Everybody loves a good wedding, especially in the Game of Thrones universe. Drama, murder, gossip, and amazing fashion are all givens, and “We Light the Way” proves House of the Dragon is no exception. In our last episode with the younger cast, all the simmering tensions building throughout the season so far come to a bloody end as we move closer and closer to the endgame.
Kill Your Darlings
Fresh off of attempting to force Viserys to marry him to Rhaenyra, Daemon is ready to take care of one major loose end. For the first time, we meet his wife Rhea Royce. A talented horsewoman, Rhea is out alone on a hunt when Daemon shows up in the middle of the road. She mocks him before clocking his eerie silence as the warning it is, but it’s too late. He provokes her horse into throwing her, breaking her neck. She can’t move and knows what Daemon is about to do, but she refuses to go out without getting the last word. As he appears to be leaving her to die rather than finish her off, she taunts him with, “I always knew you couldn’t finish.” Daemon picks up a rock and the screen goes black.
A Mutually Beneficial Bargain
Meanwhile, Viserys travels to Driftmark with Rhaenyra to officially propose marriage between the princess and Laenor Valeryon. His new Hand Lyonel Strong accompanies the duo, along with Ser Criston. The king is even more weak than usual, and clearly his private worries over his own mortality are part of why he wants to see Rhaenyra married sooner rather than later.
At Driftmark, Corlys tries to drive a hard bargain and insist that any children Laenor and Rhaenyra have carry the Valeryon name, but Viserys pushes back. He wants to continue the Targaryen line on the throne, and they come to an understanding: their children will be born with the Valeryon name, but when they ascend the throne, they will bear the Targaryen name. Corlys confesses to Rhaenys that this is more than he hoped for, and he’s proud that his son will be king consort. Rhaenys once again expresses her misgivings. First and foremost, she knows that the realm will not accept a queen from her own experience. She doesn’t want to see Laenor caught in what will certainly be a major power struggle. Second, Laenor is gay, an open secret in the kingdom. Corlys dismisses her concerns, especially Laenor’s sexuality. He believes his son will simply “outgrow” it, but Rhaenys has her doubts.
The only person who doesn’t seem to care about Laenor’s sexuality is Rhaenyra. She and Laenor go for a stroll on the beach while their parents negotiate. They have an easy friendship as they practically grew up together, but there’s no spark of romantic connection there. She offers him a bargain. They’ll do their duty to the realm and produce a few heirs, but she’ll stay out of his business if he stays out of hers. The two agree on an open marriage, and Laenor goes to tell his lover Joffrey. Joffrey correctly guesses Rhaenyra must have a secret lover as well. He’s cautiously optimistic about the plan, but he’s protective over Laenor.
Criston is feeling guilty over breaking his vows with Rhaenyra. The way he sees it, the only way to make things right is for the two of them to get married and run away into the sunset (or, more accurately, Essos). Rhaenyra, on the other hand, would like to continue being a princess and ascend her throne as planned while keeping the benefit of passionate sex with a hot knight. She shares that she and Laenor agreed on an open marriage, expecting that Criston will be excited to continue their relationship on the side. He is not thrilled, hurt that she would ask him to be her “whore” and thinking what they had was more than that.
This Means War
Speaking of people feeling hurt by Rhaenyra, Alicent is crushed by her father’s dismissal as Hand. She trusts that Rhaenyra told the truth about what happened with Daemon, but Otto lays it all out for her before leaving King’s Landing. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what actually happened. Rhaenyra will face challenges to her throne, and Alicent’s children are the logical heirs that could be used as pawns in that war. Alicent’s only options are to ingratiate herself with Rhaenyra and hope she doesn’t kill her competition, or Alicent can prepare Aegon to be king. They’re in too deep to turn back now, and the lives of Alicent’s children depend on her ability to play the game. He leaves after one last embrace, leaving a heartbroken Alicent behind. The king continues to fade, and we see how dreary and lonely her life has become as she holds yet another screaming baby.
In the garden, Larys Strong notices the emotional queen. Sensing this would be the perfect time to deploy some information he’s been sitting on, he casually mentions how glad he is to see that Rhaenyra was well enough to travel given that he heard the Grand Maester brought a potion to her room. Alicent realizes exactly what that potion was for, and she snaps as the last of her trust in her old friend vanishes. She goes back to her rooms and calls for Criston, intending to question the knight about Daemon and Rhaenyra.
But Criston misunderstands her suspicions, thinking she knows about he and Rhaenyra’s one night stand. He folds pretty much immediately, apologizing profusely for betraying his vows as a shocked Alicent absorbs it all, not expecting this to be Rhaenyra’s secret. She dismisses him, anger tight across her face. She’s done playing nice.
Blood on the Dance Floor
The day of Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding arrives as half the realm arrives for what is promised to be days of festivities. Viserys looks relaxed for once in his life as everything is finally going right and his legacy is nearly secure. Well, almost everything. Alicent is late, which is remarked upon by several courtiers. Daemon stalks in and the tension is palpable, but nothing compares to when the queen finally makes her entrance in an emerald green gown. Her icy demeanor combined with wearing the Hightower war color signals that she is done playing nice with the Targaryens. It doesn’t go unnoticed, with her uncle quietly voicing his support for her during the party and promising Oldtown will stand behind its lady.
As the feast gets underway, Rhaenyra and Laenor have their first dance. Rhea’s cousin Gerald confronts Daemon about her death, which Daemon shrugs off before casually informing him he’ll be coming for his inheritance. Gerald sputters while he calmly posits that as Rhea’s widow, Runestone is now his. Unbothered, he goes to dance with Laena, who is thrilled to have Daemon’s attention. Joffrey sees Criston brooding from across the dance floor while he stares at Rhaenyra, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he’s clearly the secret lover. Joffrey tells Laenor he figured out who his counterpart is. He’s happy that now they have some leverage as well in order to protect Laenor.
Ignoring the fact that Criston looks like he’s about to snap something in half, Joffrey approaches and implies that they both need to look out for their respective loves and protect them. As he does so, Daemon pulls Rhaenyra aside for a sexually charged dance. While poor Viserys literally coughs up blood at the sight, Rhaenyra goads Daemon, who like Criston, wants to run away with her. She challenges him to “take me to Dragonstone and make me your wife.” But then all hell breaks loose.
Criston, done with being Rhaenyra’s consort and not wanting his secret to come out, suspects Joffrey is blackmailing him and beats him to death. In the chaos, Rhaenyra is nearly trampled before Ser Harwin Strong carries her out of the fray (and waltzes right into our hearts in the process). Viserys collapses from the stress (can the guy have one nice dinner without getting confronted with incest accusations?). Laenor sees Joffrey’s body on the ground and is inconsolable as Criston runs. The disgraced knight is ready to die by suicide, but Alicent finds him and stops him.
Instead of a grand ceremony, Laenor and Rhaenyra marry in front of a small group of witnesses. Poor Laenor still has Joffrey’s blood on his clothes as he chokes back sobs, and Rhaenyra is near tears herself. To top it all off, Viserys faints again as soon as the ceremony ends. It’s safe to say Viserys’ dream of being remembered has come true.
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.