House of the Dragon has moved at a breakneck pace since setting up the drama of the Targaryens fighting for control of the Iron Throne. As King Viserys continues to crumble before our very eyes, his daughter and wife are currently caught in a raging battle for the highest power in the land.
This week, the Targaryens are back together for the first time in years for a funeral, and Daemon and Rhaenyra have unfinished business to attend to after ten years apart. Who will sit on the Iron Throne after Viserys’s apparently imminent demise? With the ownership of dragons at the forefront of the conversation, it looks like the upstart Aegon and his siblings will have a better chance at ruling in King’s Landing than Rhaenyra initially expected.
The episode opens with a frosty funeral in Driftmark for Daemon’s late wife, Laena Velaryon. Laena was unable to complete childbirth in the last episode. She made her way to her dragon, Vhagar, and commanded the beast to give her a “Dragonrider’s death.” Her immolation was poignant and heartwrenching, and now the Targaryens are gathered to commemorate her tragically short life.
Viserys is visibly deteriorating and probably shouldn’t be out in the Driftmark cold. But, hey, this is Westeros we’re talking about, so the king making dumb decisions is just to be expected. Things are icy for more reasons than just the weather: pretty much everyone here is casting doubt at everyone else.
Viserys and Alicent’s children, Rhaenyra’s half-siblings, are uniquely awful little royals. Aegon is a petulant brat, Helaena is a complete recluse, and Aemond is calm–until he bonds with Vhagar. Vhagar, one of the biggest, most frightening dragons to have ever lived, seems to form a bond with Aemond swiftly, and the princeling develops a fiery temper to match his new mount.
It’s hard to overstate how incredible it is that Aemon is able to tame Vhagar. The towering dragon is easily twice the size of Daemon’s mount, Caraxes, and Rhaenyra’s Syrax. The tiny boy atop the mountainous dragon creates a daunting profile, indicating how massive this acquisition is for Alicent’s children–a branch of the Targaryen family tree that desperately wants to claim the Iron Throne.
The seeds of war are being sown, and Laena’s daughter, Rhaena, is livid that she’ll now go without the dragon she assumed would become hers by birthright. Speaking of birthrights, Aegon should lay claim to the throne as the eldest son of the king, so Viserys’s proclamation that Rhaenyra will be his successor is seen by these Targaryens as an affront to tradition.
The ensuing scuffle between Rhaena and Aemond is presented in all the childishness of young disputes but with all the drama that the prize at stake is only the highest station in Westeros. Viserys’s desire to see his wife and daughter get along is noble, sure, but he seems weak and ineffective, apparently unaware (or unwilling to see) that this battle will decide who takes the throne after his death.
The episode’s biggest twist came in the form of Rhaenyra and Daemon’s surprise wedding. With questions swirling about Rhaenyra’s children and the legitimacy of their bloodline, she was eager to get out ahead of any accusations that she was not fit for the throne by keeping the Targaryen bloodline tight and marrying (deep breaths, don’t think about it too hard) her actual, factual uncle. Gross.
The marriage scene is odd, giving audiences their first glimpse of the entirely blood-focused ritual that Targaryens undergo to seal their matrimony. There’s a lot of ritual slicing and exchanging of blood–all very unsanitary and unsettling but clearly of monumental importance to the characters in the show.
As the episode closes, the seeds of the coming conflict, known to book readers as the Dance of Dragons, have been fully sown. Soon, Rhaenyra will have a showdown with her half-siblings for the fate of Westeros. It’s certain to be explosive, engrossing TV, and this episode will likely be the last bastion of calm before the storm.