- Warning: Major spoilers ahead for the “House of the Dragon” season one finale.
- In Sunday’s finale, Aemond Targaryen and Lucerys Velaryon came to blows in an unexpected way.
- This tracks with the approach of adding depth or different motivations to the story in “Fire and Blood.”
As we predicted last week, HBO’s “House of the Dragon” brought to life two tragic events from George R.R. Martin’s “Fire and Blood” book in the season one finale of the TV adaptation.
First, Rhaenyra experienced a stillbirth for the first time after having six children. But her losses weren’t over — the episode concluded with the death of her son, Luke, after his uncle, Aemond, chased him on dragonback.
But the show took care to make some key changes to the way Luke’s death is described in “Fire and Blood,” so let’s dive into the similarities and differences.
The lead-up to Luke and Aemond’s showdown was almost identical to ‘Fire and Blood’ — but what happens in the air was changed
In Martin’s “Fire and Blood,” there are multiple accounts of the historical tales of House Targaryen. That means “House of the Dragon” showrunner and writer Ryan Condal had his pick of ways to show this pivotal death in the overall Dance of the Dragons (the name given to the civil war among the Targaryens during their rule).
The build-up to Luke being at Storm’s End is all taken from the book, including the fact that his brother, Jace, was the one to suggest the boys riding on their dragons to envoy with the lords. The book also says that Rhaenyra would only agree to it if they swore an oath on the Seven-Pointed Star (the equivalent of the Bible for the Faith) that they’d be there as messengers and not take part in “any fighting.”
“The tragedy that befell Lucerys Velaryon at Storm’s End was never planned, on this all of our sources agree,” Martin’s book says. “The first battles in the Dance of the Dragons were fought with quills and ravens, with threats and promises, decrees and blandishments. The murder of Lord Beesbury at the green council was not yet widely known; most believed his lordship to be languishing in some dungeon.”
As this passage sets up, Luke’s death really establishes a new tone for war and diminishes any chance of compromise from his mother, Queen Rhaenyra.
Most of what happened in the Storm’s End hall is also taken right from the book, with Lord Borros Baratheon giving a frosty reception to Luke while Aemond enjoys the chance to bully him some more. Then the book goes on to describe how it was bad weather for flying, which meant Luke’s dragon Arrax was already “struggling to stay aloft when Prince Aemond mounted Vhagar and went after him.”
“Had the sky been calm, Prince Lucerys might have been able to out fly his pursuer, for Arrax was younger and swifter … but the day was ‘as black as Prince Aemond’s heart,’ says Mushroom, and so it came to pass that the dragons met above Shipbreaker Bay,” the book says. “Watchers on the castle walls saw distant blasts of flame, and heard a shriek cut the thunder. Then the two beasts were locked together, lightning crackling around them. Vhagar was five times the size of her foe, the hardened survivor of a hundred battles. If there was a fight, it could not have lasted long.”
The detail that “House of the Dragon” showrunner Ryan Condal decided to add to this battle was the fact that both Arrax and Vhagar acted of their own accord when it came to the actual dragon-on-dragon fighting.
Aemond seemed to think he could use his dragon as a schoolyard bullying tool, while Luke tries hard to get his dragon to ignore the instinct to fight back at his pursuer. Both young men are yelling commands in Valyrian (though Aemond seems to default back to English at points) but fail to get their dragons fully under control.
Just when Luke thinks he’s escaped, Vhagar emerges from the clouds and bites Arrax into multiple pieces, presumably leaving Luke’s body to fall to the sea or be swallowed up whole by the she-dragon.
Control over dragons has always been a fickle thing in Martin’s stories. Plus, Condal took the time in episode one to let us know the now-dead King Viserys believed it was a mistake for Targaryens to think they could ever truly command a dragon. By having Luke’s death be a partial-accident, the show is adding even more tragedy to the events of this civil war’s outbreak.
This change takes some culpability away from Aemond, but doesn’t shift the overall path of what’s in store next
Aemond seems remorseful in the moments after Luke’s death, perhaps surprised that he didn’t have the control over Vhagar that he believed he did. But there’s no doubt that Aemond was pushing the limits of his physical advantage over his young nephew, happy to cause him as much distress as possible.
So, is Luke really dead? Here’s how “Fire and Blood” describes the various rumors of what happened to Luke and his dragon’s body after the fight:
“Arrax fell, broken, to be swallowed by the storm-lashed waters of the bay. His head and neck washed up beneath the cliffs below Storm’s End three days later, to make a feast for crabs and seagulls. Mushroom claims that Prince Lucerys’s corpse washed up as well, and tells us that Prince Aemond cut out his eyes and presented them to Lady Maris on a bed of seaweed, but this seems excessive. Some say Vhagar snatched Lucerys off his dragon’s back and swallowed him whole. It has even been claimed that the prince survived his fall, swam to safety, but lost all memory of who he was, spending the rest of his days as a simpleminded fisherman.”
It’s possible that “House of the Dragon” goes with that last option and surprises book readers in season two like they did with Laenor’s fake-out death, but the likeliest scenario seems to be that he dies. He was so high in the air, and right in the middle of Vhagar’s jaws, that surviving both the attack and the resulting fall seems impossible.
“The True Telling gives all these tales the respect they deserve … which is to say, none,” the book says. “Lucerys Velaryon died with his dragon, Munkun insists. This is undoubtedly correct. The prince was thirteen years of age. His body was never found. And with his death, the war of ravens and envoys and marriage pacts came to an end, and the war of fire and blood began in earnest.”
As the final shot of season one demonstrates, Luke’s death seems to push Rhaenyra’s cause into unrestrained war against the Greens.
We’ll have to wait until a future season two scene to see how Aemond decides to explain the death to his family back in King’s Landing. Will King Aegon II and Otto be thrilled to hear of Luke’s death? How will Alicent handle her own son being a kinslayer?
Time will tell. For more on “House of the Dragon,” read our breakdown of the best details you might have missed in last week’s episode.