When you consider the entire history of Westeros, the wedding that takes place in this week’s House of the Dragon doesn’t go all that badly.
Sure, someone dies on the dance floor during the rehearsal dinner. Yes, the stepmother of the bride may be very close to inciting a coup. And agreed, the father of the bride may have keeled over to his death just after the vows were said. But hey, a pregnant woman wasn’t stabbed multiple times in the belly, so… success?
Read on for the highlights of Episode 5.
NICE KNOWING YOU, LADY RHEA | The episode starts off in The Vale, where Lady Rhea Royce (hi, Shadow and Bone’s Rachel Redford!) is out hunting on horseback. She’s bagged a few game birds when she comes across Daemon and addresses him as “husband.” Ah, so this is the terrible ogre of a wife Daemon’s been crying about since the series’ start. I don’t know, dude: She’s only uttered a few words and ridden her horse like a badass, and I already like her more than I like you. We learn that they never consummated their marriage, and she wonders if that’s what he’s there for. “The Vale’s sheep might be willing, even if I am not,” she snarks. She then mocks him about Viserys’ passing him over, but she grows silent when she sees Daemon’s face and realizes that she’s probably in a lot of danger.
Even though Daemon is doing his best Obi-Wan impression here — hooded cape, hand outstretched like he’s summoning The Force — it seems like what happens next is mostly bad luck: She reaches for her bow and arrow, the horse rears up (possibly because Daemon feints at it or something, we can’t see) and falls backward, landing on her and presumably crushing a lot of stuff inside her that shouldn’t be crushed.
The horse quickly stands and runs off as poor Lady Rhea lays there, gasping. She seems to be paralyzed from the neck down, but her mouth still works just fine. So when Daemon lightly steps on her forearm but then turns to walk away, she gets in an — unbeknownst to her — incredibly apt burn. “I knew you couldn’t finish,” she says, as though she saw last week’s episode… or the series premiere, come to think of it. So he picks up a large rock and walks toward her, and then the camera mercifully cuts to Viserys and Rhaenyra on an ocean voyage.
A PROPOSAL IS MADE | What we see, however, isn’t much more pleasant: Apparently the king isn’t cut out for ocean travel like his daughter is, and he waves away an attendant’s bucket only to rush to the railing and vomit over the side. (In his defense, it is pretty rough going.)
Once they’re on land, the royal entourage makes its way to High Tide, seat of House Velaryon. The power plays start right as Viserys, Rhaenyra, Ser Criston & Co. arrive: Lord Corlys sends his daughter, Laena, out to greet the visitors rather than doing so himself. Inside, Laena and Rhaeynra are quickly sent off while Corlys and Viserys, with new Hand of the King Lyonel Strong and Princess Rhaenys, decide Rhaenyra’s fate. Now’s a good time to note that Viserys is looking ROUGH: He’s coughing and sweating, and when Rhaenys hugs him, she’s disturbed to see he’s got considerably fewer digits than he did the last time they talked.
Corlys informs the king of Lady Rhea’s death — “her neck and skull both crushed in the fall,” Rhaenys says, filling in what that strategic scene change left out earlier — then Viserys officially proposes a marriage between Rhaenys and Laenor. Before Laenor’s parents agree, they want some very fine points put on the succession plan. Oh, and they assume the children would take Laenor’s last name, in keeping with Westerosi custom?
Viserys rankles at the idea of the Targaryen name ending just because Rhaenyra is female, but makes a concession, saying that her kids with Laenor will carry the last name Velaryon until ascension, then they’ll switch to Targaryen. That way, “Dragons will rule the seven kingdoms for the next hundred years, just as they did the last.” Corlys agrees.
While the adults are talking, Laenor and Rhaenyra go for a walk on the beach. She apologizes that he’s going to have to marry her, and in gentle, coded terms lets him know that she knows he prefers the company of men. “I know whatever agreement being struck up there won’t change your appetites, nor will it change mine,” she says, proposing that they do what they must to fulfil their duties to the Realm, then get their freak on with whoever “as we see fit.” We stan an LGBT ally! Laenor’s boyfriend Joffrey, by the way, is psyched about the arrangement. After all, they’ll be able to carry on their relationship — especially because he knows Rhaenyra’s already got someone on the side (though he doesn’t know whom).
But know who’s NOT supportive of Laenor’s being gay? His dad, who thinks the kid “will outgrow it. There’s no pleasure in the world like bedding a woman.” Sigh.
HIGHTOWER HIGHTAILS IT OUTTA THERE | Back in King’s Landing, Alicent rushes out in the rain to tell Otto she’s sad to see him go. But he thinks she could’ve done more to save him, and angrily tells her so. She counters that he pushed too hard for Aegon to be named successor, so Otto’s ouster actually is his fault. He calms a little to say that the king will die sooner rather than later — “He is not meant to be an old man” — and that if Rhaenyra takes the throne, war will be the consequence. “To secure her place, she’ll have to put your children to the sword. She’ll have no choice,” he adds, causing Alicent to cry harder. Then he yells at her a little bit more about how his grandchildren are probably goners, hugs her, then rides off into the storm.
The queen’s Very Bad Day continues when Larys Strong lets her know that the king had tea (aka moon tea, aka an abortifacient — all of this Alicent quickly intuits) sent to Rhaenyra’s room soon after her after-hours walkabout. When Alicent mentions that Rhaenyra is fine and is away on a journey, Larys does this whole thing about “OHHHHH I thought she was sick! I’m so glad she’s not! Really!” but it’s clear that he’s much more deceptive than he first appeared, and I’m here for it.
COME AWAY WITH ME | On the boat on the way home, Ser Criston is all up in his feelings about how Rhaenyra’s future is being decided for her. “If there were another path, one that lead to freedom, would you tread it?” In short: He wants her to hop a ship with him. “Let us leave it all behind and see the world, together,” he says. Aw, he nearly turns into the heart-eyed emoji as we watch, painting a picture of a life in which they are nameless and free. “In Essos, you could marry me. A marriage for love, not for the Crown,” he says.
Though she looks very romanced by the idea, eventually she has to shut him down… and shut him down she does. “I am the Crown,“ she reminds him, a bit of steel in her voice. “Or, I will be.” But good news, she says: You can be my side piece! “You want me to be your whore,” Cole says, getting teary as he realizes that he broke his Kingsguard vows for someone who won’t even entertain the fantasy of eating oranges in the Free Cities with him.
Their ship makes port, and the dejected knight hasn’t been back at the Red Keep for more than a few minutes when Alicent summons him to her quarters. She stumbles around asking him what he knows about Rhaenyra’s tryst with Daemon. But because she takes so long to specify exactly what she’s talking about, and because Ser Criston feels so guilty to begin with, he thinks she’s asking if he slept with the princess. “It happened, your grace. The sin you allude to. I have committed it. At her instigation, it is true, but that shouldn’t…” he says. “It is no excuse.” He knows what’s coming is bad for him, so he asks that she take pity on him and have him killed rather than gelded (ouch) and tortured (ouch again). Alicent definitely wasn’t expecting this confession to fall into her lap, but she recovers quickly, thanking him for his honesty and telling a stymied Criston that he may leave.
Meanwhile, Viserys is suffering mightily from a deeply infected arm wound, and he looks like a lump of boiled liver as he fatalistically asks Lyonel whether or not he’ll be remembered as a good king. If the end isn’t here yet, it’s certainly drawing nearer.
THE GREEN WEDDING? | Some time passes, and then everyone’s gathering in King’s Landing for Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding. Viserys has recovered enough to sit next to the bride-to-be at a preliminary feast, where neither of them are excited to make small talk with Jason Lannister when he approaches to offer his congratulations. Alicent is conspicuously absent even as Corlys and Rhaeyns and their family enter to great fanfare. And then Daemon struts into the hall, and you just know he’s fixing to eff ess up.
Wordlessly, the king has a chair added to the head table, and Daemon sits. Then Viserys begins his welcome speech but stops when Alicent makes a late, dramatic entrance wearing a gown that’s resplendently green — the exact same color House Hightower displays in its beacon when it calls its bannermen to war. After she’s seated, Viserys continues his speech, welcoming the guests for seven days of tournaments and feasting, culminating with the wedding.
After, Rhaenyra and Laenor take to the floor for a dance that seems to incorporate a lot of flappy dragon wing-type movements. Both Criston and Joffrey watch from the sidelines, decidedly un-psyched. And Daemon just lounges up at the table, smirking, until Lady Rhea’s cousin confronts him and says that in The Vale, men are made to answer for their crimes, “even Targaryens.” He accuses Daemon of killing Rhea, and Daemon in turn asks for his inheritance: Since he and Rhea didn’t have any heirs, Runestone — the seat of House Royce, which was to go to her — could very well be his. This takes the fire out of the cousin, who promptly sits down.
MURDER ON THE DANCEFLOOR | As the festivities continue, several things transpire. Joffrey figures out that Ser Criston is Rhaeynra’s lover, based solely on the knight’s hangdog expression as he watches the princess from the perimeter of the room. Then Joffrey makes sure that Criston knows that he knows about their relationship, promising a little mutually assured destruction if anyone’s secret gets out. Elsewhere, Daemon puts the moves on Laena, still young but now (thank goodness) several years older than she was when Viserys entertained the idea of marrying her.
Eventually, Daemon gets Rhaenyra alone on the dance floor and asks her, in High Valyrian, if this is what she wants. “I was not aware that what I wanted mattered to you,” she responds in kind, taunting him that if he wants her, he should “cut through my father’s Kingsguard” and sweep her away to Dragonstone. Viserys is just starting to notice that his daughter and his brother look thisclose to doing something indecent on the dance floor when armored men start rushing into the hall.
All of a sudden, Ser Criston and Joffrey are duking it out, a fight that ends with the latter dead and missing his face, thanks to the knight’s furious fists. Laenor jumps into another part of the fray while Laena wades into the crowd. Viserys can’t find Rhaenyra, but that takes a backseat when he starts bleeding copiously from his nose and swaying on his feet. Eventually, everything somehow calms down. And when Laenor sees Joffrey, dead on the floor, he rushes to him and screams out his grief.
So, time to improv! A traumatized Rhaenyra and a grieving Laenor are married that evening, with just their immediate families in attendance. The minute the vows are completed, Viserys crumples to the ground, unconscious. Outside, in the godswood, Ser Criston prepares to kill himself, but Alicent stops him. And throughout all of this, Daemon is nowhere to be seen.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!