The Targaryens don’t do things by halves, and that goes doubly for family feuds.
Last episode saw the death of Laena Velaryon by self-immolation, and Lord Larys’ entry into the history books as a ruthless manipulator par excellence. And if that wasn’t enough, Rhaenyra’s children have all but publicly been slandered as bastards.
With all that in mind, what could possibly go wrong this episode? Strap in: it’s going to be a bumpy dragon ride.
We open with a very sombre scene: Laena’s coffin being committed to the sea. Fortunately, it’s a closed casket, as she was immolated last episode by her dragon Vhagar.
Regardless, it’s a lovely do: the great and good of Westeros stand at strategic intervals on the cliff rocks around the ocean like stylish statues and everybody looks very sad, including Rhaenys, who wears a fetching veil.
Otto Hightower is also there. As he looks on sombrely, he gently touches his Hand of the King badge… whaaaat? It looks like our boy is back in favour, ten years later and looking almost as wizened as Viserys, who is, astonishingly, still alive.
As the casket is committed to the sea - “Salt courses through Velaryon blood. Ours runs thick. Ours runs true. And ours must never thin” – Daemon lets out a little giggle. Bad time for it – clearly, he’s not the flavour of the month, and at the following wake, he’s entirely out in the cold.
Snakes at a wake
Though we’re treated to a lovely shot of the Targaryen dragons clustering around Driftmark, the Velaryon seat, the mood at the wake is understandably rather dark.
When Rhaenyra appears, her eyes hone in on Daemon. Presumably, she’s still grieving – she’s lost Ser Harwin Strong in the fire at Harrenhal – but she doesn’t show it, instead walking over to their son Jace (Jaecerys) and telling him to go look after their traumatised cousins.
“I have an equal claim to sympathy,” he complains. “We should be at Harrenhall mourning Lord Lyonel and Ser Harwin.”
“It would not be appropriate,” Rhaenyra says firmly, and puts him in his place.
Next, we meet Alicent’s children. That is, Aegon and Aemond are watching their sister Helaena sing creepy lullabies to a spider and discussing whether or not they would marry her.
“We have nothing in common,” Aegon complains, while Aemond says he would. “We must strengthen the family. Keep our Valyrian blood pure,” he says. Though they’re obviously actors, it’s still deeply weird to see kids discussing incest so casually – though maybe we should count our blessings. At least we’re not watching Aegon masturbate out of a castle window this time.
Another unwelcome sight greets us next shot: Lord Larys, lurking in the corner and being roundly ignored by Alicent. As well she might – their conversation in the last episode got the Strongs killed. What nefarious scheme is he cooking up now?
However, the focus seems to be firmly on the kids this week. Jace (Jaecerys, Rhaenyra’s son) is comforting Laena’s bereaved children, while Corlys is talking to Lucerys, the boy’s younger brother.
“Both my seat and High Tide will be yours one day, Lucerys,” Corlys tells him. “Your brother will be king of course.”
Lucerys replies, “Ser. I don’t want it.” Yikes. Corlys stares. “It’s your birthright, lad,” he says. Or is it? It looks rather like the issue of Rhaenyra’s children’s parentage is becoming more and more of a problem.
A sense of unease is very much pervading the entire wake: Rhaenyra and Rhaenys both seem to be drinking rather a lot, while Corlys suddenly spots Laenor standing in the ocean and crying and snaps.
Muscling his way through the crowd he grabs the shoulder of Laenor’s paramour. “Retrieve your patron!” he snarls, to the shocked stares of the nobles.
Meanwhile, Daemon – despite exchanging several charged looks with Rhaenyra – is still all alone, staring moodily out at the sea (it’s so convenient having it right there, with all the moodiness that goes on). It looks like nobody has approached him at all, until Viserys manages to stump over on his walking stick.
“Your girls are the very image of their mother,” Viserys tells him. “A comfort and an anguish, as I well remember. The gods can be cruel.”
“Seems they’ve been especially cruel to you,” Daemon retorts. Undeterred, Viserys asks him to come home to King’s Landing. Daemon refuses, saying that Pentos is his home now.
Daemon I know we’ve had our differences but let them pass,” he pleads. “There’s a place for you in my court if there’ something you should need.”
Poor Viserys: ever the peacemaker. In an entirely predictable response, Daemon rebuffs him and makes his escape, swiftly followed by Rhaenyra, who is fervently being watched by Otto.
Perhaps thinking he’s had enough for the evening, Viserys heads off. “I’m going to bed, Aemma,” he says. Awkward silence; Alicent looks like she’s been slapped.
What, this again?
As the wake wraps up, the bereaved parents, Rhaenys and Corlys, are sitting in front of the fire and chewing over their grievances.
Rhaenys is fuming that Daemon didn’t let Laena come home for her birth, to be tended by the maesters at Driftmark; Corlys responds that Daemon did what he thought was best for her.
“Daemon only does what is best for Daemon,” Rhaenys says bitterly, adding, “Mayhaps the gods have scorned us for our insatiable pride.”
The conversation then moves onto well-trodden ground: Corlys complaining that Rhaenys was robbed of the crown by “those fools at the Great Council.”
Rhaenys is having none of it. It’s not justice for your wife driving him, it’s ambition, she says. It’s him that refuses to let the matter go, even at the cost of their children.
He protests: the value of life is legacy, is it not?
For you, maybe, she replies. After a heavy pause, Rhaenys suggests that Laena’s daughter Baela inherit Driftmark instead of Viserys. Corlys refuses – she wants to disinherit Laenor and his children?
“Rhaenyra’s children are not of your blood,” Rhaenys replies. “But Laena’s are.”
History does not remember blood, Corlys replies. It remembers names. Very epic. Then he gets up and walks off.
On the coastline, Daemon and Rhaenyra are walking together, swathed in darkness. It’s so dark: dark enough that this reviewer had considerable trouble making out what was going on. Fortunately, the Targaryen hair is blonde enough to act as a nightlight.
Rhaenyra and Daemon seem to be talking relationships, specifically Rhaenyra’s.
Her marriage to Laenor is a farce, but she keeps up appearances, she says. She also confesses that she tried to conceive a child with her husband, but to no avail. Instead, she got her “joy” elsewhere – that is, with the now-deceased Ser Harwin.
But when Daemon suggests that Alicent may have a hand in his death, Rhaenyra slaps him down.
“I do not believe Alicent capable of cold murder,” she says.
Each of us is capable of depravity, he responds. Can anybody say foreshadowing?
The conversation then moves to juicier ground: Daemon and Rhaenyra’s relationship. They exchange verbal blows – You abandoned me, she says. I spared you; you were a child, he replies – but Rhaenyra moves closer and starts fiddling with his hair.
“I’m no longer a child,” she tells him. No, but you are accosting your uncle on the day of his wife’s funeral.
But Daemon doesn’t seem to mind: the pair then have sex on the beach accompanied by arguably unjustified soaring strings.
Dragon-rustling and pig-riding
And who should be running across the beach but Aemond – Alicent’s youngest son.
Has he seen Daemon and Rhaenyra? Honestly, it’s too dark to tell (viewers, be advised that the brightness needs turning well up for much of this episode). But he does stumble across a dragon. It’s Vhagar, looking very sad after Laena’s death.
Aemond promptly tries to make friends with it. With a few words of Valyrian, Vhagar calms down enough to let him scramble on, and then scares the pants off him with a midnight joyride.
Unfortunately Laena’s children have been watching, and Baela wakes up Rhaenyra’s son Jace with a whispered, “Someone stole Vhagar!”
When Aemond gets in from his midnight run, he’s confronted by the two sisters and Rhaenyra’s boys. The cocky little shrimp says that Vhagar has a new rider now, and that Baela missed her shot at claiming him.
“Maybe your cousins can find you a pig to ride,” he tells her. “It would suit you.”
Understandably, Baela’s sister Rhaena punches him in the face. A fight ensues and all four cousins descend on Aemond.
He fights back and sneers that Rhaenyra’s children are “bastards.” Jace then pulls out his knife and after a scuffle, Aemond is slashed across the face.
He screams; people come running, and the damage looks serious enough for Ser Harold Westerling, chief of the Kingsguard, to let out a “Gods be good!” That’s karma, baby.
An eye for an eye
In the reckoning afterwards, Viserys is furious.
“How could you let this happen?” he rages at the Kingsguard, who are understandably rather nervous. As one of them says, they’ve never had to protect princes from princes before.
It looks rather like Aemond is going to lose the eye, and as per usual, Alicent takes her anger out on Aegon for being “in his cups” while his brother was being attacked.
All the adults arrive – Corlys and Rhaenys, Rhaenyra and Daemon – and the room descends into squabbling until Viserys summons up the last puff of air from his desiccated lungs to demand silence.
Unsurprisingly, Alicent and Rhaenyra face off. Alicent spits that Rhaenyra’s sons wanted to murder Aemond; Rhaenyra retorts that her boys defended themselves after Aemond’s slurs.
What slurs, asks Viserys.
Ah, that old bastardy claim: Rhaenyra demands that this treason (ie. casting aspersions upon the heir to the throne) be investigated. Where did Aemond hear it from? Alicent protests – as well she might, given that she was probably the source of the rumours.
Faced with his mother’s visible fear, Aemond blames his brother Aegon, who sounds nonplussed but tells his father: “We know, father. Everyone knows.”
A leaden silence. Viserys storms. “This interminable infighting must cease!” he shouts. “We are family.”
He demands the pair make their apologies to each other and goes to leave, but that’s not enough for Alicent. She wants punishment; her son has been permanently damaged, and as recompense she wants Lucerys’ eye.
As you might expect, this goes down like a lead balloon, but Alicent is firm. If the king won’t seek justice, she says, the queen will, and she demands Ser Criston fetch her the offending eye.
As Ser Criston demurs (understandably, he didn’t sign up to mutilate children), Alicent grabs Viserys’ dagger (Aegon’s dagger, no less!) and launches herself at Rhaenyra. The pair wrestle in the middle of the room, their various guards at an impasse.
“You’ve gone too far,” Rhaenyra tells Alicent, who scoffs. In her eyes, Rhaenyra has always taken what she pleased with impunity while Alicent has to abide by the rules – and now that includes her son’s eye.
“Exhausting, isn’t it? Hiding under the cloak of your own righteousness,” Rhaenyra snaps back. “But now they see you as you are.”
Alicent screams and leaps forwards; there’s a moment of horrified silence and then Rhaenyra starts bleeding. Her arm has been slashed.
As Alicent sways, shellshocked, Aemond steps forward. For somebody who was stabbed a few hours ago, he’s managed to plaster that smirk back on. “Don’t mourn me, mother,” he says. “It was a fair exchange. I may have lost an eye but I gained a dragon.”
In the crowd, Daemon also smirks slightly. Honestly, who needs him anymore? This lot are more than chaotic enough by themselves.
The morning after
Next morning (presumably nursing some serious regrets), Alicent is visited by Otto.
Say your piece, she tells him, twisting her hands together. She conducted herself in an unfitting manner and gossip is spreading that she’s gone mad.
More worryingly: “I’ve disgraced myself and ensured my husband’s favour will forever rest on her.”
Yes, says Otto. And yet, he says, he’s never seen that side of her before.
“We play an ugly game,” he tells her. “And now for the first time I see that you have the determination to win it.”
The king will forgive her, Otto says. He has to: what else can he do? And in time the pair of them will prevail, because now Aemond has managed to win Vhagar to their side: “It’s worth a thousand times the price he paid.”
Meanwhile Rhaenyra is getting her wound stitched up, watched goggle-eyed by her two sons.
With the world’s worst timing, Laenor strolls in. “I should have been there,” he says.
“Those should be our House words,” Rhaenyra says dryly.
While her husband wallows in self-pity, Rhaenyra has more pressing things to worry about. The ‘bastard’ slur, for instance. Upon hearing it, Laenor beats himself up some more. He tried, he says. And he loves the boys, but he hasn’t loved them enough.
Clearly, they aren’t his kids, and both of them are obvious about it. “Things might have been different,” if they’d managed to conceive a child together, she says.
“I hate the gods for making me as they did,” Laenor says.
“I do not. You are an honourable man with a good heart. It’s a rare thing.” Phew, tripwire avoided.
Laenor reminds Rhaenyra of the agreement they made originally, to be husband and wife and pursue their bits on the side. But he seems to have had enough of this carefree lifestyle: his lover is returning to the Stepstones.
“I recommit myself to you,” he says. From now onwards, he will dedicate himself to supporting Rhaenyra and ensuring the boys will be princes of the realm. We love a supportive husband!
Larys shoots his shot
As the royal delegation leaves, Viserys looks more ill than ever. He waves away Alicent’s apology – leaving it uncertain whether or not he’s really forgiven her – and on the ship, Lord Larys finally gets his moment with his beloved.
What happened was a perversion of justice, he tells her, with fake puppy eyes. “If it’s an eye you want to balance the scales, I will be your servant.”
Perhaps thinking of the Strongs, Alicent seems to come back to her senses. “That will not be necessary,” she tells him. But his dedication has been noticed, and she may call on his services in future.
“I shall await your call, my queen,” he replies. Sounds like a devil’s bargain.
Still in Driftmark, Rhaenyra watches the dragons follow the royal ship back to King’s Landing and is joined by Daemon.
“I need you, Uncle,” she tells him. Yikes: nobody needs reminding of the fact that they’re related.
Regardless, Rhaenyra is practical. She can’t face the Greens alone, she says – she needs his support. Ideally, she wants them to be married.
“We have always been meant to burn together,” she tells him. Sexy. But there’s a problem, of course: Rhaenyra is already married, so for this to happen, Laenor would need to die.
Ever willing to do the dirty work, Daemon heads over to Laenor’s erstwhile lover, Ser Qarl, and gives him a bag of gold and the promise of an escape in exchange for Laenor’s quick death in a place with witnesses.
As the wheels of the plan are set in motion, Rhaenyra says in voiceover that she is unwilling to be a tyrant and rule through terror.
“If a king isn’t feared, he is powerless,” Daemon replies. “If you are to be a strong queen you must cultivate love and respect, yes, but your subjects must fear you.”
After Laenor is brutally attacked in Driftmark’s Great Hall, Corlys and Rhaenys run downstairs to find their son’s body charred to a crisp in the Hall’s fireplace.
As Rhaenys screams, Rhaenyra admits that people will whisper that she was involved in her husband’s murder. Let them whisper, Daemon replies. Their enemies will wonder what else they might be capable of.
Literally seconds later, they’re getting dolled up and married under the baleful stares of their respective children. Both adults seem very happy about it – as well they might.
And under the cover of darkness, a rowing boat makes its escape into the night. On it? None other than Laenor himself, off to start his new life with his lover. Praise be! Rhaenyra isn’t a murderer after all.
The Targaryens and Velaryons think they have everything. Wealth! Dragons! Titles! What they don’t have, unfortunately, is a stable home life – and episode seven proves to be no different.
This episode showed both Rhaenyra and Alicent in an entirely new light. They’re more ruthless than ever before, and more willing to hurt others to get what they want - at least in the public’s eyes. With Rhaenyra now married to Daemon, and Alicent engaging the services of Lord Larys, it looks like the prospect of all-out war between the two sides is drawing ever closer.
House of the Dragon is streaming on NOW and Sky Atlantic