By: Fran Cava
Can someone turn the lights on? Or light a candle? Because I can’t see 50% of what’s happening in this show. Other than the poor visibility in select scenes, House of the Dragon came back with another tremendous episode, hitting all the right beats as its predecessor did. Episode 7, Driftmark, had everything one can ask for in a Thrones episode, with an ample amount of bloodshed, complex family quarrels, and good ol’ incest. The writers have done a fine job, establishing each major player in the show’s conflict, with this episode acting as a bridge to the climax that is inevitably coming.
So much was packed into this last hour, yet the pacing allows you to emerge yourself deep into the characters that make up the Seven Kingdoms, as the conflict rages forward. From start to finish, Driftmark has not a frame wasted. We begin with Lady Laena’s funeral, that while somber, acted as a stage for understanding where our protagonist/antagonist minds are at during a time of uncertainty. While Daemon’s wife just perished, it’s impossible to ignore his snicker when the reverend is speaking on behalf of the Velaryon name. This subtle laugh displays how he feels about Rhaenyrna’s figurehead of a husband. The subject of blood running thin symbolizes both the relationship of Rhaenyra and Laenor crumbling, and both families’ true bloodlines in jeopardy. An ailing Viserys asks his brother to return home after previously banishing him for life, signaling that the king’s time is coming to an end – probably by the end of this season. The final interesting nugget at this funeral lies in the few moments shared between Alicent and Ser Criston. Finally, a character in this show calls out Larys Strong for his suspicious and weasel-like demeanor, but since it’s the dickhead Criston, his claims are quickly diminished.
We then have the pleasure of seeing a grown Rhaenyra and Dameon engage in sexual relations, juxtaposed with the dragon-less Aemond risking his life to claim Vhagar as his beast. The scene had the cleanest-looking dragon riding shots in the series thus far, but that might have been aided by poor lighting. The scene while thrilling gets completely overshadowed by what I believe is the strongest set of scenes in season 1. The fight between the kids while juvenile, represents the future direction and relationship between these two revered households. As they drift further from one another through political pitfalls, and power greed – the discrepancies have poisoned the minds of the children. The problems amongst the adults have now bled into these children’s lives, and whether they know it or not, they are now at the forefront of this family war.
The shank to the eye climaxes when the families are pitted against one another in a room with a naïve king. As the source for this accident comes into question, Viserys comes to learn the weight of the word bastard. Alicent pleads her son lost an eye over a measly insult, but everyone besides Viserys in the room understands the magnitude of the word. Just like in the original Game of Thrones, the word bastard is a label one can never shake. Jon Snow started a bastard and ended a bastard. To be labeled one is to be labeled weak – physically and in the world of thrones, it represents the zilch of power your name holds. That is why every character in that room does not want to bare who started the acquisitions, as it’s far worse than just an act of treason. If Rhaenyra lets her sons assume the title of a bastard, she knows they won’t be protected if she were to ever endure an untimely death. With a lackluster husband and a lover who perished for this secret – she is aware that her best chance of keeping her children alive is to have Dameon by her side – especially after Viserys inevitable death. When Alicent raises the knife, this is the first domino that forces Rhaeynra to act quickly and tactfully. The marriage between Dameon and her confirms her internal plan and sets up the Targaryen household for the war that is looming ahead. Dameon always thinking several steps ahead, sets up a brilliant ploy to remove Laenor from harm’s way, and how it was executed was startling, yet cautious in its planning.
This was the best writing this series has had to date. While succinct, the monologues and dialogues in the last half-hour were simply marvelous. Actors and actresses acted their asses off, and the tension was built perfectly. Unfortunately, it appears we are in for another time skip next week, despite Drifmark setting the trajectory for the near future exquisitely. Don’t want to aimlessly dissect the trailer for next week, so we’ll just have to sit on this for the next 7 days.
Concluding this recap, one line from this episode perfectly encapsulates, what Thrones has always been about. This is perfect writing, and it represents the lie characters tell themselves and the audience. Every character’s actions are always intended to help their household, and their family – when in actuality it’s every man for himself. This was said by a crown-hungry Coryls Velaryon, hours following his daughter’s body being put to rest at sea.
“History does not remember blood, it remembers names”