’House of the Dragon’ Episode 7 Review: 'Driftmark’ Brings Tensions Between Rhaenyra and Alicent to Boiling Point
It’s been clear for a number of episodes now that the first season of House of the Dragon would chronicle the divide between Alicent and Rhaenyra’s immediate families, and the growing tension finally reached a boiling point in Driftmark.
House of the Dragon‘s seventh episode starts sombre and stays that way for a surprising amount of time. Driftmark takes place over a 24-hour period, as the Targaryens and Velaryons come together for Laena’s funeral after her death last week. We didn’t spend long enough with Laena last week for her death to really feel impactful — that’s the drawback of having a season with so many time jumps — but at least we got to see how her death impacted the lives of the characters we do know a bit better.
Unfortunately, that is the definition of “fridging”, but it is better than just brushing her aside entirely. A dark cloud hangs over the entire cast as a result, setting the stage for many a dramatic moment as events on the island of Driftmark start to spin further and further out of control.
By the end of the episode, you get the sense that most characters’ journeys in House of the Dragon are really about to begin now. Driftmark is packed with significant moments both thrilling and dire; there’s no way back for these characters now.
As funerals go, this one was quite awkward. The political divisions between Rhaenyra and Alicent are immediately apparent, as Rhaenyra enters the wake to find precious few friends. Her husband Laenor is off grieving in solitude in the sea, and Daemon is busy isolating himself, so she instead finds her son Jacaerys. She reminds him that his cousins could use a kind word while grieving the loss of their mother, but Jacaerys reminds her that he himself is still mourning the death of his true father, Harwin Strong.
Everyone’s sad for one reason or another, except for Alicent and her children it seems. Prince Aegon is most definitely in his bratty teenage phase and sees the occasion as little more than an opportunity to get pissed. His little brother Aemond is too concerned with getting his own dragon so everyone can stop teasing him. And Helaena is off in her own little world all day.
Daemon is coping with the loss of his wife in the way only he can. You get the sense that he truly does miss her, even if he never really loved her. In this moment of loss, he barely struggles to contain his disdain at the courtly traditions as he starts chuckling during the funeral and spends most of his time smirking at others. It definitely makes for an entertaining watch; considering how disrespectful he’s being, it would be easy to assume that he’s the powder keg that will ignite all the political drama in House of the Dragon — just waiting for someone to take offence to him.
Instead, it’s his nephews, grand-nephews, and daughters who set it alight. While Daemon’s off finally having secret sex with Rhaenyra after years of sexual tension (no “little birds” to run back to Otto here), Aemond goes off and tames freaking Vhagar, the oldest living dragon. While it is an extraordinary display of bravery from the boy, who could have died any number of ways trying to bond the dragon to him, you’re so blinded by the thrill of actually getting some long-awaited dragon action that it’s easy to forget that what he’s doing might be considered a touch inappropriate.
Any feeling of warmth toward Aemond for finally getting himself a dragon is immediately snuffed out when he is confronted by his cousins Rhaena and Baela, who fairly point out that taming their mother’s dragon only a few hours after her funeral is not only highly insensitive, but also that Baela was supposed to be the one who inherited Vhagar from her mother. It’s here that Aemond’s arrogance and entitlement first rears its ugly head, and we realize he’s just like his older brother. I guess that’s what happens when you have a mother who raises you to believe you deserve to rule a kingdom that hasn’t been promised to you.
He rightfully gets a smack from Rhaena after pushing Baela aside, and things escalate from there once he wallops her in response and Jacaerys and Lucerys both join in on the fun. It’s pretty brutal for a fight between children, with Lucerys getting a broken nose and Aemond losing an eye at the hands of Jacaerys, who ups the stakes with a dagger.
This leads to an incredibly tense confrontation between the greens and the blacks in the Velaryon’s main hall, which feels reminiscent of the scene in Game of Thrones‘ second episode, when the court learned that Joffrey had been bitten by Arya’s direwolf. In that scene, Cersei demanded punishment, and so too does Alicent here. As her father Otto later remarks, this is the biggest stand we’ve seen her make in defence of her children so far — she demands that Lucerys has his own eye gouged out as payment. Thankfully, even Ser Criston Cole balks at following that psychotic order, so she attempts to take it into her own hands, cutting a gaping wound down Rhaenyra’s arm with Viserys’ obsidian dagger.
That act exposes her true self for all to see. Rhaenyra had claimed earlier in the episode that she didn’t believe Alicent would ever stoop so low as to order the murder of another person, but now she has seen her once-best-friend consumed with a hatred that she never thought possible. It draws a line in the sand that will never be washed away, setting the stage for the conflicts to come in House of the Dragon.
Viserys does his best to calm everyone down and restore order, but no one really listens to him until it’s too late, and the conflict has naturally come to an end anyway. Viserys has always been a passive king, so concerned with keeping the peace that he has never dealt with a problem head on until it is too late, and that approach has caught up with him. No one in the court respects him any longer; not his wife, not his daughter, and certainly not his Hand. It’s a stark reminder that the coming civil war could have been avoided had he made better choices early on.
The incident leads Rhaenyra to realize that she needs stronger alliances in court if she’s going to succeed against Alicent. When Laenor eventually comes to her and apologizes for not being a better husband and father, she rolls her eyes. While she does truly care for him in a platonic way, she knows that the man is too weak and sees that his self-pitying nature will not help her cause.
It leads her to enact a plan with Daemon; now that they have finally slept together and the rumor of her kids’ true parentage is out in the open, she finally has the courage to follow her heart. Unfortunately, following her heart means she has to be ruthless and have Laenor killed so she is free to marry her uncle. She regrets that she has to make the decision, though Daemon is all too happy to set it up. Thankfully, Laenor and Qarl fake his death so they can travel to Essos and be free together. I’m glad Laenor got to escape; House of the Dragon has been criticized for its treatment of gay characters, so at least he was spared the grizzly death that his former lover got a couple of episodes ago.
If it weren’t for Corlys Velaryon’s rampant ambition, I’d feel sorry for him. His obsession with legacy has almost left his house in ruin. In marrying his children off to Targaryens, he’s gotten one killed and forced the other to fake his own death. I’m glad Rhaenys called out his ambition in an earlier scene. He may be right that she should have been given the throne, but it’s very easy to use that as an excuse to justify his own motivations. If anything, I’m sad for Rhaenys. She’s essentially lost both her children over a game that she stopped playing long ago.
It looks like we’re in for another time jump next episode, with Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Daemon’s children all being recast with older actors. Surely next week we’ll finally see King Viserys succumb to his various injuries and illnesses, and when that happens, the Dance of the Dragons can finally begin. If it’s anything like this episode, I’ll be delighted. House of the Dragon showcased some truly gripping drama this week, and it kills me that I have to wait another week to get more of it.
Josh is a huge a fan of Star Wars, superheroes and video games. He spends most of his time wondering who would win in a fight between Boba Fett and Star Lord.