House of the Dragon has proven itself a worthy sibling series to HBO fantasy juggernaut Game of Thrones. The new series, a prequel to the massively popular show based on the writings of celebrated author George R.R. Martin, swooped in and landed with the heft of one of its winged stars, and season 1 is now Certified Fresh. By comparison, seven of eight Game of Thrones seasons are Certified Fresh with scores ranging from 55% on the final season to 97% on season 4.

Spoiler alert: The following contains spoilers from the first season of House of the Dragon. If you haven’t watched the entire season and wish to avoid spoilers, stop reading here.

Season 1 of House of the Dragon first introduced viewers to young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and her childhood companion Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), and then quickly aged them up to become adult competitors in their own game of thrones. Emma D’Arcy took over as Rhaenyra and Olivia Cooke as Alicent, while Matt Smith plays Prince Daemon Targaryen, Paddy Considine was King Viserys Targaryen (now deceased), Eve Best is Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, and Steve Toussaint plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, “The Sea Snake.”

Related: House of the Dragon Season 1 Finale ‘Soars,’ Critics Say

As time passed over the first season, beloved characters died, as is custom in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels and related short stories. It took some time for King Viserys, for example, to succumb to a mysterious disease that saw his flesh eaten away boil by infected boil. Poor Lady Laena Velayron (Nanna Blondell) chose death by dragonfire than to die on the birthing bed like her aunt Aemma (Sian Brooke), queen consort to Viserys. Prince Daemon dispatched at least two not-so-beloved characters by slicing them in half with his Valyrian steel blade Dark Sister, and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) smashed in the head of Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) when the king’s council member dared accuse the queen of regicide.

Eve Best in House of the Dragon season 1

(Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO)

In the penultimate episode, “The Green Council,” Princess Rhaenys (the queen that never was) had the opportunity to take out Queen Dowager Alicent, false-king Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), and the greens with one word to her dragon Meleys: “Dracarys!” Alas, it would have made for a very short series. The episode is now ninth on our list of House of the Dragon episodes ranked by Tomatometer.

Rhaenys’ inaction in episode 9 made way for the death of teenage Prince Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) in the finale, which started strong on the list at No. 1 and a perfect 100% Tomatometer score, but has since fallen to the second spot with a 92% score on 36 reviews (at the time of this update).

Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy in

(Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO)

Read on to find out which episodes were most favored by critics compared to those that were — only slightly less favored to be honest. There’s not a single Rotten episode in the season.

Critics Consensus: While the copious day for night cinematography will prompt viewers to adjust their brightness settings, "Driftmark" is an exceedingly satisfying excursion into family spats and taboo reunions.
Synopsis: As the families gather on Driftmark for a funeral, Viserys calls for an end to infighting, and Alicent demands justice.... [More]

Critics Consensus: The family comes together for a short-lived truce in "The Lord of the Tides," a mournful installment that spotlights Paddy Considine's moving performance as the ailing King Viserys.
Synopsis: With the Driftmark succession suddenly critical, Rhaenyra tries to strike a bargain with Rhaenys.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Making for deeply uncomfortable family viewing, "King of the Narrow Sea" trades dragonflame for dangerous liaisons and goes a long way towards deepening House of the Dragon's web of intrigue.
Synopsis: After Rhaenyra cuts short her tour of Westeros, Daemon introduces the princess to the Street of Silk after dark.... [More]

Critics Consensus: While the longest time-skip yet diminishes some of this installment's most shocking moments, the commanding introductions of Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke make clear that "The Princess and the Queen" will remain compulsively watchable combatants.
Synopsis: Ten years later. Rhaenyra navigates Alicent’s continued speculation about her children, while Daemon and Laena weigh an offer in Pentos.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Bearing the weight of a hallowed TV lineage, "The Heirs of the Dragon" won't fully fire viewers up for another game of thrones, but solidly sets the board with plenty of blood.
Synopsis: Viserys hosts a tournament to celebrate the birth of his second child. Rhaenyra welcomes her uncle Daemon back to the... [More]

Critics Consensus: Stolen dragon eggs and awkward matchmaking add up to an installment that is designed to lay foundations rather than dazzle in its own right, but "The Rogue Prince" succeeds in nesting juicy conflicts.
Synopsis: Rhaenyra oversteps at the Small Council; Viserys is urged to secure the succession through marriage; Daemon announces his intentions.... [More]

Critics Consensus: Holding true to the Westerosi rule that no wedding goes according to plan, "We Light the Way" is a disturbing midpoint for House of the Dragon, punctuated by shocking brutality and Queen Alicent coming into her own.
Synopsis: Daemon visits his wife in the Vale. Viserys and Rhaenyra broker agreements with the Velaryons. Alicent seeks the truth about... [More]

Critics Consensus: Beginning with conspiratorial whispers and ending with a roaring declaration of war, "The Green Council" is a discomfortingly suspenseful kickoff to the long-awaited Dance of Dragons.
Synopsis: Tensions begin to rise in the royal court as the new coronation draws near; while Alicent enlists Cole and Aemond... [More]

Critics Consensus: After viewers acclimate to the jarring time-skip, "Second of His Name" quickly finds its stride with a focus on infernal politicking, rousing spectacle, and some rather nasty crabs.
Synopsis: Daemon and the Sea Snake battle the Crabfeeder. The realm celebrates Aegon’s second nameday. Rhaenyra faces the prospect of marriage.... [More]

90% House of the Dragon: Season 1 (2022) is now available on HBO on demand and streaming on HBO Max.

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Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon

(Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO)

For readers of George R.R. Martin’s Westerosi history Fire & Blood, the events of Sunday’s House of the Dragon finale were known, but in fleshing out the crowning of a queen and the death of a beloved son, executive producers Martin, Ryan Condal, and Miguel Sapochnik along with the stars and rest of the fantasy series’ team have transcended the novel to deliver a soaring TV adaptation. “The Black Queen” primes fans for what book readers know will be a brutal second season.

Spoiler alert: The following contains details about the season 1 finale of House of the Dragon, “The Black Queen.” If you have not watched the episode and wish to avoid spoilers, stop reading here.

Elliot Grihault HBO House of the Dragon

(Photo by Gary Moyes / HBO)

War is coming, Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy) despondent glare promised at the end of the episode, having learned of the death of her second son, Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault, pictured above). Presumably, that’s the news Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) delivered to elicit such a response: that Lucerys and his dragon, Arrax, had been eaten by the oldest and largest (known) living dragon, Vhagar, ridden by Rhaenyra’s half-brother Aemond Targaryen. On top of the death of her father and the stillbirth of her son with Daemon, a newly-crowned queen — whose other half-brother, Aegon, is now called king and sits on the Iron Throne — can only take so much.

Bloodlust must surely follow.

Reviews of “The Black Queen” are still rolling in, but the response so far is fawning. Here’s what critics are saying about the final episode of season 1.

Caraxes and Matt Smith in House of the Dragon

(Photo by HBO)

House of the Dragon’s suspenseful, action-packed season finale, “The Black Queen,” changes the Game of Thrones prequel’s calculus forever. – Josh Wigler, Vanity Fair

In “Game of Thrones” tradition, Aemond and Luke’s flight is pictured mostly in darkness or shadow, but Storm’s End is the rare sequence where this serves effectively serves the scene. – Proma Khosla, indieWire

It was brutal and savage and a brilliant end to the series. – Elizabeth Gregory, London Evening Standard

Truly one of the most shocking hours of TV I’ve watched in years — possibly ever. – Paul Dailly, TV Fanatic

The writing and the acting and the whole production just feels more rich and personal and intimate than its predecessor. It’s not as fun… But the complicated characters we do have feel more lived in, more weather-beaten and more real. – Erik Kain, Forbes

Ewan Mitchell and Roger Evans in House of the Dragon

(Photo by Gary Moyes / HBO)

The war is here, and all the players are finally ready to play their parts. – Aja Romano, Vox

Within the show, the game of thrones will continue. But based on its opening salvo, score House of the Dragon as a victory for the old guard. – Brian Lowry,

It’s that central tragedy, of two well-meaning women slowly made into realm-destroying monsters in a world where actual monsters still take wing, that elevates the show above its genre counterparts. – Sean T. Collins, Rolling Stone

The season finale is another rock-solid episode, with dragons, disaster, and excellent performances from the cast. – Molly Edwards, Total Film

It’s been a sometimes slow-burning first season to House Of The Dragon, but the emotional impact of this finale shows that all that ground-laying has established characters to care about and invest in. – Helen O’Hara, IGN Movies

The series has managed to navigate other elements much better than its predecessor. But the series could have been built on a more solid foundation. – Jean Henegan, Pop Culture Maniacs

 House of the Dragon

(Photo by HBO)

“Words are wind.” Though no one ever says it in “The Black Queen,” the iconic Westerosi aphorism hovers over the episode like a fog. – Jenna Scherer, AV Club

In the early going things felt a bit disconnected, episode to episode, but once the momentum picked up around episode 7, we started hurtling toward a cliff edge. – Glen Weldon, NPR

“The Black Queen” soared more than it idled, and offered a cliffhanger with just enough conflict, dragons and palace intrigue to keep audiences hooked. – Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

Without closed captioning and a deep background of Targaryen lore, I pity the casual viewer who just stopped by to check out the little dragon show’s season finale and see what the fuss is about. – Hillary Kelly, New York Magazine/Vulture

Emma D'Arcy, Matt Smith in House of the Dragon

(Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO)

Rhaenyra’s coronation was easily the most moving scene of the season. The acting, score, and cinematography demonstrated the Westerosi sense of awe and wonder at its best, a high point for the entire franchise. – Ian Thomas Malone, Ian Thomas Malone

House of the Dragon Episode 10 was slow until it wasn’t. It showed audiences more dragons than we’ve seen so far and the terror they reap. With one look, D’Arcy ends Season 1 with anger and contempt, and a brewing storm. – Kate Sánchez
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All of House of the Dragon‘s strengths, and a few of its flaws, were front and centre as the show signed off. – Ed Power, Daily Telegraph (UK)

The season one finale leaves viewers shocked, with their jaws on the floor. Stunning visuals, intense moments, and an emotional roller coaster ride — we wish we didn’t have to wait so long for more. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

What did you think of the finale? Tell us in the comments.

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