We begin with an introduction to a character we have no time to get to know: Daemon’s wife Rhea (Rachel Redford). No sooner have we seen her riding proficiently around on a horse than she meets her husband (Matt Smith), looking creepy in a black cloak. She taunts him, realising only too late that he is there to kill her, which he then does, crushing her head in after she is bucked off her horse. A lovely scene between man and wife.
As Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) makes his way out of the castle, having been sacked by Viserys (Paddy Considine), he tries to make his daughter Alicent (Emily Carey) understand that her husband will be dead soon and that if Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) is made queen, there will be war – Rhaenyra may be forced to kill Alicent’s children. “You are no fool and yet you choose not to see it,” he says, frustrated by her loyalty. Not long after, Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) tells Alicent about Rhaenyra drinking the morning-after-pill tea; the penny drops for Alicent and she decides the princess did indeed have sex despite denying it. This, she realises, also means that Viserys dismissed her father despite believing Otto’s news about Rhaenyra’s escapades.
At Driftmark, home of Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), Viserys – who is visibly weak and ill – proposes a marriage between Rhaenyra and Ser Laenor (John MacMillan), the couple’s son. The trio reach an “equitable compromise”, in Coryls’ words, when Viserys accepts Corlys’ proposal that the couple’s children bear the Velaryon name if, Viserys says, they are Targaryens once they sit on the throne. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra – who knows that Laenor is attracted to men – arranges with him a deal in which each of them can sleep with whomever they like as long as they perform their duties to the realm (i.e. make babies).
Sailing back to Dragonstone, Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel) proposes to Rhaenyra that the pair should run off together. “We’ll be nameless and free,” he says, hope in his eyes. Rhaenyra extinguishes this hope by reminding Criston of her duty to the crown. Once in Dragonstone, Criston is quizzed by Alicent, admitting to the charge he thinks is being levelled at him: sleeping with Rhaenyra.
Elsewhere, Viserys’ revolting arm is getting more and more disgusting and, while convalescing, he tells his new Hand (Gavin Spokes) that part of him wishes he had been tested as King by seeing some kind of warfare. His prayers look likely to be answered at Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding welcome: Daemon turns up; Alicent only walks in mid-way through Viserys’ speech, as an act of rebellion; Sir Gerald, cousin of Rhea, accuses Daemon of killing her.
Things only get worse from there. Laenor’s ‘paramour’, Ser Joffrey (Solly McLeod), correctly surmises that Rhaenyra is sleeping with Criston. “This is a good thing,” he tells Laenor, going on to make Criston aware that he knows. Rhaenyra, meanwhile, taunts Daemon, who is unhappy about the marriage, and Viserys sees his brother grasp the princess’ face in a passionate moment. This is the least of Viserys’ concerns, mind you: first he is bleeding from the nose and then he has to work out why there is such chaos among the guests. It turns out that Joffrey and Criston are fighting. ‘Fighting’ is a generous word for what transpires though: Criston soon pulverises Joffrey’s face beyond recognition and slumps off, stunned by what he has done.
In the aftermath, Viserys collapses to the floor at the wedding ceremony itself and we leave Dragonstone as a rat laps up Joffrey’s blood from the stone floor.
- “I prefer roast duck to goose. I cannot say why.” This is Rhaenyra’s diplomatic way of acknowledging that she knows about Laenor’s sexuality; roast duck here is intended to mean men… obviously
- “Rhaenyra’s succession in House Of The Dragon will be challenged. Knives will come out.” Rhaenys, wise as ever (she understands, unlike her husband, that their son will not grow out of being gay), warns Corlys that Laenor could be in grave danger upon Viserys’ death
- “This is a good thing: she knows your secret… and now you know hers.” One of the last things Joffrey utters before his death, this line to Laenor may prove significant: knowing that Rhaenyra had sex with Criston could turn out to be valuable indeed
‘House Of The Dragon’ releases new episodes at 2am every Monday on Sky Atlantic and NOW