“House of the Dragon” seems to have finally found its rhythm in the hands of Clare Kilner, director of the last two episodes. To that end, one must remember that no wedding ceremony ends like a fairy tale in Westeros, and “We Light the Way” evidences that fact by bringing a marriage ceremony fraught with political intrigue and violence. The seeds of the dragon dance begin to germinate.
Kilner makes subtle choices by bringing in visual metaphors that set the mood for the final tension; the said for the unsaid is present and creates nuance, reflections, and interpretations. The script explores motivations that explode into attitudes with long-term consequences (or none at all) and establishes important connections from the epicenter of the war.
MOTIVATIONS IN FOCUS
As in the previous episode, Alicent Hightower’s anguish and resentment come into focus. Interestingly, it is her doubts and whining that leave her susceptible for Otto and Larys Strong’s perceptions to surface her real feelings about the condition of her friendship with Rhaenyra. And it is at this point that the episode takes on layers, as the princess’ lies and the queen’s deception open up margins for different interpretations. After all, was Viserys’ wife jealous of her stepdaughter’s night of pleasures or saddened by her friend’s breach of trust?
Another character whose motivations and resentments are questionable in this chapter is Criston Cole. Rhaenyra’s sworn shield goes from oblivious shame to outburst, and while there isn’t as much nuance in his actions, they say a lot about his role in the apex of the dragon dance and his allegiance. It seems that Alicent has finally gained an ally, as Larys Crookedfoot suggested to him, but realize that for different – or perhaps not so much – reasons than his own. I must say that particularly the royal guard sounded to me like a sulky teenager without a just cause.
If we bring his issues into modernity, his whole drama becomes even more absurd; after all at no point did Rhaenyra force him to have sex or make promises to him. The guy got emotional and made a meaningless proposal to the heiress to the throne – and let’s face it, a spoiled one at that – which doesn’t justify his attack on Sir Joffrey, but it shows his motivation and it’s on them that this episode is built, let’s not forget that.
What saddens me and makes me question, however, is the fact that Cole murdered a nobleman, the groom’s guest, without allegations, and got away with it. And where were the other knights of the royal guard? After all, we are dealing with a universe that was built on motivations and consequences. We witnessed the Red Wedding as a result of Robb Stark’s hidden marriage, Bran was paralyzed from seeing the Lannister brothers without decorum, and the Targaryen dynasty fell as a result of Lyanna Stark’s kidnapping. And what about Cole? Let’s await scenes from the next episode, but don’t get excited or get your hopes up.
A GORE WEDDING
This lack of consequences has become a hallmark of “Game of Thrones” as of the fifth season. And it is, in this lull, that “House of the dragon” sets up the bed that will lie when the factions rise, but hovering on gratuitous, graphic violence. “We light the way” was on a positive track, on one side the Targaryens were making deals and political union through marriage, and on the other side the greens were starting to make machinations and create a combat mask – like Alicent’s arrival at the wedding -; presenting the best of Martin’s universe: people, questionable choices and trickery. All of this, however, lost its hand a bit in the unnecessary violence of the wedding. The scene is confusing, the angles chosen don’t show much, and the discussions present in the exchanges of glances and Viserys’ interrupted speech had much more to deliver.
The episode, however, brought something interesting to the narrative: the parallel between the king’s illness and the decline of his reign. It is Viserys’ choices, including playing deaf and blind, that lead the kingdom to war, and what’s worse is that he doesn’t realize how much he influences it. People plot in front of his nose, his queen lacks respect, he does not dialogue with his daughter or prepare her for the role she will assume, and thus, little by little, the royalty loses the moment of stability left by Jaeherys.
While the king asks his hand if he has made a good reign and receives direct advice to change the course of the conversation, we see how imposing the Velaryons are and live up to the fact that they are the richest house in Westeros. The relationship between Rhaenys and Corlys also offers a showcase of why these are one of the strongest dark allies, and not just because of the wedding ring.
One has to be aware of how the game begins to play out with Otto and Daemon out of the picture. The pieces that move the dragon dance are already in place and starting to move, “We Light the Way” already establishes motivations, resentments and violence. Perhaps this is the face of “House of the Dragon” and the best way to say goodbye to the first phase and filler episodes, come Emma D’arcy and Olivia Cooke leading their factions.
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