HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ Just Made a Major Change From the Books
In the latest poorly lit episode of HBO’s House of the Dragon, we saw the aftermath of a funeral and the further divisions between The Greens and The Blacks.
Spoilers for House of the Dragon episode “Driftmark.”
Laena’s death brings the whole family together, and it is a ballroom blitz. Daemon is grieving, kind of, but since the show has decided that Matt Smith’s sole personality in the role will be “dickhead,” we don’t see the emotions under the surface. He spends no time with his grieving daughters (Baela and Rhaena), yet makes time to have sad, poorly lit sand sex with his niece, Rhaenyra.
Meanwhile, Otto Hightower is back so that Alicent finally has that political support she desires. Ser Criston Cole can only do so much, and a political savant he is not. At the beginning of the episode, she feels guilty about indirectly pulling a Henry II and sending Larys Strong to remove both Lord Lyonel Strong (former Hand) and Harwin Strong (Rhaenyra’s lover).
Corlys Velaryon and his wife, Rhaenys Targaryen, go from one of the most solid couples in Westeros to divide over what Rhaenys sees as the fall coming after their pride with the death of their daughter.
What sets the significant events in motion in this episode is when Aemond Targaryen pulls a Hiccup and decides to claim Laena’s former dragon, Vhagar, for himself. Aemond was previously mocked for not having a dragon bond yet, so this is his chance to claim one of the largest and most legendary still living. Baela and Rhaena wake up their “cousin” Jacaerys “Jace,” who retrieves his brother Lucerys “Luke,” and the four go to confront Aemond for taking the dragon. It was meant to be claimed by Rhaena. It turns into a brawl when Aemond decides to escalate by calling the boys bastards and showing zero compassion for the fact that Baela and Rhaena are both grieving. Now wasn’t the time.
Luke then takes his dagger and slashes at Aemond, and the boy loses an eye.
Alicent is pissed and demands justice. Viserys is tired and chooses to defend his daughter’s rights when it is exposed that Aemond called her sons bastards. He declares that anyone who talks about the parentage will have their tongue removed. Well, Alicent wants Luke’s eye. She grabs Viserys’ dagger and lunges toward the boys, and Rhaenyra stops her. While they are locked together, Alicent lets out her grievances.
I have felt a lot of conflict about Alicent in the series because I think she has been pushed into an entirely unlikable position. Not simply because she opposes Rhaenyra, but because her motivation has been built upon the fact that she has maintained the social norms and order at the expense of herself, whereas Rhaenyra (in her eyes) hasn’t.
Except that is not the case. Alicent doesn’t know about the prophecy and what that means to Rhaenyra to want to protect the realm and ensure a Targaryen is on the throne. In the show’s canon, Rhaenyra having children was her duty, and because Leanor couldn’t help her have them, she had to find that somewhere else. Her coupling wasn’t just about Strong or carnal desires. It was about ensuring that a Targreyn was there to protect the world from the coming night. Alicent doesn’t know that. All she sees are three “plain featured” boys, and that’s it.
From a modern viewer’s perspective (and the writer’s perspective), Alicent just comes off as totally drinking the milk of the patriarchy. We know that if Rhaenyra were a boy, it wouldn’t matter who she slept with, so all I can see sometimes is that.
Alicent slashes Rhaenyra and blood pays for something, and everyone goes to bed. Otto is proud of his daughter’s fire and Alicent makes peace with Larys Strong’s dark abilities as her own. Meanwhile, seeing this threat to her family, Rhaenyra decides she needs to be with an equal. That’s Daemon.
But that means Laenor needs to die. At least on paper. Daemon enlists Laenor’s lover Ser Qarl to kill Laenor. They fight, and we cut between the remains of a burnt body wearing his clothes as Daemon and Rhaenyra get married.
Surprise! Laenor is alive; he’s bald now and running away with his lover. One gay unburied. In Fire & Blood, sadly, Laenor died, and there were a lot of speculations about how. The show had decided to combine a few theories and turn them on its head. Love that.
What did you think of “Driftmark?”
(featured image: HBO)
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