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Festivities are a risky business in the world of George R.R. Martin. The death of King Joffrey happens at a celebration. There’s also the red wedding; one of the most memorable banquets in TV history. With this background, we take in the sights and sounds of what promises to be a pivotal wedding in the Targaryen story. At the very least, we find out if dragons dance gracefully at weddings like they do in battle.
House of the Dragon Episode 5 Recap-Review: Where we are so far
King Viserys means to keep his promise to his daughter, to the point of removing Otto Hightower as the King’s Hand. Now he moves quickly to marry off Rhaenyra to solidify her claim to the iron throne. Rhaenyra’s marriage also serves to join House Velaryon to House Targaryen. The union is Viserys’ way of securing the naval might of Lord Corlys’ fleet.
This is the tradeoff that the high-born of Westeros often make: Marry for convenience to enjoy the trappings of power.
Lies, perception, truth, and expediency
The politics simmering in the background of Rhaenyra’s wedding are hard to ignore. A mummer’s farce in the previous episode shows that public opinion is against the idea of a female ruler. And we can’t forget the rumors of Rhaenyra’s indiscretions, which are spreading fast. Viserys rightly tells his daughter that truth often takes a back seat to perception and tradition. This means that Rhaenyra has to live under a different set of standards than her male relatives.
Deep down, the princess knows this, which is why she lies to Alicent for expediency. At the end of the day, high-stakes palace intrigue lends itself to expediency above truth or sentiment. Yet like prince Daemon, the truth will show its face to cause trouble at the most inopportune moment. Speaking of Daemon:
Dissolution of marriage
The blood from the opening credits sets the scene for a spot of bloodletting in the opening scenes. We go to the Vale, where Daemon’s wife is living her best life on a breathtaking seaside estate. The lady rides off alone, hoping to snag some venison for supper. It turns out that the woman Daemon calls the bronze bitch is beautiful, but she wears bronze armor.
Division of assets
Yet a stag is not what our huntress comes across. Instead, a hooded Daemon stands in her path. The lady Rhea throws a few barbs at the prince, and these are the only projectiles she’ll be launching on her hunt. As Rhea Royce gloats over Daemon’s banishment, it dawns on her that he means to take over the Vale.
Without a word, prince Daemon spooks his wife’s horse. The steed falls to its side, crushing Rhea under its weight. Quickly, the scared horse gets on its hooves and runs away.
Massive injuries don’t stop Rhea from throwing one final barb at her husband. She taunts him, saying she knew he couldn’t finish, which sounds a lot like a double entendre. Rhea calls the now-retreating Daemon a coward, and the prince picks up a large, jagged stone. He walks over to the injured woman, and the scene cuts to the beheading of a fish on a ship or stormy sea.
It seems that arranged marriage is fraught with pitfalls.
Proposal of marriage
Viserys is seasick because the sea is clearly not his element. This is all the more reason why he needs to be in the good graces of House Velaryon. The king is on his way to the Velaryon estate to formally propose marriage between his daughter and young Laenor Velaryon. Seasickness aside, Viserys isn’t looking too good these days.
The royal party arrives to a cold reception at Driftwood, but Viserys overlooks the disrespect. It is the warm greeting of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen that quickly thaws the ice. Rhaenys notices that cousin Viserys is unwell, and we get a closer look at his gloved arms. Corlys shares the news that Daemon is now a widower, and the trio is set to work on the terms of the upcoming union.
When negotiations conclude, Rhaenys asks Corlys if putting their son in the middle of potential conflict is worth it. After all, House Velaryon has plenty of power, even without the iron throne.
Marriage, entanglements, and duty
Princess Rhaenyra has a thing with her bodyguard, and Prince Laenor has a boyfriend. The cousins talk about the effect of their upcoming marriage on their love lives, and they come to an understanding. However, their love interests are not exactly into the idea of becoming the secret lovers of monarchs.
This is why things between Rhaenyra and Ser Criston come to a head as the royal delegation sails back to King’s Landing. Criston wants the princess to run away with him, but Rhaenyra has plans that put true love on the back burner. The writers and showrunners use the trip to Driftwood to question if the casualties of this power game are worth it.
Fear tactics, wrapped in hugs and offers of allyship
Lady Alicent says a tearful goodbye to her father, who takes the opportunity to put the fear of the gods in her. He tells her that civil war will break out when Rhaenyra takes the throne. Otto adds that Rhaenyra would have to eliminate Alicent’s children to consolidate her claim to the throne.
As Alicent starts to panic in the Godswood (the Westerosi royal chapel), Larys Clubfoot offers her his friendship. He also drops some gossip about the contraceptive tea that Viserys sent his daughter. This information confirms that Rhaenyra lied to her former best friend. This is where Alicent comes to her father’s way of thinking.
Larys’ Clubfoot’ Strong happens to be the son of the current King’s Hand, so what’s his angle?
She watches her ailing husband as he returns from his trip to Driftwood, and she worries. She confirms that Rhaenyra lied to her from Ser Criston, who is nursing heartbreak. Worry and a sense of betrayal are the final nudges that push Alicent Hightower to launch her bid for the iron throne.
We cut to the banquet that marks the start of Rhaenyra’s wedding celebration. Resplendent in emerald, Alicent makes a grand entrance that interrupts Viserys’ speech about a new age of dragons.
Green happens to be the color that House Hightower uses as a call their banners to battle. As the queen takes her place at the high table, she refers to the princess as stepdaughter to assert her rank.
When dragons start to dance
Princess Rhaenyra and her cousin-groom open the dance floor with a short dance. Their little dance is cute, but the dance floor only gets interesting when everyone joins in.
We’re talking about the different story elements here, not the dancing. The actual dancing is the least interesting thing about the scenes that follow, yet the dance floor is the medium that moves the story forward.
High-born guests dance, and trouble dances along with them. The music is rhythmic, captivating, and menacing. The graceful dancing is war-like, stately, and restrained. As the dancers navigate the dance floor, Laenor’s lover attempts to blackmail Ser Criston to silence the truth about Criston’s affair with the princess. Bad move.
The truth brought a fellow troublemaker in the form of prince Daemon. True to form, Daemon makes a small scene when he (indecently) proposes to Rhaenyra on the dance floor.
Blood on the dance floor
Now, what’s a wedding in Westeros without a bit of mayhem? Chaos breaks out on the dance floor, and a stressed-out Viserys starts to nosebleed. The nexus of trouble is Ser Criston as he pummels Laenor’s boyfriend to death. Our knight only stops when his victim’s face turns to mush.
Blood, tears, and marriage vows
Rhaenyra, Laenor, and their immediate family participate in a solemn marriage ceremony. Laenor recites his vows in tears, and the princess isn’t too happy either. The solemn wedding scenes keep cutting to Ser Criston as he prepares to stab himself to death. Queen Alicent stops our suicidal knight as Rhaenyra and Larys complete their wedding ceremony.
Our couple is still wearing the same clothes. Viserys collapses as soon as the newlyweds complete their vows. The shot zooms out to put the tiny wedding party in the background. The foreground is now two banquet tables that frame a pool of blood. A rat saunters to the pool of blood and drinks at its rat-like leisure.
House of the Dragon episode 5 recap-review verdict: Excellent storytelling
House of the Dragon episode 5 lets us watch the writers weave a brilliant tapestry with different story threads. The actors do justice to their scripts as they bring simmering conflicts to a boil.
It’s fun to watch Alicent move from fear, betrayal, rage, and steely resolve. Time and again, Emilia Carey masterfully shows us the inner workings of Alicent’s mind, often without saying a word. We’ll miss her raspy, polite voice when the actress who plays older Alicent (Olivia Cooke) takes over.
As always, a special mention goes to the visuals that frame the story. They remain stunning, even without elaborate battle sequences.