House Of The Dragon - Episode 7 Review
Warning: the below contains full spoilers for Episode 7 of House Of The Dragon, which aired on HBO on Oct. 2, 2022. To refresh your memory, check out our review of last week's episode.
Knives and forks ready, because this week’s House Of The Dragon is a banquet, positively overflowing with the meaty drama and high emotion that we’re all here for. There’s an unusually bloodless wedding, a rare achievement for any Westerosi, but otherwise this is wall-to-wall accusations, arguments, and occasional maiming as a Targaryen family reunion sees old tensions bubble over into violence.
Our scene is Lady Laena’s funeral, where Targaryens and Velaryons gather for the first time in years (Laena’s body is assigned to the shallows, surprisingly: odd that a seafaring people would essentially sink their coffins just offshore). The ceremony is solemn – apart from Daemon (Matt Smith) giggling and awful Aegon (Ty Tennant) looking bored – but, following an extremely pointed eulogy from Laena’s uncle Vaemond (Will Johnson), the question of the parentage of Laenor’s sons hangs heavy in the air.
Every Dragon in Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon
Emotions therefore begin to bubble up at the reception afterwards – not unlike any normal funeral, just with messier outcomes. Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) can barely take her eyes off her uncle Daemon who is, lest we forget, burying his recently burnt wife. And also her uncle. Her husband, Laenor (John Macmillan), struggles to cope with the grief he feels for his sister and literally walks into the sea at one point. His father, Corlys (Steven Toussaint), angrily sends Laenor’s boyfriend, Ser Qarl (Arty Froushan), to “retrieve your patron” in a rare lapse of control.
Daemon and King Viserys (Paddy Considine) exchange a few words, their first in years, and Daemon notes Viserys’ rapid decay in a way that’s either mocking or sympathetic – or perhaps a little of both, as is his way. But he still won’t agree to come home, and Viserys slopes off to bed, defeated. Corlys and his wife, Rhaenys (Eve Best), meanwhile, have a fascinating discussion about legacy: does it matter that Rhaenyra’s children are not of their blood? Or is the name enough to ensure a legacy? Corlys thinks that’s what matters; Rhaenys wants to live in the here-and-now and protect her true children and grandchildren. It’s a nicely subtle discussion of their allegiances that acknowledges the complicated position they’re in, and the fact that – more than perhaps anyone – they have much to lose in a Targaryen struggle for power.
Things kick off after nightfall, though the show has chosen such a dark aesthetic that it’s hard to tell. Much of this plot-heavy middle section will remind viewers of Game Of Thrones’ The Long Night because it’s unrelieved black-on-black: perhaps these showrunners will also blame viewers’ TVs for any confusion (one of those showrunners, Miguel Sapochnik, directed both this episode and The Long Night). But some squinting shows a restored Otto, still conscious of his Hand pin, ordering a drunken Aegon to bed, and missing priggish little Aemond (Leo Ashton) as he heads out to claim Laena’s dragon, Vhagar. The unbearable little shit succeeds, and one must admit displays a degree of bravery in doing so. But in usurping Laena’s ride he prompts a devastating fight with his two girl cousins – the dragonless Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) had hoped to claim her mother’s dragon – and with Rhaenyra’s sons, who are supportive of the girls (first cousins once removed at that point; stepsiblings by episode’s end. Greeting cards must be very complicated for Targaryens). Rhaena lashes out first, but Aemond holds his own and is threatening a prone Jacaerys (Leo Hart) with a rock when Luce slashes him with a knife and cuts out his eye. Cue chaos.
The entire family are woken from their beds and called into the great hall. The kids all clamour and blame one another as the maester sews Aemond up. Alicent (Olivia Cooke) is out for blood, literally demanding an eye for an eye, and prepared to get it herself if other options fail. Rhaenyra finally confronts the accusations about her sons’ fatherhood openly and publicly forces Viserys to take her side, and Alicent’s sweet, reasonable mask falls away to show the fury that lies underneath. It’s an absolute barnstormer of a scene, the centerpiece of not just this episode but the series so far, showing the battle lines being drawn between Alicent’s “greens” and Rhaenyra’s “blacks” – so called for their house colors. It’s interesting that just moments before Rhaenyra was defending Alicent against Daemon’s suggestion that she ordered Harwin’s death in cold blood; now the last traces of the women’s friendship seem to have been washed away as Alicent slashes Rhaenyra’s arm. That could cause problems to come.
Rhaenyra’s family are clearly positioned as goodies and Alicent’s as baddies, even before their majority.“
It's interesting that House Of The Dragon is taking sides a little more clearly than George R.R. Martin did in Fire And Blood. There, Rhaenyra and Alicent are on a similar level of conspiracy and violence, as are their children at this age. Here, Alicent’s two boys are Joffrey-esque monsters and her daughter, Helaena (Evie Allen), is off in her own world, talking to spiders instead of people. Rhaenyra’s boys are just boys, rough and tumble but not actively malignant. It’s playing off Ser Barristen’s quote in Game Of Thrones: “Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born… the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.” No such randomness at this point: Rhaenyra’s family are clearly positioned as goodies and Alicent’s as baddies, even before their majority.
Importantly, to show that there is good in the Targaryens and you don’t have to be Luke Skywalker to feel it, there are moments of real warmth in this episode, something this season had sometimes lacked. Rhaenys comforts her devastated granddaughters, who also display a touching closeness to Jace and Luce, and Corlys tries to bond with Luce. The most moving scene, however, is that between Rhaenyra and Laenor, where they show genuine affection for one another but clearly face up to the shortcomings of their marriage. Laenor struggles to deal with his sister’s loss, and it’s clear that their attempts to juggle duty and happiness aren’t working. There are too many whispers about their son’s parentage – not even whispers: shouts – and it’s obvious that Laenor cannot ensure the boy’s safety or his own. So Daemon, Rhaenyra, Laenor, and Qarl concoct a plan. Daemon murders a random guy with the right height and build, and Qarl picks a fight with Laenor in front of witnesses; then they dump the body in Laenor’s clothes, in the fire, and the two lovers sail off to freedom.
It is a “kindness,” as Daemon calls it, to set Laenor free, and one that will create new and more fearsome whispers around both him and Rhaenyra. But it’s also a choice that causes devastation for Rhaenys and Corlys, stripped of both their children, and Rhaenyra’s sons, who have lost two fathers and gained only one. Laenor also leaves his dragon, Seasmoke, behind, because there’s no way to hide your identity with 20 tonnes of flying furnace at your back.
So the way is clear to finish on a sudden marriage. The recently “bereaved” Rhaenyra and Daemon have finally got it on – again, at night, so you have to really want to see anything beyond vague silhouettes and platinum hair glinting – and become a formidable pairing as soon as they tie the knot. She gives him a way back to power; he gives her male legitimacy in patriarchal Westeros in a way that Laenor could not. They also fancy each other’s pants off, the big perverts. Maybe together they can challenge Alicent as the king’s health fails and she solidifies her position in King’s Landing – something she’s clearly doing in her final scene with the sinister Larys (Matthew Needham). Maybe they can keep their sons alive. Maybe – given that the show gives Laenor a pass to happiness and a new life where the book did not – everyone’s going to live happily ever after. After an episode that moves things along this well, anything seems possible.
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This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Helen O'Hara