This week’s episode of the Game of Thrones spin-off series House of the Dragon features child violence, a faked death plot that’s a big change from the book, a secret wedding and sex on the beach.
Spoilers ahead for Episode 7 of House of the Dragon, which aired on Sunday October 2nd on HBO.
Everyone is gathered in Driftmark (Corly’s castle) for the funeral of his daughter – Daemon’s wife who died in the last episode. Princess Rhaenyra (now played by Emma D’Arcy instead of Milly Alcock) reconnects with her uncle Daemon for the first time since the 10-year time skip. Apparently he’s not a grieving widower as he has sex with his niece on the beach right after his wife’s funeral.
Prince Aemond (the second son of King Viserys and Queen Alicent) is also on the beach. No, he doesn’t watch his relatives do it. He claims Vhagar, the eldest and greatest dragon, formerly owned by Daemon’s late wife.
Corlys (Steve Toussaint), his wife Rhaenys (Eve Best) and their granddaughters (center): Daemon’s daughters Baela (Shani Smethurst) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning).Ollie Upton / HBO
The show didn’t explain it clearly, but dragons and their riders have special bonds in this world, and they only bond with one living person at a time. Now that Laena is dead, the dragon will belong to Aemond from now on. This is a big deal because Aemond seems to be a bit of a jerk – he later tries to hit one of Rhaenyras’ sons with a rock, hits Daemon’s daughters, and taunts Rhaenyras’ sons about their father dying in a fire. That’s not a nice kid, and he now has the most powerful weapon in Westeros. So this dragon evolution is bad news!
Daemon’s daughters are furious that Aemond “stole” their late mother’s dragon. The children all get into a violent fight which ends with Rhaenyra’s son stabbing Aemond in self-defense.
Of course, that creates chaos. The adults gather in the hall and accusations are made as to whose fault it is that one of the princes is now a Cyclops.
Alicent (Olivia Cooke) with her older son Aegon (Ty Tennant), who has both eyes. Ollie Upton / HBO
Alicent wants to solve this problem by literally taking Rhaenyra’s son an eye for an eye. Because nothing says “The audience should root for this character” like a willingness to harm a child! Later, Alicent’s father, Otto Hightower (who has returned to his position as Hand of the King), praises his daughter for her wickedness. He also comments that Aemond getting the dragon Vhagar for “our side” is worth the price he paid for it by losing an eye.
Despite all the dragon developments and child violence, the drama isn’t over in this episode. Rhaenyra sees how stubborn Alicent is, and she knows that many people in the kingdom think Alicent’s son should get the throne after the king dies, instead of Rhaenyra. Do you know who would be a good ally on her side? Your crazy uncle who has no qualms about murder. So Rhaenyra and Daemon get married in a secret wedding, smearing blood on each other’s faces as one does (it’s an old Valyrian tradition that their ancestors did).
Neither of them care that it’s incest. In fact, that’s part of the appeal as there are rumors that Rhaenyra’s children are illegitimate. Marrying a relative in a classic Targaryen move will strengthen Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne, she thinks.
Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and his brother King Viserys (Paddy Considine) reunite after 10 years. Ollie Upton / HBO
But a catch to this wedding plan is that Rhaenyra is already married. Sure, her husband Laenor is gay and they have an open relationship, but he’s still her husband.
Spoiler alert for George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood, the book on which the series is based. In the source material, Laenor simply dies and it is believed that Daemon put him out of the way so he could marry Rhaenyra. In a major twist, the show makes it seem like Daemon and Rhaenyra are making sure that Laenor is killed. But in a twist, it turns out they faked his death and he’s set to live a new life abroad in blissful darkness with his friend.
In the book it is a gruesome development that both Laenor and his sister Laena die to get out of the way so Daemon and Rhaenyra can finally be together. It’s also worth noting that Westeros is particularly brutal towards LGBTQ+ characters, killing Laenor’s friend Joffrey in the fifth episode (and don’t forget the fates of Loras, Renley or Oberyn in Game of Thrones). So Laenor is a seemingly dead gay character who has a better fate on screen.
Perhaps this means the show spares other characters who are sentenced to death in this gory tale.
“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.