House Of The Dragon's Latest Episode Features One Of The Most Intense Sequences In Game Of Thrones History

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of "House of the Dragon."

"Game of Thrones" is known for shocking its viewers, a trait that can be traced back to George R.R. Martin's source material. I still remember shouting out a string of expletives as the Red Wedding unfolded in the pages of "A Storm of Swords," but even that didn't fully prepare me for season 3's "The Rains of Castamere." Whether it's Ned losing his head or Oberyn having his cranium crushed, "Game of Thrones" taught viewers to expect the unexpected.

The series set the bar so high that it's prequel, "House of the Dragon," has had some pretty massive boots to fill. Well, its most recent installment, "Driftmark," matched the original show's gnarly higher watermark. Some have complained about the slow burn of season 1 thus far, but without the building of all that tension, watching it all boil over wouldn't have been nearly as powerful. In fact, the big showdown between the Targaryens and the Hightowers is one of the most intense sequences in the history of "Game of Thrones."

It's all fun and games...

"Driftmark," brought our entire cast of characters together for the funeral of Laena Valeryon, who met her fiery demise last episode. The sad event is attended by many people who would rather suffer any number of grisly fates than have to actually speak to one another. It may be old rivalries and grudges that come drifting to the surface here, but it's the new generation that doesn't escape unscathed.

Aemond (Leo Ashton) claims Vhagar without giving a thought to Laena's grieving daughters, one of whom had hoped to make the dragon her own. Rhaena grew up watching her mother ride Vhagar and to see this creature snatched from under her nose the night of Laena's funeral is too much to bear. What follows is a harrowing struggle between these five children that comes to a head with a single ugly insult: "bastards." The fight itself is pretty scary. This a "Game of Thrones" show, after all, so we know no one is safe. While the kids do all survive this episode, the same cannot be said for Aemond's depth perception. The scene between the children is brutal enough, but it's the aftermath that really ratchets up the intensity.

Layers upon layers

The sequence gathers all involved parties in a single room and the tension is ... palpable. Daemon is the only one who seems unfazed, though he certainly appears to be amused by the chaos surrounding him. Viserys (Paddy Considine) is as ineffectual as you might expect, focusing far more on the lie he knows to be true than his son's injury and calling for everyone to simply make amends. Sadly, the only way this hatchet is getting buried will be if it winds up in someone's skull, because Alicent (Olivia Cooke) has had enough.

Gone is the girl who literally tore herself apart making sacrifices in the name of duty. The woman who stands in her place is fully prepared to take bloody vengeance not only on behalf of her son, but also for her stolen youth. Alicent yells about her kid's maiming, but when she comes at Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) with that blade, there is obviously more than that motivating her. (Side note: good to know even Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel) has lines he's unwilling to cross, though if no one else were around, I'm not so certain he wouldn't have taken Lucerys' eye.)

Speaking of which, Aemond's eye isn't the only thing lost this episode. Rhaenyra and Alicent's friendship may have ended long ago, but this is what the point of no return looks like. A scar was a small price for Rhaenyra to pay for the damage done to Alicent in Viserys' eyes. Much like Aemond knows his claiming of Vhagar was worth the eye he lost, so the princess must feel about her wound from the queen.

Alicent unleashed

The emotions showcased in this episode of "House of the Dragon" are savage, messy and most importantly, human. This scene is so extraordinary because there is no telling what will happen here. Everyone is playing their own game, except perhaps Viserys, who is little more than a pawn at this point. With contempt coming from all sides, the inexorable force of a mother's love pulling the strings of these two women, and a king who couldn't be more in denial of the entire state of affairs, this sequence sees the powder keg the season's been building towards finally explode. What an incredible scene with fantastic performances from all involved, but it's really Cooke's moment to shine and does she ever.

Alicent is certain that when confronted with the rumors of the children's parentage so blatantly, the king will have no choice but to face the music. She has, as it turns out, underestimated Viserys' impressive ability to put his fingers in his ears. After everything she's done in service of an agenda that was never her own, this is just too much.

Every feeling Alicent has been holding in all these years come crashing to the surface and you can see them all play out on Cooke's face. Her son has just lost his eye, yes, but she's also been presented with an opportunity to unleash a decade's worth of vitriol on her former friend. D'Arcy also does an amazing job of portraying Rhaenyra's own complex set of emotions. The princess keeps calm, but her eyes reveal both the sadness and the sense of triumph she feels the moment Alicent lays herself so low. It may signal the death throes of their friendship, but it's also definitely given Rhaenyra the upper hand. We'll have to see who comes out on top next week.