“History does not remember blood. It remembers names.” ~ Ser Corlys Velaryon
The seventh episode of House Of The Dragon has a little bit of everything:
- Some of the most gorgeous music that Ramin Djawadi has ever written, for this or any other show including Game Of Thrones and Westworld.
- A funeral scene that was at times beautifully brooding and crackling with tension.
- An unreasonably hot incest sex scene that makes Jaime and Cersei’s romance feel almost cartoonish in comparison.
- The taming of an ancient, hoary old dragon by a young boy that’s wonderful and triumphant—cut short by an explosively violent confrontation between children that ends with one of them losing an eye.
- The tense, deteriorating relationship between Rhaenyra and Alicent finally boiling over into actual violence with blood spilled in front of the entire court.
- A murder most foul that turns out to be an elaborate head-fake, paving the way for Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon to finally tie the knot in a small, strange wedding by the sea.
I have to say, in many ways this episode really elevated the show to all new heights for me. This was a hauntingly beautiful episode, from the dragon-riding to the love-making to the many shots of Driftmark at dusk, sea and sand and spray. The same color as grief.
In Driftmark, several very important events take place. We open to a funeral. King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) have traveled to Driftmark along with the King’s new Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) who has his old job back now that Lyonel Strong is dead. As the king says to Daemon (Matt Smith) the years have a way of mending old divisions.
Coryls Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and his wife Rhaenys (Eve Best) are in mourning, as are Daemon’s daughters and Laena’s uncle, who performs the service. At one point he says something about how Velaryon blood is old and must remain pure, at which point Daemon giggles—a deeply inappropriate response at his late wife’s funeral, but nobody pays him much mind. Nobody is surprised by Daemon’s antics anymore. Laena’s body is encased in a stone coffin which they push into the sea. Targaryen’s are burned; Velaryons are entombed in saltwater.
Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) stares at Alicent as everyone mills about after the ceremony.
The funeral ends and everyone makes their way to bed or elsewhere. Young Aegon is drunk and is scolded and sent to bed by his irritable grandfather, the Hand. The younger children head to bed. Laenor (John MacMillan) is so distraught over his sister’s passing that he wanders out into the ocean. His father angrily tells his lover to go fetch him back.
Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) goes on a walk across the beach with her uncle. She’s not happy with him. “You abandoned me,” she tells him, asking him to imagine what her life has been like all these years since he’s been gone. “I spared you,” he tells her. She was just a child back then.
Well she’s not a child anymore and she let’s him know as much, her hand on his chest, their lips touching. Soon the two have made their way into the ribcage of an ancient shipwreck, slowly peeling one another’s clothes off.
Of the children, only one has avoided bedtime. Aemond hears the sound of wings high above and goes searching. As we learned last week, he still has no dragon of his own and this fact has made him the subject of mockery and bullying from his brother and Rhaenyra’s children.
He follows the sounds out into the dunes and finally comes upon the slumbering behemoth: Vhagar, Laena’s old dragon, but much more than that. Vhagar was Visenya’s dragon, one of the three that Aegon the Conqueror used to subdue the Seven Kingdoms well over 100 years ago. Vhagar is massive and ancient and perhaps more deadly than any dragon alive. Only Belarion the Black Dread was bigger, and by now Vhagar has grown nearly as large.
Aemond approaches the sleep dragon and reaches his hand up to the rope ladder hanging down from its massive frame. Vhagar awakens and stares at the boy, sniffing, then closes her eyes. Aemond makes for the ladder again but Vhagar opens her eyes and then her mouth, and we see the flame swelling in her throat. He shouts commands in Old Valyrian and the flames subside. Vhagar, it appears, is willing to listen to the child.
So up he goes, climbing to the seat far up above and the gargantuan creature’s back, and he orders her to fly.
There really should be better straps or seatbelts of some sort for dragon-riders, but at least Aemond appears to have a very strong grip, because the ensuing flight is more of a roller-coaster than a carefree jaunt above the clouds. Aemond may as well be on a bucking bronco up in the sky. Vhagar ascends into the clouds and then plummets to the sea. At times, Aemond is only holding on by the ropes, his entire body flailing in the wind.
But he manages to stay atop the beast and eventually lands it back at Driftmark, where Daemon’s children, Baela and Rhaena, have woken Rhaenrya’s sons, Jace and Luke, telling them that someone has stolen Vhagar, who Baela planned to claim as her own.
When they discover that Aemond took the dragon for himself the girls are furious. He smirks at them, unfazed. The girls lose their cool and attack the boy, who doesn’t hesitate to use physical violence against them which in turn draws Jace and Luke into the brawl, as do his taunts that the boys’ father is dead. “My father is alive,” young Luke protests. “He doesn’t know does he?” Aemond says. “That you’re bastards.”
Aemond doesn’t hold back. After the four smaller children give him a good pummeling he grabs a large rock. When it appears he’s going to smash Jace’s head in with the stone, Luke grabs his brother’s fallen knife and lunges at the older boy, slashing his face. That’s when the Kingsguard show up.
The children are brought before the king, where Driftmark’s maester begins sewing up Aemond’s wound. “The flesh will heal,” he tells Alicent, “But he lost the eye.” Alicent is furious and unwilling to believe that Aemond may have been at fault in any way for the fight. Lord Corlys and Rhaenyra arrive soon after, as does Daemon, and Rhaenyra tells the king that the fight was partly because of Aemond’s slandering of her sons.
“He called us bastards,” Jace says. Viserys is furious and demands to know who told Aemond this “slander.” Aemond says that it was Aegon, but when the older boy is pressed he tells his father that they have eyes. Everyone can see that the boys are bastards. “I mean, just look at them,” he says.
Viserys wants everyone to make up and move on—they’re all one family, he reminds them—but Alicent is still livid. “That’s insufficient,” she tells her husband. There’s a debt to be paid. She wants Luke’s eye to make up for Aemond’s. She orders Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) to cut it out. “You’re sworn to me!” she tells him, to which he responds, “Sworn to protect you.”
So Alicent grabs her Valyrian steel dagger and rushes Rhaenyra. The two grapple and Rhaenyra calls her out. “Now everyone can see you for who you truly are,” she whispers, and Alicent shrieks and slashes at her old friend, cutting her forearm. Shocked by her own violence, she drops the dagger and backs up, mortified.
Aemond tells his mother not to grieve his missing eye. It was a fair engagement, he tells her, and a fair trade for a dragon. That gives everyone pause.
Later, her father doesn’t chastise her. He seems more impressed than dismayed. Now, he tells her, he knows that she has what it takes to play this dirty game. Viserys is less pleased. Larys Strong tells her that if it’s an eye she wants, she merely has to ask. Once again, Alicent recoils at the cripple’s willingness to commit foul deeds, but she keeps him in her pocket nonetheless.
Rhaenyra and Laenor have a long talk about their family and the young lord promises to do better, to be the husband that she needs and father to their children. He says he wishes the gods had not made him this way, but Rhaenyra disagrees. He’s an honest and good man, she tells him, which is altogether too rare.
But she has other plans. She tells Daemon they need to marry, to strengthen her claim against Alicent and her children. “To marry, Laenor would need to die,” Daemon replies. “I know,” Rhaenyra says. And so they plan her husband’s assassination, or at least that’s what the show makes you believe.
Daemon pays Laenor’s lover to kill him—a clean death with witnesses—and we see the two men fight in Corlys’s chambers. When Corlys and Rhaenys and the guards arrive, all that remains is their son’s charred body, burning in the fireplace. For a moment, we think that Rhaenyra and Daemon are far more cold-blooded and ruthless than we could possibly have imagined. “They’ll fear what we’re capable of,” Rhaenyra says to her uncle.
We see their marriage ceremony—a lonesome affair by the sea, with few attendees and none of the pomp and circumstance one might associate with a royal wedding. There’s something old and almost tribal about it, as they cut their lips and smear the blood on one another’s foreheads.
And then we see Laenor’s killer pushing a boat out to sea. He’s with a hooded companion. When the hood comes down we see a familiar face, though all that white hair has been shaved away. Laenor lives. The body in the fire was a servant (which is still pretty messed up) and Laenor is off to a new life, far away from marital obligations and children who are not his own.
Alas, his parents will never know. They have now lost a daughter and a son in short order, and they’re left only with grief and terrible fiery loss.
All told, this was a tremendous episode of House Of The Dragon. I’m still reeling a bit from just how much went down and what this means for the future. Aemond getting his creepy little hands on the most powerful dragon out there means that the “greens” have some serious dragon firepower now. But so do Daemon and Rhaenyra, who have several dragons between them and their joined families.
I also want to reiterate that the music in this episode was truly magnificent. Sad and intense and lovely all at once. A beautifully shot, beautifully scored episode that propels the story forward, heightening the tension between these families and characters, and setting the stage for a coming civil war. Viserys is knocking at death’s door at this point and the moment he’s gone, anything could happen.