HOUSE OF THE DRAGON 1×07 “DRIFTMARK” is an improvement over the previous episode and gives me hope that we’re going to be getting over the massive time skips that leave absolutely no consequences to events like Criston Cole’s murder of a guest during a royal wedding as well as sparing a knight from suicide. This takes place a reasomable amount of time after the previous episode and is mostly spent dealing with the emotional fallout that has been so far badly lacking from the series.
The premise of this episode is that the various factions of Westeros’ royal court have gathered together for Laena Targaryen’s funeral. It is happening at Driftmark and all the simmering tensions are coming to a head. There’s Daemon’s branch of the family, Rhaenyra’s spawn, Alicent’s scummy little sprogs, King Viserys trying to be peacemaker in a family that hates each other, and the Velaryons. It’s really a royal **** show and that just makes it all the better.
Oddly, the MVP of the episode for me is Corlys Velaryon because of his relationship with the obviously not-his-blood grandchildren. I come from a family that included adoption and married an adopted woman, so I am strongly supportive families that don’t involve blood kin. Corlys clearly views them as his grandsons and heirs and I like how Rhaenys, his wife, is flat out confused about how her ambitious husband doesn’t see this as a problem. It actually implies to me that Laenor may have gotten this attitude from his father.
Speaking of Rhaenys, it’s interesting to see someone who is just tired of all the court infighting and scheming as well as someone who has given up on the idea of making a name for herself. She was someone who could have been a contender but given the decades long time jump, has been worn down by it all and now just wants to retire. It’s an image of what could have happened to Rhaenyra if she’d chosen to cast aside her ambitions.
Alicent Hightower continues to be portrayed by Olivia Cooke as a vindictive spiteful woman with a possible personality disorder. I buy the dramatic change given the ten year time skip and we even have it textually spelled out she’s jealous as well as hate-filled due to the fact Rhaenyra has been able to largely live outside the confines of a woman’s expected place in Westeros’ patriarchal society. Still, people have expressed how much they missed the more sympathetic Alienct from the first five episodes.
Emma D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra is a character I think has been well-served by the time skip as she’s actually come to the realization she needs to look after her future after thirty odd years of doing what she wanted. For her children’s sake if not for herself. Unfortunately, the die has already been cast and Alicent wants her dead as well as her children. The kind of accusations thrown at them are not something that can easily be cast aside and her husband, Laenor, is a liability since he’s been sort of a load for the entirety of their marriage.
Rhaenyra may overestimate Daemon Targaryen, though, since she sees him as the kind of badass warrior prince she needs to kill everyone who stands in the way of her to the throne. Daemon is more or less ignoring his daughters and struggling with his desire for Rhaenyra that he thinks he “saved” by not seducing a decade earlier. Rhaenyra says that wasn’t his choice to make and certainly didn’t help their situation in any way. Given this is an uncle-niece relationship, I go “ahhh”, but Targaryens gonna Targaryen.
My biggest disappointment in the episode, really, is Laenor because my fears about his use in the show was realized. I was never overly concerned about the “Bury the Gays” trope (which I probably should be as a Cis Het man) but the fact that he was just going to show up, stand in the background, and eventually get shoved off stage to get to Daemon/Rhaenyra. Which is pretty much what happens and I feel like is a massive-massive waste of his character.
The children have a big role in the story, particularly Prince Aemond, who is actually the most important Green during the dance aside from Alicent herself. He claims the largest of the dragons in Westeros and goes immediately from being an unimportant second son to one who could become king himself if he desired it. That fits into the larger theme of second sons having no power other what they seize for himself and he’s changed the game so the Greens are no longer merely annoying but actually dangerous. We also see a likable bullied boy go from zero to monster in a few scenes too.
In conclusion, this was a better episode than the previous one with lots of emotional beats I enjoyed. I hope it will continue to follow up the events of episodes without any more enormous time skips. I still had some issues with how they sort of casually write out characters that should have full arcs but there’s no use complaining about spilled milk too. Indeed, my biggest complaint is they tried to fake out the audience with what our characters decide to do when they could have shown them discussing it–which I feel would have been interesting on its own. My second biggest complaint is that the episode is dark, literally so, and I could barely see what happened half the time.