House of the Dragon – S1E5: We Light the Way. Reaction/Breakdown – Spoilers!!

Weddings! Am I right?

What a halfway point of the season! House of the Dragon did not come to play!  I won’t even wait for the end of the blog to give my rating, this is my favorite episode thus far, 9 for sure.  Criston Cole, Larys Strong, Alicent and Daemon are probably the key characters who controlled the tides in episode 5.

Episode 5 finally introduces us to Daemon’s wife Rhea Royce whom we have been hearing so much about. I’d have to disagree with Daemon on her appearance but it was clear these two were not friends. Rhea goes out riding alone disregarding her cousin Gerald’s request to join her. On the way back she is met by Daemon who is dressed discretely. The two exchange venomous words, including digs about their unconsummated marriage. Rhea asks Daemon if his next move, now that he was banished, was going to be to kill Rhaenyra or… and as she realizes he means to kill her she reaches for her bow, Daemon spooks the horse then pushes it backward and on top of Rhea. She is laying injured and as he walks away she calls him impotent and a craven and Daemon responds by picking up a brick to finish the job.

Viserys and Rhaenyra on the way to High Tide without Alicent who remains in King’s Landing to see Otto go, but he does not do so before reminding her that Aegon needs to be ready to become king when Viserys dies because No one in the realm wants Rhaenyra as queen.

She takes Otto’s parting words with her to the God Wood to think, which is strange that she goes their so often, I’d think she would go to a Sept instead (but I digress). As she thinks about how to not betray her best friend who she believes to be virtuous, Larys Strong joins her and whispers suggestive thoughts about Rhaenyra being ill and needing tea which Maester Mellos himself provided at the request of Viserys. There was no clarity on whether Rhaenyra drank the moon tea she got at the end of episode 4 following her tryst with Criston Cole but this is the first Alicent is hearing this information. Alicent pairs Larys’ message with her prior knowledge and assumes Rhaenyra lied about not sleeping with Daemon.

On the journey to Driftmark, we see a seasick Viserys and lovesick Criston Cole. The showrunners did a great job on the role reversal to the typical unrequited love dynamic we usually see. Criston Cole asks Rhaenyra to leave it all behind and run off with him but it is was a hard pass for Rhaenyra. She is accepting her duty to the realm and the future of men per the prophecy.   For a brief second, I thought she would tell him the prophecy and not trusting Criston I was glad she did not.

House Velaryon is really a powerhouse and the showrunners want us to know it. While the courtyard at High Tide was unremarkable, I was impressed with the inside of the castle. There were treasures from Lord Corlys’ many voyages I found myself distracted looking around during the engagement conversations. Viserys could barely get his words out due to his poor health but repeatedly refused a seat when offered by Corlys and Rhaenys.

Rhaenys and Corlys need a spin-off. Hopefully, the timeline of their marriage permits her to be in HBO’s 9 Voyages spin-off in development. Although they’d be younger and likely different actors I’m still interested in their story. They seem the have actual conversation and discussions of their children like regular people as we see them discussing Laenor’s sexuality and dangers he’d be in by marrying into the crown. Rhaenys is less confident in the might of House Velaryon to defend Laenor against the rift that will present when the Realm rejects yet another female heir.

Meanwhile Rhaenyra and Laenor minced words deciding on what they’re gonna eat for dinner post-nuptials, goose with side duck, duck on Tuesdays but not on a school night. It was creative but a little silly. I suppose deciding against monogamy in historical Westeros required some modesty; however, they seemed impressed and thrilled in their decision to have their duck and eat it too. As did Laenor’s boo The Knight of Kisses, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth.

Back in kings landing, Viserys is deteriorating fast, his arm looks a whole mess as Maester Mellos refuses treatment assist from Maester Orwyle, pointing at his pure incompetence or some conspiracy to hasten Viserys’ death.  This is the first time I thought perhaps Lord Strong, now The Hand of the King, may not be purely of good intent towards Viserys not interjecting in that moment.  His son Larys also made me question the Strong’s motives and goals as a house but I’ll see where that goes.

Alicent summons Criston to question him about Daemon and Rhaenyra, after all he is Rhaenyra’s sworn guard and loyal, so betray her and tell me what she’s been up to. I get she’s the queen but it still seems a betrayal. Without any real prying Criston Cole blurts out that yes it’s true, he slept with Rhaenyra. I think even with the whole episode turning out the way it did, this scene was the most infuriating.

Criston is clearly jealous, scorned and guilty. He wants to portray himself as honorable and full of self-disgust due to his dishonorable actions but is truly displaying spite as a result of unrequited love. He follows his admission with a request for a swift death as punishment further laying into the characteristic of the honorable knight falling on his sword. Alicent finally catching up with the story, is too disturbed to respond and dismisses him. Alicent was already on my list, but why not dig in deeper. She is this holier-than-thou character that is so invested in Rhaenyra’s actions and becomes so personally hurt and attacked by what Rhaenyra does and it it is baffling. She comes off as jealous and self-righteous and to what ends? With Rhaenyra now engaged to Laenor, what does it matter that she had a tryst with Criston. We got a single scene with Alicent praying with Rhaenyra so they have not played up her piety in such a way that it is so believable that this is a crisis of morals and faith. In my opinion it comes off as jealousy given her unhappy and restricted life. Her father was dismissed for more than his informing on Rhaenyra so her being upset with Rhaenyra about that is still lack luster. After all Otto’s information was still not completely accurate and he took no time to vet it before tattling on Rhaenyra.

Everyone who is anyone is dressed and in attendance for the beginning of the 7 day long wedding festivities, except Queen Alicent. Daemon makes an unannounced entrance and joins the Targaryen table much to Viserys’ shock and dismay. Viserys is having a rough night, he’s out of breath and trying to make a speech and in comes Queen Alicent not following the dress code for team Targaryen.

She has declared sides and is wear House Hightower green. Everyone notices as Lord Hobort Hightower and Larys Strong comments on it. Even the episode title alludes to this declaration as “We light the way” are the words of House Hightower.

The party kicks off with a dance between the betroth who are eventually joined by the rest of the guests. They’re are so many cogs moving during the dance and the tempo of the music adds to the building intensity of the scene. Ser Gerald Royce, Rhea Royce’s cousin, accuses Daemon of murdering his wife Rhea. Daemon denies it and let’s Gerald know he will be by to get his inheritance.

Ser Lonmouth lets Laenor know he figured out Rhaenyra’s paramour is Criston Cole, as he is visibly “cunt-struck”. Lonmouth stupidly goes to Criston and tells him he knows and they’re both in a similar and advantageous position of secret keeping.

Criston is still salty from Rhaenyra’s refusal to run away with him and guilty from his conversation with Alicent. He is eyeing Rhaenyra the whole night and this conversation gets under his skin. Alicent is hanging out over at the Hightower table. Daemon is eyeing Rhaenyra and flirting with Lady Laena. Daemon makes his way over to dance with Rhaenyra as Viserys watches anxiously. The two are plotting in High Valyrian to run away in and get married. The audience gets to watch their interaction from Viserys’ point of view and it looks as though Daemon is about to kiss Rhaenyra and the view is obscured and all 7 hells break loose.

It is hard to see who or what started the melee but we see King’s guard rush in and the guests are being knocked all over the place, even Rhaenyra is knocked to the floor. Lyonel Strong cues his son Harwin Breakbones to go recover Rhaenyra which he fights his way to her throwing her over his shoulder. We see the center of the fighting and it is Criston Cole repeatedly pummeling Lonmouth’s face. No one is able or even really tries to stop him and he stops once the Knight of Kisses is dead and there doesn’t appear to be any bone structure remaining in his face. The crowd dissipates and Laenor, also injured, drags himself over to his dead lover’s body and begins wailing.

The 7 days of festivities are reduced to one night only event as we immediately see the wedding take place in the same room, same clothes, tussled hair, bloody nose and a rat licking Lonmouth’s blood from the floor as it is illuminated by reflections of fire. Viserys collapses following the nuptials.

Last but by no means least, Criston Cole is in the God’s wood about to fall on his sword, literally this time, as Alicent stops him, setting an alliance to come.

Next week’s episode features new actors as is takes place about 10 years in the future. Both Alicent and Rhaenyra will have new actresses, as well as another age up for Laenor and Laena Velaryon. There appears to be grown children for Alicent and young children for Rhaenyra. Viserys looks even worse the next episode than this one, if that’s possible.

As I mentioned, this is the best episode so far this season, but just because I haven’t seen the entire season I won’t go past a 9 rating. What do you rate this episode? What was your favorite or least favorite scene or character?

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