Episode 5 of House of the Dragon bids its farewell to Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in this explosive mid-season episode that sets up its future conflict.
It is no secret that weddings don’t bode well in Westeros, and episode 5 of House of the Dragon, “We Light the Way,” does not fail to remind us of this fact. We open in Runestone, the seat of House Royce located nearby the Vale of Arryn, where we finally meet Daemon’s (Matt Smith) wife, whom he’s been referring to as his “Bronze Bitch,” Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford). She is seen riding across the land with no guards to protect her, except for her cousin Ser Gerold (Owen Oakeshott), whom Rhea dismisses shortly after to continue riding on her own. On her way back to the castle, she’s surprised by a hooded Daemon. After taunting him for not consummating their marriage, and accusing him of trying to find a way to get to Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), Daemon causes her horse to fall on her, paralyzing her in the process. He proceeds to pick up a rock, alluding to Rhea being murdered with it, after spouting one last insult towards Daemon.
Elsewhere in the Red Keep, Alicent (Emily Carey) is faced with the ramifications of her decision to back Rhaenyra in last week’s episode, as rumors spread regarding the relationship with her uncle Daemon. With her father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), being fired from the position of Hand of the King, Alicent seems to be scared of being left alone surrounded by the Targaryen family. Instead of consoling his daughter, Otto in a sense blames her for his departure from King’s Landing and urges her to open her eyes to the question of succession. He argues that if the lords of the realm deny Rhaenyra as their Queen in favor of Alicent’s first born son Aegon, then she might be forced to put Alicent’s children to the sword in order to avoid her claim from being challenged. An accusation that Rhaenyra wouldn’t be capable of doing, but it is a subtle way for Otto to plant this idea in his daughter’s head to turn her against her friend.
Following the pact between father and daughter, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) and Rhaenyra are on their way to Driftmark, the seat of House Velaryon, to propose a marriage between her and Ser Laenor (Theo Nate). Upon their arrival to the island, both the King and Princess are treated to a mostly empty castle, only welcomed by Laenor himself and his sister Laena (Savannah Steyn), who informs the King that her father is waiting inside. This reads as Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) maintaining a petty attitude towards Viserys after refusing to marry Laena years prior. Despite any previous disagreements both men might have had, Corlys accepts the King’s proposal, but not before questioning him about the succession. It is here where Corlys attempts to persuade Viserys to allow Rhaenyra and Laenor’s future children, their heirs to the Iron Throne, to carry the Velaryon name. Viserys sees through him and makes it clear that any heirs to come in the future shall bear the Targaryen name.
Back in King’s Landing, Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), known as the Clubfoot, interrupts Alicent’s quiet moment of reflection in the Godswood. He tries to come forward as a friendly ally of hers when he shows sympathy towards Otto’s sudden departure. Alicent attempts to deflect his comment by congratulating him for his father Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) earning the position of Hand of the King. Larys, though, finds a way to bring the attention back to Otto, as he cleverly brings up the fact that Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch) delivered moon tea to Rhaenyra shortly after Otto’s dismissal and following the Princess’s scandal. Alicent does manage to connect the dots, as she understands moon tea is used as a medical drink to prevent or abort unwanted pregnancies.
In the meantime, as their fathers come to an agreement, Laenor and Rhaenyra seem to come to a consensus of their own. They both know they can’t escape what lies ahead of them, so in order to not completely abandon their past lives, they agree on having an open relationship. She will be able to continue her affair with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), while Laenor continues his with the Knight of Kisses, Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod). Seemingly content with his pact with the Princess, Laenor tells Joffrey about his plans after the Targaryen monarchs have left the island. Joffrey understands what this deal means for him and embraces it, which can’t be said the same for Cole. After trying to convince Rhaenyra to abandon her titles and run away with him, he is angered by her rejection, as he feels like was used by the Princess.
After their meeting with the King, Corlys and his wife Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) gather to discuss what just transpired. This might be a short moment that most likely will go over people’s heads, but I love the small back and forth between these two characters. Rhaenys is the only one who seems to know what the marriage is going to mean for both families, especially for her son. As a woman that was prevented from ascending the Iron Throne, Rhaenys understands the peculiar position Rhaenyra finds herself in. Everyone in the Seven Kingdoms are going to turn against her the minute her father dies, placing her, Laenor, and their children in danger if a war were to break out over the succession. It doesn’t really matter how much she tries to voice her concerns because even Corlys, to an extent, ignores her. He is still hung up on the fact that Rhaenys should’ve been Queen, when, as she points out, has moved on from that issue, despite everybody’s constant obsession to remind her.
Once the King and his party return from Driftmark, Alicent asks for Ser Criston Cole’s presence in her chambers. As a way to conduct her own investigation regarding the new information she’s found on Rhaenyra, she requests for him to tell her the truth about what happened that night. While Alicent thought Cole might have lied to protect the Princess from gossip concerning her uncle, Cole makes the mistake to think she was talking about him, prompting him to confess about bedding Rhaenyra. Although she dismisses him without trouble, with Cole thinking she would sentence him to death for betraying his vows as a Kingsguard, you can see the hurt in Alicent’s eyes after confirming her worst fear: her best friend lying to her.
Viserys’ health seems to be deteriorating, rather than getting any better. In the first episode, we saw him endure bruises in his back after cutting himself with the Iron Throne’s rusty swords. Two of his left hand’s fingers are then victim of further infection from more cuts, only to have seemingly been amputated, and now his entire left arm looks to be affected by the disease he is suffering from. In an interview with EW’s Game of Thrones podcast, “West of Westeros,” Considine revealed Viserys has some form of leprosy, a skin illness that can cause nerve damage. Obviously the maesters of this age don’t have the medical advances we have today, but I think the show makes a subtle point to make you question if they are even trying to help the King. One of the young maesters suggests new methods that might help Viserys, but Mellos keeps dismissing his attempts. We have to remember this: the maesters are from Oldtown, they’re loyal to the Hightowers, so you have to wonder if their interests are aligned with those of the King, or with house Hightower, who wants to place their blood on the throne.
We finally reach episode 5’s grand welcome feast celebrating Rhaenyra’s wedding to Ser Laenor. Almost every major character thus far is present to witness the union of house Targaryen and house Velaryon. Lord Hobert Hightower (Steffan Rhodri) is there, Otto’s older brother, as well as Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall) and Ser Gerold Royce. The latter tries to hold an audience with the King in the middle of the feast regarding Rhea Royce’s passing, but he’s interrupted by the arrival of none other than house Velaryons. They make sure to put on a show as all eyes are on them during their grand entrance. A few touching remarks are shared between the betrothals, but their sweet moment is distrubed by the uninvited appearance of Daemon. An awkward silence is exchanged between Viserys and his younger brother, but in the end he has no choice but to allow him to stay in order to prevent a public scene.
So much happens in this feast, it’s kind of hard to keep up. For starters, Alicent delays the King’s formal speech as she enters the room wearing a green dress. This is controversial as green is not only the color of her house, but it represents the beacon on the Hightower when Oldtown calls its banners to war. It’s a not so subtle way for her to distance herself from the Targaryen, while at the same time declaring open hostility against Rhaenyra and her lies. From here, Laenor and Rhaenyra partake in a royal dance that kicks off the party as other guests join the dancefloor.
Alicent approaches her uncle, in which lord Hobert reassures her that Oldtown will stand with her no matter what, which is a smart way to set up future aligences once the war breaks loose. Ser Gerold then confronts Daemon about Rhea’s “accidental” death, only for The Rogue Prince to remind Gerold that with lady Royce gone her inheritance belongs to him now. With this handled, Daemon proceeds to flirt with Laena Velaryon. This is a short moment, but one that is palpable with chemistry between the two. On the other side of the room, Joffrey is able to decipher who is Rhaenyra’s paramour, after Ser Criston Cole has failed to hide his hurt feelings throughout the night. Both men seem glad to have discovered this, as they now know Rhaenyra’s secret, which might come in handy in the future. Joffrey confronts Cole about this, leaving the Kingsguard fuming with worry and anger.
The night eventually sees Daemon find his way to Rhaenyra, where he attempts to persuade her to run away and marry him instead. Viserys spots them in the middle of what seems to be a shared kiss at worst, or a heated disagreement at best. It does not matter what transpires between uncle and niece, as the dancing is interrupted by a fight. We don’t see who started the duel, or where did Daemon go in the middle of the conflict, but what we end with is Ser Criston Cole beating Joffrey to death on the floor. Episode 5 closes with Viserys being forced to marry both young suitors to each other that same night after everyone has left the throne room. Cole is seen retiring to the Godswood, about to commit suicide, when Alicent stops him at the last minute.
Tonight we said farewell to the amazing Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, two extremely talented up and coming artists that have a bright future ahead of them. Alcock brought such humanity to Rhaenyra, while maintaining that fiery dragon sense within her. As for Carey, she made us sympathize with a character that very easily could’ve been portrayed as villainous. Their performances elevate the source material. Whereas “Fire & Blood,” which I adore, presents events and characters in quite a straightforward manner on the page (to the point that they feel like empty vessels), House of the Dragon provides us with nuance to these intricate relationships. The foundation for the story as a whole has been established, and starting next week, it is time to explore the real meat of this conflict, the Dance of the Dragons. We can’t wait to see what Emma D’Arcy (Truth Seekers) and Olivia Cooke (Little Fish) bring to the table with their interpretation of these characters moving forward!
Episode 5 of House of the Dragon is now available to watch on HBO Max. Find out why you should be excited for House of the Dragon and come back next week for our next review of the series.