House of the Dragon – S1E7: Driftmark. Reaction/Breakdown – Spoilers!!

In episode 6 Lady Laena Velaryon died in dragon fire after giving her dragon Vhagar the Dracarys command. Her body was returned to her family’s home in Driftmark and Episode 7 begins with her Velaryon sea burial. The entire episode is centered around the events of the funeral, hence the episode title – Driftmark.

Corlys’ brother, Vaemond, performs the funerary rights including digs at Rhaenyra’s and Laenor’s children, the atmosphere of the entire episode, suggesting that Laena’s children are true Velaryons while Laenor’s are not. Daemon snickers at the implied insult, irritating Corlys and Rhaenys at the inappropriate timing. Daemon appears the only one to notice while all others carry on in the same willful ignorance that has been the open secret of Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey’s paternity, everyone save Alicent and Otto who has returned as Hand of the King. Laena’s casket, reminiscent of Lyanna Stark’s statue we see in the first episode of Game of Thrones, is cast into “…the dominion of the Merling King.”

Alicent cannot keep her eyes off of Rhaenyra during the funeral. Aegon is bored. Laenor is visibly bereft and is almost in a trance. While Rhaenys’ anger shows through her grief. Following the funeral the family gathers as 5 dragons circle and perch above.

Rhaenyra asks Jacaerys where his father is, referring to Laenor who is missing from the gathering, however, Jace’s mind on his other father. The death of Harwin and Lyonel is felt as Jacaerys tells his mother that they should be mourning Harwin’s death at Harrenhal. Rhaenyra reminds him that they are Targaryens and kin with the Velaryons and it would not be proper for them to be at the Strong funeral, even though we know that Jacaerys is kin to the Strongs. It is a horrible situation for Jace but you get the impression that he, albeit sadly, understands their unique situation. Rhaenyra suggests he comfort his cousins.

Since the last episode Helaena has been betrothed to Aegon, to his disapproval and Aemond’s envy, letting the audience know that Alicent made good on her refusal to have her betrothed to Jace. Aegon is disinterested in Helaena and more in drinking and engaging the maids. Unbothered, Helaena is carrying on with a spider once again ignoring those around her. She says “…Hand turns loom. Spool of green, spool of black. Dragons of flesh weave dragons of thread”. Reminiscent of Daenerys saying “they’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.”

Criston Cole alerts Alicent that Larys has been eyeing her the whole time and she dismisses it as him being proud that he is now Lord of Harrenhal. However, we later see that she has come around on the benefits of Lord Larys’ talents. The scene follows Helaena capturing a spider in an oyster shell and could suggest Larys’ similar talents to the similarly named spider of Game of Thrones, Varys.

Following Rhaenyra’s suggestion, Jace awkwardly goes to Baela and stands there and she takes his hand. The cousins appear to understand each other’s grief perhaps or perhaps suggesting a future betrothal between the two or an alliance at the minimum between Rhaenyra’s branch of Targaryens and Daemon’s half Velaryon children.

Corlys is of a similar mind as Viserys where Rhaenyra’s children are concerned, treating them as his grandchildren despite knowing Laenor is not their biological father. He instructs Lucerys that he would one day be Lord of Driftmark but Luke only feels the sadness that the inheritance suggests, if he were Lord of Driftmark, it would mean that Corlys would be dead.

Rhaenys on the other hand is too grief stricken to engage in the same manner. She ignores Rhaenyra and then Jace as she engages with only Baela and Rhaena. It is understandable that she would show the twins extra attention given their mother is gone but it is telling that she does not engage her grandsons. Jace clearly feels it.

Corlys observes Laenor wading in the sea in his grief and storms over to Qarl ordering him to retrieve Laenor. As like during the funeral, the gazes continue.

Rhaenyra is awaiting the best time to engage with Daemon as is Viserys. He finally gets the courage to go over to Daemon, who makes it a point not to go to his brother, the King. It is clear the years have hardened Daemon towards Viserys. Their last interaction was at Rhaenyra’s wedding but the two barely engaged each other, prior to that they left things poorly following Daemon’s night out with Rhaenyra and Viserys banishing him. Viserys compliments Baela and Rhaena but Daemon dismisses Viserys with a dig at his health. He invites Daemon back to court but Daemon refuses him stating that he doesn’t need anything. As Daemon leaves Viserys, Otto offers condolences, likely disingenuous, and Daemon responds in kind stating that “no matter how fat the leech grows it always wants for another meal“. The comment points to Otto’s opportunistic behavior in the past and his return following Lyonel’s death.

As Daemon leaves, Rhaenyra tells Jace and Luke to go to bed as she sees it as the best time to catch Daemon alone, with Otto observing. Shortly after, Viserys takes his leave but not before offering one of the most satisfying scenes of the episode by calling Alicent by his first wife’s name, Aemma, for all to hear. Like a good wingman, Ser Harrold Westerling tries to clean it up a bit but the damage was already done as Alicent and Ser Criston stared in disbelief.

As the gathering dispersed, Otto observes Aegon drunk on the stairs and like a loving grandfather, he kicks him and drags him up some stairs and sends him off to bed. Even Tywin wasn’t as cruel with Joffrey. Otto has plans for the throne that does not include Aegon’s adolescence. Aemond looks on but doesn’t appear the least bit sad for his brother as he too has exhibited disappointment in Aegon. Also disappointed, Corlys looks on as Qarl escorts a drunk Laenor.

As Corlys and Rhaenys are winding down for the night, Rhaenys expresses her anger that Daemon refused Laena’s request to come home. Corlys supports Daemon’s decision while Rhaenys believes his refusal led to her death. Corlys tries to quell her anger by calling the death an act of the gods but Rhaenys retorts that the gods may be punishing them for Corlys’ pride and ambition. She blames Laena’s death on Corlys’ drive to the Game of Thrones.

Corlys responds with the quote voiced over in the original trailer for House of the Dragon “What is this brief mortal life if not the pursuit of legacy?” Rhaenys requests that to honor Laena, they pass Driftmark to Baela as she is of true Velaryon blood, rather than Luke. Corlys comments that it would disinherit Laenor and his children and Rhaenys reminds him that Jace and Luke are not his blood. Corlys responds “History does not remember blood, it remembers names“. Corlys is well aware of the paternity issue but as long as the children are named Velaryon, that shall be how they are remembered in history, as Velaryons who ascended the throne, despite being called Targaryen per his agreement with Viserys.

As Corlys and Rhaenys sit on opposing sides, Daemon and Rhaenyra walk along the beach reconnecting and Rhaenyra confides she fears with Laena gone, Laenor will grow even more restless in their marriage and agreement. Episode six left many fans feeling as though they missed some things in the 10 year time jump pleasantly explained in this scene.

Rhaenyra tells Daemon she and Laenor did try, unsuccessfully, to perform their duties and produce an heir; however, due to their difficulty she turned to Harwin. Daemon confirms that he heard Harwin was devoted to Rhaenyra and she confirmed theirs was a devoted, trusting and joyous relationship.

Rhaenyra wishes that she had prevented Harwin from going back to the cursed Harrenhal. Daemon points out that Otto and Alicent wouldn’t hesitate to exploit the belief of the realm that Harrenhal is cursed suggesting that they had a hand in the death of The Hand and Commander of the City Watch. Daemon’s inclusion of Otto in the plot to kill Harwin and Lyonel, reconfirms the possibility that Larys is possibly getting some support from Otto and that Otto has not been as absence as it appeared in the last decade.

However, Rhaenyra still gives her former friend the benefit of the doubt as she is unable to believe her capable of murder. At which Daemon responds “each of us is capable of depravity“, leading Rhaenyra to question his and in so doing bring up her feelings of abandonment by his absence. She knows little of his life but feels reassured that he at least shared some happiness with Laena. Daemon says he was doing Rhaenyra a favor by being gone, a familiar concept in tv and movies where one person ends a relationship because they feel like they would bring the other person more harm than good. Usually when the other person does not want to be left alone, much like Rhaenyra. Giving some insight that she was serious when telling daemon to cut down the Kings Guard and marry her prior to marrying Laenor. She believes her life has become a fraction of what it could’ve been if Daemon were present. She points out their change in position and the consummate long teased love they have for each other. I have to say, given that it is House of the Dragon, the intimacy scene was hard to watch for fear they’d be caught.

The fear of getting caught carried over into the next scene where Aemond has gone off into the night to claim Vhagar. He uses High Valyrian commanding “Dohaeras. Lykiri. Soves.” meaning Serve, Calm Down, Fly. After some hesitancy on Vhagar’s part, including a true test flight, he is able to claim her.

As Aemond flies around on Vhagar he is seen by Baela and Rhaena as well as Daemon and Rhaenyra. Baela wakes Jace, the two having connected earlier, to tell him that someone has stolen her late mother’s dragon. Jace, Luke, Baela and Rhaena go down to find Aemond returning from riding Vhagar. Rhaena confronts Aemond stating that Vhagar was hers to claim and he basically tells her ‘you gotta be quicker than that‘.

Aemond’s attitude has changed from the sullen child we saw bullied in the previous episode and has now gained dragon rider confidence. He insults Rhaena who lunges at him and he pushes her to the ground. Baela jumps in to defend her sister punching Aemond who returns the blow. Aemond then threatens to feed them to Vhagar and Jace jumps in, Aemond quickly using Ser Criston’s instruction to Aegon, uses his feet and kicks Jace to the ground causing Luke to jump in and he too is punched to the ground screaming. Baela, Rhaena and Jace get back up and throw Aemond to the ground and start firing punches. Aemond kicks and throws them off of him and then grabs Luke by the throat and picks up a rock and says “You will die screaming in flames just as your father did! Bastards!” Luke is unaware of the paternity scandal, cries his father is still alive referring to Laenor. Aemond realizes that Luke doesn’t know and calls Jace Lord Strong, insulted at the treasonous comment, he pulls his knife but Aemond still gets the upper hand and continues to hold the rock over Luke. From the ground Jace throws sand in his eye as Luke picks up Jace’s dropped blade and swings at Aemond taking his eye. Ser Harrold Westerling and the other Kingsguard finally show up to end the fight.

Prior to the fight, the episode had been a slow burn which has become a theme in House of the Dragon. The episodes tend to be slow with lots of information in the dialogue then the second half, or ending, of the episode is very action packed. The court gathers in Corlys’ hall with Viserys on the Driftwood throne demanding answers from the Kingsguard, particularly Ser Criston who was supposed to have the night watch as we saw Ser Westerling hand it over when he escorted Viserys from the funeral. Ser Criston blames the children themselves as the Maester stitched Aemond’s lost eye. As Viserys blamed the Kingsguard, Alicent blames Aegon for being too drunk to be present.

Lord Corlys, Rhaenys, Rhaenyra and Daemon (Otto paying special attention to Daemon and Rhaenyra) arrive in the hall and the children are all speaking at once to explain what happened. Rhaenyra learns that her children were called bastards. Viserys demands the truth of it from Aemond who doesn’t respond before Alicent, in season 1 Cersei fashion when Nymeria bit Joffrey, demands retribution for her maimed son. Rhaenyra opposes her demanding answers for where Aemond would have heard they were bastards. She holds the position that questioning the heirs legitimacy is treason while Alicent their existence is treason.

Rhaenyra is the first to say it out loud in open company as Jace confirmed the word. Otto and Alicent looked relieved to finally have heard it said in the open, as was Aemond, who smiled. Alicent then draws attention to Laenor’s absence and sexuality in his father’s house as Crispin giggles until receiving a look of disappointment from Ser Westerling. Viserys demands Aemond say where he heard the accusation and he lies, taking a cue from his mother as Alicent suggests it was training yard talk, and he blames Aegon who is surprised since he knows they both heard it from their mother.

Aegon responds with “we know, father” outing the elephant that has been present in the room since Jace’s birth I imagine. Viserys demands everyone kiss and make up and Alicent ‘loses her shit’. She says it is insufficient and demands an eye for an eye. Viserys refuses her and she demands Ser Criston bring her Luke’s eye, after another look from Ser Westerling, Criston declines. She is again ordered to stand down as Viserys decrees anyone who further questions the children’s legitimacy will have their tongues removed. Alicent grabs the cat’s paw dagger from Viserys’ waist and lunges at the boys and Corlys shields his grandsons as Rhaenyra grabs Alicent. Alicent is being ordered to stand down by both Viserys and Otto. Ser Criston moves to assist Alicent but is restrained by Daemon as Ser Westerling also yells at Ser Criston.

Alicent says she has only ever done what was expected of her unlike Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra calls Alicent out for being self-righteous and how relieving it must be to be showing her true self in this moment. As the struggle occurs we see the dagger backdropped by the flames of the fireplace. Reminding the audience of Rhaenyra’s weight of responsibility despite Alicent calling her out for being carefree and careless. Alicent slashes Rhaenyra’s arm displaying her rage in front of the entire court. Aemond again shows his new confidence and character development saying that it was a fair exchange and losing an eye was worth getting Vhagar.

Otto later agrees, knowing the value of such a large and powerful dragon in the civil war to come. Despite the tension between Viserys and Alicent, as well as Alicent’s own admission of her disgraceful behavior, Otto is proud to know that his daughter is ruthless enough to play the Game of Thrones. He advises her to be nice to Viserys and be penitent and it will blow over.

Laenor comes in as Rhaenyra is getting stitches in her arm having missed the entire event. After some self loathing connected to not being able to be there for Laena, Rhaenyra nor the children, he tries to recommit himself to being a father and husband but Rhaenyra shows disagreement in her face. She acknowledges that he has done as best as he could and he should not blame the gods for his sexuality as he is a good man. The scene ends on screen as we see discontent between Alicent and Viserys as well as Rhaenys and Corlys as the court, including Aemond and his new dragon Vhagar depart from Driftmark.

Daemon and Rhaenyra stay behind and make an alliance to prepare for the upcoming battles. Rhaenyra essentially proposes to Daemon in High Valyrion who states the obvious that she is already married to Laenor. Rhaenyra says that fire is a prison and the sea offers an escape pointing to Laenor as house Velaryon represents he sea. Laenor gives them the out they need to joining their fire power. As they plan, Alicent is on the ship back to King’s Landing strengthens her own alliances putting Larys on retainer.

Daemon approaches Qarl in secret and pays him to solve their problem and use the money to escape and live freely over the Narrow Sea. Daemon later kills a servant in the Hall of 9 prior to Laenor and Qarl meeting in Corlys’ hall and they engage in a sword fight a weak insult Ser Qarl throws at Laenor always looking down on him. The interaction is witnessed by another servant. Daemon and Rhaenyra’s earlier conversation is ongoing as a voice over on the fight scene where Daemon tells Rhaenyra to grant Laenor this kindness and set him free. Initially the audience is led into believing Daemon has paid Qarl to kill Laenor, setting him free from his farce of a marriage.

A body is pulled from his parent’s hearth to Rhaenys’ horror losing both children back to back. Lord Corlys yells outrages at his guards for allowing this to happen in his home. Rhaenyra and Daemon continue to quarterback the plan going over the likely outcome of gossip and fear that will result. The plan moves to the next stage as we see a oddly beautiful Valyrian marriage ceremony witnessed by Jace, Luke, Baela, Rhaena, guards and Valyrian priests.

The final stage of the plan is revealed as Laenor has been set free to run away with Qarl to Essos. Laenor has shaved his dead to hide his Valyrian white hair to go unrecognized in Essos, a plot that occurs in George R. R. Martin’s Dunk & Egg series as well as A Song of Ice & Fire that did not make it into the Game of Thrones series, one having a Targaryen shaving his head and the other dyeing it. Laenor’s conversation with Rhaenyra earlier likely continued off screen to include details of this plot which Rhaenyra later conveyed to Daemon. Daemon likely added some finer details to the plan regarding Qarl and Essos policies on extradition. It’s probably the conspiracists in me, but some how I believe Corlys to be in on the charade.

As I mentioned the episode started of slowly but was filled with thought provoking scenes throughout. I can’t say this is my favorite episode thus far, as I am still partial to episode 5; however, this is in the top 3. I rate the episode a 9 given what we’ve seen thus far. Without the ending of the episode it would probably rate an 8. I was initially concerned that the episode was on the shorter side compared to the others but it was not felt due to it being jam packed with information. I’m interested to see where Rhaenys and Corlys go from here as it seems they are headed for a rift. I’d like to see a bond develop between Jace, Luke, Baela and Rhaena.

Episode 8 is titled The lord of the Tides. The trailer features Otto speaking for the King so it’s likely Viserys’ health has taken a turn for the worse. He is in part of the trailer so he is in at least part of the episode. The children have aged up so we are getting at least a 3 year time jump from the looks of them, could be more. That could place the story at Viserys’ death. Rhaenyra and Daemon ready themselves to confront the Hightower’s in Kings Landing. Corlys gets injured in battle but is likely not dead but at least needs someone to rule in his stead as he recovers and Vaemond and Rhaenys are possibly at odds. Exciting!

Let me know if you disagree with any of my interpretations or opinions of the episode in the comments below.

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