House of the Dragon Episode 7 review: Death at a Funeral

Rhaenyra in House of the DragonHBO

House of the Dragon Episode 7 has it all: quiet intensity, bombshell plot developments, and Westeros’ spin on How To Train Your Dragon.

The Dance of the Dragons is upon us. We’ve seen the Targaryens slowly torn apart by death, betrayal, incestuous rumors, and resentment, with King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) becoming the custodian of a pot ready to boil over.

In Episode 6, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) confided in Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), while Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) lost the true father of her children with Laenor (John Macmillan), Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr).

House of the Dragon Episode 7 is the most suspenseful episode to date, charging every word and glance with a sense of foreboding as the dragons grow more chaotic, restless, and clinical in the face of grief.

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Spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 7 to follow…

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Laena’s funeral is a tense affair

Laena Velaryon got her wish: the opening scene of Episode 7 sees her corpse returned to Driftmark, with everyone gathered at the Seat of the Sea to watch her stone coffin pulled into the “eternal waters, the dominion of the Merling King.”

As she’s prepared for her “final voyage”, Corlys (Steve Toussaint), Rhaenys (Eve Best), and her two daughters Baela (Shani Smethurst) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) look on. Everyone is in attendance: Rhaenyra, Laenor, Alicent, Viserys, Daemon (Matt Smith), and Otto (Rhys Ifans), who’s since been re-appointed Hand of the King following Lyonel Strong’s death.

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During the funeral, Daemon locks eyes with Rhaenyra and begins laughing over the sentiment of “salt coursing through Velaryon blood.” His giggles attract the ire of Corlys, and the coffin is dumped into the sea; some watch her slipping away, and others look at one another, distracted by their own woes.

It’s a gorgeous scene with a swooning score from Ramin Djawadi. Following the funeral, everyone gathers under the castle, along with four dragons from the attending Targaryens. As Rhaenyra descends the stairs, she catches glances from Daemon, Alicent, Viserys, and Criston Cole; the dynamics within the houses have never felt this fraught.

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House of the Dragon Episode 7: Royal children caught in the fray

Rhaenyra asks Lucerys (Harvey Sadler) to comfort Laena’s children, but he says he has an equal right to sympathy after losing Harwin Strong – their true father. Rhaenyra explains that the Velaryons are their kin, so he must act accordingly. He eventually walks over, but doesn’t know what to say. In a precious moment, one of the sisters grabs his hand, and they stand in silence – in a time of such strife, this quiet union is really affecting.

As Helaena (Evie Allen) plays with a spider and mutters away to herself, Aegon II (Ty Tennant) and Aemond (Leo Ashton) watch her from the sidelines. “We have nothing in common,” Aegon moans. “She’s our sister,” Aemond replies. “You marry her then,” his brother says. “I would perform my duty,” Aemond insists, wishing to keep the bloodline pure, while Aegon seems uninterested.

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Larys Strong has since become the new lord of Harrenhal after orchestrating the killing of his brother and father, with Criston warning Alicent of his constant gazing. She says it’s a look of pride, but it’s unclear if he’s preparing to seek “reward” for his misdeed.

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Meanwhile, Corlys tries to explain the duties of being Lord of the Tides to young Jacaerys (Leo Hart). “It’s your birthright, lad,” he insists, but Jacaerys says: “If I’m the lord of Driftmark, it means everyone’s dead.”

Rhaenys clearly has no time for Rhaenyra, barely affording her something as simple as eyesight. When she walks over to Baela and Rhaena, Lucerys immediately lets go of their hand and walks over to a fire, where he and Aemond share a wordless moment together – it’s not adversarial, but more of a, “We’re in this together, aren’t we?”

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House of the Dragon Episode 7: Viserys appeals to Daemon once more

Laenor stands in the sea, feeling the waves rush as harshly as his grief. Corlys is immediately angered by him being apart from the gathering, and bitterly orders Qarl (Arty Froushan) – his not-so-secret lover – to “retrieve his patron.”

After staring at each other, Viserys limps over to Daemon and speaks fondly of Laena, and how the gods can be cruel. “It seems they’ve been especially cruel to you,” Daemon says, all while Rhaenyra watches dutifully, perhaps even worriedly, from afar.

Viserys asks Daemon to “come home” to King’s Landing, but Daemon says Pentos is the home of both him and his children. Viserys is clearly past their past battles and offers him a seat in his court, but Daemon sneers, “I need nothing” and walks away – not before one last twist of the knife to Otto: “No matter how fat the leech grows it always wants for another meal.”

Otto Hightower in House of the Dragon Episode 7HBO

As Viserys makes his way to bed, he mistakes Alicent for Aemma, his late wife from Episode 1. Consadine’s performance as the king isn’t as showy as Smith’s, but it’s terrifically layered, always conveying the pain of his loss no matter the time that’s passed.

Otto finds Aegon drunk by the castle walls at the shore, furiously lifting him to his feet and ordering him to bed, while Qarl carries Laenor back inside.

Aemond’s eyes are frequently drawn to the sky, with the recurring roar of a dragon floating among the clouds, but the dragon itself remains out of sight. It’s likely this is Vhagar, now without a dragonrider after being forced to kill Laena.

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Corlys and Rhaenys divided by succession

Rhaenys and Corlys discuss Laena’s death, with Rhaenys trying to place the blame on Daemon for not finding her more-equipped maesters. Corlys argues that Pentos has perfectly capable doctors, but Rhaenys suggests her fate may have been something more: a scorn from the gods for their “insatiable pride.”

If you remember, Rhaenys was in line for the Iron Throne, but Jaehaerys Targaryen chose Viserys as his heir. While Corlys thinks it’s reasonable to hold onto this ambition, Rhaenys has long given it up, and has grown tired by her husband’s transparent efforts to secure further royalty for House Velaryon, even at the “cost of their children.”

“What is this brief life, if not the pursuit of legacy?” Corlys asks. Rhaenys says she wants Driftmark to pass to Baela, not Rhaenyra and Laenor’s firstborn Jacaerys, to “true Velaryon blood.” While Rhaenys believes it would honor Laena’s legacy, Corlys isn’t swayed by the true nature of Laenor’s children: “History doesn’t remember blood. It remembers names.”

This is a runaway contender for one of the best scenes of the show; patiently written with emotional, steadfast authority from either side, shot with the backdrop of a crackling flame in total darkness.

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Daemon and Rhaenyra stans rejoice

After a gap with Episode 6, Rhaenyra and Daemon finally share another scene together. We find them walking on the beach, with Rhaenyra discussing how Laenor has been “restless for years… I know better than anyone that our marriage is a farce, but I at least make the effort to maintain appearances.”

Daemon says she has more to lose, as she’s still the heir to the throne. She reveals they tried to conceive a child as best they could, but to “no avail”, and there was “no joy in it” – so she found it elsewhere, with Harwin. She regrets allowing him to return to Harrenhal, citing “Harren’s Curse”, but Daemon attributes his death to a scheme concocted by Alicent and Otto.

Rhaenyra and Daemon in House of the DragonHBO

Rhaenyra finally expresses her anger at Daemon for “abandoning her” as a child. “Look at what my life became without you,” she says, but Daemon believed he was sparing her from the animosity it would muster from Viserys and others.

“Did you love her?” she asks him about Laena. “We were happy enough,” he replies, to which she says: “Well that is a great achievement… I’m sorry.” Daemon concedes he’s allowed to mourn his losses, and the uncle and niece embrace once more – only this time, they go all the way. You’ve got to give House of the Dragon credit for portraying incest so tenderly – no wonder fans are rooting for them.

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Aemond rides Vhagar… and loses an eye

Then comes one of the moments we’ve all been waiting on: Aemond finds Vhagar sleeping, manages to bond with him, and takes to the skies. His first flight starts off shaky, clinging on for dear life as Vhagar shoots upwards, but he soon commandeers the beast and soars majestically across Driftmark. This is probably the strongest dragon-riding scene so far; while others have looked occasionally goofy, this is awe-worthy.

While Daemon looks on from the shore, Baela and Rhaena watch from the castle windows, and tell Jacaerys that “someone’s stolen Vhagar.” Aemond lands Vhagar and is confronted by the two sisters, but he nastily dismisses their complaints. A fight breaks out between him, Baela and Rhaena, and Jacaerys and Lucerys. When he calls Jacaerys a “Strong”, Lucerys slashes Aemond’s face with a dagger, irreparably damaging his left eye – hence Aemond’s older actor wearing an eye-patch.

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Alicent erupts at Rhaenyra

Everyone is brought before the king. Aemond is told his eye is lost, Viserys fumes at Criston for not protecting him, Rhaenyra demands answers for Jacaerys and Lucerys’ wounds, and Alicent rages at Aegon for being drunk.

When Viserys asks Aemond to explain what happened, Alicent steps in and says he’s been maimed, and Rhaenyra’s children should be held responsible. Rhaenyra argues that her children were forced to defend themselves and says Aemond accused them of being bastards, which is “the highest of treasons.”

When Viserys demands Aemond tell him the source of this rumor, he blames Aegon, who tells his dad: “We know… everyone knows. Just look at them.”

Viserys, who’s shaken by the “interminable in-fighting”, orders everyone to make their apologies and show goodwill, but Alicent isn’t satisfied. “There’s a debt to be paid. I shall have one of her son’s eyes in return,” she says, evoking gasps from those watching, but Viserys tells her no. Alicent then orders Criston to bring her Lucerys’ eye, but he refuses.

Just as the matter appears begrudgingly settled, Alicent erupts. She grabs Viserys’ blade – the one connected to the Song of Ice and Fire – and makes a beeline for Lucerys, but Rhaenyra stops her. “Exhausting wasn’t it? Hiding beneath the cloak of your own righteousness. But now they see you as you are,” Rhaenyra tells her, before Alicent slices Rhaenyra’s wrist, and the pair are pulled away.

Alicent in House of the DragonHBO

From the stunned silence, Aemond tells his mum: “Do not mourn me, mother. It was a fair exchange. I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon.” IAtn this moment, the Dance of the Dragons effectively begins; Alicent, Criston, and Aemond stand on one side, while Rhaenyra, Daemon, and Corlys stand on the other.

Later, Otto enters Alicent’s chamber. She anticipates his anger, but it’s quite the opposite: he’s happy to see the side of her that could help them win the Iron Throne, and overrule Rhaenyra’s succession. Otto tells him to apologize to Viserys, because has no choice but to forgive her, and promises they’ll prevail in the end.

As Rhaenyra gets her arm sewn up, Laenor finally arrives. He’s distraught at his inability to protect his sister from pain and his wife from harm, and more generally, his failure in marriage. Their conversation isn’t one of anger; Laenor says he hates the gods for making him gay, but Rhaenyra insists he’s an honorable man with a good heart, and that’s a “rare thing.”

He reveals he plans to commit himself more to Rhaenyra once Qarl returns to the Stepstones, and wants to prepare their sons – no matter their illegitimacy – to rule the realm upon Rhaenyra’s ascension.

House of the Dragon Episode 7: Laenor is disposed of… kindly

The visit to Driftmark comes to an end. Rhaenyra remains on the island with Laenor and Daemon while Alicent and Viserys head back to King’s Landing with the dragons. Larys Strong approaches Alicent on the boat and tells her what happened to Aemond was a “perversion of justice”, and offers to “balance the scales” for her. She declines, but notes that his “devotion has not gone unnoticed” and she’ll lean on him when the day “doubtless comes.”

The episode ends with a huge bombshell: Rhaenyra proposes to Daemon, but they can’t wed unless Laenor dies. So, Daemon pays Qarl to murder Laenor, with Corlys and Rhaenys finding his body charred in a fireplace. Rhaenyra knows they’ll think she’s responsible, but proceeds anyway, and she finally marries Daemon in a traditional Targaryen ceremony, sworn by fire and blood.

But wait – that wasn’t actually Laenor. They killed a random man and put him in the fire so he’d be unrecognizable, and the episode concludes with Laenor and Qarl sailing away to a new life, never to return.

House of the Dragon Episode 8 will be available to watch on October 9 in the US and October 10 in the UK.