December 1, 2022

“The blood of the dragon has been spilled, the Dance Of The Dragons has begun, and we have been given another excellent, dramatic episode.’ We review episode seven of The House Of The Dragon.

The battle lines have been drawn. The two opposing sides for the upcoming Dance Of The Dragons are almost firmly in place. And the game is fully on. This seventh episode of ‘House Of The Dragon’ is possibly one of the best we have seen. While again, there are no battle scenes, what we have been given is nothing short of brilliance. The dramatic tension that has been building has seen some quick but vital release this week. The blood of the dragon has been spilled, the Dance Of The Dragons has begun, and we have been given another excellent, dramatic episode.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON (1×07: DRIFTMARK)

We open in Driftmark. King Viserys and his court attend Lady Laena’s funeral after her sad demise last week. From the start, we see the lines have been drawn in the sand between Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy). Evil looks are shared with both throwing daggers at each other with their eyes. King Viserys ( Paddy Considine) attempts to bring his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) back into the fold, an offer that Daemon dismisses in anger. Viserys and Alicent’s son Prince Aegon gets drunk on wine at the funeral, earning him a scolding.

RHAENYRA AND DAEMON

Rhaenyra and Daemon take a walk along the beach of Driftmark. Both lay their feelings bare to each other. Rhaenyra stills holds a grudge about Daemon abandoning her in the slums of King’s Landing. But their feelings for each other lead them to reunite and are physically intimate. Young Prince Aemond decides to do the impossible. He claims Vhagar, the mount of his late aunt Lady Laena as his dragon. However, this leads to an altercation with his cousins. Aemond insults and beats his cousins, calling Rhaenyra’s children ‘Bastards’. But his words lead Lucerys to stab Aemond in the eye with a dagger, just as Aemond is about to beat in the head of Jacaerys Velaryon.

SPILLED BLOOD

Queen Alicent demands that Lucerys’ eye be gouged out as retribution. When Viserys strongly refuses, Alicent attempts to attack Lucerys with a Velaryon dagger. But Rhaenyra steps in to stop Alicent from harming her child. As Alicent struggles with Rhaenyra, she stabs the Princess in the arm, spilling more blood of the Dragon. Alicent openly claims Rhaenyra’s children are bastards, to which Viserys decrees that anyone questioning his grandsons’ legitimacy will have their tongue cut out. Having been reinstated as the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower ( Rhys Ifans) tells Alicent they will soon prevail against Rhaenyra, claiming the taming by Aemond of Vhagar as the turning point. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra and Daemon unite against Alicent and her supporters.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

No spoilers but fans of the book will be aware that a certain character will be meeting their demise. And so it is this week. However, the setting of their demise has been changed (as was Laenor’s death last week). But the fans are in for a shock. Their ending has been changed. Whether or not it’s a good idea remains to be seen. But knowing that the character was soon to depart this mortal coil, the change came as a bit of a surprise. But that doesn’t distract from the fact that this week, we are handed the real meat of the dance. That the battle lines are drawn and the sides are lining up against each other.

The way the story has moved this week is nothing short of gripping. The seeds that have been sown over the past few weeks are starting to sprout the bitterest of fruit. Blood has started to be spilled from both sides, nourishing the ground where the seeds are sown. Before the dance is over, the ground will be seeped in blood from all sides. And the fruit that will sprout will taste vile. Make no illusions, the Targaryen dynasty is about to be ripped apart. And we are hooked as it starts to happen.

THE CAST

Once again, the cast all play their parts well. Alongside the names already mentioned, this week Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon and Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen come to the fore again. Their performances as the grieving parents of Laenor Valaryon are heartfelt. As are their scenes in front of a roaring fire as they discuss their feelings regarding Daemon and his treatment of their late daughter. Both are once again called for to show their acting skills later on in the episode in a display of sheer masterclass.

Paddy Considine and Rhys Ifans are sidelined slightly this week but both come into their own later on. Many of the supporting players also see themselves sidelined somewhat but that’s to be expected. The episode belongs to Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, and Emma D’arcy from the start. The young actors playing the children are delightful in their roles with two of them bringing us memories of King Joffery in the original ‘Game Of Thrones.’ Both show a dark side that would fit right into the original series. And one invokes some memories of Peter Dinklage in the first season, drinking wine and getting roaring drunk.

MATT SMITH

But nobody can come close to the prowess of Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, and Emma D’Arcy this week. Smith’s Daemon is at his most scheming this week. His seduction of his niece Rhaenyra is almost like a snake with a mouse. You know it’s going to strike, it’s just a question of when. And the way he turns Rhaenyra’s head with his smooth ways and words show that Daemon has been planning his move for quite a while. Smith is wonderfully slimy and sinister as Daemon, and we can’t tear our eyes off him when he’s on screen, in case we miss something, some small detail that we need to see.

EMMA D’ARCY

Emma D’arcy pulls off Rhaenyra to perfection. From the very start of the episode, we feel increasingly sorry for her. The way she is shunned and the looks that are thrown toward both her and her children make us take her to our hearts. We feel for her as she finally succumbs to her uncle’s advances, reciprocating his feelings by becoming intimate with him. We want to cheer as Alicent wounds her, showing the Queen’s failings to the watching court, undermining her and her plans for the throne after Viserys dies.

But then, at the end of the episode, we see Rhaenyra’s scheming ways brought to the fore. It is a great piece of dramatic acting from Emma D’Arcy and one we want to see more of.

OLIVIA COOKE

Olivia Cooke though is this week’s villain of the piece. From the start, we feel distrust of her and her court. We can see the hatred behind her eyes. We can feel the desire for her to do something about Rhaenyra and her children. She realizes the threat Rhaenyra will pose to her and her children if she ascends to the throne. And we want to cheer as she is exposed to everyone with her attack on Rhaenyra.

But we can also understand her motives at times. Understand yes, condone no. The desire for revenge is present in all of us at times. But Alicent takes it to the extreme, leading her to be seen in a different light amongst the gathered. Olivia Cooke doesn’t shy away from the traits Alicent displays in this episode. But we can’t bring ourselves to hate her. And that is to the actress’s credit.

NEXT WEEK

The trailer for next week’s eighth episode has been released. And you can see it below:

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what we’ve been anticipating. And believe me, it’s going to get extremely bloody, violent, and tragic from here on. All paths lead to a conflict that will tear down the Targaryen house. And the first shots have been fired this week in an enthralling and thrilling episode. With a terrific dragon sequence that will have the breath catching in your throat, there is so much to enjoy here.

With the acting performances making us believe what we are seeing, the dramatic tension is heightened even further, and the story not letting up for a second, this is brilliant TV. With just three episodes of this first season left to go, we must prepare to wait until the show brings us the dance in full. But when it does start properly, we will look back at this episode in fondness as the first steps in the dance are performed. From here, people we have come to love and follow will die. And this episode prepares us slightly for what is to come.

‘House Of The Dragon’ is available on HBO Max in the United States and on selected streaming services in countries around the world.

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