Another family reunion makes for a drama-stuffed House Of The Dragon this week, but while there are noises of peace, it begins to feel like both sides should prepare for war

House Of The Dragon - Episode 8 Review


Warning: The below contains full spoilers for House Of The Dragon Episode 8, which aired on HBO on Oct. 9, 2022. To refresh your memory, check out our review of last week's episode.

More than six years have passed on Westeros, as a minor question of estate law becomes a kingdom-destabilising event on the latest House Of The Dragon. The good news is that that’s cue for another emotional family reunion, though the dominant emotions are suspicion, fear, and anger. Yet amid all the chaos, there are reasons to hope for reconciliation among the warring relations – even if they don’t last long. It’s the hope that kills us, once again.
We open this week behind the Driftwood throne, where Rhaenys (Eve Best) sits. Her husband, Corlys (Steven Toussaint), has been away voyaging since the death of his children, and now he’s seriously injured following a pirate attack on his way home. The question of his succession (a name that this show probably deserves more than the other one at this point) therefore arises, because his brother Vaemond (Will Johnson) claims his seat on the grounds that, he argues, Rhaenys and Corlys’ son Laenor left no true born heir.
Shots fired! Once more the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) elder children is called into question. Vaemond pledges to bring his petition to the king and, more to the point, to the realm’s effective rulers, Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and the Hand, Lord Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). They have no reason to be friendly to Rhaenyra or her sons’ claims as the health of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) fails. Rhaenyra and her hubby, Daemon (Matt Smith), scramble to King’s Landing to meet this challenge and we get yet another family gathering that devolves into accusations, acrimony, and at one point a near-brawl. It’s a stacked deck for this week’s director, Geeta V. Patel, and she plays her cards well.
After such a long gap, we get a nimble look at how the family’s different branches have evolved. Rhaenys is handling Driftmark capably, it seems, and raising Daemon’s daughter Baela (Shani Smethurst). Rhaenyra and Daemon appear happy on Dragonstone too; she is overseeing High Valyrian lessons for her son Jacaerys (Harry Collett) and pregnant with a third child by Daemon, after the twins Aegon and Viserys. Daemon himself, on this evidence, spends his time clambering about in search of dragon eggs.
In King’s Landing, things are less rosy. Viserys is sinking fast and dependent on milk of the poppy – just call it opium – to control his endless pain. Alicent’s time is split between caring for him, ruling the kingdom alongside her father and a newfound devotion to the worship of the Seven, whose seven-pointed star now appears all over the palace. Oh, and she has to take time out of her schedule to deal with her son Aegon’s (Ty Tennant) rape victims. What a prince.
Alicent’s meeting with the rape victim, Dyana (Maddie Evans), is another insight into the deformation of her character by power politics. There’s some natural feeling for the girl in her eyes, but her response comes straight from the #MeToo playbook of enablement. She pulls out classics like, “I believe you but I worry that others won’t” and reminds the poor girl that it’s a prince’s word against hers before administering money and, essentially, the morning-after pill. That’s followed by what appears to be a genuine effort to get Aegon back in line, but it falls on arrogant, deaf ears that don’t immediately remember the incident she’s talking about. He claims he’s trying hard to live up to expectations, but there’s little sign of any such effort beyond the fact that he dutifully married his backward sister, Helaena (Phia Saban). Incest: it has downsides!
Once again, the show is taking sides and creating a clearer set of good guys and bad guys.
Rhaenyra, Daemon, and family therefore arrive to a deeply unstable situation. Rhaenys might be able to help them – though she doesn’t fancy her chances – but still has reason to believe that one or both of them killed her son Laenor, who is presumably still living it up somewhere across the seas. Rhaenyra offers to marry her sons to Rhaenys’ granddaughters, a union where the father of both brides and stepfather of both grooms would be one and the same, saving a fortune on wedding catering, but Rhaenys is initially unconvinced.
Vaemond makes his claim confident of victory, but the hearing is interrupted by Viserys hobbling, Yoda-like, from his bed after Rhaenyra begs her father to defend her. Egged on by a whisper from Daemon, Vaemond rashly condemns the three boys as bastards and Rhaenyra as a whore. Pandemonium! At least for the seconds before Daemon slices Vaemond’s head clean-through and ends the discussion.
A few general points about this whole affair: Rhaenyra’s plea to her father about the throne shows that she understands the perilous position she’s in and is trying to reckon with it, something that has not always been obvious – but she still relies on the men in her family for support rather than trying to build her own, wider power base. This is also a change from George R.R. Martin’s Fire And Blood, where Rhaenyra was reported to have dispatched Daemon to straight-up murder Vaemond and take the tongues of family members who repeated his claim. Once again, the show is taking sides and creating a clearer set of good guys and bad guys.
Vaemond isn’t wrong in his contentions, and in fact his claim harks back to the argument last time between Rhaenys and Corlys about whether name or blood matters most for a legacy. That might be why Rhaenys stands, thoughtfully, over Vaemond’s body as the Silent Sisters prepare him for burial – or she might be plotting something less friendly than her public support of Rhaenyra.
Also worth noting is that awful Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) has grown up into a serpent-fast swordsman, capable of beating Ser Cristen (Fabien Frankel) to a standstill, and a laughably sinister bastard, rocking a sort of evil Legolas look that makes him resemble an assassin in a cheap fantasy novel. He’s clearly itching to challenge his uncle Daemon, who he stares fixedly at with his one eye, but his most precise blow comes later, at the family dinner that follows the presentation of Vaemond’s petition.
Viserys wanted his family to hug it out, and bemoans their issues: “The crown cannot stand strong if the House of the Dragon remains divided. Set aside your grievances; if not for the sake of the crown then for the sake of this old man, who loves you all so dearly.” He is answered by Rhaenyra, raising a grateful toast to her former bestie/stepmother for the care Alicent has shown to her father. Alicent responds in kind, as does Jace, despite taunting from the horrible Aegon.
Both Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke are in superb form.
But after Viserys leaves, Aemond rises to give his own toast to his nephews, who he calls “handsome, wise…and strong.” The allusion to their parentage is naked but plausibly deniable, and the provocateur visibly thirsts for the excuse to duel Jacaerys or Lucerys. When Daemon gets in between them Aemond backs down – for now.
But later that night, as a cloaked figure hurries to Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) to report all these events, a raving Viserys talks to his wife about the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy, and she misunderstands him in a way that may be significant. Viserys talks about two Aegons: Aegon the Conqueror, who made the prophecy, and the “prince who was promised,” the Aegon Targaryen better known as Jon Snow. She thinks he means their son Aegon, the witless rapist they have raised. This may fuel her determination to protect her own sons’ interests following Viserys’ death – and her seven-pointed star is on the rise. As we head into the season’s two concluding episodes, Rhaenyra and Alicent’s fragile détente seems unlikely to last.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Helen O'Hara

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