‘House of the Dragon’ recap: The Targaryen family tension explodes

‘House of the Dragon’ recap: The Targaryen family tension explodes

Laena Velaryon is dead and the Targaryen and Velaryon clans have assembled at Driftmark for a burial at sea. As Vaemond (Wil Johnson) intones the burial rites, Daemon (Matt Smith) lets loose with a devilish giggle that unnerves the crowd. Everything is about to change and he knows it. 

It’s the first time we’ve seen the children of Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) — Jacaerys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler) — and the children of Alicent (Olivia Cooke) — Princes Aegon (Ty Tennant) and Aemond (Leo Ashton) and Princess Helaena (Evie Allen) — mingle with Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) and Baela (Shani Smethurst), the offspring of Daemon and Laena. It’s a combustible cocktail, the coalescing of these clans, namely due to the actions of young Aemond. 

After spying Vhagar, the orphan dragon of Laena, alone on the Driftmark beaches in the dead of night, the prince, who has yet to claim a dragon of his own, approaches the sleeping beast. He’s nearly roasted to death after waking her, but through sheer will and a confident tongue, he’s able to tame Vhagar and climb onto her back. He takes the dragon on a joyride of the island and the surrounding ocean, thus waking the castle. 

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7

Olivia Cooke, Paddy Considine, Evie Allen, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Shani Smethurst

| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

This doesn’t sit well with Baela, who says Vhagar was hers to claim. Aemond, as vicious as Aegon is callous, punches her. When Rhaenyra’s children arrive to lend a hand, a fight breaks out. Aemond has harsh words for Jacaerys and Lucerys, acknowledging the recent death of their true father, Harwin Strong, by saying they’ll die “screaming in flames just like your father did.” This is scandalous not just for the sentiment, but for the acknowledgement of their true parentage, which is a taboo topic in King’s Landing. Jacaerys reacts by bludgeoning Aemond with a jagged rock, and when it looks like Aemond is about to overpower him, Lucerys stabs his half-uncle, drawing a scar down the boy’s face and ruining his left eye. 

The resulting fallout is explosive. Rhaenyra claims the assault was justified, as Aemond questioned Lucerys’ parentage and thus committed “the highest of treasons.” Alicent responds by demanding an eye for an eye. When King Viserys (Paddy Considine) refuses, she takes matters into her own hands, but Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel) won’t do her bidding, either. 

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7

Steve Toussaint, Shani Smethurst, Eve Best, Eva Ossei-Gerning

| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

Alicent unsheathes the Valyrian steel dagger inscribed with the Song of Ice and Fire and tries to do it herself. Rhaenyra attempts to stop her, triggering a rabid outburst from Alicent: “Where is duty? Where is sacrifice?” she shrieks at her old friend, revealing the depth of her rage and how much it traces back to old resentments. Alicent has followed the rules, sacrificed her own happiness in service to the realm. Rhaenyra, who retains a hold on the Iron Throne, lies and lies and lies while pursuing her own pleasures. To Alicent, it’s unfair. 

“Now they see you as you are,” replies Rhaenyra. This causes Alicent to strike with the blade, which draws a deep wound in Rhaenyra’s wrist. Blood falls to the floor.

It’s Aemond who defuses the situation. “It’s a fair exchange,” he says. “I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon.” That’s certainly one way to look at it, and he’s not alone. His grandpa, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who’s been restored to Hand of the King following the death of Lyonel Strong, agrees. Vhagar is “worth a thousand times the price he paid.” Furthermore, Otto is proud of his daughter. “I’ve never seen that side of you,” he says. “Now, for the first time, I see you have the determination to win.” Win what? The game of thrones, of course. It’s an ugly game. 

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7

Ty Tennant, Olivia Cooke

| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

They’ll have some competition, though. Laena’s funeral brings together Rhaenyra and Daemon for the first time in years. “You abandoned me,” she tells him. “Look what my life became without you.” She longs to be desired again like she was by Harwin. Extinguished sparks are reignited between the two and they consummate what they began so many years ago. 

This union is about more than lust, though. “Let us bind our blood,” she says, just as their ancestor Aegon the Conqueror did with his sisters. Together, her claim to the throne wouldn’t be so easily challenged. “I cannot face the greens alone,” she says, referring to those who support Queen Alicent and Prince Aegon’s ascent to the throne. There’s just one problem: Laenor (John Macmillan). 

After embarrassing his father, Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint), at the burial by wailing in grief while standing knee-deep in the ocean, Laenor missed the all the drama with the kids, Rhaenyra, and Alicent. Later, Laenor admits his failure to Rhaenyra. “I hate the gods for making me as they did,” he laments, referring to his sexuality. Rhaenyra is sweet to him. “You are an honorable man with a good heart,” she assures him. “It is a rare thing.” He recommits himself to her and their union. A futile gesture, but an honorable one. 

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7

John MacMillan

| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

But commitment and honor aren’t enough to stop Rhaenyra from agreeing with Daemon when he says they can only be married if Laenor is dead. (Let us not forget that he’s already killed one spouse.) Still, this unsettles Rhaenyra. She doesn’t want to be a tyrant, killing those who obstruct her path to power. According to Daemon, there is no other way. Rulers must be feared. If Laenor dies, she worries, the realm “will whisper that I am somehow responsible.” Suddenly, it dawns on her: “They will fear what else we might be capable of.” When you’re facing as much opposition as she is, that could be a good thing. 

Daemon goes to Qarl (Arty Froushan), Laenor’s lover, and offers him gold to kill Laenor. It appears Qarl agrees, as we see him draw his sword on Laenor in Castle Driftmark. A fight ensues as a squire watches on in horror. 

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7

Matt Smith

| Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

Later, Corlys and Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) find a body in the fireplace that’s been burnt beyond recognition. They believe it to be Laenor. Earlier in the episode, we saw dissension between Corlys and Rhaenys. While Rhaenys has given up on her dreams of the throne, he still desires that power, despite knowing as well as his wife that Rhaenyra’s children did not come from Laenor. For Corlys, that doesn’t matter. “History does not remember blood,” he says. “It remembers names.” With Laenor dead, the threat of his name’s longevity has been thrown even more into question. 

A sad thing, then, that they don’t know Laenor is still alive. It appears Qarl and a newly bald Laenor staged the latter’s death, likely using the body of the squire. In the episode’s closing seconds we see the pair in a rowboat, one we can assume is taking them to the Free Cities, where money speaks louder than decorum. 

Rhaenyra and Daemon, meanwhile, are married. They were always meant to burn together.

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