A Bloody Wedding Elevates ‘House Of The Dragon’ Into Must-Watch Television

In Westeros, weddings are often ominous, chaotic spaces where repressed conflicts burst out into the open, splattering the guests with blood.

House of the Dragon’s fifth episode wasn’t quite as dramatic as the infamous Red Wedding, but the outburst of violence is just a precursor to the incoming war for the throne. The episode sees Princess Rhaenyra finally commit to a political alliance, marrying a man with a respectable last name, her cousin Laenor Velaryon, who isn’t straight, but is at least age-appropriate (and not a misogynistic sociopath); in this world, she could do a lot worse.

Much like its predecessor series, House of the Dragon is a tale of powerful people trapped in golden cages, making compromises, suppressing their own humanity to remain on top. Rhaenyra is refreshingly candid about the whole thing, a rebellious princess who very much wants to remain rich and important; she wants to subvert social norms without losing their advantages.

Rhaenyra outright rejects the opportunity to run away and follow her heart, to live a normal life with her lover – she wants to sit on the Iron Throne and make history. But she also wants an open marriage, viewing sex and procreation as a royal duty.

We’re due to switch actors in the next episode’s ten-year time jump, but Milly Alcock has nailed her role, imbuing Rhaenyra with smug entitlement and charisma, a confidence that veers into recklessness; the moment where she dares Daemon Targaryen to kidnap and marry her by force is hilarious, as he’s just the type to take her up on the offer.

Matt Smith is just as memorable in his role, always unpredictable, simmering with chaotic energy. He shares Rhaenyra’s naughtiness, her love of subversion, but with a sociopathic glint in his eye; why do the incestuous perverts of Westeros always have the best chemistry?

Paddy Considine has also done a stellar job, his King Viserys always making compromises for the sake of the realm, his teeth practically cracking from the strain of that sarcastic smile. The man has spent his life avoiding conflict, and close to death, seems to regret not being more of an asshole; at least he’ll be remembered fondly, if he’s lucky enough to be remembered at all.

Throughout this episode, the nobles speak of the inevitable explosion when the king finally croaks – he’s the watery glue holding this structure together, and it’s pulsing under the pressure of a violent succession crisis. With all his attempts to keep the peace, there’s an irony that his love and loyalty to his daughter, and oddly progressive attitude, is likely to spark the beginning of the end of the Targaryen dynasty.

The Iron Throne slowly killled the king, death by a thousand cuts, an apt metaphor for the corrosive effects of power; with all the pieces in place, House of the Dragon is about to depict an epic war, fought between a family driven mad by entitlement and incest, armed with a fleet of dragons.

Game of Thrones was about the dying embers of a once-powerful ruling class, squabbling over who gets to rule the ruins; House of the Dragon is about to show the beginning of the end.

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