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‘House of the Dragon’ recap: Heads roll, tongues wag

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Driftmark. Six years have passed. Corlys has been off in battle; word comes back to brother Vaemond and Corlys’s wife, Rhaenys, that he was injured and now suffers a potentially fatal fever. “I love my brother!” Vaemond bellows, but if Corlys dies, he wants the Driftmark title over Lucerys (Luke), Corlys’s successor. “I am the Sea Snake’s own blood!” Vaemond cries. It’s what you’d say to get into an exclusive underwater snake nightclub. Baela, Rhaenys’s teen granddaughter, stands next to her grandmother as Vaemond glares. Rhaenys thinks he’s being a little treasonous. Vaemond says Corlys cares only for the history books, not their bloodline. “My cousin the king would have your tongue for this,” Rhaenys warns. It’s a good warning!

At Dragonstone, Daemon receives a message from Baela about what’s happening in Driftmark. Daemon shows wife Rhaenyra the message; she recognizes that if Luke’s claim to the title is questioned, so could the legitimacy of her three sons with Harwin Strong. Daemon puts a hand on Rhaenyra’s belly. She is pregnant with their child. So… it’s off to King’s Landing to have another awkward and deadly family reunion.

In a callback to the time Viserys went to Driftmark and got no greeting, Rhaenyra and Daemon arrive, and not even Otto comes out — just the John Malkovich look-alike Lord Caswell. At the small council, presided over by Alicent, things are as tedious as ever until they discuss the Corlys matter. Even though Corlys wanted Luke to succeed him, and Luke was Laenor’s (nonbiological) son, it’s still uncertain whether the crown will let it happen. Alicent says they’ll listen to the petitions and decide what’s best.

Rhaenyra and Daemon arrive in the king’s quarters, where his model city now takes up most of the room. Viserys looks skeletal, with a covering over the left side of his face. He wears a gold ruffled blouse from Prince’s Purple Rain Collection. “It’s been so long,” he manages. Daemon gets right to business: They want Viserys to reaffirm his support for Luke. Rhaenyra, softening up the sales pitch, introduces Viserys to new heirs. She brought two sons from her marriage to Daemon. They are blonde toddlers named Aegon (another one?) and Viserys. “Now that is a name fit for the king,” says Viserys. He’s held together with sinew and hope, but the king’s got jokes.

Alicent attends to a delicate matter: A sobbing servant girl named Diana tells her that Aegon sexually assaulted her in his room. Alicent hugs the girl and thanks her for sharing, but also scares her into believing she’d be blamed if she tells anyone else. Alicent gives Diana money and a morning-after potion. “It’s best to be certain,” Alicent says before Diana gulps it down. Later, Alicent pulls the sheet on her sleeping son, exposing his bare butt. She yells that Aegon brought shame on his family and his wife (he’s married?). She slaps him and says he’s no son of hers. When did Aegon turn into a young, blonde Jack White?

Alicent, in no emotional state to do so, greets Rhaenyra and Daemon. Rhaenyra hides her arm, which bears a scar where Alicent sliced her. Rhaenyra and Daemon complain not only about how the king is drugged up while Alicent and Otto rule, but that Targaryen “Heraldry” has been removed, replaced with Faith of the Seven stars. Rhaenyra asks who will judge the claim for Lord of the Tides. Answer: Alicent and Otto, basically. Sorry, frenemies.

Brothers Jace and Luke return to the old training grounds where they used to spar with Aegon and Aemond. Luke is hung up about his parentage and worried he’ll lose his claim on Driftmark. Jace assures him it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. Ser Criston Cole is still around. He spars with Aemond, who, with his dashing eyepatch, is quite the warrior. He bests Cole in a practice fight. “Nephews, have you come to train?” Aemond asks. They’re interrupted by Vaemond’s arrival.

Vaemond goes straight to the council room in private with Alicent and Otto, which seems to go against the idea of hearing everybody’s petitions openly (Rhaenyra and Damon did get to state their case to Alicent earlier). Otto suggests that with war looming they don’t want a kid in charge of Driftmark. Vaemond proposes, “Hey, choose me and I’ll be (wink) deeply (wink) in your (wink) debt.”

At the Godswood tree, Rhaenyra and Rhaenys and her granddaughter Rhaena meet, and now there are no alphabet letters R, H, A or E left for anyone else. Rhaena is excused so the other Rhaes can talk business. Rhaenyra thinks the petition court is a trap to strip her sons of their legitimacy and that Rhaenys will side with herself. Rhaenys doesn’t have much pity given what happened to Laenor. Rhaenyra says she loved Laenor and didn’t order his death, but stops short of confessing to her and Laenor’s ruse or admitting he’s alive. Rhaenyra makes an offer: Laena’s children will be wed to hers (that’s Baela and Rhaena marrying Jace and Luke). Baela will end up queen, and Rhaena will rule Driftmark with Luke. Rhaenys doesn’t commit; she thinks the Hightowers might best Rhaenyra. For now, Rhaenys says she stands alone.

It’s dark and stormy. Rhaenyra visits bedridden Viserys. She whines for the billionth time about being his heir and how his choice divided the realm. She asks if he believes the prophecy about uniting the kingdom is true. Teary, she requests Viserys defend her and the children. The next day, Viserys, all sores and onion skin, is bandaged up and put together like Darth Vader after he was burned to a crisp. He tells Otto that he wants a family dinner that night. Maybe somewhere nice, like Olive Garden? Otto offers milk of the poppy. Viserys refuses the drink.

Iron Throne court day. Otto, presiding on said throne, chooses Vaemond to go first. Vaemond’s claim is about the impending end of the Velaryon bloodline and how he, closest in blood to Corlys, should be next. Rhaenyra interrupts, saying her sons carry Laenor’s blood, which everyone knows is untrue. Before Rhaenyra can state her case for Luke, the big doors open and King Viserys is announced. Viserys, wearing a gold mask over half his face (Phantom of the Red Keep!) slowly shuffles in with his cane, every step a struggle. Inspiring music plays. An hour later, the king crosses the room. His crown falls. Daemon picks it up and helps Viserys up the stairs to the Iron Throne. Daemon puts the crown on the king’s head but doesn’t bend the knee, which would have been a nice gesture. Viserys, breathing heavily, says the succession was settled; the only person who might know Viserys’s final decision is Rhaenys. She reaffirms that Corlys wanted Luke as his successor and never wavered. She breaks the news about Rhaenyra’s wedding offer, which makes Vaemond’s eyes go wide with anger. Alicent shakes her head. Rhaenys agrees to the marriage arrangement, which makes the king’s job easy. “The matter is settled! Again,” the king says. Luke is future Lord of the Tides.

And here things go off the rails. Vaemond, furious, accuses the king of breaking the law and ending Vaemond’s bloodline. “No,” Vaemond whispers, “I will not allow it.” The king tells him to watch himself. The acting showcase begins. “THAT!” Vaemond hollers, spinning at Luke and pointing, “is no true Velaryon!” Rhaenyra and Viserys try to calm him down, but Vaemond, shaking, says he won’t see his bloodline ended “on account of this … b…” He stops short. Daemon whispers, “Say it.” Vaemond smiles, takes a long beat, and hilariously delivers this to the rafters: “Her children… are bastards!” Everyone is shaken. Lots of “Oh no, here we go,” looks. Vaemond, recklessly tickled, continues: “And she… is a whore.” Whoa! Even Alicent is shocked. The king rises, drawing his Valyrian dagger: “I will have your tongue for that.” That won’t be necessary. As the camera faces Vaemond head on, his head is suddenly chopped right off, graphically, by Daemon’s sword. Cut dreadlocks fall and the head slides off at an angle at the mouth. In extreme close-up, a huge tongue sticks out of the dead body. “He can keep his tongue,” says a perfectly calm Daemon. Otto yells for guards to disarm Daemon, but they allow him to wipe his sword and walk away. Aemond, with the eye patch, loves this. The king moans. “When’s dinnertime?” he wonders. Alicent calls for the maesters; maybe they can put the two parts together with a stick.

Later, Vaemond’s body and head are laid out on a slab in King’s Landing’s most exclusive spa. He’s there for a deep-tissue embalming. Rhaenys watches the body prepped before it’s shipped to Driftmark. Does she get a claim check?

Supper, where we eat our feelings

Dinnertime! Viserys arrives, carried in a chair, to dine with the whole family. What is the king going to eat, pureed water? Despite the day’s deadly (headly?) turn, Viserys is in high spirits and toasts the young princes on their upcoming nuptials. Aegon teases Jace about his lack of experience bedding women. Viserys rises, delivering a lament: He loves these people most, but they’ve all grown distant from each other. He removes the gold mask, revealing an empty eye socket and his right cheek missing. And he wants everyone to eat? Viserys wants his family to see him as he is, not as king, but as their father, brother, husband and pawpaw. Crypt Keeper Viserys urges them to put aside grievances, “if not for the sake of the crown, then for the sake of this old man who loves you all so dearly.” It’s heartfelt. Let’s hear it for actor Paddy Considine for fully committing to this Cronenberg body horror.

Rhaenyra toasts Alicent, thanking her for taking care of Viserys and being lovingly loyal. She offers gratitude and an apology. It’s easy to apologize when you’ve just won. Alicent almost cries. She says they both are mothers who love their children. Where’s Larys to make her evil again? “You will make a fine queen,” Alicent says, seemingly signing off on the king’s long-standing plan of succession for Rhaenyra. Otto doesn’t seem pleased with that.

Everyone drinks, especially Aegon, who flirts grossly with Baela. Jace almost gets into a fight over that but refrains. Helaena toasts the brides-to-be and says marriage isn’t so bad, usually she just gets ignored. Viserys calls for some music, and it plays instantly, as if via Alexa. Jace dances with Helaena and now it’s a party. Viserys feels unwell and is carried out moaning in pain almost as soon as his family starts enjoying each other’s company. Even Otto grins.

A pig is brought to the table right in front of Aemond, and Luke thinks that’s pretty funny. Aemond, irritated, toasts, “To the health of my nephews… each of them handsome, wise… Strong.” He couldn’t resist mentioning their biological father’s name. “To these three Strong boys.” Jace punches Aemond to little effect. Guards break up the fight. Everyone starts to leave. Rhaenyra tells Alicent that she’ll take her children home then return on dragonback, presumably to help care for Viserys. “The king and I would both like that,” Alicent tells her.

Remember Mysaria, who seemed so important at the start of the season? She’s still running her sex-and-breakfast establishment, and she receives gossip from a spy who was at the castle that night.

The king’s end… probably?

Viserys is in bed, no mask, still in pain. Alicent joins him, giving him milk of the poppy. He keeps saying, “I’m sorry.” He remembers that she wanted to know about the prophecy. But it was Rhaenyra who had asked him about the prophecy, not Alicent. “Aegon,” he says. The dream, the sacrifice, was all true, he tells Alicent, “what I saw in the north, the prince that was promised.” Alicent looks alarmed. She asks if he means Aemond. He tells her that it’s the prince meant to unite the realm. “It is you. You are the one. You must do this.” But wait 100 years. Alicent, shaken, says, “I understand, my king.” Does she, though? Is this all a big misunderstanding meant to motivate Alicent to try to get Aegon on the throne instead of giving up as she seemed to earlier? Is the war back on? Alicent exits, perhaps with a new sense of purpose. We focus on the dagger by the bedside. The king moans for a very long time. “Oh, no more,” he seems to say. He reaches his hand into the air. He sheds a tear. His breath slows. The screen goes black. “My love,” it sounds like he’s saying in the darkness. The king is dead, or he may live on, decaying, for another 10 years. You never really know with this show.



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