’Arcy maintains a brisk pace with Cooke, proving an invaluable sparring partner. Their simmering anger feels like it could catapult above the boiling point at any moment. They give Rhaenyra the pathos needed for what ultimately fuels a Shakespearean tragedy: the Dance of the Dragons.  

Rhaenys Crashing Aegon’s Coronation in “The Green Council” 

Rhaenys Targaryen rides her dragon Meleys into a dome-shaped building while holding the reins to a harness in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 9, "The Green Council."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 9, “The Green Council.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

I realize this moment is contested among the fandom, but its memorableness is undeniable. Perhaps it’s the Eve Best fangirl in me, maybe the Rhaenys lover in me, but her decision to crash Aegon II’s coronation while on dragonback certainly leaves an impression. Of course, killing thousands of smallfolk for your “cool” entrance is more than an oopsie. Innocent civilians becoming collateral damage is par for the course in this universe as ultraviolent battles are waged by the rich and powerful. The privileged continue to wear blinders regarding their privilege. 

Olivia Cooke delivers the goods in this scene, especially considering that she’s not reacting to an actual dragon. Alicent asks for Rhaenys to choose sides, and while she doesn’t instantly align herself with Rhaenyra, she wordlessly stands firmly against Team Green. She makes enemies of them, and we’ll undoubtedly see the repercussions of that move. 

Alicent Wearing Her Green Dress to Rhaenyra and Laenor’s Wedding in “We Light the Way” 

Alicent wears an emerald green dress with her hands clasped in front of her on House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 5, "We Light the Way."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 5, “We Light the Way.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Full disclosure: we’re Emily Carey fans in this house (of the dragon). The avalanche of vitriol she’s received in the fandom is reprehensible and abhorrent. Carey churns out solid, nuanced work and effectively sets the stage for Olivia Cooke’s entrance as an older Alicent. Now that that’s out of the way … Alicent donning her iconic green dress in “We Light the Way” is a significant turning point for her as a character. Before this moment, we never see Alicent wearing the gorgeous emerald green of House Hightower. 

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As Larys (Matthew Needham) explains in the episode, the beacon atop the Hightower glows green when House Hightower calls their banners to war. We see the bond between Alicent and Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) splinter as early as episode two, and that relationship continuously goes through the wringer. Alicent’s green dress spells war and cements the wedge between her and Rhaenyra. 

Rhaenyra’s Night Out in “King of the Narrow Sea” 

Rhaenyra Targaryen stands close to Ser Criston Cole while looking playfully into his eyes in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 4, "King of the Narrow Sea."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 4, “King of the Narrow Sea.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Girls just wanna have fun (with their uncle in a brothel and a member of the Kingsguard), right? Rhaenyra’s night out in King’s Landing in “King of the Narrow Sea” proves to be a portentous one. Think about it: if she hadn’t slept with Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), he wouldn’t have killed Joffrey Lonmouth at Rhaenyra and Laenor’s (Theo Nate) wedding.

In addition, Criston wouldn’t have tried to commit suicide and subsequently wouldn’t have pledged himself as Alicent’s sworn protector. While this might not directly affect the war between Rhaenyra and Aegon, it certainly contributes to the domino effect. Rhaenyra’s dalliance with Criston probably feels like a palate cleanser if incestuous snogging isn’t your thing (as much as I love Matt Smith’s ability to have chemistry with everyone). Still, the latter’s ironclad 20-some-year grudge makes matters worse. 

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Aegon’s Coronation in “The Green Council” 

King Aegon II Targaryen wears an all-black outfit while turning to face a crowd of people during his coronation in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 9, "The Green Council."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 9, “The Green Council.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

I didn’t expect to walk away from this season entirely smitten with an actor who was only in two episodes, but here we are. Tom Glynn-Carney delivers a superb performance even with limited screen time. Glynn-Carney could’ve doled out a horrendously one-note character that falls heavily into the “repugnant villain” camp. He could’ve become the next Joffrey Baratheon.

While I’m not condoning Aegon raping a serving girl (as I’m sure nobody else is), Glynn-Carney successfully moves past a starting point that would’ve quickly sunk a lesser actor in their search for dimensionality. He gives Aegon that nuance, molds him into a multifaceted character and elicits empathy from the audience.

Okay, time to clamber down from my soapbox. Aegon’s coronation is pivotal in Season 1. Not only is it an excellent moment for Aegon as a character — the emotional shifts between active resistance of the crown and wholehearted acceptance are fascinating — but it contributes to the start of the Dance. 

Any Interaction Between Viserys and Daemon 

King Viserys and Daemon Targaryen stand in front of each other while smiling in the throne room in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 4, "King of the Narrow Sea."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 4, “King of the Narrow Sea.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Paddy Considine and Matt Smith are brilliant actors, and only performers of their caliber could make the Viserys and Daemon scenes as memorable as they are. The Targaryen brothers’ relationship is messy, complex, and, ultimately, bursting at the seams with love. One could argue that Daemon probably loves his brother more than anyone else. My favorite potentially unintentional running gag in Season 1 is Viserys banishing Daemon from King’s Landing, only for the latter to make a fashionable entrance in the throne room some odd months or years later. Admittedly, I hope it was intentional. 

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Episode four and eight boasts the best Viserys/Daemon moments. Viserys’s fiery Targaryen reaction in episode four to Daemon and Rhaenyra’s night out makes for an intriguing character shift, while Daemon placing the crown on Viserys’s head in “The Lord of the Tides” is such an emotional beat. The love is there, sometimes as an undercurrent, but its presence is indisputable. 

Corlys Velaryon  

Lord Corlys sits before a fire in the dark while looking pensive in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 7, "Driftmark."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 7, “Driftmark.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Steve Toussaint is the perfect Corlys Velaryon, and you cannot convince me otherwise. Corlys is one of my favorite A Song of Ice and Fire characters, so perhaps I’m biased. Corlys has such an interesting backstory, though. Anyway, Toussaint injects the Lord of the Tides with gravitas and quiet swagger. He owns every room he walks into, and in that manner, he’s similar to Daemon. You know he’s someone you can’t antagonize because you won’t prevail. He harbors a deep love for and loyalty to Rhaenys and his family. While he won’t address it outright, he loves his nephews as if they were his full-blooded kin. 

I do feel Toussaint was severely underutilized in Season 1. Thankfully, Corlys plays a significant role in the Dance, so we’ll undoubtedly see more of him in the coming seasons. He’s just a badass. 

Team Green in “The Green Council” 

Aegon Targaryen and Alicent Hightower sit across from each other in their carriage while looking out opposite windows in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 9, "The Green Council."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 9, “The Green Council.” Photo credit: Liam Daniel/HBO.

I’ll admit, having read Fire & Blood, I entered this sphere with a Team Black slant. I’m sure most folks did. However, I emerged from this season with a newfound love for Team Green. I’m now more in the middle than firmly planted on one side. I love almost everyone on both teams for different reasons. As we know, the Dance is about the tragic downfall of one dynasty. The Targaryens never recover from their civil war, regardless of which side seizes the Iron Throne. The survivors clawing their way out of the wreckage are perpetually scarred. 

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All this to say: Team Green, I get it. “The Green Council” shapes characters like Alicent, Aegon, Aemond and Helaena (Phia Saban) into fully formed, fleshed-out human beings. I’m still not entirely on board with Criston and Larys, and Otto’s (Rhys Ifans) heedless ambition caused unending pain for Alicent, but I grew to love the others. We learn that Alicent and her children are also victims of all this. 

Aegon and Aemond’s fight scene is wholeheartedly relatable if you have siblings, Helaena’s inherent sweetness (and her dreamer ability) is undeniably endearing, and Alicent and Aegon’s carriage scene before his coronation is touching. 

What are your favorite moments from Season 1 of House of the Dragon? Sound off in the comments below!

House of the Dragon Season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max

This article was originally published in December 2022. 

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Melody McCune
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