Rhaenyra Targaryen must marry. For the good of the Seven Kingdoms, for the succession of his father figure and for the stability of the Iron Throne. But in Westeros a link between two Houses is something more than a symbolic fact. The fifth chapter of The House of the Dragonavailable now on HBO Max, explores both the depth of the political event and the lines of influence that extend to the periphery of the court.
The heiress will accept a commitment imposed to ensure her place in history and allow Viserys I to dispose of the Velaryon sea fleet. However, the most urgent reason is to entrench the fact that the blood of the two most powerful dynasties on the continent sustain a weak and clumsy reign. “It won’t happen right away. Not very soon either, but the king will not become an old man”, says Otto Hightower with pragmatic certainty.
He who was the Hand of two Targaryen kings leaves the scene. Still, he leaves fear in his wake. “Raise Aegon to rule,” he insists to his daughter. A queen surrounded by intrigues, isolated, lonely and afflicted. One that, also, has just discovered that she can be something more than a privileged womb capable of giving birth to heirs.
The fifth chapter of The House of the Dragon makes clear the twisted nature of love and revenge in Westeros. All issues that are dangerously close to the center of power. But, at the same time, to the darkness of the plans that are woven in the circle of the Iron Throne. With a weak monarch, an increasingly confused succession and a kingdom that watches between intrigues, the Targaryens face their worst threat. At the same time, to his appetite for violence, need for domination and irrepressible chaotic nature.
The House of the Dragon is the new series of the Game of Thrones universe
A widowed prince, a young queen, and a wounded king consort
For the argument of The House of the Dragon, the possibility of a violent confrontation for territorial and political control is a perennial risk. Something that becomes clear, almost immediately, in the new episode. The script carefully narrates the invisible points on which what will happen after Rhaenyra’s wedding is sustained.
With seemingly subtle storytelling, the series reaches its most complicated and darkest turn. The fourth chapter showed the women of Westeros in a painful confrontation with the risks that their sex carries in a hostile world. The fifth shows the dark reverse. What happens to men in a world destined for brutality and violence?
Daemon Targaryen, a lone figure in the middle of a country lane, is the embodiment of a twisted idea of male influence and freedom. The disinherited prince who charted a foolproof path to power must first clear his path of obstacles that might divert him from his goal.
The most urgent, a wife with whom he never consummated a hostile marriage and whom he murders in a crude scene. What does Daemon want, able to attack a victim groaning in pain from the ground? The series reveals that Viserys’ brother begins the journey that will take him, sooner or later, to the Throne. At least, that it is the first real step for him to satisfy an ambition that he could never console.
At the other end, Viserys I crosses the sea with Rhaenyra. Corlys Velaryon awaits you at her Hightide settlement. The most important island in the Blackwater Bay will witness the link between the Houses in The House of the Dragon. But also of the beginning of the decline of the king. Increasingly weak, devastated by an unexplained evil, his fragile health is a dangerous stigma. Knows his Hand, Ser Lord Lyonel Strong, Lord of Harrenhal, who watches in horror the monarch’s pathetic attempt to feign strength.
It is also noticed by Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen, who negotiate an advantageous marriage for their son Laenor, out of reluctance. But, in particular, Alicent Hightower discovers it when she sees the father of her children collapsing from exhaustion. The queen, subjected to the derision of isolation and fear, makes a silent decision. She is to lay the foundations for her, as her father ordered her, to take the future reins of the Kingdom.
The House of the Dragon: a green tower in the middle of a dark night
At least, that is what the queen’s attitude suggests when she discovers that Rhaenyra lied to her. With the confession of a grieving Ser Criston Cole about what had transpired between the knight protector and the princess, Alicent loses the last trace of naivety.
Does she then have to fear that her former friend will be able to stand up to her after Viserys’s death? Alicent moves between two spaces, two loyalties and two places of pain. The weight of her crown pulls her, along with the fear that her children will be victims of betrayal and death.
So that the queen becomes, little by little, a new woman. One that matured under the weight of her role in the future of The Seven Kingdoms. Also, a figure that will defy what is expected from her presence with Viserys. As the chapter progresses, it becomes more apparent that The House of the Dragon analyzes the power of the monarch from her silence. What she keeps, what she hides, what she is willing to do.
The tragic boyfriends in the midst of fear
Rhaenyra took her engagement as a state goal. So much so that the political alliance in The House of the Dragon involves an implicit negotiation with Laenor, her cousin and future husband. “Each one will be able to satisfy their appetites, once we fulfill the duty that is expected of both”says the heiress without hesitation. Cunning and malicious, she knows that the future king consort’s eyes are only on the knight beside her, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth.
The same as those of the princess contemplate Ser Criston with kindness and complicity. But while Ser Lonmouth accepts that Laenor will have to serve the crown with his life, for the Knight Protector it is not so easy. “We can run away,” says the guardian, now Rhaenyra’s lover. “You can have a love marriage”. However, the princess is aware of what is expected of her and refuses. “I took a vow of chastity”, her protector despairs, confused and overwhelmed. “I did it with the crown,” replies the heiress.
So the marriage will be celebrated with all the pomp required by the future monarch of the Seven Kingdoms. But also in the sight of snubbed lovers, of those who seek power and, perhaps, revenge.
The horrors of the fate of futureless kings and queens in The House of the Dragon
Rhaenyra and Laenor willingly accept their fate. Viserys announces the political deal that will hold his crown with a clumsy speech. The king’s weakness is becoming more and more evident. So much so that the furious Alicent interrupts her speech and walks through the hall full of nobles with a slow step, dressed from head to toe in the color of her House. “A green beacon in battle,” they whisper around her. House Hightower rejoices in its child queen, mother of kings and now aware of her place. “You have our support, whatever position history holds for you,” one of her relatives tells the monarch, with evident satisfaction.
But a Targaryen wedding bears the stigma of chaotic and uncontrollable dragon blood. The tension is unbreathable, the discomfort evident; while the king hesitates, the queen looks elsewhere. The young fiancés dance hand in hand, while their respective lovers face each other for the first time.
“We must keep our secrets from each other,” Ser Lonmouth tells Criston Cole. The king consort’s lover discovered, with malicious intuition, the lonely love of the knight for the heiress. Further, Daemon dances with a defiant Rhaenyra, reminding her that an untamed nature pulses in her blood. “A perfect husband. You will get bored with this link”he whispers provocatively. The music gets faster and faster and the script rewrites the story of fire and blood to show the horrors of frustration and greed. In Westeros there is no happiness without pain.
In the end, the spilled blood is drunk by the rats
The chapter closes with a clear allegory of the duality between tragedy and power that defines House Targaryen. Offended and wounded by anger, Ser Criston assassinates the favorite of the very young king consort. The mangled body ends up in the middle of the room, with the cry of his lover as omen of what is to come.
“Father, blacksmith, warrior”, pronounce the promised ones in a low voice, terrified by the violence. The votes have something sinister in the empty room, the alliances increasingly weak in The House of the Dragon. “Mother, lady, old woman”, completes the heiress with a trembling voice.
Outside, Ser Criston is about to commit suicide in shame. But the queen stops him, perhaps to find a spy and ally? “I am hers and she is mine,” says Laenor between tremors. A weak and wounded king consort. “From this day to the last of my days,” Rhaenyra replies quietly. The duty fulfilled.
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The image fades to reveal Ser Lonmouth’s blood, still fresh on the ground. A rat drinks from it. A tragic prediction of a marriage that is the first step towards a violent civil war.