Listen, as far as Westerosi family dinners go- this was far from the worst. I’ve had meals back home in Worcester that were more unpleasant and aggressive. I’m just saying.
Spoiler Note: This recap and the comments section may contain mild spoilers from George R.R. Martin’s novels and Westeros histories, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. If you have not read the books and wish to remain completely Unsullied, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap by Oz of Thrones!
What’s an episode kickoff for House of the Dragon, without a loud hint about how much time has passed? Six years. It’s been six years since we last saw the characters, per the expositional opening dialogue about Corlys Velaryon and his grievous injury earned fighting the Triarchy. (We all know they aren’t going to kill supreme bad motherfucker Corlys offscreen without a big scene so this little moment lacks some tension.) Vaemond is talking too much shit about the Driftwood throne, implying he might have a right to it, with his brother possibly dying. He challenges the right for Lucerys Velaryon to inherit.
Daemon goes on a successful egg-snatching mission, snagging three eggs from Syrax. He receives a letter from Baela informing him of Vaemond’s inheritance shit-stirring. Rhaenyra is revealed to be pregnant while she receives an update on the latest gossip and we get another expositional info dump. TLDR; the greens are running the joint now.
Rhaenyra and Daemon return to King’s Landing and discover Alicent has been renovating with ugly religious decor. Targaryen banners, out; Seven-Pointed Stars, in. Rhaenyra is reunited with her father the king and finds the years haven’t been kind; the rot has gotten to his head, and ravaged him. Rhaenyra is emotional but Daemon has his mind on the game, pushing their claim for Lucerys who should remain the heir to the title of Lord of the Tides. Rhaenyra introduces to her father her new babies – Viserys and Aegon (yeah, another one).
Alicent meets with an emotional young serving girl, giving her moon tea and a payoff to cover up that the girl has been victimized by Prince Aegon. Afterward, the queen confronts her son in his bed, furious. He’s a hot mess and apparently already a huge disappointment.
Rhaenyra and Alicent finally meet up- the queen snubbed the princess on her arrival. Viserys is heavily drugged up, and Daemon doesn’t approve of all the decor changes. Things are tense.
In the courtyard, fighters spar-the Cargyll twins and Prince Aemond against Ser Criston Cole. Jace and Luke look on, until their uncle notices them. Vaemond Velaryon arrives, will full fanfare.
Meeting Otto and Alicent, Vaemond plots and Otto presses the question, “Do they want a child as leader of Westeros’ largest fleet?” With Alicent reigning as regent in her husband’s convalescence, it looks like a done deal- she should be able to hand the title over Vaemond.
In the godswood, Rhaenys’ path crosses with Rhaenyra, accompanied by Rhaena. (Yes, those are three different people.) Rhaenyra questions Rhaenys’ motives for appearing there; knowing she must still be upset about Laenor’s death. Seeking to win her over, Rhaenyra makes an offer- two marriages to bind them together, her two sons to Rhaenys’ granddaughters. Rhaenys is not impressed.
Rhaenyra visits with with Viserys and she muses on Aegon’s dream. After all that has transpired, the princess is questioning her destiny.
Having been drugged to the point where he could do nothing, despite being in terrible pain, Viserys declines the medicine that night.
Otto Hightower takes the throne to hear the petition for the Lord of the Tides. A confident Vaemond makes a nice speech, and scorns Rhaenyra’s claim. Rhaenyra’s response is interrupted by the dramatic arrival of King Viserys. He’s a broken tragic specter, determined to walk on his own two feet to the throne, but he manages to get almost there. The last few feet, he stumbles. With the help of his brother Daemon, the king takes the throne. Curveball! He will hear only from Rhaenys, Corlys’s wife.
The power in her hands, Rhaenys makes a choice: she announces Corlys chose Lucerys as his heir, and she announces the engagements proposed by Rhaenyra.
Seeing his chance at the title slipping away, Vaemond completely loses it, giving Daemon an excuse to cut half his damn head off. Viserys gets faint. Drama over.
Later Rhaenys visits the body of her brother in law. Contemplating his corpse, it seems she recognizes what she has sacrificed for her and her family’s future.
It’s time for the Targaryen Family Fun Times, and oh my gods, candles! So many candles! How do they not light their hair on fire?
Despite his collapse, Viserys joins dinner. Aegon is immediately gross, so I think this is his baseline. The king makes a heartfelt, impassioned call to his family to unite. Moved, Rhaenyra extends an olive branch of a toast to Alicent and the queen returns the gesture of kindess. Otto hates all of it, and Aemond looks sketchy just sitting there.
Aegon sets to taunting his nephew Jace over his new fiancee and the tension grows. It’s apparent Aemond is looking for a fight. Helaena makes a rather sad toast of her own (and a muttered prophecy, but no one ever listens…) Viserys suffers in agony without medicine but watches the young people dance, and it’s sweet.
As pig is served (the Pink Dread lives!), Aemond serves up a final toast, for the strong boys of Rhaenyra, leading to a scuffle. They’re separated before it gets bloody.
Alicent and Rhaenyra maintain their tentative peace, with Rhaenyra resolved to bring her boys home to Dragonstone.
Mysaria is revealed to be still around and still beautiful in white. The queen’s servant spied earlier (bringing the moon tea to the unfortunate victim of Aegon) reports to Mysaria.
In bed the king cries in pain, and the queen tends to him. Alicent gives him his poppy medicine. Delirious, dreaming, and thinking she’s Rhaenyra, he rambles about the prophecy, and tells her, “you are the one who must do this.” She slips away, believing she understands him.
King Viserys, his tortured life and pain finally ending, dies alone.
Swiftly Fly the Years: These kids grow up so fast, don’t they? I thought the rapid pace aging might bug me this week, but actually it didn’t faze me at all. There is some adjustment to be made for different acting here and there, which is a slightly separate issue. (Adult Aegon is less goofy and more menacing than teen wanker Aegon, for example.) But the time jump this week didn’t feel as jarring as the previous ones- maybe I’m just getting used to it?
That said… Ewan Mitchell (Aemond) filled me with dread every scene he was in. I absolutely believe this guy is going to murder someone any time he’s onscreen. Kudos!
The Worm Returns: Was wondering what Mysaria was up to after all these years and disappointed her appearance was so brief this week. Sonoya Mizuno feels woefully underused so far in season 1.
“Beware the beast beneath the boards:” Know what goes well with your dinner cheese? Not blood. Watch out for rats beneath the floor, Helaena.
He’s here, the Phantom of the Operaaaa: They didn’t hold back on the makeup and effects for Viserys, did they, oooooof. That was some Richard Harrow-level face work happening there. Impressive and and horrifying and heartrending, yet Paddy Considine’s performance still came through beautifully.
Get Bill Shakespeare on the Stage! The dialogue felt very Shakespearean in this episode in a great way. It was most noticeable to me in the opening scene with Vaemond and Rhaenys and and then in the scene with Rhaenys and Rhaenyra, with the princess using double-speak to cover the truth of Laenor. It’s one of the striking differences between GoT and HotD- GoT was much less formal in language and it did take some getting used to when HotD began. But you could also say, hey, this is a couple hundred years earlier in-world and maybe their language used to be more formal and got more casual over time! Ending with the king’s moving death and a classic misunderstanding also gives me some serious Shakespearean vibes.
No, Not You: If Alicent starts believing she has a destiny and has to save all people, she’s going to become an absolute nightmare. Okay, the seven-pointed stars everywhere already point to her thinking that, so…yeah, they’re all screwed.
King Viserys (Paddy Considine): After an incredibly long battle with Westerleprosy, the beleaguered king finally succumbed in poppy-addled delirium. All the Emmys for Paddy, honestly.
Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson): Quit while you’re ahead, Vaemond. More importantly, quit while you still have one.