Episode 7 is a masterful, edge-of-your-seat bottle episode the place all the main characters wrestle with grief, dread, and the generational trauma that has unfold from Alicent and Rhaenyra to their youngsters. Practically the whole episode is spent in a pair of prolonged scenes which have the whole forged on display screen, roiling with stress, hatred, and frustration. As we transfer in the direction of the top of the season, we’ll speak about extra adjustments from the supply materials, most of them for the higher, and the methods through which Home of the Dragon continues to cleverly introduce intriguing particulars from Martin’s in depth world.
Episode 7 is entitled “Driftmark.” Clearly, that is the title of the island which the Velaryons name house, in addition to the title of their former fortress. The Velaryons now reside of their second fortress, Excessive Tide, constructed with the spoils of Corlys Velaryon’s (Steve Toussaint) well-known 9 voyages on a spit of land solely accessible to the remainder of Driftmark when the tide is out. Driftmark additionally helps two cities, (one for every fortress)—Spicetown and Hull—alongside quite a few shipyards, making it the best base for the Royal Navy. Driftmark’s bodily proximity to Dragonstone additionally mirrors the shut ties between the Homes Velaryon and Targaryen. Not solely do each declare ancestry from Outdated Valyria, however the nearness of their seats implies that the dragons that roost on Dragonstone are frequent guests to Driftmark.
This episode takes benefit of the locale, not simply as a central set-piece the place practically the entire present’s characters can collect for a stress cooker of a funeral reception, however as a stunning setting whose forlorn stretches of coast and wind-ravaged dunes convey the yawning vacancy of the mourners, all reckoning with unsure futures and sudden losses. The longing stares throughout the Slim Sea from Driftmark additionally remind us of the foreignness of each the Targaryens and Velaryons. The house that gives them with a typical tradition is lengthy gone and throughout the ocean. They share some near-relationship to Westeros however are usually not part of it—islands off the coast, drawn again throughout the ocean.
Unreliable Narrators: The “Deaths” of the Velaryon Siblings
On the historic distance with which Martin writes Hearth & Blood, Archmaester Gyldayn has little perception into the deaths of Laena (Nanna Blondell) and Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan). Within the e-book, each die as a part of the “Pink Spring,” a 12 months of premature, unrelated deaths which reshape the political panorama. There may be extra nuance and care taken with their tales right here within the present, in addition to one gorgeous reversal seemingly designed to fake-out e-book readers. We are going to start Laena’s dying, which occurred final episode and is the extra recognizable of the 2 when translated onto the display screen.
Gyldayn writes of Laena’s dying:
A day and an evening of labor left Laena Velaryon pale and weak, however lastly she gave start […] however the babe was twisted and malformed, and died throughout the hour. Nor did his mom lengthy survive him […] After three days of delirium, Girl Laena handed from this mortal coil” (Hearth & Blood 378)
On this case, the essential components are preserved: Laena dies because of problems from being pregnant. However the place the e-book’s account serves as one other instance of the violence that ladies face beneath the patriarchy, the present expands her dying right into a second of company and a mirrored image of Daemon’s (Matt Smith) willingness to place freedom over legacy. He doesn’t order a deadly cesarean like Viserys (Paddy Considine) did in episode one, and Laena chooses a fast and dignified dying by dragonfire slightly than a slower, tortured demise which would scale back her last moments to that of a broodmare within the sport of thrones. It’s a delicate change that reverberates splendidly towards the e-book’s distant and informal cruelty… but it surely’s nothing in comparison with the adjustments they make with Laenor.
In Hearth & Blood, Laenor is reported to have been “stabbed to dying by his pal and companion Ser Qarl Correy […] The circumstances of the homicide stay a thriller […] Septon Eustace […] declares jealousy the motive for the slaying […] Mushroom, as at all times, favors the sinister concept, suggesting that Prince Daemon paid Qarl Correy to eliminate Princess Rhaenyra’s husband” (Hearth & Blood 379). As soon as once more, the present chooses to fastidiously thread the needle by mixing and matching Gyldayn’s sources and inserting Daemon and Qarl (Arty Froushan) on the heart of the Laenor’s obvious dying. The showrunners even seem to increase upon this model of occasions with a merciless twist, making Rhaenyra (Emma D’arcy) equally accountable for the homicide simply hours after reaffirming how a lot she cares about her husband’s happiness. It’s a intelligent little ruse that appears supposed to fake-out e-book readers: including a layer of horror earlier than pulling a bait and change and giving one of many present’s few first rate characters an opportunity to stay a full and fulfilling life far-off from the toxic calls for of the Iron Throne.
Ever because the dying of Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod) in episode 5, there was a fear lurking within the pit of my abdomen about how the present will deal with the dying of its second queer character in a season—this one performed by an actor of shade. On the entire, the showrunners are doing a implausible job of constructing the mandatory adjustments to maintain to the plot of the unique whereas minimizing a few of its much less palatable tropes and giving its minor characters the care they deserve. It’s unlikely that we are going to see Laenor once more on this collection (although the truth that numerous plot-points going ahead will take care of the Free Cities opens up a few prospects for the place he may present up) however it’s good to know that, even on a present as ruthless as Home of the Dragon, a deserving character often will get some semblance of a contented ending.
The Blacks and the Greens
Because the succession disaster ramps up between Rhaenyra and Alicent (Olivia Cooke), we must always look to the thematic shade coordination that the present has preserved from the books in addition to recontextualized. The total title of the 2013 novella that varieties the spine of the collection is The Princess & The Queen; or The Blacks and the Greens. The subtitle refers to a banquet held in honor of Viserys and Alicent’s fifth marriage ceremony anniversary. At that feast, Alicent clothes in inexperienced and Rhaenyra clothes in black, resulting in members of their loyalist factions referring to themselves as “Blacks” and “Greens.” Clearly, Alicent’s gown at Rhaenyra’s marriage ceremony already offered a part of this central conceit, with Larys articulating a brand new little bit of lore for the present the place Home Hightower makes use of wildfire to sign the calling of the banners.
Given the occasions of this episode—together with Rhaenyra referring to Alicent’s loyalists as “the Greens”—it’s unlikely the present will return to the concept of a banquet the place the clothes develop into symbolic banners beneath which competing factions are shaped. However the present has been selecting to decorate Alicent’s youngsters in inexperienced and Rhaenyra’s in Targaryen crimson and black. We haven’t but gotten an in-world clarification for Rhaenyra’s sartorial selections (although there’s cause to consider we’ll by the top of this season), however there are actually some key resonances with the colour black on which the present can draw.
Clearly, the Targaryen sigil is a crimson, three-headed dragon on a black area which makes each colours necessary to Targaryen id. However there’s additionally Balerion, the Black Dread who’s the primary of the Targaryen dragons post-exile in addition to the mount for Aegon the Conqueror and (briefly) for King Viserys.
The Valyrian metal sword of the Targaryen kings, Blackfyre, is probably going named for Balerion, provided that, in Martin’s unique books, the magical fireplace that dragons breathe is color-coordinated with their scales. Thus, black-scaled Balerion breathed gouts of black flame. (I’m at all times on the fence about this lacking element, partly as a result of it so clearly flags dragons as magical creatures whose fiery breath is something however pure. That stated, it is likely to be laborious to drag off on-screen with out trying a bit of foolish).
Blackfyre initially signified the reputable and first Targaryen line, simply as Darkish Sister (as talked about in my explainer for episode six) signifies a hard and impressive lesser line. A century or so after the occasions of Home of the Dragon, nonetheless, the blade shall be taken up by a legitimated Targaryen bastard, Daemon Waters. He goes on to rename himself Daemon Blackfyre and begin the primary of 4 Blackfyre Rebellions throughout the following fifty years. Sons of Home Blackfyre are among the many exiled Targaryen princes talked about within the final article and use the Targaryen colours in reverse—a black dragon on a crimson area. Even when Rhaenyra doesn’t isn’t given a transparent cause for her appellation within the present, she resonates as a non secular (and literal) ancestor of Home Blackfyre and its penchant for strolling the road between legitimacy and revolt.
Odds and Ends
The Merling King
Throughout the funeral service for Laena, Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), intones that they are going to commit her physique to “the dominion of the Merling King.” The Merling King is a type of folk-deity worshiped by sailors and fisherman on each side of the Slim Sea. Not a part of any formal faith, he’s represented within the books as a type of Triton determine—a bearded merman with a trident. There are a number of references to the Merling King scattered all through the assorted novels and concordances—a rumored witch, Ursula Upcliffe who claimed to be his bride; a illustration on the banners of Home Manderly of White Harbor; some spires of rock in Blackwater Bay known as the “Spears of the Merling King”—however essentially the most fascinating connection to the Velaryons comes from a rumor that the Driftwood Throne, the Lord of the Tides’ literal seat, was a present from the Merling King after a pact was made between the god and exiled Valyrian service provider princes. That stated, being Westerosi Lords from Outdated Valyria, there’s neverany indication within the books that the Velaryons worship anybody however the Seven (or maybe the gods of their shattered homeland).
The final two episodes have every given us a scene with Alicent’s second little one and solely daughter, Helaena Targaryen (Evie Allen). Within the books, we aren’t informed a lot of Helaena till later within the narrative. Whereas she ultimately succumbs to insanity, the present is portraying her as seemingly neurodivergent in addition to possessed of prophetic powers. Within the earlier episode, she claimed that her brother, Aemond, would wish to “shut a watch” earlier than acquiring a dragon and this episode sees her repeating “hand turns loom; spool of inexperienced, spool of black; dragons of flesh weaving dragons of thread” in obvious reference to the looming disaster between the Blacks and the Greens. Some have theorized that her episode six characterization of a millipede’s last phase having no legs would possibly even be in reference to Bran Stark, the ultimate king of Westeros within the timeline we’ve got entry to. Regardless of the present intends to do with Helaena Targaryen, these transient glimpses have been extra fascinating than her unique characterization and would possibly even give us extra of the magic and prophecy that the unique collection was sorely lacking.
Personally, “Driftmark” is my favourite episode to this point. It takes its time giving us all of the simmering tensions within the Targaryen/Velaryon/Hightower clan solely to have the hostility explode in a implausible scene that sees all of the rancor between Rhaenyra and Alicent lastly boil over. The present is doing a wonderful job of fleshing out Alicent Hightower particularly, who stays sympathetic and tragic whilst her paranoia drives her to extra excessive measures. It’s additionally been environment friendly in its characterization of the Targaryen and Velaryon youngsters, who solely get these final two episodes to ascertain themselves earlier than one other time leap offers us the actors who will painting them as younger adults (and sure by means of the top of the collection). Solely three episodes stay! What did you assume? Did you benefit from the powder keg of Driftmark? How do you are feeling concerning the adjustments from the supply materials? How nice does Vhagar proceed to be?
Tyler Dean is a professor of Victorian Gothic Literature. He holds a doctorate from the College of California Irvine and teaches at a handful of Southern California schools. He’s the creator of “Distended Youth: Arrested Growth within the Victorian Novel” and his article “Exhuming M. Paul: Carmen Maria Machado and Creating Area for Pedagogical Discomfort” seems in the newest problem of Victorian Research. He’s one half of the Lincoln & Welles podcast accessible on itunes or by means of your favourite podcatcher. His fantastical bestiary may be discovered on Fb at @presumptivebestiary.