House of the Dragon: The 3 biggest talking points from episode 5

·5-min read

How quickly can an era end? Whether it’s Charlie Sheen being quietly swapped out for Ashton Kutcher in Two and a Half Men, or Henry Blake’s plane going down over the Sea of Japan in M*A*S*H , there is nothing that marks out televisual milestones like changes to the dramatis personae. Well, this week’s episode, “We Light the Way”, feels like the end of an era as House of the Dragon reshuffles its cast, just five episodes in. Say goodbye to young Rhaenyra and young Alicent: the next time you see them, they’ll be all grown up.

Marriage of Inconvenience

But, for now, things are as we left them. Daemon (Matt Smith) has been banished to the Vale where he’s greeted by his surprisingly attractive wife (what were all his complaints about?) who is less than happy to see him. “Have you at last come to consummate our marriage?” goads Lady Rhea (Rachel Redford). “The Vale’s sheep might be willing, even if I’m not.” She might start to regret that snipe as Daemon picks up a large rock. Game of Thrones was often an exercise in seeing what characters can come back from: Jaime, redeemed after pushing Bran out a window; The Hound, a moral pillar after years of pillage. But can Daemon ever come back from murdering his wife, when she’s only had 20 seconds of screentime?

Meanwhile, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and her father King Viserys (Paddy Considine) are off to Driftmark to formalise her engagement to Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). Viserys, ever more enfeebled, can’t go anywhere without looking as though he’s about to disintegrate like a Nazi faced with the Ark of the Covenant. But his desire to consolidate power has grown. “Dragons will rule the Seven Kingdoms for the next hundred years, just as they did the last,” he tells Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint).

The problem, it emerges, is that young Laenor prefers the company of men, while Rhaenyra is still pining after the besuited lump of man-meat who guards her (Fabien Frankel’s Ser Criston Cole) and her dodgy uncle. “I prefer roast duck to goose,” Rhaenyra tells her betrothed. “It is not for lack of trying,” he replies, sadly. “There are those who like goose very well.” By the end of this cryptic, fowl-based discussion, they reach a compromise. “We perform our duty,” Rhaenyra announces pragmatically, “and when it’s done, each of us dines as we see fit.”

The Queen’s Gambit

The real issue for House Velaryon is baby Aegon back in King’s Landing. “We are placing our son in danger,” Eve Best’s Princess Rhaenys says of her own boy, Leanor, soon to be King Consort. “Knives will come out.” Nobody – perhaps not even Viserys himself – believes that the King has consolidated sufficient power to pass the throne easily to his daughter. He is a woke king (and we stan him) but his belief in the genderless primacy of primogeniture is going to cause issues. Not least with his wife Alicent (Emily Carey). After the banishment of her father (Rhys Ifans), from court, she is coming to understand that her wee bubby Aegon cannot survive if Rhaenyra ascends the throne. And, sadly, the reverse is also true.

The new Hand, Ser Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), has a son, Larys (Matthew Needham), who we haven’t met before but who enters this episode with such Machiavellian intent that it seems he will become a key player. Through Larys, Alicent learns that Rhaenyra may have lied about her virtue – a lie which caused Alicent to pick her BFF over her dad – and she responds by confronting Ser Criston Cole. Cole has already been reduced to a blubbering wreck by Rhaenyra’s refusal of his proposal (“You want me to be your whore?” he responds, bottom lip quivering) and he immediately caves to Alicent’s soft interrogation. “My oath has been broken, I have dishonoured myself,” he announces, along with a request that she puts him to death. But Alicent is becoming more savvy about the way the game is played, and knows that debtors make good allies.

 (© 2022 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.)
(© 2022 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.)

Could have been a loser kid...

It’s time, at last, for the wedding celebrations to begin. Daemon, fresh from his bout of uxoricide, crashes the festivities. His arrival doesn’t go down well with either the King or his late wife’s uncle. “In the Vale, men are made to answer for their crimes,” Ser Gerold Royce (Owen Oakeshott) declares solemnly, “even Targaryens.” But Daemon is not the biggest distraction at this feast: Alicent arrives late, dressed provocatively in the green of House Hightower, and interrupts her husband’s speech. Gone, it seems, is the meek girl who pandered to the King’s model village obsession.

But the greatest disruption of all is reserved for a fight between Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), “the Knight of Kisses” and lover of Laenor Velaryon, and Ser Criston. The former is left a bloody pulp (it’s up there with Westeros’ most gruesome demises), sealing Ser Criston’s outcast fate, and robbing Laenor of any chance at happiness. In the episode’s final moments, a miserable looking Laenor weds his Targaryen princess before the King collapses, having leaked blood all evening. An era is ending, but just how quickly will the new one begin?