In the House of the Dragon recap, the Targaryen family reunites to mourn the loss of a loved one but old tensions soon rise up and blood is shed…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If you haven’t noticed already, there are a lot of chess pieces that continue to shuffle around the board where House of the Dragon and the battle for power is concerned.
It’s been well documented from the moment that Rhaenyra Targaryen was named heir to the Iron Throne by her father King Viserys that she would eventually be challenged. Once King Viserys married Alicent Hightower and started producing sons, the fight became even more intense, especially given the ongoing internal battles within the family.
The latest episode of House of the Dragon draws the battle lines much clearer than before in the wake of Laena Velaryon’s death, which leads the families to reunite at Driftmark to pay their respects.
What should be a period of mourning for the loss of Lord Corlys Velaryon’s only daughter turns into a fight between Rhaenyra’s children and those belonging to Alicent Hightower. The boys were once raised together, trained under the same knights and brought up as family but whatever ties they previously shared have been severed forever by the time they come together for the funeral.
Along the way, somebody loses an eye, the largest and oldest dragon in the Seven Kingdoms gains a new rider and a wedding finally unites two of the most powerful people in all of Westeros.
There’s a lot to dig into from this episode so let’s recap the latest House of the Dragon titled Driftmark…
Following the tragic death of Laena Velaryon, her body is brought back to Driftmark where she’s laid to rest in the sea as accustomed by her family. Her father Lord Corlys Velaryon and her mother, Rhaenys Targaryen are present along with her brother Laenor Velaryon and his wife, future queen Rhaenyra Targaryen as well as their children — Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey.
King Viserys I Targaryen and his wife Alicent Hightower along with their children — Aegon II, Aemond and Helaena have also made the trip for the occasion.
Of course, Laena’s husband Daemon Targaryen is also present along with his twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena.
It’s the first time the various members of the Targaryen family have been together in quite a few years, especially now that almost all of them are estranged due to one offense or another. Last week saw Rhaenyra abandon her post in King’s Landing to instead move to her ancestral home at Dragonstone where she was already the ruler as the next Targaryen in line to sit on the Iron Throne.
Sadly, Rhaenyra also received tragic news after learning that Ser Harwin Strong — the champion knight who sired her three children — had died in a fire alongside his father at the cursed castle Harrenhal. There was nothing supernatural at work, however, because Lyonel Strong and his eldest son were murdered at the behest of Larys Strong, who carried out the horrific act as a way to draw nearer to Queen Alicent while also making himself the Lord of Harrenhal along the way.
As Laena is laid to rest, Daemon is heard snickering while the rest of the party gathered at least try to appear mournful for her death.
Meanwhile, Princess Rhaenyra was still almost on an island all her own now that Ser Harwin was gone and her husband Laenor was barely present as he struggled with the death of his sister. Rhaenyra did manage to send her eldest son Jacaerys to comfort Laena’s twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena as they dealt with the loss of their mother.
As for Lord Coryls, he takes time to see his grandson Lucerys, who he declares as the future Lord of Driftmark, yet it’s an honor the little prince doesn’t care to hear. As Laenor’s second eldest son beyond Jacaerys — who is supposed to succeed his mother Rhaenyra one day — it’s Lucerys who would eventually inherit Driftmark as his own kingdom.
Sadly, the little boy realizes that for him to become a lord, everyone he loves will have died.
As for Aegon II — the eldest child of King Viserys and Queen Alicent — he’s more concerned with drinking as much wine as can be afforded while scoffing at the idea that he will one day be forced to marry his own sister. Yes, Aegon II has been betrothed to his younger sister Helaena, who seems much more interested in talking to spiders than considering her brother as her future husband.
Aegon II ends up getting so drunk that he passes out and his grandfather Otto Hightower, who has now been sworn in as Hand of the King for a second time, is forced to retrieve him. Otto has been adamant that his grandson Aegon will eventually ascend to sit on the Iron Throne but he doesn’t anything that looks like a future king in the boy too drunk to stand.
With Daemon present, King Viserys decides now is the time to make peace with his brother after having him banished from King’s Landing after hearing that he may have taken Rhaenyra’s maidenhood — or at least contemplated the idea. Now years later with King Viserys in failing health, he wants his family near so he invites Daemon to return home with him but Daemon insists that Pentos is now his home before walking away.
As for Laenor, he’s completely distraught with the loss of his sister and his father Lord Corlys is none too happy with his son’s emotional state, which has left him withdrawn from the rest of the family. Lord Corlys has always known that his son was gay but he somehow believed that marrying Princess Rhaenyra would allow him to settle down into a family life as a father and husband.
Instead, Laenor has continued to pull further and further away without much interest in his wife outside of the duties he’s required to carry out. Still, Lord Corlys sees Laenor’s “children” as the future of House Velaryon whether they are actually his blood or not.
It’s a fact that hasn’t escaped Rhaenys, who points out to her husband that everyone knows Rhaenyra’s children don’t actually belong to Laenor yet Lord Corlys refuses to acknowledge it. In fact, Rhaenys believes that Lord Corlys should name his granddaughter Baela as the future Lord of Driftmark as a way to honor his daughter.
But Lord Corlys is nothing if not bound by duty and he reminds his wife that whether Laenor and Rhaenyra’s children were actually born with Velaryon blood, they are still his kin and thus the rightful heirs to his kingdom.
“History does not remember blood. It remembers names.”
~ Lord Corlys Velaryon
Finally, Rhaenyra reunites with her uncle Daemon as they share a walk along the shoreline in Driftmark as they discuss their lives since last speaking.
Daemon knows all about the rumors surrounding Rhaenyra’s children and their relation to Ser Harwin Strong, who perished in the fire at Harrenhal. Sadly because Ser Harwin was supposed to be nothing more than a family friend and the Lord Commander of the City Watch, Rhaenyra was not allowed to properly mourn his death and Daemon allows her that moment of peace.
As for Daemon’s relationship, he admits that he’s been happy with Laena, although it’s difficult to say they were ever truly in love. They did manage to produce two lovely daughters, who Daemon seems to adore very much.
The problem now stems from Rhaenyra’s marriage where Laenor has largely been absent while out with random knights and/or squires who want to bed down with a future king consort. While Rhaenyra has been forced to fight back against allegations and rumors, Laenor really hasn’t faced nearly as much because he’s barely there.
Now that Laenor is dealing with the loss of his sister, who also happened to be his best friend, Rhaenyra knows he’ll essentially be useless to her in the years to come.
That said, Rhaenyra’s attraction to her uncle Daemon has never disappeared — they came so close that one night that she’s never forgotten how much she wanted him. Daemon has never forgotten that either, going as far as asking his brother King Viserys for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage only to be banished from his kingdom instead.
So now that Daemon is a widower and by all accounts Rhaenyra is living in broken marriage, they finally give into their more carnal instincts and have sex on the beach. They finally unleash the years of pent up lust they’ve felt for each other in an act of vengeance to the hand both have been dealt in recent weeks.
An Eye for an Eye
Desperate to bond with a dragon of his own, Aemond Targaryen — King Viserys and Queen Alicent’s second eldest child — goes searching on the beaches at Driftmark after hearing roars throughout Laena’s funeral earlier in the day. Laena was the rider to Vhagar — the oldest and largest dragon still thriving in Westeros.
Vhagar once belonged to Visenya Targaryen — one of the sister wives of Aegon the Conquerer, who claimed the Seven Kingdoms as his own on the back of his dragon, Balerion the Dread. After Visenya’s passing, Vhagar was eventually claimed by Prince Baelon Targaryen, who was father to both Viserys and Daemon Targaryen. Upon his death, Laena Velaryon became Vhagar’s rider but now that she’s dead, the dragon is once again unclaimed.
Aemond finds Vhagar lying on a beach at Driftmark, still mourning the loss of its rider after the great dragon breathed fire to put Lady Laena out of her misery as she suffered after giving birth to a stillborn child. The boy approaches the dragon and Vhagar nearly unleashes fire but eventually allows him to climb on her back before taking to the sky.
Aemond hangs on for dear life as the dragon flies overhead at Driftmark, which catches the attention of both Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, who were in their bedrooms when they heard the great beast take flight. After flying in circles around Driftmark, Aemond returns to the ground, now fully bonded with Vhagar as his dragon.
As Aemond walks back into the castle, he’s more emboldened now than ever before because he’s finally claimed a dragon as his own.
He’s met with discourse from Baela and Rhaena, who have now been joined by their cousins Jacaerys and Lucerys, with both sisters angry that he stole Vhagar away from them. Aemond now feeling stronger after claiming a dragon scoffs at their remarks and basically says they should have bonded with Vhagar if they wanted her so badly.
Remember last week, Rhaena was rather sad because her dragon egg never hatched so she had not yet bonded with a dragon of her own like her twin sister Baela. It seems likely Rhaena was meant to bond with her mother’s dragon but now that chance was gone because Vhagar had been claimed by Aemond instead.
The bickering eventually leads to a fight after Aemond tosses Rhaena to the ground, which gets him punched by Baela. Aemond as the older and larger boy, overpowers his younger cousins including Jacaerys and Lucerys, who join the fight against him.
Aemond also launches insults at Jacaerys and Lucerys by calling them both the bastard sons of Harwin Strong, which only exacerbates the fighting that much more.
The four children do finally get Aemond on the ground but he eventually kicks them free before punching Lucerys and breaking his nose. Jacaerys then pulls a dagger but he’s still not able to get the better of Aemond, who once again knocks him to the ground.
Just when it appeared that Aemond was about to smash a rock down onto his cousin Lucerys’ head, Jacaerys manages to toss dirt in his eyes to distract him. A second later, Lucerys picks up the dagger and slices it across Aemond’s face, gouging out his eye and leaving him crying and bleeding on the ground as the Kingsguard finally arrive to restore order.
Back in the great hall at Driftmark, the maester finishes stitching up Aemond’s face before telling Queen Alicent that her son will heal but his eye is gone. Before long, Rhaenyra arrives to check on her sons, especially Lucerys who had his nose broken in the fight. As she talks with her boys, Jacaerys confesses to his mother that during the fight Aemond called them bastards.
As King Viserys questions his son about what led to the fight that cost him an eye, Rhaenyra speaks up to defend her sons while revealing the vile insult that escalated the situation. She tells her father that Aemond called her sons bastards, which doesn’t sit too well with the King.
King Viserys demands Aemond tell him where he heard such a vile accusation and while he first looks towards his mother, he eventually relents and says that his brother Aegon was responsible for telling him Rhaenyra’s children were bastards.
Confronted by his father, Aegon II tells King Viserys that everybody knows Rhaenyra’s children do not belong to Laenor Velaryon whether they want to admit to it or not.
King Viserys finally commands the infighting to stop while reminding them all that they are family. He also demands that anyone else who accuses his daughter of siring bastard children will have their tongue removed.
He puts an end to the conversation as he prepares to leave but Queen Alicent refuses to allow it. She tells her husband that his ruling is insufficient — Aemond lost an eye and she wants revenge.
Queen Alicent turns and demands an eye for an eye — and she commands Ser Criston Cole to bring her one of Lucerys Velaryon’s eyes as punishment. She’ll even let the boy pick which one he loses, a choice her son was not given.
Rather than strike as he’s commanded, Criston tells the Queen that he’s her sworn protector — not her hired assassin. King Viserys then tells his wife that this whole ordeal is over but once again she will not let it go.
So Alicent grabs the Valyrian steel dagger from her husband’s robe and charges at Lucerys, which then forces Ser Criston to spring into action but he’s soon blocked by Daemon Targaryen. Before Alicent can strike, Rhaenyra steps up to defend her son by grabbing the queen’s arm and telling her that she’s finally letting everybody see exactly who she’s always been inside.
“Exhausting wasn’t it? Hiding beneath the cloak of your own righteousness. But now they see you as you are.”
~ Rhaenyra Targaryen
With that, Queen Alicent ends up slicing into Rhaenyra’s arm before dropping the blade to the ground. Order is restored as Rhaenyra clutches her bleeding arm while Queen Alicent turns to her son Aemond, who tells his mother not to mourn him — he believes this was all a fair exchange.
Aemond lost an eye but he gained a dragon.
He will also soon earn a new moniker — Aemond One-Eye.
After tempers cool down, Otto Hightower goes to visit his daughter in her chambers where Alicent is already beginning to hear the rumors about the queen going mad. She expects her father to scold her for such a wild reaction that went against the King’s orders but Otto reacts much differently than she anticipated.
You see, Otto has already planted the seed that his grandson Aegon II will eventually succeed his father King Viserys to sit on the Iron Throne but he wasn’t sure until just now that his daughter had the fortitude to battle for what he believes her son deserves by right. Rather than tell her she’s done wrong, Otto essentially tells Alicent that he’s proud of her for standing up for her son.
He instructs her to make nice with the King as they prepare to return home again because she needs to keep him close. As King Viserys continues to watch his health fade away, it won’t be long until the crown falls to his heir but Otto wants to ensure that Alicent stays near to him as he continues to orchestrate a move that will put Aegon II on the Iron Throne instead of Rhaenyra.
A Wedding of Fire and Blood
The next morning, Laenor finally returns from his night out with Qarl — the knight that he beds now that Joffrey Lonmouth is gone — and he attempts to console his wife and children. During all the fighting, Queen Alicent questioned Laenor’s absence while mocking him by saying he’s probably out with his squires — again, the worst kept secret in all of Westeros.
Laenor finally confesses to his wife that their arrangement — staying true to the duties they must carry out as accustomed to their titles yet enjoying their true comforts away from each other’s beds — was always going to be unsustainable. For the past few years, Rhaenyra has continuously taken on the bigger burden while Laenor was allowed to galivant with as many men as he wanted while flouting the responsibilities of his title.
Now seeing that his sons have been harmed and his wife injured, Laenor realizes that he needs to finally take his job much more seriously. He tells Rhaenyra that he’s sending Qarl back to fight in the Stepstones while he will now serve as her true husband and the king consort.
Rhaenyra remarks how their marriage of duty has always worked well for both of them and she considers Laenor a good and honorable man — a rare thing these days. They attempted to lay with each other to produce children but never had any success, which is where Ser Harwin Strong played a role of his own to provide them with numerous heirs even if they’re accused of being bastards.
As for Queen Alicent, she attempts to mend fences with her husband but King Viserys isn’t interested after her behavior towards Rhaenyra. Outside on the ship’s deck as they sail back to King’s Landing, Alicent is approached by Larys Strong, who tells her the offense done to her son is unforgivable.
In fact, Larys offers to exact revenge on Queen Alicent’s behalf with promises that she will get an eye for an eye if that’s what she wants. Alicent decides not to unleash Larys on a little boy but instead thanks him for his service.
Queen Alicent then tells Larys that his services will eventually be required and the reward paid to him will be great. That makes Larys very happy as he continues to amass power while serving at the Queen’s leisure.
If you’re getting really strong Littlefinger vibes from Larys then you’re definitely onto something. Larys is nothing if not conniving and he’s always looking for a way to gain more power, although there is still a certain devotion he pays towards the crown and kingdom.
Finally, Rhaenyra returns to the beach to talk to her uncle Daemon about everything that has unfolded over the past few days, which now includes a full blown blood feud with her stepmother and former friend Alicent Hightower.
The fight between their children ended with Aemond blinded in one eye yet claiming the oldest and arguably most powerful dragon in all the Seven Kingdoms as his own. Her sons were insulted and called bastards and Alicent nearly took out an eye as revenge.
Rhaenyra knows that Aegon II didn’t just come up with the idea that her children were bastards all on his own — that idea was no doubt planted by his mother, Queen Alicent. It’s just further proof that Rhaenyra is going to have to continue strengthening her claim to the Iron Throne because a day will come when her father finally dies and she knows Queen Alicent isn’t going to just suddenly bend the knee to her reign.
As much as she appreciate Laenor’s attempts to become a better husband to her, Rhaenyra realizes she needs to amass more powerful allies if she’s going to level the playing field against Queen Alicent and her greens.
As a brief reminder — the greens represents the colors worn by House Hightower just before a call to battle while the Targaryens are recognized for their black colors. In coming episodes, expect to hear a lot more about the greens and the blacks as the two warring factions at the heart of the show.
Much like Aegon I Targaryen married his sisters to create an unbeatable force necessary to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, Rhaenyra is now turning to her uncle to serve as her husband, which will consolidate her power against Alicent and the faction she represents.
“The Velaryons are of the sea but you and I are made of fire. We have always been meant to burn together.”
~ Rhaenyra Targaryen
Daemon has wanted to marry Rhaenyra for years but he reminds his niece that there’s no way they can be together so long as Laenor Velaryon is still alive. Rhaenyra already understood that when she suggested marriage to Daemon so she tells her uncle to make sure Laenor doesn’t suffer when he dies.
Together, Rhaenyra and Daemon plots the end of Laenor Velaryon.
To achieve this goal, they know that Laenor has to perish in a way that won’t immediately point the finger back at them as the culprits while also understanding how much this is going to hurt Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys after just losing their daughter days earlier.
Daemon decides the best course of action is recruiting Qarl — the knight who shares a bed with Laenor yet he’s ultimately a commoner with no lands or titles of his own. Daemon approaches Qarl and mentions how the knight came from nothing yet has the taste for much more expensive things — like the gifts that have been lavished upon him by Laenor.
Daemon suggests that Qarl would be better off heading across the Narrow Sea to the Free Cities where royalty there comes from money rather than any particular bloodline. If Qarl carries out his orders to kill Laenor Velaryon, he’ll soon travel to the Free Cities with enough gold to be treated with real respect and power.
That night after Daemon dispatches Laenor’s guard, Qarl arrives to approach his lover while launching accusations that he’s been looking down on him ever since they got together. The two of them end up in a sword fight that ends with Laenor being tossed into the fire, which is where Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys find their son’s charred and burned body.
As they mourn the loss of their son, Daemon and Rhaenyra decide now is the time to finally bond together forever as they are married on a beach at Driftmark with their children watching the ceremony. As husband and wife, Rhaenyra and Daemon are immediately a force to be reckoned with not to mention five children between them with the eldest set to inherit the Iron Throne and eventually Driftmark and the richest house in all the Seven Kingdoms.
While Rhaenyra and Daemon kiss to conclude their wedding, a small boat is rowing out into the ocean with two men inside. One is Qarl, who appears to be making a quick escape, but the other man is soon revealed as Laenor Velaryon with a shaved head.
It seems Qarl couldn’t bring himself to kill the man he loved even if that means a pile of gold filling up his coffers. So instead, Qarl warned Laenor what was happening and together they orchestrated a staged fight that ended with at least one poor soul dead to convince Lord Corlys and Rhaenys that their son was killed.
In reality, Laenor is leaving with Qarl to start a new life across the Narrow Sea where neither of will be bound by blood or duty.
As for Rhaenyra, she understands that Laenor’s supposed death will come with many questions, especially now that she’s marrying Daemon. Still, Daemon reminds his niece and now wife that she will one day rule and that means that her subjects need to fear her.
Daemon believes that Queen Rhaenyra could do all great things as a monarch but she still needs to be feared to be respected and this act will be the first of many to put her in power. Nobody ever sits on the Iron Throne without getting their hands dirty — or in this instance very bloody.
House of the Dragon will return for a new episode — and another time jump — next Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.