King Viserys has ruled the Seven Kingdoms for years, but can’t seem to control his daughter. Having tired of her bachelorette antics, Viserys declared inthat Rhaenyra would marry Ser Laenor Velaryon. The only person more apprehensive about the deal than Rhaenyra is Daemon Targaryen, who let his desire to marry his niece known.
Just Targaryen things.
Tensions within House Targaryen, titled We Light the Way. Queen Alicent is now dealing with the political implications of Rhaenyra scheming to get the queen’s dad Otto Hightower dismissed as the king’s hand and Daemon continues to cause a ruckus wherever he goes.
We Light the Way takes place shortly after the climax of the previous episode, meaning there’s no big time gap like the three years that passed between the second and third episodes.
A full recap of House of the Dragon episode 5 is below. Caution: Spoilers ahead.
The lady of the vale
We’ve heard a few references to Daemon Targaryen’s wife — Rhea Royce, or “the bronze bitch” as Daemon calls her — but we’ve never actually met her. That changes in the opening scene of House of the Dragon episode 5.
Lady Royce rides into the vale, only to find her path blocked by a cloaked Daemon. Dude couldn’t have looked more murdery if he tried.
“Husband,” she says, “what brings you to the vale? Have you at last come to consummate our marriage? The vale sheep might be willing, even if I’m not.”
She taunts Daemon about King Viserys choosing a “little girl” over Daemon, and wonders aloud whether Daemon will kill his own niece.
But as the ominously cloaked Daemon advances on her, she realizes he has other plans. Daemon doesn’t want to kill Rhaenyra, he wants to marry her. To do that, he’ll need to get rid of his wife.
And so he does. Daemon startles Lady Royce’s horse, causing her to fall back and injure her arm. He then picks up a nearby rock to finish the act. That’s a wrap for Lady Royce.
Farewell to the Hand
After being dismissed as Hand of the King in the final moments of episode 4, Otto Hightower is on the way out of King’s Landing. He’s met at the city gates by his daughter, Queen Alicent. With a backdrop of pouring rain, as with all good farewells, she tells her father she regrets the king’s decision to expel him.
Otto places the blame on Alicent herself for convincing King Viserys that the reports of Daemon’s brothel liaison with Rhaenyra were not to be trusted. Alicent fires back that Otto is at fault for being so relentless about positioning Aegon, her son and his grandson, as heir.
Otto isn’t having it.
“The king will die. It may be months or years, but he’ll not live to be an old man,” he says. “And if Rhaenyra succeeds him, war will follow… the realm will not accept her, and to secure her claim she’ll have to put your children to the sword. She’ll have no choice.”
“The time is coming, Alicent. Either you prepare Aegon to rule or you plead to Rhaenyra and pray for her mercy.”
Damn. Some pretty full-on parting words there. No pressure.
Targaryen x Velaryon
Daemon isn’t the only Targaryen with marriage on his mind. King Viserys sails with his court, plus Rhaenyra, to Driftmark. He intends to wed Rhaenyra to Laenor Velaryon, the son of Lord Corlys Velaryon.
Lord Corlys and his wife, Princess Rhaenys, embrace the king and his court inside Driftmark castle’s Great Hall. Corlys congratulates Lord Lyonel Strong on his promotion to Hand of the King – you may remember Lord Strong as the Master of Laws who counseled Viserys a couple of times in earlier episodes – but sighs about the unfortunate circumstances in which they all meet. Viserys is confused – the circumstances seem perfectly fortunate to him.
“Daemon’s wife, the Lady Rhea Royce, has passed,” Lord Corlys announces. Rhaenys explains that Lady Royce was killed in a “hunting mishap,” that her neck and skull were crushed after being thrown from her horse.
“A most surprising end. Lady Rhea’s skill as a rider and hunter were well known,” Corlys says.
Viserys and the new Hand of the King exchange concerned glances. The implication is obvious: Foul play is at work.
And by “foul play” I mean Daemon. And by “at work” I mean “killing his wife.”
“Mayhaps we can toward happier pursuits,” a clearly annoyed Viserys says. He’s also got a conspicuous cough he can’t seem to shake. Viserys proposes wedding the two families in blood. Lord Corlys is honored, but wants to know how the succession will work.
They haggle and then strike the following bargain: When Rhaenyra and Laenor have children, they’ll inherit the paternal family name of Velaryon. But when any of those children become king or queen, they’ll rule under the name of Targaryen.
A deal is a deal
As King Viserys and Lord Corlys were bartering over marriage arrangements, both Rhaenyra and Laenor were conspicuous by their absence. In the next scene, we see them sharing a romantic walk by the beach – during which they agree to pretend to love each other in public.
“I know this union is not what you would choose,” Rhaenyra says.
“I hold nothing against you, cousin,” Laenor glumly replies – reminding us that, even if Daemon doesn’t get his way, Rhaenyra is still marrying within the family. (Rhaenys, Laenor’s mother, is Viserys’ cousin.)
Rhaenyra clarifies that she knows there’s a difference in “taste.” Some people like roast duck, she says, while others like goose. Translation: Some men like women, other men like men.
“I know that whatever agreement they struck up there will not change your appetite,” Rhaenyra says, “and nor will it change mine.”
Heeding the advice Daemon gave her, Rhaenyra suggests they wed, perform their duties to the Realm, and then “dine as we see fit” once that tomfoolery is done.
Later, we see Laenor lying on a grassy knoll with his lover. “I’ve always feared the day you’d have to marry a woman, and now it comes,” the chap says. They frolic a bit and begin to get intimate when the unnamed man notes that Laenor will need a “sworn protector” in King’s Landing.
“This is better than what we could have hoped for,” he says. “She has a paramour of her own. I wonder who it is.”
Could that paramour be Ser Criston Cole, who Rhaenyra bedded in the last episode? Ser Criston certainly hopes so. On the voyage back to King’s Landing, the knight shoots his shot.
“Ser Laenor is a good and decent man, but you did not choose him. He was chosen for you,” he tells her. “If there were another path, one that led to freedom, would you tread it?”
He suggests the two of them leave King’s Landing behind and head to Essos, for her to leave the “burdens and indignities” of royal life.
“You could marry me. A marriage for love, not for the crown.”
She smiles, but not in a “yes, let’s do it” way, and more in an “oh, sweetie” way.
“I am the crown, Ser Criston.”
She admits to chafing at her duties, but says it’s her duty to marry a nobleman from a great house. But, Rhaenyra adds, that doesn’t mean their fling has to end. “Laenor and I have an understanding…”
“You want me to be your whore?” Ser Criston incredulously responds. “I took an oath, as a knight of your Kingsguard, an oath of chastity, I’ve broken it. I’ve soiled my white cloak, and it’s the only thing I have to my fucking name. I thought if we were married I might be able to restore it.”
Rhaenyra begins yammering on about royal duties again, but the fuming Ser Criston storms off before she can finish her speech.
A queen’s Hand
You may recall, all the way back in episode 3, being introduced to Larys Strong. His father, Lyonel, is now Hand of the King.
In any case, he reappears in the Godswood to comfort a saddened Queen Alicent. While she’s praying to the Godswood Tree, he starts rhapsodizing about flowers — so you know he’s up to no good.
“The weather has been lovely,” Alicent says, trying to brush Lord Strong off as she walks away.
“It has, and yet it is a dark day for the realm. Your father was a good man.”
“As is yours who took his place,” she replies briskly.
“And still, the manner of your father’s departure, it feels something of an injustice.”
This bloke is a schemer. Strong hints that he’s seen some foul play behind Hightower’s dismissal, and innocently asks the queen if Rhaenyra is her ally.
“I did wonder if she could be relied upon, now that she is unwell,” he says. “On the very same night your father was dismissed, the grand maester delivered a tea to the princess’ chambers.”
Strong keeps rambling sycophantically about being glad that Rhaenyra is well enough to sail to Driftmark, but the implication of his revelation was clearly grasped by the Queen. She realizes that the King believed Rhaenyra to be guilty of the charges Otto Hightower laid against her and Daemon, which is why he sent the Westeros equivalent of a morning-after pill to her chambers. Yet he dismissed Hightower all the same.
The king is in strife
When King Viserys returns to King’s Landing from Driftmark, his first order of business is to… not die. After descending from his horse carriage, he takes a few steps before collapsing. Queen Alicent is watching the commotion from the balcony of her chambers.
Alicent uses this opportunity to question Ser Criston, who unbeknownst to her is fresh off being rejected by Rhaenyra. The queen questions him about what he did or did not hear and see of Rhaenyra on the night Daemon returned to King’s Landing.
Ser Criston, unaware of the liaison between the Targaryens, admits to the crime he thinks Alicent is accusing him of.
“It happened, your grace. The sin you allude to. I have committed it. At her instigation, it is true, but that is no excuse. My oath has been broken, I have dishonored myself, I deserve no consideration.”
He asks only one thing of the queen: That, instead of torturing him, he be sentenced to swift death.
“Thank you for your honesty,” Queen Alicent says. “You may go.”
A confused and alarmed Ser Criston scurries off.
Meanwhile, the maesters are tending to the unwell king. One suggests an herbal remedy, but Arch Maester Mellos reprimands him, saying leeches are the answer. Viserys takes a potion to help him sleep and, when it’s just him and Hand of the King Lyonel Strong in the room, he gets reflective.
“Will I be remembered as a good king, Lyonel? What will they say of me when the histories are written? I have neither fought nor conquered, nor suffered any great defeat.”
Strong calls that good fortune, and says it’s more important to live in peace than it is to have songs sung about you by distant generations.
“There is a part of me that wishes I’d have been tested,” Viserys says, as he begins to drift to sleep, “I often think that in the crucible I may have been forged a different man.”
Life moves fast in House of the Dragon. At the beginning of the episode, Rhaenyra wasn’t even officially betrothed. Halfway through the episode, the welcome party for the wedding begins. It’s not the wedding, but the feast that kicks off a week of wedding celebrations.
The first lord to be announced to us is Jason Lannister, master of Castlereagh Rock, who Viserys initially tried to set Rhaenyra up with. He greets King Viserys and Princess Rhaenyra, who are sitting at a table atop a stage overseeing the Great Hall.
“Congratulations, your grace, you have made a fine match for the princess,” Lannister says to the king, who’s seated next to Rhaenyra.
Rhaenyra replies: “Thank you, Lord Jason, I can think of no better man than Ser Laenor.”
Next up to congratulate the royals is a lord from House Royce. Viserys offers condolences for Lady Rhea Royce, and as Rhaenyra is doing the same, the Velaryon family makes their entrance.
Next in the room isn’t the queen, who to the king’s consternation has yet to arrive, but Daemon Targaryen. The king is clearly discomfited by Daemon’s presence, but offers him a chair at the royal table.
King Viserys kicks off his speech about uniting the two oldest houses in the realm, the Targaryens and the Velaryons, when Queen Alicent finally makes her entrance. A hush falls over the room as ominous music plays. Alicent, wearing an emerald dress, is radiating bad bitch energy.
“The beacon of Hightower, do you know what color it glows when Old Town calls its banners to war?” Lord Strong whispers to a chap next to him. “Green.”
When the queen congratulates Rhaenyra, her mouth says this is a great blessing – but her eyes say, “I intend to murder you, post-haste.”
King Viserys resumes his speech, the typical stuff about great houses and the feasts to come. Princess Rhaenyra and Lord Laenor have their first dance, as Ser Criston looks on sourly.
Queen Alicent walks off to greet her uncle, who tells her that Old Town stands with her. She looks with consternation at Rhaenyra, who’s still grooving with Laenor. There’s trouble a brewin’.
At this point, Ser Gerold Royce accosts Daemon at the royal table about the death of Lady Royce, who was Gerold’s cousin. Daemon calls it a tragic accident, but Ser Royce accuses Daemon of being the culprit.
Daemon not only threatens that “in King’s Landing, men are made to answer for their slanders,” he adds that he plans to fly to the Vale to collect his inheritance. Since he and Lady Royce had no children, her inheritance – all of Runestone – now comes to him.
The Vale lord, clearly terrified about the implicit threat of dragonfire, retreats.
A royal brawl
Daemon descends on the dance and makes his move on the Lady of Driftmark, Laena Velaryon.
He opens with a neg: “Has anyone ever told you you’re nearly as pretty as your brother.”
“You flatter me. I was sorry to hear about your lady wife.”
“Don’t be, I wasn’t.”
As Daemon chats up Laena, who’s very receptive to his overtures, Lord Laenor and his lover (whose name we still don’t know) commiserate. The fellow reckons he knows who Rhaenyra’s paramour is – Ser Criston Cole. He’s figured it out because Ser Criston is unable to take his eyes off her.
Bit of a stretch there, since keeping his eyes on Rhaenyra is literally his job.
“You don’t know me, Ser Criston, but we are both deeply invested in this union,” the man tells Ser Criston. “Ser Laenor is quite dear to me, as I know the princess is to you. We should swear to each other to guard them and their secrets. If those are kept safe, then so will we all.”
Ser Criston looks super salty about it all.
Meanwhile, Daemon takes Rhaenyra aside and asks if she really wants to get married. “Laenor is a good man and a fine knight. He will bore you senseless,” he counsels.
“Marriage is only a political arrangement, I hear.”
“Mine was recently dissolved,” he says with faux solemnity.
“So take me then. Has this not been your purpose? I am not yet married, but the hours pass swiftly.”
Cut through the Kingsguard, Rhaenyra dares him, and take her to Dragonstone as his wife.
Daemon grabs her behind the head as if to kiss her, an undignified sight that Viserys catches. Just as he’s about to get inflamed, a commotion breaks out: Screaming and yelping.
It’s Ser Criston Cole and Laenor’s lover. They start brawling, which starts a wider melee. A distressed King Viserys starts coughing blood.
In the end, Cole literally beats the guy to death. It’s super full on.
The malarkey ends the wedding festivities. Instead of the seven days of feasting and jousting Viserys talked about, Grand Maester Mellos weds Rhaenyra and Laenor in the empty Great Hall.
Instead of a spectacular royal wedding, the only guests are the parents from each side, plus Lord Strong. “I am yours, and you are mine,” Laenor says behinds tears as he grieves for his real lover.
We see Ser Criston Cole kneeling at King’s Landing’s Godswood Tree. Having disgraced the princess, he’s about to commit suicide by impaling himself with his dagger. But he’s stopped at the last minute by Queen Alicent calling his name — the second time in the same episode.
In the final moment before the credits play, King Viserys collapses. A rough ending to a rough wedding.