House Of The Dragon Spills Targaryen Blood At A Velaryon Funeral In 'Driftmark'

Yes, in a shocking turn of events, Westerosi funerals are just as brutal as their weddings. At this point, let's just assume that any event with more than one Targaryen present will end in fatalities — or at the very least, a life-changing injury. The seventh episode of "House of the Dragon" is the best one yet, but as exciting as it may be for viewers, it plays out like a Greek tragedy for the seafaring family at its center. "Driftmark" is bookended with Valeryon deaths: the space in between is gushing with blood, as a Targaryen taking flight stokes the flames of the civil war that's been brewing since the series began.

If you had any qualms about the first half of this season acting as an extended prologue, then this should put those concerns to rest. This is what we've been building up to. Had we not watched the slow progression of Alicent Hightower (from a mannered yet anxious girl in the godswood, nervously ripping off her fingernails to a fierce and bitter woman, desperate to protect her children from a perceived threat) then we wouldn't understand the depth of her frustration when everything comes to a head. 

By the episode's end, not only has first blood been drawn but there are two very clear and opposing sides in this family conflict. In the midst of her anguish and outrage, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) highlights the stakes by invoking the "eye for an eye" policy and showing her true colors as a woman ready to mutilate a child to get justice for her own. Though that particular threat doesn't come to fruition, it reveals something extremely dangerous: that Alicent Hightower is capable of more than anyone expected. It's a rude awakening for both the princess and the queen, who are finally forced to confront the stakes of the rivalry that they've passed down to their children.

'I came here to cry, not to be suffocated by all this politicking!'

House Targaryen is already in mourning when "Driftmark" begins: The entire clan has reunited at the home of the Velaryons where they dejectedly put Laena to rest. And while young Baela and Rhaena grieve for their mother, Jacaerys Targaryen (Leo Hart) is grappling with a complicated loss of his own. Word of Ser Harwin's death has been passed along and the weight of losing a father he can never claim as his own is understandably devastating for the poor kid. And making matters worse, the question of the Targaryen princes' parentage remains at the forefront of everyone's mind, no matter the occasion.

As Laena's casket is dropped into the sea, Vaemond Velaryon makes a point of glaring in Rhaenyra's (Emma D'Arcy) direction as he speaks their ancestral funeral words, "Salt courses through Velaryon blood. Ours runs thick. Ours runs true." Even here, there's time for bitter politicking, proving just how dire this lie has become. And though their feelings on the matter go unspoken in public, neither Corlys (Steve Toussaint) nor Rhaenys (Eve Best) are unaware that their son has fathered no children. As we shift from a funeral to a wake, we get a good sense of how this issue stands to divide even them. Corlys cares for legacy above all and latches onto young Lucerys as the eventual heir to the Driftwood Throne. While young Luc channels his inner Jon Sow ("I don't want it"), Rhaenys poses a solution: make Laena's daughter Baela next in line to inherit Driftmark.

As we know him, Corlys is an "everything I do, I do for my family" kind of guy. But it doesn't take a genius to see through that front. His obsession with getting Velaryon blood closer to the Iron Throne has always been about his own pride and ambition, rather than making up for how his wife was once scorned. Refusing her request, he opts to continue playing along with the charade rather than cast a dark cloud on his family name. The way he sees it, the truth of their lineage will be forgotten by time but their legacy won't ever fade: "History doesn't remember blood. History remembers names."

Rekindling an old flame

Speaking of relationships falling apart, the rest of the funeral sees this family struggling to get along. Alicent and her children barely do the decency of dressing appropriately for the occasion, strutting around in their Hightower green cloaks to make it abundantly clear where their allegiances lie. Laenor is absolutely destroyed by the death of his sister and for toxic masculinity reasons, his outward display of grief enrages his father. Meanwhile, surprising absolutely no one, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) has no idea how to process complex emotions so his grief manifests as inappropriate laughter and lashing out at his brother.

To his credit, Viserys (Paddy Considine) makes an effort to mend their fractured relationship but to no avail; stubborn as ever, Daemon refuses to accept any help nor an invitation home. Not from Viserys, at least. But if there's anything we know about Dameon, it's that he has a soft spot for a silver-haired Targaryen girl — and I'm not talking about his daughters.

The way that they avoid each other, you might be tricked into believing that a decade of separation and having their own relationships had fizzled the electricity that once sparked between Daemon and Rhaenyra. But in reality, they've just gotten a little smarter about hiding it (emphasis on a little). They don't so much as exchange eye contact at the funeral, avoiding one another as the family mingles, but the second Daemon storms away, Rhaenyra is on his heels. Real subtle.

Their oceanside stroll puts the best of their relationship on display: They talk like no time has been lost, commiserate about what their lives have become, gossip about Rhaenyra's enemies, call each other out on their s***, and eventually, get around to (barely) voicing some genuine affection. There's lots of regret in the air as they connect, but Daemon still seems reluctant. "I spared you," he says, a defense for his choice to leave for Pentos. It might've been guilt that made him pull away from her after all. Whatever it was, it isn't strong enough to stand in their way anymore.

Naturally, the dance begins with a dragon

Rhaenyra and Daemon make an oddly sweet couple and give us perhaps the tenderest sex scene that Westeros' onscreen tenure has ever seen. But at what cost? With the adults distracted, the Targaryen children are left to their own devices and they take their time in the spotlight to prove that they've wholly internalized their family words: fire and blood, indeed.

The conflict begins in earnest with the actions of Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton). We've known the kid for less than two hours and by now, it's become clear that his primary character traits are wanting a dragon and being an asshole. So he does his dragon yearning as assholes do — he decides to claim the dragon of the woman whose funeral he just attended. Evidently, Aemond has been paying very close attention during those "how to train your dragon" sessions because even though Vhagar could roast him alive, he's able to command the dragon into letting him aboard. As if testing him, Vhagar brings Aemond on a treacherous joyride that he barely survives. But he does. And just like that, Aemond has claimed a dragon of his own.

This isn't just any dragon though. This is Vhagar, the biggest and oldest dragon left in the entire world. And the same dragon that poor Rhaena Velaryon (Eva Ossei-Gerning) hoped to claim in the wake of her mother's death. While Aemond's trip into the sky somehow goes unnoticed by all of the adults at Driftmark, the kids are hyper-vigilant. Rhaena and Baela (Shani Smethurst) realize their mother's dragon has been taken and instead of running to a grownup, seek out their cousins. This is how the young Targaryens come to confront the newest family dragonrider, Aemond.

The birth of Aemond One-Eye

In any normal context, this might just be a squabble among cousins. But these are Targaryens, this is Westeros and Aemond has done something terrible in the wake of a tragedy. Emotions are high and the stakes are even higher, which is how we go from hurling a few harsh insults to full-on fighting. When Rhaena lashes out at Aemond, aggrieved that he's stolen her mother's dragon as his own, he pushes her to the ground. Baela comes to her defense, throwing the first punch, which Aemond returns without a second thought. Jacaerys and Lucerys immediately enter the fray and despite being vastly outnumbered, Aemond manages to hold his own. In fact, he's the one who escalates things — grabbing Lucerys by the neck and speaking the words that bring this confrontation into extremely perilous territory: "You will die screaming in flames just as your father did, bastards."

The parentage of the Strong boys plagues them once more, but this time it's not veiled behind funeral words, knowing looks, or even whispers. And while Lucerys seems confused by the insult, Jace knows the danger of that truth a little too well. Outraged, Jace pulls a knife and charges Aemond. In the mess of their scrap, the blade is briefly lost but Lucerys is the one to wield it in the end, slashing Aemond right across the face and taking out his eye.

A plea for unity falls on deaf ears

So how does the king preside over an attack on his blood from his blood? As terribly as you'd expect from the aged King Viserys. With everyone gathered in single, very volatile room, he hunts for the truth. And once the "bastard" comment comes to light, it becomes less about justice for Ameond's eye and more about figuring out who is spreading the "treasonous" rumor. It's a fool's errand — everyone already knows the answer. Even Aemond can't help but stare directly at his mother as he names his brother instead. And even though Aegon takes the fall, crediting his eyes rather than his mother ("Just look at them"), Viserys knows. But Gods forbid he actually confronts the conflict head-on! Instead, all he can do is yell and demand that everyone please stop fighting.

Father, grandfather, or king, it doesn't matter. What power does his position hold over their grudges? Alicent gives us definitive proof that his authority only goes so far. The queen, who is usually quite savvy about wielding her limited power, is so consumed by her anguish and anger that she ignores the king completely. One moment she's demanding Ser Criston act on her behalf and bring her Lucerys' eye (for all his posturing, even he can't go that far) and the next, she's pulling a blade from the king himself and charging at Rhaenyra's kids.

I could watch this scene on repeat forever and did in fact rewind many times to bask in the glory of Olivia Cooke's desperation as Alicent. This is certainly about Aemond's lost eye, but it's also about so much more. The resentment that Alicent's been brewing for Rhaenyra has reached its tipping point: if carving out some very bloody victory for herself is what it takes, then Alicent is willing. Her days of masquerading as the voice of decency are over. The way she sees it, years of doing what she's told have gotten her nowhere. It's time for a new approach.

The green queen draws blood

There are many layers of irony to this confrontation: like the fact that Alicent sees herself as the loser in all of this while Rhaenyra has spent the past few episodes expressing the same sentiment. And then there's the matter of the blade — the very dagger she holds two inches from Rhaenyra'a face is the one that holds Aegon's prophecy. She complains that Rhaenyra has never had to bend to duty while threatening her with the physical representation of her duty-bound motivations.

Aemond and Lucerys might be the firestarters of this conflict, but the turning point of this story is watching Alicent draw blood from Rhaenyra. Were you holding out hope that they might reconcile? Because the tears in Rhaenyra's eyes tell us that their friendship is truly buried now and the blood on her hands says there's no going back.

In the end, Alicent comes to some crucial realizations: Brute force isn't necessarily the way forth, and biding her time will be important. There's also no more question about whether or not she has the stomach for brutality (which is great news for Larys Strong). Rhaenyra must confront this as well; hours after she denied the idea that her old friend could murder in cold blood, she was proven wrong. With all that's on the line — family, duty, honor, and children – anyone is capable of anything.

One wedding and two funerals

Start counting your dragons, kids! War is afoot and there's only one way to win a Targaryen battle. This is a dynasty built on fire, after all. It's the reason Aemond is so willing to cut his losses and celebrate what he's won for his troubles: "I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon."

The episode comes to a close with everyone gathering their bearings. Otto feels pride in his murderous daughter and points out the importance of Aemond claiming Vhagar, while Rhaenyra reevaluates the matter of who stands beside her. She needs a husband who can be as committed, dedicated, and brutal as she needs — and she knows just the guy. But what of Laenor? Her chaotic uncle has just the solution: he dons his murder hoodies and meets with Qarl Correy, Laenor's boyfriend, to offer him gold if he takes care of Rhaenyra's husband problem.

It's a blood-runs-cold kind of moment, that spells certain tragedy for the last Velaryon son. Worst of all, it comes minutes after Laenor recommits himself to Rhaenyra, promising to be better and dedicated to their family. But in an actually very shocking turn of events, Laenor doesn't suffer the painful death we presume. Instead, he's set free: his death is staged and he sails away from the troubles of Westeros with Qarl, doing the very smart thing and getting the hell out of this narrative. While people will no doubt whisper that Rhaenyra murdered her husband, we'll always know that she found a happier solution.

After hopefully waiting an appropriate amount of time, Rhaenyra and Daemon are finally wed. It's a bloody ceremony, a tribute to Old Valyria, and undoubtedly the start of even more family drama.

Stray thoughts

  • All of this could've been avoided if Vhagar had just stood by his convictions and melted Aemond's face.

  • What's this? More incest in House Targaryen? Aegon very grumpily reveals that he's been betrothed to his sister Helaena, meaning Alicent not only refused Rhaenyra's proposal to marry her to Jace, but made sure that her daughter can't be used as anyone's pawn... except for her own, of course. This is a real bummer for the boozy and horny Aegon but Aemond, the rogue prince that he is, makes sure to inform us that he's pro-incest and would happily marry their sister himself. This family gets weirder by the episode.

  • Speaking of Helaena! We ought to start paying attention to this babbling weird girl because it turns out she can see into the future! Last week she casually dropped a hint that Aemond would lose an eye to become a dragonrider and that prophecy was fulfilled in a jiffy. That means it's time to obsess over all of her other vague statements, starting with this one: "The last ring has no legs at all."

  • The real antagonist of this show is the goddamn guards. How exactly did five royal children go missing in the middle of the night?! At least when Rhaenyra snuck out of the castle, she was a teenager with secret passageways at her disposal. These are five overgrown toddlers in a brand new place and somehow they manage to ride dragons and poke out eyes?! The Targaryens need better security, They should start by firing Ser Criston and go from there.

  • Last week I joked that Daemon is a terrible parent but this episode confirms it: literally every other parent enters the conflict room by running to their bleeding child in concern. Daemon? Couldn't possibly care less. Doesn't even spare a glance to his bleeding daughter because he's too busy gleefully basking in the chaos.

  • Where did the catspaw dagger end up? Ser Criston Cole picks it up, but should we assume he returned it to Viserys? Or is Team Alicent a step closer to learning about the prophecy?

  • I fooled myself into believing that Corlys was one of the good ones. Sure, I'd hate to see Lucerys disinherited, but does Corlys only deny Baela as heir because she's a girl? Isn't that antithetical to everything he claims to stand for? Ultimately, I think he knows that if Baela inherits, then she would sit on the Driftwood throne (as would her eventual children) under the surname of her husband. That doesn't fit with Corlys' goal of elevating the family name: history won't care that Lucerys' kids aren't actually Velaryon blood, because they will always carry the Velaryon name.

  • I wonder if Daemon asked the king for his blessing before marrying his newly widowed daughter aka the heir to the throne? I wonder if Viserys will mind that they got married after he went to such great lengths to keep them apart? Maybe they should keep this wedding a secret (à la Rhaegar and Lyanna) because if they tell him the truth, he might drop dead on the spot.

Who is winning the Game of Thrones?

WINNER: Laenor Velaryon - "The wise sailor flees the storm as it gathers." What's this? A queer character in Westeros who doesn't meet a grisly end?! Laenor Velaryon is a true rarity and he must know it as he sails away from court and all its conflicts. I hope we never see him again — that way, we can always assume he got a happy ending.

WINNER: Rhaenyra Targaryen - This is some shaky ground: The truth of her son's parentage has now been spoken aloud and the danger that it puts them in has never been more evident — but at least for now, the king is in her corner. Feeble old man he may be, Viserys still wears the crown in this realm and as long as he's alive to defend her, Rhaenyra enjoys a certain sense of protection. As for what comes after his death, she is shoring up her side of this battle. She has Daemon, (presumably) House Velaryon, and many dragons in her corner. She has the tentative promise of the many lords who swore fealty to her and most importantly, she has fire back in her eyes. Her will to ascend the throne and defend her children makes her a force to be reckoned with.

LOSER: Alicent Hightower - Who will Alicent Hightower become without her trusty cloak of righteousness? By even her own account, Alicent loses the game of thrones this week. She let her composure slip and for a moment, was so lost in her rage and anguish that she seemed to lose her sanity. But losing Viserys' favor isn't the end of the world, especially when you consider what she's gained. Alicent has proven herself capable of the fight in the eyes of her father, Larys Strong, and any others hoping to challenge Rhaenyra's claim. Much like the green dress, the Queen has sent out a signal of war — a signal of how far she's willing to go.

WINNER: Daemon Targaryen - It may have taken over a decade and there's a rough uphill battle ahead, but Daemon finally has what he always wanted: a Targaryen wife with whom he can rule Westeros and rebuild the Targaryen dynasty. That should help him get his fire back.

LOSER: House Velaryon - Yikes. Not only are Laena and Laenor dead (as far as they know) but another major pillar of Velaryon power is disintegrating before our eyes: Rhaenys and Corlys, once a power couple, are at odds. Corlys remains so consumed by his obsession with legacy that it has cost his house everything. Rhaenys now sees him as the cause of her suffering, and she has a point. Is this something that their relationship can recover from? Has Westeros even invented couples therapy yet?