Glass Candle Dialogue: House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 7 – Driftmark

Driftmark, Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton), 1x07 (1)~3

This week Luka and I discuss the minimum waiting period one should observe before claiming a dragon, Laenor’s non-murder, and mediocre sand sex.

Petra: We’ve reached the episode with all the dialogue from the trailers.

Luka: The final episode we’ve got lots of footage of, too. They’re keeping the last three episodes close to their chest, it seems, for obvious reasons. Maybe even book readers will get a surprise or two, considering how this one ended.

Petra: Laenor’s survival was a pleasant twist. There’s some conversation online about whether it’s a meaningful improvement on the “Bury Your Guys” trope, since he’s still been written out of the show, but – staying in my lane – I’ll say I’m glad Laenor and Qarl get a happy ending together.

Luka: Who knows, he may come back. His dragon, Seasmoke, does have a role to play in the future, so the show will have to deal with that somehow. I’ll accept “it’s been so long Seasmoke that can be claimed again”—it’s not like we have lots of canonical dragon lore to contradict that,— but it’d be nice to see him again. Very much like you, I thought it was an improvement. I was apprehensive about how they could possibly adapt Laenor and Qarl’s fight satisfactorily. Killing the second of your two gay characters in the span of a few episodes is not a great look, even in a show that kills so many characters, but there would’ve been other issues with it as well: no ground had been laid for Qarl’s dissatisfaction in “The Princess and the Queen,” and we knew there’d be no time jump to “Driftmark” to justify that. Qarl’s reasons, as filmed, would be ridiculous or at least trite if it wasn’t a coverup, which is kind of appropriate, because that’s how I feel about it in Fire and Blood.

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Petra: The circumstances surrounding Laenor’s death in Fire and Blood are so ambiguous I never formed an opinion on it. Similar to book Harwin’s death, it could frame any number of characters in a negative light and overall, pushes this idea that no one in the story can be trusted or, by extension, liked. So, the writers clearly made the decision to keep Rhaenyra and Daemon relatively likable by faking Laenor’s death, even if they did still have to kill a guy to achieve it.

Luka: Weirdly, I feel like the show’s doing its job if we care about the deaths of established characters, even if they’ve done terrible things, but don’t care about that random page who, for all we know, never hurt a fly. Considering where this story eventually leads, I’m sure Rhaenyra’s discounting of the smallfolk will be explored further down the line. So, as you say, the show’s keeping them relatively likable. It was a smart choice. Even in Fire and Blood, if it was a conspiracy, the only culprit that’s put forward is Daemon, acting alone. So I think we were all a bit shocked at first when it seemed Rhaenyra may kill her husband, especially after that nice private chat they had. I loved how they framed it; Daemon’s conversation with Qarl and Rhaenyra and Daemon’s voiceover make their actual plan quite clear on a second watch. The episode is misdirecting us, but it never cheats.

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Petra: A masterclass in editing and misdirection. I do wish we could have had more of Laenor, since his internal conflict is interesting, but, as with so many characters in this fast-paced season, we’ll have to be satisfied with what we got.

Luka: Generally speaking—there are exceptions—my impression is book readers have been much more lenient with these time jumps because, well, we know these apparently important characters are not really that important after all, except in the sense that their deaths trigger crucial events. Laenor, Harwin, and Laena all had to die for so many things going forward to make sense. Their deaths were, as sad as that sounds, more important to this story than their lives. If we take that into consideration, I think the show did a good job with Laenor (and, as we’ve already discussed, I’d argue a good enough job with Harwin and a slightly lacking one with Laena.) I suppose this could’ve been the season finale, giving us three episodes set during the ten year time jump between “We Light the Way” and “The Princess and the Queen” instead, but I can’t stress enough how little happens in those ten years—I still wish we’d seen Daemon and Laena getting together, but that’s about it. All in all, I’m happy with the pace of it, and consequently with how much we got of Laenor, in large part because I know what’s coming in these last three episodes.

Petra: They’ve done a really good job at fleshing characters out in a few concise scenes. This certainly applies to those who have been killed off, but also to the children who are going to be aged up next episode. Aemond, in particular, had a solid arc from “The Princess and the Queen” to “Driftmark” in which he grew from a bully victim to a bully himself. I’m assuming when we next see him, played by Ewan Mitchell, he’ll be a calcified son of a bitch (take that as literally as you want), but we got a good sense of why he turned out that way.

Luka: We really did. I thought it was a nice touch that he used the pig-riding insult he felt so offended by last episode to bully Rhaena, who didn’t have anything to do with that incident. Bullying can create bullies. I’m sure that’s especially true if you give the bullied kid a 747 with teeth and a flame thrower.

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Petra: At the same time, I will stand by Aemond and say that he didn’t steal Vhagar. He claimed her. It was poor taste to claim a dead woman’s dragon right after her funeral, and I get Rhaena’s argument that she was hers to claim, but Vhagar chose to accept Aemond as her new rider.

Luka: Exactly: “A dragon is not a slave.” It’s not property that passes to its rider’s heirs. Aemond chose Vhagar, and—only the gods know why—Vhagar chose Aemond. Maybe the memes I’ve been reading are correct and she’s senile at this point. She thinks Aemond’s Visenya! Poor granny. No, but seriously: they chose each other. Aemond claimed Vhagar legitimately, even if it would have been good form to let Rhaena try first. Now, threatening to murder little Luke as he calls him a bastard is more than “poor taste.” Though, admittedly, it was Baela and Rhaena who started the fight, and Jace who escalated it from punches and rocks to blades. It’s a complicated situation. Such a well-executed scene, especially considering it’s a shouting match and then a fist fight involving child actors—that could’ve felt so fake, but it felt raw, real. I loved the inclusion of Laena’s kids too, as they weren’t present in the source material; I think they’d have been a bit too young at that point. But it felt entirely appropriate. More than that, actually: it was better.

Petra: Baela and Rhaena get side-lined a lot in Fire and Blood, so I appreciate their inclusion. That fight got dirty real fast, but it’s a fight between children, and children can be mean little fucks. This will change when they grow up, of course, but in the meantime the the question of who threw the first punch and who escalated the violence feels immaterial to me. I’m not interested in “who started it.”

Luka: We skipped over the actual dragon-claiming. I enjoyed how it had all the tension and magic that was lacking when Jon first rode Rhaegal in Winterfell. Mind you, it was cool too, but it didn’t feel as momentous, you know? This felt special.

Petra: I adored it, and, frankly, I don’t think it would have had as much impact if we’d seen Laena claim Vhagar. I knew Aemond was going to survive the encounter but, suspending my disbelief as a viewer, I felt the suspense of this adolescent approaching a cranky, grieving behemoth. It was, honestly, always a thorn in my side that neither Daenerys, Jon or the Night King ever used saddles yet never fell off—boy, is it satisfying to actually see a dragonrider experience gravity. Also, the fact that Aemond’s dialect of Valyrian pronounces “Dohaeris” differently than the Braavosi dialect Arya learned intrigues me.

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Luka: Makes sense. High Valyrian versus Northern Low Valyrian. Apparently the differences are all figured out, for anyone who cares to learn the language. But yes, you can tell, even just from ear, that it isn’t quite the same language as the little we heard from the Faceless Men, or the variant we heard much more of in The Bay of Dragons née Slaver’s Bay. Speaking of dragons: yes, Aemond flying Vhagar was so satisfying to watch. And I didn’t think “The Princess and the Queen” gave us a good enough perspective shot of just how absolutely gigantic Vhagar is; here we clearly see how miniscule Aemond is next to her. It was perfect. What did you think of the other “dragon riding” scene? Wink wink, nudge, nudge.

Petra: Honestly, it was meh. I think Matt Smith and Emma D’Arcy have good chemistry but the sex scene itself was, ironically, mediocre compared to Rhaenyra’s scene with Criston. Even Rhaenyra didn’t look that impressed. 

Rhaenyra Daemon Sex Scene 1x07 (1)

Luka: It felt cold to me as well. Their Valyrian wedding ceremony felt much more personal and sensual than the sex scene, which might have been the point, I don’t know. It wasn’t passionate sex, certainly. I’m not sure about how intentional that was or a failure of Sapochnik’s directing compared to Clare Kilner’s in “The King of the Narrow Sea.” But hey, now they’re married, and we’re moving forward several years, so there’s no looking back (though I hope we get a more steamy sex scene with them at some point, to be honest; I would think these two would be a bit kinky at least!) Anything you’re looking forward to in the eighth episode?

Petra: In a perverse way, I’m looking forward to see just how decrepit Viserys can get before the Stranger comes for him (that’s not a spoiler because Valar Morghulis). I’m also excited to see the kids in their final forms. I think, for me, the most compelling aspect of the show so far is how the conflict between Rhaenyra and Alicent is being passed on to the next generation, how these kids are being shaped by their parent’s bad decisions. Once they’re all grown up we’re going to really see the consequences of old choices.

Luka: We first saw the adults in Alicent and Rhaenyra’s lives passing all their shit down to them, and now they’re doing it to their children. We didn’t talk about Alicent much, but her descent is one of the things I’m enjoying the most, and it’ll be fun to see how it’s been passed down even further after a few years. There’s a shot in the promo for next episode with the Hightower side of the family together—and I’ll tell you what, it looks like a fucked up family. They’ll be a mess—but a fun mess!

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11 Comments

  1. Mr Derp,

    It stood out to me too. One would think after having sex and in the moment she’s making her marriage proposal she would choose not to call him uncle, but hey, Targaryens are gonna Targaryen.

  2. I don’t know if the love scene between Daemon and Rhaenyra was intentionally bleak but I seriously hope this was not a result of this whole “distancing from GoT’s depiction of sex”. I already feel they’re making much bigger deal regarding GoT’s sex scenes “controversy” these days than it actually was at the time GoT aired. I don’t think it was half as controversial then as they’re trying to make it sound now.

    I’ll be honest that I worry HotD is trying to be “too clean” and I don’t mean only sex scenes with that, but also the overall tone and brutality. All those articles how they’re trying to tone down this and that… this is hell of a dark story they’re adapting, darker than GoT in my opinion but I feel they’re afraid to get in some “dark” waters. The whole thing is starting to remind me of comic code authority from the 50s to 70s…

  3. I can’t remember who, but a video I was watching said something about Alicent’s kids upgrading to even more punchable faces, and I laughed.

    Legolas…er…Aemond, looks amazing, but 30 years old, and Aegon is just completely different but still looks 18.

    Criston Cole looks the damn same to me, I wonder if he has a painting somewhere in Flea Bottom.

  4. I found Aemond’s claiming of Vaghar rather more an indictment that he, at least, thinks of a dragon as a slave. She was grieving Laena’s loss, had been forced to participate in Suicide by Dracarys and she wasn’t even given a few days of respite before some bratty kid was climbing up on top of her, asserting his dominion. The only free-will that I see she had was the choice to kill a child or not.

    I’m unsullied, but not stringently so or I wouldn’t be reading this, but I really hope Aemond is seriously villainous going forward so I can continue to loathe him!

  5. LadyGoodman,

    While I agree that what Aemond did was definitely a dick movie I disagree about Vhagar. She could’ve also chosen to fly away immediately and leave him behind to go to sleep somewhere else, or roar at him menacingly enough that he understands the message and runs away.
    But she choose not to do that.

  6. In my opinion, Rhaena had time to claim Vhagar if she wanted to. They didn’t teleport from Pentos to Driftmark; packing, travelling, and planning a funeral takes time. It is weird to me that viewers are hung up about Aemond claiming Vhagar right after the funeral, but are perfectly fine with Rhaena’s father sleeping with another woman right after that same funeral. I feel like the second one is more of a dick move to Laena’s memory, especially since just the episode before she told Rhaena that if she wants to be a dragon rider, she should claim that right.

    As for the sex scene, with the actors emphasizing that Daemon groomed Rhaenyra and that the two of them being together is something destructive, I am starting to think the scene might have been shot that way on purpose. The marriage is certainly not a great political move on her behalf, and they both have fiery temperaments and destructive tendencies that will only grow.

    The dragon claiming scene was great. Saddles, commands in Valyrian (the attention to detail as far as the language is concerned is so cool), Vhagar’s wing touching the water and flying wonky because Aemond is still trying to get the hang of it. Really well done.

  7. Erik, formerly Lord Parramandas:
    I don’t know if the love scene between Daemon and Rhaenyra was intentionally bleak but I seriously hope this was not a result of this whole “distancing from GoT’s depiction of sex”. I already feel they’re making much bigger deal regarding GoT’s sex scenes “controversy” these days than it actually was at the time GoT aired. I don’t think it was half as controversial then as they’re trying to make it sound now.

    I’ll be honest that I worry HotD is trying to be “too clean” and I don’t mean only sex scenes with that, but also the overall tone and brutality. All those articles how they’re trying to tone down this and that… this is hell of a dark story they’re adapting, darker than GoT in my opinion but I feel they’re afraid to get in some “dark” waters. The whole thing is starting to remind me of comic code authority from the 50s to 70s…

    Aemma’s c section, people getting their face’s caved in a tournament, crab feeder’s quartered torso with a nice bit if hanging intestine, corlys slicing off a chunk of skull in the skirmish, there’s more gore in this first season than in GOT season one.

  8. Flayed Potatoes,

    Love this comment too!!! I think I can agree with both you and Lady Goodman, and I look forward to seeing how Aemond’s and Vhagar’s relationship develops.

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