House of the Dragon Episode 7 Review: “Driftmark”

So much happened within this episode, which means there is a lot to break down. Everyone has gathered on Driftmark for Laena Velaryon’s funeral, as burial by sea is the way of the Velaryons. The reception, though, is where the drama begins. Rhaenyra and Daemon are constantly exchanging meaningful looks. Viserys calls Alicent “Aemma,” indicating his decline of health includes forgetfulness. Laenor is wading in the water, depressed about losing his twin. When Lord Corlys goes to Ser Qarl instead of Rhaenyra to tell him to go get Laenor it publicly threatens the legitimacy of Jace and Luke’s birth. This is only the beginning of the eventful night that eventually will come to blows. 

One of the few valid complaints that Game of Thrones fans had was how poor the lighting was in Season 8, and clearly, this was not listened to. It was very difficult to see Daemon and Rhaenyra’s walk on the beach together and Aemond trying to get close to Vhagar. Since this was filmed during the day, it would not have been that difficult to adjust. It wouldn’t be fanservice. It’s the simple fact that many people do not have access to the quality of screen or watching environment that this episode requires. 

It was quite clear that this episode was directed by a man whose best work is with action. I feel Rhaenyra and Daemon’s big reconciliation scene should have been more passionate. These two have been missing each other for a decade. Rhaenyra tells Daemon how upset she is that he left her helpless and alone, forced to live out a life that has brought her unhappiness. They have been required to have children with other lovers, and resolved to perform their duties. Although this moment does not need to have the overwhelming heat of the brothel scene, it should have been more sensual than it was. While the music is very beautiful, it is more reverent than romantic. Although, there is positive development because she is the aggressor this time. Daemon remains restrained until she says what she wants. 

The next section of the episode is quite controversial. It is fair to say that it is a nice moment to see Aemond get chosen by a dragon after the last episode where he was the butt of the joke, but it is also understandable that Rhaena would be hurt that she never got the chance to try to connect with Vhagar considering she was her mother’s dragon. Instead of showing any sympathy, Aemond immediately becomes entitled and insults her. The ongoing debate is whether the fight warrants Alicent’s demand that Rhaenyra’s children be punished.

It begins with just Aemond and the twins, and it is clear he has had fight training and the girls haven’t. His comments incited anger, and Rhaena physically came at him first. Jace and Luke ran to support their cousins, and Aemond easily beat each of them one on one. It takes all four of them to keep him down for a little bit, but eventually, he pushes each of them off and chokes Luke. Aemond holds up a rock as if to hit little Luke with it, threatens to burn them alive, and calls them bastards, the most disrespectful thing that could be said. When Jace pulls out the knife, he escalates the fight to the next level just like Aemond did with his statements. It should be noted that the knife wasn’t his first response but a last resort when his family was threatened and insulted. Aemond isn’t even phased by the knife and gets Jace down easily. He could have walked away and told his parents he was attacked, but he kept pursuing Jace after he had beaten them all. Only when he gets close to Jace, rock in hand does Jace defend himself with the sand and Luke slices Aemond to defend his brother. 

Does Alicent actually care that her child was maimed? Otto kicked Aegon when he passed out from wine earlier. When he awoke, the subtitle claims he says “brother,” but it seems more likely to me he says “mother” as if he expected to be assaulted by her. She slaps him later in the big confrontation scene. Aemond is outside the castle late at night, nobody concerned about his whereabouts. Of all her children, it seems Alicent has the best relationship with Aemond, considering he covered up for her twice, but they all still seem like pawns in the game to her. 

Alicent’s survival post-confrontation is completely due to Viserys’s weakness. Alicent challenges Viserys directly and publicly, which is embarrassing, and he does nothing. Why does she think she can disobey the king? He is the only reason she is queen. Why would she call on Ser Criston when he is a member of the Kingsguard? It is a silly demand, and even he denies her. She then attacks Rhaenyra, the heir to the Throne and cuts her, which could easily put her in prison for treason. To be fair, Viserys could have punished Jace and Luke slightly, considering Aemond is permanently scarred, but nothing resembling what Alicent was calling for and what she intended to do with that knife. 

Alicent’s claims about Rhaenyra when they are fighting come from a place of true hurt, and is understandable to a point. She has done what was expected of her, and maybe to the outside it seems like Rhaenyra has not, but I disagree. We heard from the source that Rhaenyra and Laenor tried very hard to have biological children and do their duty but he was unable to perform the task. Viserys told her in episode three to marry and further her line to make her claim more secure and she did it in the only way she possibly could. She isn’t flouting about and being irresponsible, and she certainly doesn’t want her children to be called bastards. To act as if she wanted to cause trouble and have Ser Harwin’s babies is ridiculous. Now Alicent has made a fool of herself and exposed her behavior. 

The next day when Alicent admits she regrets her actions, Otto assures her she is finally capable of winning the game. I was stunned at how plainly he put it, as Otto’s previous actions seemed to toe the line between doing what was good for the realm and his own ambitions, but now it seems very one-sided. The claim that Rhaenyra manipulated Viserys into sacking Otto should lose its steam because clearly it was a fair evaluation, and so is Daemon’s constant comments about it as well.  

Daemon stayed surprisingly unproblematic this episode, although it was weird he didn’t check on his daughters considering they were hurt, too. The wedding between Daemon and Rhaenyra was such a nice moment, in proper Valyrian tradition. She even proposed to him, telling him they have always been meant to burn together, finally at a time when they are equals. True love has overcome throughout the years, and a powerful partnership has been created to challenge Alicent, Otto, and her children. Although Laenor recommits himself to her, Rhaenyra knows he is not what she needs, and he deserves happiness for being an honorable man. Laenor’s death being faked is a wonderful thing and an improved choice from the book. It keeps the watcher on Rhaenyra’s side, and it finally breaks the trope that every gay character in Game of Thrones will suffer a horrible death. Although, we have to feel bad for Corlys and Rhaenys, who have now lost both of their children within a short while. 

Episode eight includes the last major time jump of the series. Although the creatives have done a relatively good job of making the show feel consistent despite the time jumps, it will be exciting to see some consistency begin to take place as we enter into the official start of the Dance of the Dragons.

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