When episode 6 of House of the Dragon aired, itedition of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel yet. For one thing, a 10-year time jump saw actors Milly Alcock and Emily Carey replaced by Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke. The queen and the princess now have a gaggle of kids each. And more importantly, at the end of the episode, we saw the first blood of the inevitable Targaryen civil war spilled.
That was thanks to Larys Strong, who in a mix of blackmail and devotion to the queen, organized a hit on his brother Harwin and father, Lyonel. That means Rhaenyra's children no longer have a (biological) father, and King Viserys no longer has a Hand. Turns out little can happen in 10 years, but a lot can happen in 60 minutes of TV time.
That episode featured lots of important happenings, but much of the viewing experience was just acclimating to the time jump. In episode 7, titled Driftmark, we get payoff for a lot of what last week built up to. More than any other episode yet, things escalate here. A lot.
A full recap of House of the Dragon episode 7 is below. Caution: Spoilers ahead.
Remembering Laena Velaryon
The later life, and death, of Laena Verlaryon, but House of the Dragon puts some respect on her name at the opening of episode 7. We begin with a funeral for Laena in Driftmark. All the faces we've come to know are there.
Rhaenyra and Daemon are at the same place at the same time again. Even Otto Hightower is back. Since Lord Strong died, Hightower is once again Hand of the King.
During the wake, we find out that Queen Alicent has betrothed Aegon Targaryen to none other than... his sister, Helaena Targaryen. Aegon isn't excited about it -- he's in that teenage realm where he isn't excited about anything -- complaining to his brother Aemond that they have nothing in common and that, to quote him, "she's an idiot."
Aemond seems a brooding young fellow, all talk about the family bloodline and such.
"Clubfoot" Larys Strong's reward for killing his father and brother, we discover, is being named the new Lord of Harrenhal. That's some cold shit.
Rhaenyra sends her children Jacaerys and Lucerys to comfort Laena and Daemon's girls, Baela and Rhaena. Here the lie that Laenor Velaryon fathered Rhaenyra's children looks especially preposterous, as they look neither like Targaryens nor Velaryons.
Speaking of striking juxtapositions, King Viserys approaches his brother Daemon. Daemon hasn't aged at all, but Viserys looks about 900. "I know we've had our differences, but let them pass with the years," Viserys implores, encouraging Daemon to return to King's Landing.
Daemon isn't interested in the slightest, and quickly fobs his brother off. As they're talking, however, we see Rhaenyra circling, her eyes locked on Daemon.
You have to feel for Viserys. He tries to be a good guy and everyone treats him like a chump.
After the rejected King goes to bed, we see Lord Corlys and Rhaenys Targaryen sitting by the fire in their Driftmark castle. She wonders whether Laena's death was punishment for their ambition, and reprimands Lord Corlys using her own ill-fated brush with the Iron Throne as a justification for his pursuit of it. Then Rhaenys declares she wants the succession of Driftmark to pass through Laena's line, not Laenor's -- "to true Velaryon blood."
"We are alone here, husband. You can speak the plain truth as we both know it," Rhaenys says. "Rhaenyra's children are not of your blood. But Laena's are."
The first dance of dragons
Way back in episode 3, all that time ago, Rhaenyra and Laenor walked a Driftmark beach as they made the agreement to do their duty to the realm while loving whomever they wanted.
Now, an older and wiser Rhaenyra walks that same beach under moonlight with her uncle Daemon. She frets that Laenor, wrecked with grief, will no longer be able to carry on the facade of their marriage.
"We did try to conceive a child," she explains. "We performed our duty as best we could. But to no avail. There was no joy in it. I found that elsewhere."
They both briefly mourn their lost lovers -- Ser Harwin and Lady Laena -- and Rhaenyra beats herself up for letting Ser Harwin return to the Riverlands. Daemon implies that Queen Alicent could have orchestrated his murder. Rhaenyra correctly replies that Queen Alicent isn't capable of cold murder.
Rhaenyra accuses Daemon of abandoning her all those years ago. "I spared you," he shoots back. "You were a child."
Rhaenyra kisses him. He tries to stop her, but she tells him she's not a child anymore.
While they get to lovemaking, consummating the flirtations they initiated an uncomfortable number of years ago, Prince Aemond is doing Targaryen things: taking control of the biggest dragon in the world.
Vhagar is an important dragon in A Song of Ice and Fire lore. She's the dragon that Aegon the Conquerer, well, conquered with. After Aegon's death, Vhagar was eventually passed down to Lady Laena. But now that Laena's dead, Vhagar is free to be bonded with -- and Aemond took his chance.
We see him run out onto the beach, withstand Vhagar's roar and pluck up the courage to jump on her back. She then flies in the air and does a cool loop. Some very How to Train Your Dragon stuff here.
"Vhagar is my mother's dragon," Baela, with Jacaerys, Lucerys and Rhaena in tow, confronts Aemond. "She was mine to claim."
"Then you should have claimed her. Maybe your cousins can find you a pig to ride," Aemond fires back, referencing the prank the boys played on him in last week's episode.
It's around this time that shit gets extremely real.
A fight breaks out with Aemond on one side, and Rhaenyra and Daemon's four kids on the other. Aemond gets a rock and prepares to bash Lucerys with it, taunting that he'll burn alive just like his father. A confused Lucerys exclaims that his father is still alive, and Aemond tells Jacaerys to tell his younger brother the truth about their father.
Lucerys throws sand in Aemond's face, which allows Jaecerys to take out his dagger and slash Aemond across the face.
The king's justice
Viserys might be old and sickly, but he's still got the rage of the dragon within him.
Aemond's skin will heal, but his eye is lost. In a scene reminiscent of King Robert trying to get the truth of what happened when Joffrey Baratheon was cut under the eye by Arya Stark, King Viserys holds court in an attempt to figure out how the princes came to blows.
He yells at the Kingsguard Knights for their negligence. It comes out that Aemond called the boys bastards, and that this is why he was cut. I personally think blaming Aemond for trying to smash Lucerys' skull in with a rock would have been a stronger defense, but hey, I'm no lawyer.
Viserys demands Aemond tell him where he heard the disgusting lie that Laenor isn't the boys' father. Aemond looks at his mother, and does what all little boys do. He blames his older brother, Aegon.
Aegon, rebellious teenager that he is, glibly says, "We know, father. Everyone knows. Just look at them."
Viserys bursts into a rage. He demands that the infighting cease, apologies be made, and that everyone "show goodwill to one another." Bless him for trying.
Eye demand it, the queen says
Queen Alicent says goodwill isn't good enough. "There is a debt to be paid," she says. "I shall have one of her son's eyes in return."
The queen demands Ser Criston bring her one of Lucerys' eyes. Call her 21, because that's savage stuff. Ser Criston regretfully whimpers that he can't comply with her request, because he's sworn to protect the queen, not fight for her.
"Alicent, this matter is finished. Do you understand?" Viserys barks. "And let it be known. Anyone whose tongue dares to question the birth of Princess Rhaenyra's sons shall have it removed."
The queen is unsatisfied with the king's justice, so she quite literally takes matters into her own hands. She yoinks Aegon the Conqueror's dagger from Viserys and tries to stab Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra and the queen get in a scuffle, where Alicent is trying to attack Rhaenyra but the princess is pushing the queen away by her arm and shoulder.
The king yells for Alicent to stop, and even Otto Hightower tells his daughter to release the blade. She does, but not before slicing Rhaenyra's arm. Princess Rhaenyra's blood has been spilled for the first time. I suspect it shan't be the last.
Everyone in the room stares at each other, unsure what to do.
"Don't mourn for me mother," Aemond says, breaking the silence. "It's a fair exchange. I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon."
Battlelines are being drawn
Otto Hightower agrees with Aemond. The Hand of the King goes to see his daughter in her chambers. She admits to acting unbecoming of her station. Hightower says it's a dirty game they play, and for the first time he sees Alicent has the determination to win it.
He advises her to go to the king, act penitent and he'll eventually forgive her. Hand of the Queen, more like it.
"I promise you, in time you and I will prevail," he says. "What that rogue Aemond has done in winning Vhegar to our side... the boy was right. It's worth 1,000 times the price he paid."
Meanwhile, Princess Rhaenyra, in the process of getting her arm stitched up, has a visitor of her own in Laenor Velaryon. Laenor had been who-knows-where during the chaos, and says regretfully that he "should have been there."
He beats himself up for being a bad brother, father and husband. His sister is dead, his "children" got in a crazy fight with their cousins, and now his wife is injured. I'd say his self-critique is valid.
Rhaenyra is conciliatory, though. "I had hoped to bare your children, the few times we lay together. Things might've been different," she says gently.
"I hate the gods for making me as they did," he says.
"I do not. You are an honorable man with a good heart. It's a rare thing."
Laenor says they made an agreement to do their duty to the realm so that they can get on having fun with whomever they want. He says that time is past: He now recommits himself to Princess Rhaenyra. Ser Qarl, his lover, is going to fight in the Stepstones soon, and after that Laenor is all hers.
"You deserve better than what I have been. You deserve a husband."
This isn't a bad omen at all.
Rhaenyra's second marriage
Everything in the episode has thus far taken place at Driftmark. But now the king, queen and their court are sailing back to King's Landing. While Viserys is sleeping, Queen Alicent stands on the ship's side and watches the ocean breeze by.
"A perversion of justice," Larys Strong says as he creeps up to the queen. "The young prince defiled. An outrage."
"If it's an eye you want to balance the scales, I am your servant," he says.
Alicent rebuffs him, but without any of the indignation we saw last week. She says his services aren't necessary -- for now. "The time will doubtless come when I require such a friend. With not only skill, but discretion as well."
At the very same time, Rhaenyra and Daemon stand on the Driftmark coast, watching the king's ship sail. Rhaenyra says she too needs a friend.
Well, more than a friend.
"I cannot face the greens alone," she says to uncle Daemon, a reference to the Hightowers. "Let us bind our blood, just as Aegon the Conqueror did with his sisters. With you as my husband and prince consort, my claim would not be so easily challenged."
Daemon objects that he can't marry Rhaenyra as long as Laenor is alive.
She looks at him blankly. "I know," she says.
Next we see Daemon in a black cloak, the same black cloak he killed his Lady Royce in. His killing cloak! Only he isn't killing this time; he's bribing. He finds Ser Qarl, about to depart to fight in the Stepstones, and offers him gold in exchange for the public death of Ser Laenor.
So, in a montage, Qarl storms into Driftmark castle and challenges Ser Laenor to a swordfight, as you do. A nervous servant runs to get Lord Corlys and the castle guards. When they arrive, Laenor, first son of Lord Corlys, is burning in the Driftmark fireplace.
Princess Rhaenys cries over the burnt body of her dead son.
"I love Laenor," we hear Rhaenyra say over the montage. "Then grant him this kindess," Daemon says, "set him free."
As the montage ends, we see the hastily organized wedding of Rhaenyra and Daemon. Only their four kids are in attendance, as well as a maester. It's official: Rhaenyra and Daemon are now husband and wife.
The last shot of the episode shows two hooded figures running toward a boat on a coastline. It's Driftmark's coastline. It's Ser Qarl. His accomplice takes off his cloak, revealing himself to be Laenor -- except with a freshly shaved head.
The major takeaway is that, finally, it's on. In fact, not only is it on, it's so on.
We always knew House of the Dragon would build to a Targaryen civil war. If House of the Dragon has been criticized for anything, it's taking its time in getting there. There's been lots of talking, but not much in the way of action thus far. But now the Targaryen Cold War has essentially turned hot. Rhaenyra's blood has been spilled, and Prince Aemond has lost an eye. The tensions that've been building have officially erupted.
Perhaps the most striking scene in the episode was the one between Larys Strong and Queen Alicent. Alicent reacted with horror at the end of episode 6 when she discovered Larys had organized Ser Harwin's and Lord Strong's death. Now, when Larys suggested having Lucerys' eye carved out, the queen didn't even wince. She's out for blood, and Rhaenyra knows it.
The big question is how much longer Viserys survives. Conventional storytelling would have his death coming in the finale, but now that it's on, it feels like we're just waiting for the king's death for the Dance of the Dragons to begin in earnest.