Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Laenor Velaryon’s (Theo Nate) wedding was a drab affair by Dothraki standards. It was anything but for the new royal couple.
In many ways, the devastating ending of “We Light the Way,” the fifth episode and midway point of House of the Dragon’s first season, is lifted directly from George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood. It also differs from the book in how several crucial parts are depicted, such as Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) bragging about her Hightower pride, and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) killing Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod) at the end of the bridal feast. Let’s keep track of some of the episode’s most important scenes based on how they play out.
The Green Queen
House of the Dragon’s fifth episode features one of the most anticipated moments from Fire & Blood, as Queen Alicent wears an expensive green gown to signify the end of her friendship with Rhaenyra.
Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) whispers to his brother Harwin, “the beacon on the Hightower” (Ryan Corr). “Do you know what hue it glows when Oldtown declares war on its banners?”
Of course, the answer is all over Alicent’s clothing, and while the trendy declaration of war starts in the book, it occurs under different conditions. Rather than taking place at Rhaenyra’s wedding, as depicted on the programme, the moment takes place on the fifth anniversary of her marriage to King Viserys (Paddy Considine). Furthermore, the book’s emphasis is shifting.
“At the inaugural feast, the queen donned a green gown, while the princess dressed boldly in Targaryen red and black,” Martin writes. It was noted, and it became customary to refer to ‘greens’ and ‘blacks’ when discussing the queen’s and princess’s parties, respectively.”
Ser Laenor’s favorite knight
Despite only appearing in two episodes (this one and the Stepstones war portrayed in “Second of His Name”), Joffrey Lonmouth’s brief reign on House of the Dragon has left him as the most likeable Joffrey in the Game of Thrones franchise, at least for the time being. Yes, there will be another. No, you don’t want to look it up.
Ser Lonmouth is only mentioned twice in Fire & Blood, and he is only characterised as Ser Laenor’s favourite knight. In the book, Criston kills the so-called Knight of Kisses, although in a very different way than in the programme. In the novel, Criston expresses overwhelming rage during a tournament honouring Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding, severely hurting Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) and later using a morningstar to beat Joffrey within inches of his life. Laenor spends the following few days by Joffrey’s side before he dies.
Laenor then departs King’s Landing for Driftmark, distraught by the tragedy. The show’s plans for Laenor’s next actions are unknown; Laenor’s anguish, sadly, is all too obvious.
Ser Criston’s Downfall
In episode four, House of the Dragon offered its answer to one of Martin’s most vexing questions: what transpired between Rhaenyra and Criston Cole? This time, we know what occurs next: the complete and total breakdown of Rhaenyra and Criston’s relationship.
It’s always good reminding folks who haven’t read the book that Fire & Blood is written from the perspective of a historian who was not alive during the Targaryen rule and hence depends on untrustworthy testimonials to recount the story. Few agree on what happened between them, but there’s no denying Criston and Rhaenyra’s precipitous fall from grace.
The show shifted away from the version of events presented by the most lurid source from this time period, a court jester named Mushroom. (Mushroom may have appeared briefly in this episode as a member of the wedding band—a terrible use of words for anyone who has read the book.) Instead, it appears to follow Septon Eustace’s account, in which Criston Cole declares his love for the princess just before her marriage to Ser Laenor.
“[Criston] told Rhaenyra that he had a ship waiting on the harbour and asked her to flee with him over the narrow sea,” Martin writes. They’d marry in Tyrosh or Old Volantis, where her father’s writ did not apply, and no one would notice that Ser Criston had broken his oaths as a member of the Kingsguard. His skill with the sword and the morningstar was such that he had little doubt he could find some merchant prince to hire him. But Rhaenyra turned him down. She reminded him that she was dragon blood and meant for more than to live her life as the wife of a lowly sellsword. And if he could put aside his Kingsguard oaths, why should he put aside his marital vows?”
The reader is left to form their own opinion on what happened. The show, however, does not. The numerous accounts in the book, however, all agree on what transpires next between Rhaenyra Targaryen and Criston Cole. If you believed this story had a nice conclusion, you weren’t paying attention, as it’s been mentioned elsewhere in the Game of Thrones realm.
Rhea Royce of the Vale of Arryn
Before we wrap up this week’s look at the book, let’s go back to the opening of the episode, when Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) murders his wife, Rhea Royce of the Vale of Arryn.
Lady Rhea is the head of House Royce and the Lady of Runestone, and she is played short but memorable by Rachel Redford. We’ve heard a lot about her from Daemon so far, and she’s often been compared to a sheep, along with the other ladies in the region. Daemon and Rhea married for political reasons, as arranged by the late queen Alysanne Targaryen, wife of the Old King Jaehaerys.
Lady Rhea dies in the novel, just as she did in the drama, although the circumstances are far more ambiguous to the reader. Martin claims she fell off her horse while hawking and survived “for nine days before finally feeling healthy enough to leave her bed… only to collapse and die an hour later.” The timing of Daemon killing his wife in the book doesn’t work out very well, considering it occurs while he is still at war in the Stepstones. Then again, the so-called Rogue Prince has his faithful dragon Ceraxes with which to quickly travel back and forth between battlefronts, so who knows.
What occurs after Rhea’s death is much clearer: Daemon, as he threatens on the show, journeys to the Vale to take House Royce’s wealth. The overture is received harshly in the novel. His future steps, on the other hand, work in Daemon’s advantage, as hinted at in this week’s House of the Dragon. You won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next on that front.
The King’s Fall
Finally, let us conclude with King Viserys collapsing at his daughter’s wedding altar. Much more on this one will ruin the episode’s cliffhanger, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know what happens next.
So, here’s the thing: in the novel, Viserys does not fall during Rhaenyra’s wedding. Nothing of the sort happens. The king’s health is plainly deteriorating, and if House of the Dragon is correct, one of Viserys’s numerous sources of discomfort right now is a severe attack of gout. Viserys has my sympathies on this one aspect alone, as someone who suffers from the proverbial king’s sickness. Also, from one gout sufferer to another: shellfish, as tasty as it is? Not good for gout!
In any event, Viserys will very definitely survive this collapse, unless House of the Dragon is ready to take a violent swing away from the source material—but that doesn’t mean the scene isn’t rife with literary allusions. That last image of a rat gobbling up blood like it’s cheese? It will impact House of the Dragon considerably differently in the future. In other words, what is the scene hinting to? By the same Dothraki criteria, it could make Game of Thrones’ iconically horrific Red Wedding look as bland as Rhaenyra’s.