Episode 7 of House of the Dragon sees blood being drawn, as characters embrace whose sides they’re on. Black or Green, there’s no turning back now.
Funerals, schemes, weddings, and dragons; episode 7 of House of the Dragon, “Driftmark,” has a bit of everything for viewers. At Laena Velaryon’s (Nanna Blondell) sea burial, both House Targaryen and House Hightower are present to pay their respects to Lord Corlys’ (Steve Toussaint) family in their ancestral home. What’s meant to be an intimate affair, where people are allowed to mourn the loss of a loved one in peace, soon proves to be the perfect recipe for disaster and more family drama.
After seemingly spending a decade not seeing one another, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) are unable to take their eyes off each other during the unfortunate gathering. Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) are the first to notice the exchange between the Princess and The Rogue Prince, only furthering their doubts for Rhaenyra’s virtue. In an attempt to distract herself, the Princess sends Jacaerys (Leo Hart) to comfort Daemon’s daughters Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) and Baela (Shani Smethurst), while Corlys tries to bond with Lucerys (Harvey Sadler) over his future inheritage. Luke, though, turns down the offer to rule Driftmark, as he views the position could only be passed down to him if his loved ones are dead.
Simultaneously, King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) is seen trying to make amends with his brother one more time, but his efforts prove fruitless when he is disregarded for his old age. House Hightower, which will later be known as the Greens during the war, are just as much of a mess as the rest of the noble families of Westeros, despite trying to appear well-behaved. Aegon II, on one hand, has been betrothed to his sister Helaena and he is not particularly excited since he is more interested in getting drunk than in his future wife. Helaena herself continues to speak in riddles, as she did last week, with what seems to be dragon dreams. And Aemond ventures into the local mountains of Driftmark to claim Vhagar.
After the burial, Corlys and Rhaenys (Eve Best) spend some quiet moments together inside their castle. Still grieving the loss of their daughter, Rhaenys can’t help but wonder what Laena’s faith would have been if Daemon had granted her wish to return home before giving birth. This leads the couple to argue about Laenor’s (John Macmillan) current state as Rhaenyra’s King consort, and whether or not they should disinherit him in favor to name Laena’s oldest daughter the heir to Driftmark in her memory. Once again, the issue of a woman being named heir becomes controversial when Corlys disregards this idea completely, despite knowing his grandsons don’t actually share his blood. It’s an ironic moment for The Sea Snake since he’s been Rhaenys’ champion for not being named the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms years ago, yet he’s denying his legitimate granddaughters for the same reason Rhaenys was.
On the beaches of Driftmark, Rhaenyra and Daemon are finally reunited as they reflect on their married lives, the impact they’ve had on one another, culminating in them finally declaring their love for each other and consummating their relationship right there and then. Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, Aemond is approaching Vhagar. At first, it seems as if the old dragon was bothered by the presence of the young Prince, but after a couple chants in high valyrian, Aemond is able to tame the beast and go on a ride in the skies of the island.
Back in the castle, Jace, Luke, Baela and Rhaena confront Aemond about claiming Vhagar for himself, since the dragon was meant to be Rhaena’s after her mother’s passing. A brutal fight breaks loose between the children that comes to an end with little Luke pulling a knife and poking Aemond’s eye out in the process. To make things worse, the kids are brought to the King to answer for their actions. Nearly everyone present at the funeral is present here, as Queen Alicent demands for her husband to make things right by taking one of Luke’s eyes out as payment. Not wanting for another member of his family to get hurt, Viserys denies her request, prompting her to grab his valyrian steel dagger and launches herself at Rhaenyra. Both women are desperate to beat some sense into the other, ending with Alicent managing to stab the Princess in the arm.
The next day, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), now Hand of the King once again, approaches his daughter about what transpired with Rhaenyra. Instead of calling her out for acting unlike herself, he encourages the behavior as he argues they will need it if they want to be successful in usurping the throne for themselves. As this is happening, Laenor finally shows up to find his family wounded. Disappointed with his own irresponsible attitude, he pledges he will never leave his wife and children side again. Rhaenyra, knowing best, urges him to not worry about them anymore.
This week’s House of the Dragon concludes with Rhaenyra and Daemon seemingly planning to assassinate Laenor so they could get married without issue. Ser Qarl Correy, Laenor’s secret lover, is seen making a deal with Daemon so he could get rid of Corlys’ son. What we see next is a sequence cross-cutting between Laenor’s murder and Rhaenyra’s valyrian wedding to her uncle. Episode 7 closes with a last minute twist where we learn Laenor was not killed, but rather helped to fake his death in order to live his life as the adventurer he hoped he could be, as he described to Rhaenyra in last week’s episode.
A lot of pivotal themes are presented in episode 7 of House of the Dragon. For starters, one of Corlys Velaryon’s instant iconic lines becomes the backbone of several character arcs: “what is this brief, mortal life, if not the pursuit of legacy?” This inner struggle is demonstrated through Aemond as he is obsessed with the idea of claiming a dragon, so he isn’t picked on anymore by his nephews and older brother. As a result, riding Vhagar gives the Prince a toxic sense of self-confidence that leads him to verbally and physically assault his family. Then there’s Corlys, who is more concerned with the people bearing his name, rather than being worried if they’re actually related through blood. Rhaenyra and Daemon are trying to hold onto their family’s culture and tradition, while Alicent is resentful because of all the sacrifices she made to get to where she is now.
All in all, this might be one of my favorite episodes of the series thus far, because of the way it was written. It knows when to slow down in order to allow our characters to breathe, and it builds tension rather quickly when it needs to. Olivia Cooke is eating up this role in ways that even fans of hers could have not seen coming. Emma D’Arcy brings so much gravitas to the screen in ways few could ever do, and Matt Smith as Daemon continues to thrive in chaos with a performance that is so obviously inspired by the level of fun Smith had playing the part. As a book reader, seeing Vhagar in all her glory is what dreams are made of. A technical marvel that delivers such a mesmerizing dragon riding scene. Unfortunately, it is upsetting seeing the children from both team Black and team Green become a product of their parents’ paranoia and generational conflicts. It is something that will make the Targaryen civil war hard to watch.
Episode 7 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.