‘House Of The Dragon’ Pretenders Vs. Contenders: ‘Driftmark’

We’re more than halfway through the first season of House of The Dragon and in episode seven’s ‘Driftmark’ the cracks in House Targaryen are blown wide open thanks to a drama-filled funeral, a stolen dragon, and a shocking story twist book readers won’t see coming.

Daemon Targaryen joins the rest of his family at the familial seat of his late wife and he wastes no time in creating chaos. Though, to be fair, he didn’t have to try too hard seeing as how Otto Hightower is back as the king’s Hand and Alicent Hightower is slowly losing her mind with jealousy.

Here’s where everyone sits in the line of succession after another week of bloody drama.

The Pretenders

House Of The Dragon Laenor Velaryon

Laenor Velaryon

Everyone grieves in their own way – just look at Daemon, chuckling like Pennywise the Clown as his wife’s body gets tossed into the deep end – but stumbling his way through his sister’s memorial service and weeping on the beach in full view of his entire court is just not King Consort behavior. Then again, Laenor has never been adept at playing this game for the Iron Throne and after the loss of Laena, he’s lost even the will to do so. We wish things had gone differently for both him and Rhaenyra but, out of everyone on this show, he might be the only character to actually get a happy ending. Or, at the very least, a shot at one. Rowing across the Narrow Sea with his boyfriend in tow and a shaved mop means that Laenor doesn’t finally have to pretend to be anything but himself. Excuse us while we go experience feelings in the corner.

Alicent Hightower

Alicent Hightower is much surer of herself and her schemes back home in Kings Landing, At Driftmark, she feels, well, adrift: clinging to Ser Criston Cole’s presence like he’s some kind of security blanket, avoiding the stares of her new partner in crime, Larys, and trying her best to make Rhaenyra uncomfortable at Laena’s viewing. Her meltdown following the loss of Aemond’s eye is proof that here, where her titles and power mean a bit less than they do at the Red Keep, she’s something of a desperate, cornered animal, clawing at the chance to exact revenge against Rhaenyra for years’ worth of perceived slights at the expense of a mere child. And, when she can’t order her armored manservant to do it, she decides to take the Catspaw dagger and carve out Lucerys’ eye herself as justice for Aemond’s disfigurement. (Someone, please medicate this woman.) This momentary loss of control reveals Alicent for who she truly is – a bitter, envious, deeply unhappy woman who would rather blame her friend for the cage she’s been placed in rather than the person who’s really responsible for her imprisonment, her father. But go on girl, keep acting like a lunatic in public. It only helps to strengthen your frenemy’s claim to the Iron Throne.

Aegon II Targaryen

This guy, Alicent?! This is the boy you’ve picked to be the future king? This gangly drunken lecher with matted hair and uncontrollable hormones who jerks off in tower windows and blacks out at funeral services? Technically, Aegon didn’t do anything really wrong this episode, but he sure didn’t do anything right, either — hence his place in the line of succession this week.

King Viserys Targaryen

How Viserys managed to rule a kingdom for this many years when he can’t even control the infighting amongst his own family members is truly a mystery but it’s clear that limbs aren’t the only thing this man has lost in the last decade. His daughter, his brother, his wife, and his own kings guard openly disrespect him and his wishes on the daily and, save for a brief outburst after Alicent wielded a knife against his heir (his HEIR, y’all) the man is content to simply sit under his blankets, drink his grape juice, and take day naps. What’s the Westerosi equivalent of a home for a retirement home because this guy needs to go there, like now?

Corlys Velaryon

It’s hard not to sympathize with Corlys in this episode. He loses his daughter and then his son in quick succession and he must play host to the very people he views as responsible for these deaths. He’s loving and attentive to Rhaenyra’s sons, even though it’s obvious they aren’t of his blood, and he does his best to mend fences with House Targaryen — even going so far as to defend Daemon to his wife — in order to keep the peace. But he treats his son terribly and he tries to gaslight his grieving wife into believing his pursuit of power is fueled by his desire to see justice for the insult dealt to her decades ago instead of his own ambition. For someone so obsessed with his legacy, he’s doing a piss poor job of taking care of the people in his life that will one day preserve it.

The Contenders

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra Emm D Arcy

Rhaenyra Targaryen

For a Targaryen, Rhaenyra hasn’t shown much fire in that last couple of episodes. It’s clear that the rumors about her sons’ parentage have threatened her already tenuous claim to the throne and that, combined with Alicent’s obsessive plotting of her own downfall, have left the princess unsure of herself and at a loss as to who to trust. Harwin’s death hits her particularly hard but, luckily, her favorite uncle is back in town and the two waste no time plotting and f*cking and plotting some more. (They’ve got 10 years to make up for after all.) Rhaenyra’s showdown with Alicent at the end of the episode is the fiercest we’ve seen her so far, spurned on by the need to protect her children and her pent-up frustration with a woman who traded their friendship for a shot at more power and a higher title. But the icing on this incestuous cake came when Rhaenyra and Daemon calmly planned Laenor’s “death,” knowing how it would be perceived by others at court and welcoming the fear it would instill in her enemies. Just more proof that the incurable condition (of being a messy little b*tch) that Daemon suffers from is contagious.

Daemon Targaryen

Speaking of Westeros’ much-missed Rogue Prince, Daemon begins the episode far more subdued than we’ve seen him amongst his own family members. He’s likely grieving his wife, but he seems more wounded by the treatment he’s received at the hand of his brother. And yes, hurt people hurt people, but did he really need to insult Viserys as his mangled, mottled singular hand shakily extended an olive branch? Yes, yes he did. Thankfully he’s more open to reconciliation with Rhaenyra and after some sexy times in a seaside shack, Daemon seems a bit more like himself – happy to sit back and watch the Hightowers make fools of themselves, puffing up like a preening peacock at Ser Criston Cole, and deviously crafting a way to rid his niece of her husband, marry her, and ensure his place on the Iron Throne in that order. Love that for him.

Aemond Targaryen

Unlike his completely clueless brother, Aemond seems to understand the game for the throne that his mother and grandfather are playing. Maybe it’s because he’s the younger son, maybe it’s because his sister mumbles nonsense to insects as a hobby, or maybe it’s because his brother drowns himself in wine and embarrasses the rest of his family constantly. Whatever the reason, Aemond craves power and he’s willing to lose an eye to get it. After that pig incident in the Dragon Pit at Kings Landing, it’s nice to see Aemond manning up and taking Vhagar for himself – contrary to what Laena’s girls think, he didn’t steal her, that’s just how riderless dragons are claimed – but he’s a bit of a d*ck about the whole thing when he’s caught taking a joyride after hours. We want to like him but there’s a self-serving mean streak — likely instilled in him by his mother — that’s clearly going to win out in him

HBO’s ‘House of the Dragon’ airs on Sunday nights.