Last week’s House of the Dragon episode shook up the politics of the story in a way only Targaryens can. Now, in House of the Dragon Episode 5, “We Light the Way” audiences got to attend an event that is never dull in the Game of Thrones franchise, a wedding. While the last episode showcased the double-standard around sexuality that Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has found herself subjected to and her pushing back as hard as she could against it, Episode 4 still ended with her being given pre-emptive abortion tea and forced to marry her cousin, Laenor Velyarion (Theo Nate), Coryls’s (Steve Toussaint) son. But now, we’re seeing Rhaenyra’s rebellion quelled in order to advance her claim to the throne which now stands in jeopardy from her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) and her brother Aegon—even if his grandfather, the Hand of the King, has been removed from his position.
House of the Dragon Episode 5 marks the hand-off of the series before a time jump, with Rhaenyra being married to Laenor and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) made to choose between friendship and her children’s future, there are decisions made that drive characters toward their futures in the series. Additionally, Criston’s (Fabien Frankel) love of Rhaenyra becomes an affront to his honor, which further harms Rhaenyra’s place. And of course, a royal wedding is not without death, albeit more simplistic chaos than what we’ve seen in the past.
Shockingly, in this episode, Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans) emerges as a character that isn’t about manipulation for power’s sake, but rather for familial safety. In a small moment between Otto and his daughter Queen Alicent, we get to hear his side. Because he believes the realm will not accept Rhaenyra as ruler, he sees a future where his grandchildren are killed to preserve the royal claim.
This undercurrent of fear for the future begins to permeate the Red Keep as Alicent tries to choose between herself and her children and her friendship with Rhaenyra. This is probably the most complex we’ve seen Alicent. She is ready to protect herself and her family above her friendship with Rhaenyra. Alicent’s choices in House of the Drago Episode 5 help add depth to her father’s fear and ultimately her place in the story. Alicent is a Hightower first and is making her move to defend her future.
In just five episodes, the audience has also been able to see Rhaenyra grow up. Young yes, she’s begun to understand the world she is in and what it asks of her. She may balk at traditions that position women on the ill side of outcomes, but she is also understanding how has to operate within them. This is no truer than the acceptance of her marriage to Laenor and her choice to make an arrangement that allows her to bed who she wishes once an heir is conceived, extending the same courtesy to Laenor. It’s a moment of understanding that we haven’t really seen up until this point. It’s not manipulative or conniving, but instead, two people understanding the duty they have and working together to find happiness within it.
But ultimately, Criston pushes on Rhaenyra to accept love and lose her crown, to which she responds “I am the crown.” Rhaenyra isn’t the little girl scared of the world, she’s trying to play by its rules and succeed down the only paths available to her. This calm and determined version of Rhaenyra is a welcome sight, and as we approach the time jump, the pacing is set.
But of course, the ceremony doesn’t happen without drama as Criston finds himself enraged and more in love with his honor than anything else. While this isn’t some gruesome or heartbreaking sequence with characters after years of investment, it is still emotional and it still places the honor of one man, just a knight, above everyone else in the picture. While it can be seen as overshadowing Rhaenyra’s story, it sets up the next leg of it, where even the man she yearns for can ruin a future. Ending with quiet acceptance, this is still a Game of Thrones wedding that has an impact, even if it isn’t bathed in red.
House of the Dragon Episode 5 is another fantastic showing for the series. Intrigue, a little chaos, a wedding as eventful as we should expect, and enough sadness to make the next half of the season complex. The one element that keeps me from giving this series a perfect score is the lack of attention and care to the wigs made for Black characters. With such a high budget and stellar costuming and hair styling for every other character, this continues to be a huge misstep. That said, I continue to be surprised with the delicate nature of storytelling featured in House of the Dragon and how deft hands can make a large impact.
House of the Dragon Episode 5 is streaming now exclusively on HBO Max.
House of the Dragon Episode 5 - "We Light the Way"
House of the Dragon Episode 5 is another fantastic showing for the series. Intrigue, a little chaos, and an eventful wedding as we should expect, and enough sadness to make the next half of the season complex. The one element that keeps me from giving this series a perfect score is the lack of attention and care to the wigs made for Black characters, with such a high budget and stellar costuming and hair styling fo every other character, this continues to be a huge misstep.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.