Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Episode 5 of House of the Dragon on HBO.
The first season of House of the Dragon is officially halfway over, and the fifth episode proved that major weddings were going badly in Westeros even more than a century before the Red Wedding and Purple Wedding of Game of Thrones. The royal wedding between Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon was already revealed in the trailer, but even viewers well-versed in book lore couldn’t have guessed how badly the first feast in honor of the upcoming nuptials would go. And that was only one of the key events of the hour!
So, as we look ahead to the second half of Season 1 and Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke taking over the roles of Rhaenyra and Alicent from Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, let's dig into some important takeaways from the fifth episode.
Rhaenyra And Alicent Are Ready To Play The Game
Although still played by Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in this episode, Rhaenyra and Alicent are barely recognizable as the teenage girls from the series premiere. Rhaenyra clearly learned a lot from her interactions with Daemon last week, as she approached her betrothal and marriage to Laenor as a political arrangement that wouldn’t stop her from doing what she wanted. She sees herself as becoming “the crown,” and quickly dismissed Ser Criston’s idea of running away and eloping.
On Alicent’s part, she learned that Rhaenyra did in fact have sex last week, but not with Daemon, as she’d thought. After a tip from Larys Strong, a guilt-ridden confession from Ser Criston, and instructions from her father (who lost his place as Hand because of Rhaenyra) to prepare Aegon to rule, Alicent apparently hit her limit as the obedient wife to the rotting and much older king.
She attended the wedding feast in the green of House Hightower, interrupted Viserys’ speech, and addressed Rhaenyra coolly as “stepdaughter.” She has the allegiance of her Hightower relatives and seems guaranteed to outlive her husband, and Rhaenyra may come to regret seducing Ser Criston and misleading Alicent. (Although Rhaenyra technically didn’t lie when she denied sleeping with Daemon.)
Daemon's Wife Is Dead
In possibly the least surprising twist of the episode after how the previous one ended, Lady Rhea Royce died in the Vale almost immediately reuniting with her husband. She was clearly no fonder of Daemon than he was of her, and even revealed that the marriage had never been consummated. She connected the dots that he – wearing a hood and evidently without swooping in on his bright red dragon – wasn’t exactly in the Vale because he wanted to take up his marital duties, and she was soon after thrown from her horse and her neck was broken.
To me, it actually looked like the horse threw her because she suddenly reached for her bow and startled it, so the neck-breaking may not have been his fault. Making sure that she was dead was definitely his fault, though, as we later heard that her skull was smashed as well as her neck broken. Daemon is a free man, but some at least suspect that he had a hand in her death, and he didn’t successfully marry Rhaenyra. Rhea Royce is dead, and Daemon is free to remarry. He certainly wasted no time in flirting with Laena Valaryon and trying to ruin Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding!
Rhaenyra And Laenor Have An Arrangement
When Laenor was clearly much happier sparring with his lover, Ser Joffrey, than he was at the idea of becoming king consort, the princess made it clear that she was aware of his preferences and it wasn't going to be a problem for their marriage. She said that they could do their duties to the realm (and their families) and get married, then each pursue their pleasure wherever they saw fit.
For him, that meant Ser Joffrey, and she seemingly intended to keep Ser Criston very close even after she was wed. They were both perfectly happy to play their parts as a happy soon-to-be-married couple before their wedding feast turned bloody, and it seems that husband and wife having affairs won’t cause any problems between them after the time jump.
Ser Criston Is Seemingly Switching Sides
While Ser Criston made a very bold and ill-advised grand gesture by asking the princess to run away with him Essos, where they could choose to be married instead of her being forced into marriage. He had a bit of a meltdown about breaking his vows after she turned him down, and Alicent didn’t exactly have to torture him into his confession about sleeping with Rhaenyra. He then beat Ser Joffrey to death when the knight implied that he knew about Criston and the princess, and was on the verge of committing suicide in the godswood until Alicent stopped him. If that’s not enough to shift his loyalties to Team Alicent/Team Hightower, I don’t know what is!
Daemon Is Team Rhaenyra
After bringing his special brand of chaos to the Red Keep in Episode 4 (including a trip to the brothel), Daemon seemed to show his true feelings about his niece when he crashed Rhaenyra’s first wedding feast, a newly-single man, to ask if marrying Laenor was truly was she wanted. While she even called him out that his goal was to marry her himself, his first question was about whether she wanted to do what her father was forcing her to do.
Are his motivations 100% pure? Definitely not, but I would say that he is firmly on Team Rhaenyra as the lines start to be drawn. He seemed to be the only person invested in her happiness, and said nothing about the Iron Throne. Is he a good decision-maker? Not really, but he sure is entertaining!
House Strong Is Divided
It seems that Rhenyra, Viserys, and Alicent all have the support of House Strong… but not all of House Strong. Patriarch Lyonel has arguably been the one member of Viserys’ council to consistently give him sound advice, and made sense as the new Hand to replace Otto Hightower. Eldest son Harwin has ties to Rheanyra, as he seemed more amused than anything else about discovering her out on the town with her uncle last week, and they danced at the wedding feast before Daemon cut in. He even came to her rescue (at his father’s cue) when the violence started.
Younger son Larys is responsible for tipping off Alicent that Rhaenyra had sex with somebody, and seems to support her. With Lyonel on Team Viserys, Harwin on Team Rhaenyra, and Larys on Team Alicent, it seems that something will have to give.
Rhaenyra And Laenor Are Married
Rhaenyra and Laenor are married after 1) Viserys reiterated to Corlys and Rhaenys that his daughter is his heir, 2) he confirmed that their firstborn (regardless of gender) will be her heir and bear the Velaryon name until taking the throne, 3) the betrothed made their arrangement, and 4) their lovely wedding feast turned bloody and Laenor’s paramour was killed.
Instead of a week of tourneys and celebrations before the official ceremony, they married with just their parents and Alicent as witnesses in the trashed throne room, with Laenor still bleeding from his injuries during the mob. The wedding – done in the Faith of the Seven – ended with Viserys collapsing. So, while the groom didn’t die like Joffrey at his wedding and half the guests weren’t murdered like the Red Wedding, it wasn’t a happy event.
Milly Alcock And Emily Carey Were Fantastic
Based on the trailer for the next episode, this was the last with Milly Alcock and Emily Carey playing Rhaenyra and Alicent. Both actresses were tasked with introducing some key new characters to an audience that was brand new or possibly still bitter about the end of Game of Thrones. Their characters went from fairly carefree teenagers to where we left them at the end of Episode 5, after going through quite a lot.
The actresses were excellent in their roles, and while Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke seem like they’ll be great in picking up where Alcock and Carey left off, the two younger stars will undoubtedly be missed early on. The recasting was inevitable in light of how quickly House of the Dragon is moving through the relevant Fire & Blood source material and the major time jump on the way.
Bonus key points to remember:
- Can we all agree that Viserys shouldn’t have told Daemon to go back to the wife he hates, after refusing to let him wed Rhaenyra like he wanted because of said wife? He all but told Daemon to kill Rhea!
- Daemon may not be King of the Seven Kingdoms, but he sure is King of the Dramatic Entrances.
- Rhaenyra and Laenor didn’t discuss the issue of heirs that both of their fathers are expecting (and Rhaenyra needs), which is bound to come up.
- Rhea Royce seemed pretty awesome, which suggests that Daemon was the problem in that marriage.
- The maesters’ may not all have good judgement and/or Viserys’ best interests at heart. He's not exactly getting better, and the grand maester in particular seems unwilling to try anything new.
- It says something about Viserys that he didn't kick Daemon out after he crashed the wedding feast and sauntered to the head table.
- Between Rhea's comment about not consummating their marriage and saying that Daemon "couldn't finish" by killing her, is this another hint about his ability to... perform?
See what happens following the time jump with the next new episode of House of the Dragon on Sunday, September 25 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO or streaming with an HBO Max subscription. You can also revisit the full run of Game of Thrones via the streaming service, and find some upcoming viewing options set elsewhere than Westeros with our 2022 TV premiere schedule.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).