House of the Dragon - Episode 5 Review
Warning: The below contains full spoilers for Episode 5 of House Of The Dragon, which aired on HBO on Sept. 18, 2022. To refresh your memory, check out our review of last week's episode.
Last time we saw Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen, he was having seven bells kicked out of him by his brother’s Kingsguard. But you can’t keep a good(?) man down for long, and sure enough he’s back on his feet in no time, quietly murdering his wife to leave the way open to marry his niece. Think family values, Targaryen style – and believe it or not, that’s not even the worst marriage-related decision of the episode. Gotta love Westeros, where you have about a 50% chance of surviving any given wedding.
So we open as Daemon puts on an improbably large hoodie and goes to kill his missus, Lady Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford, evidently an alliteration queen). He could just have applied for an annulment or its local equivalent, given that they apparently never consummated their marriage, but perhaps that would hurt his male pride, or it’s a land grab for her wealth. Better to cut straight to murder – though his animosity to Rhea is odd, since “actively hostile” seems to be his type. Alas, his timing is off: Viserys (Paddy Considine) has taken ship for Driftmark to arrange the engagement of Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate), son and heir to Lord Corlys (Steven Toussaint). Laenor Velaryon is gay, but dynastic marriages rarely care about such details. In any case, the young couple both promise to look the other way and get on with their lives.
Every Dragon in Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon
Driftmark makes for a pretty cool location: it’s a combination of St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall and dimly lit studio sets filled with the riches of the sea, brought back from the Sea Snake’s many voyages. There, Viserys keeps talking about the importance of “finally” uniting their two houses, Targaryen and Velaryon, but his cousin Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) is literally the mother of the groom. It must be a deliberate attempt to showcase, yet again, how thoroughly sidelined she has been, and how unthinkingly patriarchal Viserys is. And yet he’s the only one who foresees no problem with his daughter taking the throne. So much for his dreams of being a Dreamer, able to see the future.
This week has another talky episode, but one that further exposes the schisms in the Targaryen clan.“
The shadowy sets and general darkness of the show cause a few problems this week, and there’s one aspect of costuming that should be shocking and just… isn’t. Alicent (Emily Carey) finally decides to strike back this week, infuriated that Rhaenyra lied to her (she didn’t exactly, but it’s a question of degree), and acts out against both husband and heir. It’s worth noting that she’s egged on in that by Ser Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), who seems to be a little bit of a Littlefinger here. Maybe the intrigue levels are amping up. After that chat, when Alicent enters the engagement party in green, she’s supposed to be making a major statement of independence from the Targaryens. Her green gown should be a major moment – but House Of The Dragon has to tell us that instead of showing it because it hasn’t established any of the necessary background. In the same scene, for example, Rhaenyra is in white rather than Targaryen black and red (an anachronism if we’re basing this on medieval times: brides wearing white only really goes back to Queen Victoria in the 19th century), and we’ve seen Alicent in blue and bronze just in this episode. If the show had earlier made a point of changing Alicent’s look when she married, or consistently putting the female Targaryens in red and black like the men, then this might have been striking. As it is, it’s just a good dress.
It’s been a talky episode to this point, with some good heart to hearts between Alicent and Otto (Rhys Ifans), for instance, and between Rhaenyra and Laenor. Interestingly this is the second episode from director Clare Kilner, equalling the two-episode record of Michelle MacLaren in Seasons 3 and 4 of Game Of Thrones, Westeros’ only previous female director. Encouragingly, however, Kilner has one more episode to come, with Geeta Vasant Patel joining her later in the season. Baby steps behind the camera, but some sort of effort towards equality, especially in a show so focused on gender dynamics. Hopefully later in the series, the women won’t just be given the emotionally dramatic episodes like this and will get to sink their teeth into some action bigger than a fistfight.
Or rather, a gauntlet-vs-face fight, towards the climax of this week. The week-long festivities planned for the royal wedding are derailed almost instantly when Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), in all his heavy armor, gets into an altercation with the velvet-clad Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), aka the Knight of Kisses, aka Laenor’s boyfriend. Things don’t go well for him, because you should never go to weddings if your name is Joffrey. Farewell, young Lonmouth, we hardly knew ye.
Over the years, this world has taught us a lot about wedding superstitions and etiquette. You don’t need something borrowed or blue; it doesn’t matter if you see the bride before the wedding. But it’s a bad idea to tie the knot while rats nearby feed on the congealing blood of your husband’s recently deceased lover. It’s also not a super great sign if your own lover is considering seppuku at the same time, only to be stopped by your hostile stepmother. Nor is it super lucky if your dad collapses from his festering wounds while you complete your vows, or for your uncle to smolder at you on the dance floor. Congratulations to the happy couple though. Maybe it will all work out beautifully.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Helen O'Hara