House of the Dragon recap: An argument over Driftmark leads to more bloodshed

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Oh, you thought we weren't getting another time jump? You fool. Don't you know what show you're watching? Okay, it's been six years since Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) married her uncle, Daemon (Matt Smith), after staging the death of her former husband, Laenor Velaryon. Let's play catch-up.

  • Rhaenyra is still married to Daemon. Since we last saw them, they've had two children, Viserys (named after her father) and Aegon (so many Aegons!). In this episode, she's pregnant with her third child by Daemon.

  • They live in Dragonstone with the children she shared with Laenor (via Harwin Strong), Princes Jacaerys (now played by Harry Collett), Lucerys, and Joffrey.

  • King Viserys (Paddy Considine) is still alive, though he's a withered husk of a man with a face that's missing an eye and most of a cheek. When he's not stoned on Milk of the Poppy, he's hiding behind a gold mask that covers half of his eroded face.

  • Though she claims the king is in control, it's obvious that Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) now rules over King's Landing with her father, the Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). They've become quite immersed in the Faith of the Seven, going so far as to swap out the castle's "Targaryen heraldry," as Daemon calls it, for seven-pointed stars that honor the new gods.

  • Her son, Prince Aegon II (now played by Tom Glynn-Carney), is married to his sister, Princess Helaena (now played by Phia Saban), though he's brazenly unfaithful.

  • Prince Aemond (now played with grand malevolence by Ewan Mitchell) has grown into a fierce and lithe fighter, though he still wears an eyepatch, a reminder of the eye he lost at the hand of young Lucerys.

We begin, however, in Driftmark, where we learn that Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) has been gravely injured while in battle. He's been at sea for years, with Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) ruling in his stead. After leading his sailors into an ambush, he suffered a slashed neck and drifted into a fever that's likely to kill him. His brother, Vaemond (Wil Johnson), encourages Rhaenys to consider who will be the next Lord of the Tides if he dies.

Resigned to the fact that it will never be her, she names Lucerys Velaryon, son of Laenor. It's what Corlys wished. Vaemond hints at what she (and the rest of the kingdom) won't say, lest they be accused of treason: Lucerys is not a true Velaryon. "I am the Sea Snake's own blood," he says. "My brother cares only for the history books, but what of the Velaryon line?" He wants Driftmark for himself.

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO

Baela, who is now Rhaenys' ward, sends a note to Rhaenyra and Daemon at Dragonstone informing them he'll be making a claim to the throne of Driftmark. They know that this means he'll be challenging the legitimacy of Lucerys' Velaryon blood and, by extension, that of Jacaerys' and Joffrey's as well. Rhaenys remains a wild card. "She has no love for us," says Rhaenyra, who knows Rhaenys suspects them in the "death" of Laenor. Daemon, on the other hand, is optimistic since she's taken Baela under her wing.

They travel to King's Landing to defend Lucerys' claim to Driftmark, which they know can only be secured by King Viserys. Unfortunately, the delirious and drugged king is in no shape to affirm Lucerys as heir to Driftmark. That leaves the decision to Alicent and Otto, who oversee a small council that seems amenable to Vaemond's claim. Lucerys, after all, can't command a fleet if they go to war. And war is looming.

But Alicent's got other things on her mind. A servant weeps at her feet, terrified to tell the queen that Aegon II sexually assaulted her. Alicent tells the woman she believes her, but that it's best to tell no one of the situation. "They might think you're the sort of girl that might have enticed him first," she warns. Alicent rewards her silence with a bit of gold and a cup of the same moon tea Rhaenyra was served after her tryst with Criston (Fabien Frankel). Aegon II paints himself as the victim when Alicent reprimands him. "I've done everything you've asked me to," he spits. "It'll never be enough for you or father."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO Olivia Cooke's Queen Alicent Hightower on 'House of the Dragon'

Rhaenyra meets with Rhaenys, who's also arrived at King's Landing for the Driftmark petition. She wants to find out where Rhaenys stands on succession: Will she continue to support Lucerys' claim or back Vaemond? Or will she advocate for herself? Rhaenys keeps her cards close to her chest, but she does voice her suspicion of Rhaenyra's role in Laenor's death. "I did not order his death, nor was I complicit in it, I swear to you," says Rhaenyra. She's not lying, but she's also not being entirely honest.

She makes an offer. If Rhaenys backs Lucerys' claim, Rhaenyra will arrange for Jacaerys and Lucerys to be betrothed to Baela and Rhaena, thus ensuring Velaryon blood will rule both the Seven Kingdoms and Driftmark. Rhaenys listens, but remains noncommittal.

The next day, everyone gathers in the Red Keep to discuss Driftmark. Otto stands in for Viserys, who is nowhere in sight. Vaemond, who speaks first, gets right down to business. "The true and unimpeachable blood of House Velaryon runs through my veins," he declares. Rhaenyra is quick to play defense, claiming that Laenor's Velaryon blood runs through her heirs. Everyone knows it to be false, but will Vaemond risk treason by actually coming out and saying it?

Just as Rhaenyra begins to make her case for Lucerys, the doors of Red Keep swing open to reveal an ailing Viserys. Sick and withered, he limps to the throne, the crown slipping from his head. Once there, he expresses confusion. The succession, he says, is settled. The only one able to offer insight into the desires of Lord Corlys is his wife, Rhaenys.

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) defends her son at court in 'House of the Dragon'

When she speaks, it is to affirm Lucerys. She agrees publicly to Rhaenyra's proposal to marry Jacaerys and Lucerys to be betrothed to Baela and Rhaena. "The matter is settled… again," intones Viserys.

This, however, doesn't sit well with Vaemond, claiming Viserys broke law and "centuries of tradition" to make Rhaenyra his heir. "Don't you dare tell me who deserves to inherit the name of Velaryon," he says. "I will not allow it." As Vaemond's rage boils, Daemon senses his urge to speak the truth about Lucerys.

"Say it," Daemon says.

So Vaemond does. "Her children are bastards," he declares, "and she is a whore."

An incensed but weak Viserys rises, knife unsheathed. "I will have your tongue for that!" he shouts. Before he can climb down from the throne, however, Vaemond's head is chopped in two by Daemon. Viserys collapses. The matter is settled. Again. (Though not for Rhaenys, who certainly did not want to see it go down this way.)

Before the petitions, Viserys instructed Otto to gather the entire family for dinner. Despite the violence that just occurred, the meal goes on as planned. A toast is made to celebrate the betrothal and Viserys is well enough to make a speech. He removes his mask, revealing the extent of his facial rot. Old and vulnerable, he pleads with the family to let go of the "ill feelings in our hearts." The realm cannot stand, he says, "if the house of the dragon stands divided."

House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon

Ollie Upton/HBO

Rhaenyra takes the opportunity to make amends. She toasts to Alicent, offering an apology. Alicent returns the favor, telling her old friend that she'll make a "fine queen." There's dancing and drinking. For a moment, everyone seems to be getting along, even after sickness strikes Viserys and he's taken away. A sarcastic toast from Aemond, unfortunately, spoils the mood, and the boys are soon fighting, old resentments made new. Daemon and Alicent break it up and Rhaenyra offers to take the children back to Dragonstone. But she promises to return on her dragon; perhaps they can mend what's so long been broken. "The king and I would like that," says Alicent.

But peace never lasts in Westeros. Earlier in the episode, Rhaenyra spoke to Viserys as he drifted in a state of delirium. "The Song of Ice and Fire, do you believe it to be true?" she asked. "You told me it was our duty to hold the realm united against a common foe, but by naming me heir you divided the realm." She thought she wanted to be queen, but the burden is too heavy.

Viserys, drugged and distant, didn't respond at the time. As Alicent tends to him in the final scene, however, he gives her the answer Rhaenyra was seeking. Unfortunately, his words come out garbled. In scraps, he recounts the prophecy and mentions Aegon. He's speaking about Aegon the Conqueror, his ancestor who made the prophecy, but Alicent doesn't know that. And when Viserys mentions the "prince that was promised," it's likely that Alicent believes he's referring to their son, Aegon II. "It is you," he mumbles. "You are the one. You must do this."

"I understand, my king," says Alicent. But what does she understand? How is she interpreting these words? That's what we're left to wonder as the picture fades to black.

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