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Major spoilers for the fifth episode of House of the Dragon follow. If you haven’t seen the latest episode, please turn around!
Weddings never end well in Westeros. This week’s episode of House of the Dragon concentrates on the wedding of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) – but the story builds toward disaster from the start, and the big day concludes with violence, a fallen king, and new allegiances.
Review of House of Dragon episode 5
“We Light the Way” begins with a shocking death and Otto Hightower’s (Rhys Ifans) abrupt escape from the court. Still, the pace slows significantly for the politics around Laenor and Rhaenyra’s engagement. Rapidly, complications occur. Laenor is in a relationship with Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), but Rhaenyra is having an affair with her Kingsguard protector Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
Laenor and Rhaenyra reach a refreshing agreement: they will marry out of duty but keep their lovers a secret. Ser Criston worsens the situation by requesting that Rhaenyra forget about the crown and run away with him. While first conflicted, Rhaenyra ultimately exclaims, “I am the crown,” in a speech that breaks Criston’s heart. The strong-willed princess refuses to give up her birthright, no matter how much she complains about what it entails and thus puts in motion the episode’s terrible events.
King Viserys (Paddy Considine), Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), and the vivacious Rhaenys (Eve Best) must attend to less romantic things. Corlys desires that Laenor and Rhaenyra’s offspring bear the Velaryon surname, which, as Viserys points out, would end the Targaryen dynasty due to Rhaenyra’s gender. Corlys later tells Rhaenys about the injustice of the discrimination she endured in the past, demonstrating how deeply rooted gender politics are in the Westerosi realm. A few episodes have passed since the last appearance of the Queen Who Never Was. Still, her lively arrival delivers welcome, effervescent energy that adds life to an otherwise relatively routine negotiation.
When the wedding day arrives, dread permeates the entire event. The Red Wedding looms large, but what will go wrong this time? There are so many spinning plates that it is impossible to determine which will fall first. Corlys and Rhaenys watch Laenor and Joffrey, the sad Ser Criston Cole, the breathtakingly bold return of Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon, and even Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) walking with scorched-earth determination into Viserys’ speech.
A purposefully unclear and convoluted scenario heightens the drama when the storm finally subsides. It is unclear what is happening and who is in danger until it becomes apparent that Ser Criston is mercilessly murdering Joffrey. Joffrey made a catastrophic miscalculation when attempting to play the game of thrones: he revealed to Criston that the knight’s deepest, darkest, and most terrible secret is no longer a secret, hoping that mutually assured destruction would keaep him safe.
Fresh from murdering his wife in a particularly jaw-dropping sequence, Daemon still can’t be with his niece Rhaenyra (if that’s even what he wants, which remains tantalizingly ambiguous). At the same time, Joffrey and Laenor are separated by Westeros’ strict conventions. When everything comes to a head, it is brutal and violent. At the same time, the marriage ceremony itself is tear-stained and subdued, punctuated by Viserys’ deteriorating health to the point that he faints. It is an unfortunate way to conclude and another sign that a horrific civil war is rapidly approaching.
Similar to the chain of events up to the wedding massacre, the dominoes leading to war have already begun to fall. Alicent’s dramatic entry follows Criston’s confession of an affair with Rhaenyra, which occurs during a frustrating moment of miscommunication while Alicent is seeking information about the alleged liaison with Daemon.
Alicent reaches her breaking point, especially after her father Otto attributes his disgrace to Alicent’s preference for Rhaenyra over him and tells her that her children will never be secure with Rhaenyra on the throne. It’s reasonable that the discovery of Rhaenyra’s affair is enough to separate her and Alicent’s link for good. It may push the young queen to conclude the Daemon story is true after all – though Alicent’s heel turn should have been better established, given its significance.
Read more: House of Dragon Episode 4 Review
Nevertheless, Alicent’s entrance late to the wedding, ice-cold and clad in a bright green dress, is the show’s most dramatic and nerve-wracking scene to date. The fact that the Hightower’s beacon flashes green for war is sufficient evidence of the tectonic upheaval that has taken place in international affairs. Alicent’s call of her former best friend Rhaenyra “stepdaughter” is the final nail in the coffin.
Carey delivers her most outstanding performance to date, gliding effortlessly between heartbreak when her father leaves, despair when she hears of the tea by the Weirwood tree (the location of her most significant moments with Rhaenyra), and palpable pain and rage at the wedding. This is Carey’s final episode, and it serves as a proper farewell. The decision to recast the two leads (along with the Velaryon siblings) still seems weird, given that Carey and Alcock have made the characters their own. Unfortunately, Alcock has less to work with than Carey in their final appearance.
We have passed the halfway mark of the first season of House of the Dragon, and as we enter the last stretch of episodes, the battle lines have been formed. Rhaenys and Corlys are now married to Rhaenyra, and Rhaenyra’s Uncle Daemon is still magnetically attracted to her, despite romantic tensions with Laena Velaryon (Savannah Steyn). In this episode, Alicent and the Hightowers are on their side, Ser Criston has united with them, and Viserys remains on the fence, hesitant to confront the landmines around him despite worrying about his legacy. The stage is set for future conflicts, and the famous Targaryen dynasty is more vulnerable than ever.
TV SHOW: House of the Dragon Episode 5 (Season 1)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Run time: 59min