REVIEW: ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 7 — “Driftmark”

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House of the Dragon Episode 7 - But Why Tho (1)

House of the Dragon Episode 6 catapulted the series 10 years in the future, making the time spanned in just 7 episodes over 15 years. And while it introduced us to a new cast and new problems among the characters’ relationships, its status as a second pilot was jarring. Now with House of the Dragon Episode 7, we see the Targaryen and Velaryon Houses mourning the loss of Leana at Driftmark.

But mourning is not the central feature of this episode. At Driftmark, politics overtake mourning as Alicent and Rhaenyra are at each other’s throats, though it’s through their children mostly. This episode also manages to do big narrative lifting when it comes to the future of the series. Where Houses stand, what new families look like, all while tensions flare to new heights.

We all know that Alicent’s “concerns” about lineage and the Iron Throne made no sense because their tie to the bloodline comes from their mother not their father. But this episode showcases legitimate questioning. Princess Rhaenys’s (Eve Best) objection to Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) children comes from what seems to be a more genuine place. Driftmark belongs to House Velaryon, and Rhaenyra’s boys are not Laenor’s (John Macmillan) sons. But Corlys (Steve Toussaint) stands in sharp opposition to this. The only moment of softness in House of the Dragon Episode 7 is that Corlys, despite his ambition loves his grandsons. He stands behind them and for them, despite knowing that they are not his.

If one thing is clear, it’s that Alicent’s kids are the actual “spoiled cunts” of the Targaryen line and I absolutely hated watching them on screen. With Aegon deciding to mimic Joffrey a little too much to be his own character, it’s hard to root for anyone of the King’s heirs. But in their behavior, you see their parent’s pulls for legitimacy and the Iron Throne. Captured by Rhaenyra’s son in his remark to his grandfather Corlys, “If I’m the lord of Driftmark, it means everyone is dead” the truth of House of the Dragon’s politics. To find an end, people have to die, families have to lose people and power, and there is nowhere around that. The answer for the characters is how will they ensure that their families and children survive the fight. While they are all one family, they are not. They are three lines vying for one crown.

By centering the infighting on the children in House of the Dragon Episode 7, the series gives a look at the petty yes, but also at how it all ripples from parent to child. Additionally, through their children, it’s more clear than ever how Alicent plans to wage whatever war she can against Rhaenyra. That said, in Alicent’s attacks it’s clear that the rage and the perceived ills run deeper than just the throne.

Alicent sees Rhaenyra as a woman unbound by the assumptions of her gender. While Alicent must sacrifice her wants for duty, Rhaenyra doesn’t. She has had children with a man she loved, she has a marriage that works as a bond and not a shackle, and while Rhaenyra abides duty, she also crafts her choice on how to fulfill it. This is a clash of two women at opposite ends of what the world expects of them. While I’m starting to hate Alicent as a character, Cook’s performance is meant to do that. She gets to let the rage flow out, even if it’s to her detriment.

House of the Dragon Episode 7 showcases the love and respect between Rhaenyra and Laenor before throwing it out of a window. It’s clear that their pursuit to fulfill duty and find happiness was an arrangement that they both saw fit and both partook in. Laenor’s respect carries them as a couple and is expanded when Laenor decides to forsake their deal and promises to recommit his life to Rhaenyra and to the sons he sees as his own despite his blood. But this is only for a moment. Instead of love and respect, Rhaenyra has chosen fear and rage and thrown away her bond with Laenor to instead push for ascension with only Daemon at her side.

The biggest issue this episode though isn’t some narrative wall to climb  but rather the extremely poor lighting choices made in what should be an emotional scene.  At a budget this size, there is no excuse for its bad wigs (which I’ve accepted will never get better) nor lighting that hides the actors. At least the Battle of Winterfell had extensive action that would have obscured some elements of the actors anyway, but here, we see Aemond meeting a dragon for the first time and all of that wonder is completely lost.

Additionally, the world done by the visual effects team is obscured by this darkness. It’s a frustrating turn in a series that has had beautiful cinematography and direction up until this point. While I understand that there has to be some light play to make the fire in the dragon’s throat have an impact, that one moment doesn’t justify losing an emotional character moment in the dark. Which to a lesser extent can be said for Rhaenyra and Daemon’s intimate beach moment.

House of the Dragon Episode 7 does a lot to expand the infighting in House Targaryen. Where Game of Thrones saw multiple houses crashing into the fight for the Iron Throne, this series only sees one. There are elements executed brilliantly in this episode, especially in its last half, but with yet another time jump coming in Episode 8 it’s starting to feel like the narrative pacing is losing its foothold. With House Velaryon effectively sidelined this episode, I’m not sure if Alicent’s brats, herself, can capture the spotlight on their own. While Matt Smith has been a spark in the series and Emam D’Arcy is more than capable of holding your attention, the narrative depth that House Velaryon and specifically Steve Toussaint as Corlys offered feels apt to be removed and I’m not sure what’s next.

Is House of the Dragon Episode 7 a good one? Mostly. But it leaves so much uncertainty that I’m questioning what happens next this season when time skips again and not in a good way.

House of the Dragon premieres new episodes on HBO and HBO Max every Sunday at 8pm CT.

House of the Dragon Episode 7 — "Driftmark"
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10


Is House of the Dragon Episode 7 a good one? Mostly. But it leaves so much uncertainty that I’m questioning what happens next this season and not in a good way.

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