What a jaw dropping emotional gut punch to end House of the Dragon's majestic first season, foreshadowed by Viserys' portentous words.
Fans of Fire and Blood have been champing at the bit to see the Dance over Shipbreaker Bay - the supposedly callous murder of Rhaenyra's son Lucerys and his dragon Arrax at the hands of a vengeful Aemond and Vhagar - but HBO have pulled a fast one by changing up the narrative.
The season finale, The Black Queen reveals Lucerys' appalling death is a legitimate accident, as an enraged Vhagar lashes out after Arrax breathes fire in self defense. As opposed to the image of the wicked Prince wheeling away in malicious triumph that many were expecting, audiences were left with the picture of Aemond shocked to his very core, white as a sheet and panic radiating from his one dismayed eye.
In true Game of Thrones fashion, morale was built up over the course of the episode with several uplifting moments after a desolate beginning. Rhaenyra's impromptu coronation on the cliffs of Dragonstone, House Velaryon's pledge of their navy to her cause, with the further news that they plan to blockade King's Landing; in the words of Ramsay Bolton, "if you think this has a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."
Due to Aemond's inability to control Vhagar, the Dance of the Dragons is well and truly underway. The fact that it was caused by an accident is all the more agonizing when one considers the levels of fire and blood to come when the second season hits screens.
10. Down - HBO's predilection for visual shock tactics
The sequence depicting Rhaenyra's miscarriage was unerringly faithful to George RR Martin's source material and the argument is there to be made that the unflinchingly close look at the potential horrors of childbirth was the only way to do the heartbreaking scene the justice it deserved.
With that being said, House of the Dragon's rendering of the scene was just too gratuitously graphic. The harrowing image of the dead baby's lifeless toes or Rhaenyra Targaryen clutching the bloody, deformed remains of her child to her is a visual sequence that will be nigh on impossible to shake for even the most seasoned of viewers (Rhaenyra's deceased baby literally appeared to be missing a skull). The entire ghoulish scene made for some of the most legitimately traumatizing viewing material in recent memory - this writer found themselves shaking in the aftermath of the gut wrenching events.
HBO's forays into Westeros have historically brought some truly ghastly material to life, pushing the boundaries of what was previously thought to be acceptable on television. Children have been burned alive and pregnant woman viciously stabbed to death, while the number of scenes depicting some form of sexual assault is too numerous to count; hell, this episode ended with a teenage boy being gorily obliterated by a dragon.
It speaks volumes to the fact that Rhaenyra's miscarriage was truly the most horrifying visual offering they have conceived to date, a scene that was so graphically unsettling that it legitimately took away from the entertainment factor of the show.