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"Driftmark"[5] is the seventh episode of the first season of House of the Dragon. It is the seventh episode of the series overall. It premiered on October 2, 2022 on HBO and HBO Max. It was written by Kevin Lau and directed by Miguel Sapochnik.

Premise[]

As the families gather on Driftmark for a funeral, Viserys calls for an end to infighting and Alicent demands justice.[5]

Synopsis[]

Laena's funeral[]

At Driftmark, King Viserys I Targaryen and his entire royal court attend the funeral of Laena Velaryon, along with the devastated members of House Velaryon. Laena's uncle Vaemond Velaryon delivers the eulogy in High Valyrian, in which he includes several pointed remarks about Velaryon blood remaining pure while glancing at Rhaenyra Targaryen's alleged sons with Laena's brother Laenor, who look nothing like him. While Laena's husband Daemon Targaryen is somber at her death, he cannot help but start giggling at Vaemond's pettiness in bringing this up now of all times. The ceremony ends with Laena's stone sarcophagus being dropped over a coastal cliff into the sea, to rest beside her ancestors.

The bereaved court then gathers at a cliffside courtyard of High Tide castle for the wake, which is filled with long awkward silences and strained conversations: this event has forced Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower's families to meet in one place again right after Rhaenyra removed herself from King's Landing to Dragonstone, due to the (accurate) rumors after the birth of her boy Joffrey that all three of her sons are actually Harwin Strong's bastards. Moreover, Laena's death has spurred Daemon to return to Westeros for the first time in a decade, along with his daughters by Laena who have never met the rest of their family. Also gathered at the castle for the funeral are all of the dragons currently bonded to riders (which are big enough to mount): Daemon's Caraxes, Rhaenyra's Syrax, Laenor's Seasmoke, Rhaenys's Meleys, and also Aegon's Sunfyre and Helaena's Dreamfyre. Laena's Vhagar, apparently bereaved, rests elsewhere on the dunes of the beach.

Alicent and her supporters are the only ones who have gained from recent events: after Larys Strong secretly had his own father Lyonel Strong and his other brother Harwin killed in a fire, he has been made the new Lord of Harrenhal and Alicent's father Otto Hightower has returned to take Lyonel's place as Hand of the King. Alicent herself is disgusted with Larys's barely contained pride.

Rhaenyra's eldest son Jacaerys Velaryon is old enough to realize that Harwin was his father, and privately tells his mother how upsetting it is that they can't openly mourn him without drawing suspicion to themselves. Corlys Velaryon goes to Rhaenyra's second son Lucerys Velaryon and explains that because Jace will one day inherit the Iron Throne itself, Luke will one day inherit his own title as Lord of the Tides and head of House Velaryon. Luke tearfully says that he doesn't want it, because he would only become Lord of Driftmark after Laenor and Corlys were dead. Laena's traumatized daughters Baela and Rhaena Targaryen meet their grandmother Rhaenys for the first time and she consoles them. Rhaenyra tells Jace that despite their private loss of Harwin, he should go and comfort to his cousins. Jace walks over but no one knows what to say, so Baela and Jace just silently hold hands. Rhaenys glares at Jace and Luke, who she knows are not really her biological grandchildren. Laenor himself is stunned by his sister's tragic death, and has waded out into the surf on the beach below to be closer to her resting place. Corlys angrily tells Laenor's lover Qarl Correy to retrieve his "patron" from his embarrassing behavior.

Alicent's children are also present but detached from the events: Aegon is visibly bored and gets increasingly drunk on the wine being passed around while lecherously eyeing the serving girls. Helaena is infatuated with capturing a spider, while muttering cryptically to herself about "dragons of flesh" weaving threads of green and black. Aegon remarks to his younger brother Aemond that he is annoyed their mother recently announced he is betrothed to marry his sister Helaena (in incestuous Targaryen tradition), because he thinks she's an idiot. Alicent apparently announced this union right after declining Rhaenyra's suggestion to betroth Helaena to her son Jace. Aemond responds that if he was betrothed to Helaena he would fulfill his duty, and Aegon shouldn't insult his own future queen. Aemond is the only one of Alicent's family to show even a hint of sympathy for the Velaryon side of the family, when he briefly glances over at the grieving Baela and Jace and considers saying something, but he silently backs away.

King Viserys then goes to speak with his brother Daemon, whom he exiled for a second time a decade ago. Viserys still loves Daemon and asks him to return home to King's Landing, and let their prior differences stay in the past. Daemon says his home is Pentos, and that of his children. Viserys urges that there is still a place for Daemon at his side in the royal court and offers anything Daemon might need, but Daemon cuts him off. Not comfortably expressing grief, Daemon stammers out that he needs nothing and turns to leave. Otto Hightower, now restored as Hand of the King, offers token condolences as Daemon passes, but he just glares back and says that a leech's hunger is never satisfied. Throughout this, Rhaenyra eyes her uncle Daemon from across the courtyard, whom she was once infatuated with until he abruptly left ten years ago.

The skies begin to darken as dusk arrives and everyone begins to retire for the evening. Viserys is exhausted, and Laena's death in childbirth clearly reminds him of his first wife Aemma Arryn's similar death years before. With her on his mind, he accidentally says to Alicent, "I'm going to bed, Aemma," though Ser Harrold Westerling gently corrects him by asking "Shall I see after Queen Alicent, Your Grace?" - Alicent is quietly unnerved by this. Gathering all the children to leave, Aegon has passed out drunk in a stairway from all the wine he was drinking, so his grandfather Otto wakes him with a stiff kick and drags him to his feet.

Night on Driftmark[]

Alone in front of the fireplace that night, Corlys and Rhaenys have a tense discussion. Rhaenys complains that Laena wanted to return to Westeros to be with her family but Daemon opposed it, and wonders that if their own maesters had attended Laena's childbirth she might have survived. Corlys assures that the surgeons in Pentos are as well trained as they are at Driftmark, and she should not lay blame for an act of the gods. Rhaenys says she wonders if the gods are punishing them for their pride, and calls out Corlys for his attempts to put a Velaryon on the Iron Throne. Corlys says that as a loyal husband he wants to restore what was taken from Rhaenys at the Great Council at Harrenhal, but she sharply observes it wasn't her rights but his own ambition which he wanted to fulfill. Not denying it but reflective, Corlys stares into the fireplace and gravely ponders what this brief mortal life is, if not the pursuit of legacy. Rhaenys then comes to the point: she wants rule of Driftmark to pass to Laena's elder daughter Baela instead of to Luke. Here in private she tells Corlys they should drop all pretense: they both know that Laenor isn't the real father of Rhaenyra's sons and that they are not of Velaryon blood. She doesn't care about the Iron Throne and is even open to Jace inheriting it someday (as it would still be through his mother, Rhaenyra), but she wants him to declare Baela heir to Driftmark instead of Luke while the royal court is still all gathered at their castle. Corlys says he can't bring himself to put a darker shadow over those innocent boys than there already is, as disinheriting Luke for Baela would immediately cast doubt on Jace's inheritance to the Iron Throne. Rhaenys says that Laena's daughters are her legacy and they must honor that, but Corlys says that history does not remember blood: it remembers names.

Outside the castle, Rhaenyra and Daemon take a moonlit walk along the beach, talking through their recent mutual losses and their tension at being apart for a decade. Rhaenyra worries that Laenor is so bereaved he will be useless to her now: they both knew their marriage was a farce, but at least she put effort into maintaining appearances. Rhaenyra explains that she and Laenor actually did try to conceive children several times, but to no avail, and thus she had three sons who (she is convinced) are all Harwin's. Rhaenyra worries that she should have forbidden Harwin from returning to the Riverlands, as she believes in the curse said to have been over Harrenhal since Aegon's Conquest. Daemon scoffs that the alleged curse is just a superstition, that Otto or Alicent would gladly exploit, though Rhaenyra says she doesn't think Alicent herself is capable of cold-blooded murder (and indeed, she actually didn't order Harwin's death). Rhaenyra moves on to accuse Daemon of abandoning her for ten years, leaving when she was just a child and needed him. Daemon says he left because she was a child: he was sparing her from the dangers of being around him. Rhaenyra tells him to look at how her life played out without him, a droll tragedy. She asks if Daemon really loved Laena, and pained he says that they were happy enough, which Rhaenyra says is in and of itself a great achievement in this world. She says she is sorry for his loss, but he tells her he shouldn't be, because at least he is allowed to publicly mourn Laena in a way she can't publicly mourn Harwin. Consoling each other in their shared grief, Rhaenyra pulls Daemon closer and says she isn't a child anymore, and begins to kiss him. They take shelter in a nearby wrecked boat and disrobe each other by moonlight, and proceed to tenderly make love.

On a different part of the beach, young Aemond Targaryen has snuck out of the castle and found Laena's dragon Vhagar asleep in the dunes. Nearly the size of a sand dune herself, Vhagar is the oldest and largest living dragon, twice the size of even Caraxes and last of the original three dragons from the Targaryen Conquest. Aemond approaches cautiously and puts a hand on the rope netting leading to her saddle. Vhagar awakens but senses that he is a prince of Targaryen blood and backs down. Aemond puts his hand on the rope again and starts to actually try to mount Vhagar, however, at which she growls and starts building up fire in the back of her throat to immolate him with. Aemond bravely stands his ground, and like firmly giving commands to a horse, shouts verbal commands in High Valyrian for Vhagar to heel and obey. None can know the mind of a dragon, but after a mysterious moment she relents and allows him to climb to her saddle. He then gives her the order to fly, and she launches into the night sky. Aemond nearly falls off the saddle several times because he isn't properly secured but eventualy he manages to level out and master the flight, taking Vhagar on a circle around the castle before landing again, a bonded dragon-rider.

Baela and Rhaena, meanwhile, noticed that someone "stole" Vhagar and wake Jace and Luke to come and investigate. The four younger children intercept Aemond just as he is returning to the castle through the tunnel leading to the beach. Rhaena angrily says Vhagar was her mother's dragon and hers to claim, but Aemond says if she wanted her she should have claimed her already. Now filled with the boundless confidence of mastering not just any dragon but the largest in the world, Aemond says that if she wants a dragon of her own she can ask Rhaenyra's sons to give her a pig like they gave him, as it would suit her more. Rhaena charges Aemond but he easily shoves her aside, causing Baela to punch him in the face, and he quickly punches her back. A brawl breaks out between the children: Aemond punches Luke so hard he breaks his nose, but then the other children join in, and all four manage to pin Aemond to the ground, before he eventually brings his larger size to bear and breaks free. Bloodied, he stands and grabs Luke by the throat with one hand while holding a large rock in the other to strike him with, and declares he will feed them to his dragon, so the "bastards" can die in flames like their father did. Luke doesn't understand, saying his father is still alive, at which Aemond turns to Jace and remarks he doesn't know, and addresses him as "Lord Strong". Jace, who is old enough to understand, is so insulted that he draws a knife he had brought with him. He charges Aemond with it, but he manages to knock the blade from his hand and Jace to the ground. Turning his attention to the older boy and advancing on him with rock in hand, he doesn't notice Luke circling around to recover the discarded knife. Just before Aemond can bash him with the rock, Jace distracts him by flinging sand into his face, then Luke charges from the side uses the knife to slash Aemond across the left side of his face, through his left eye. Aemond is left screaming on the ground just as Ser Harrold and the other Kingsguard arrive.

An eye for an eye[]

The adults of House Targaryen are roused to the main Hall of Nine in the aftermath of the fight between the children. Viserys arrives and is furious with the Kingsguard for not protecting princes of the royal blood, to which Ser Criston protests they didn't expect to defend the princes from each other. Maester Kelvyn stitches up the horrific slash across Aemond's face and tells Alicent that his left eye is lost. Horrified, Alicent begins to panic and slaps Aegon for being drunk and asleep instead of defending his brother (even though Aemond snuck away in the middle of the night and no one knew where he was). Corlys and Rhaenys enter and demand to know what happened, followed by Rhaenyra who rushes to her more mildly injured sons. When she asks what happened, all of the children began talking over each other, Aemond saying the other children attacked him and the other children saying they were only defending themselves. Viserys shouts for silence, and Jace whispers to Rhaenyra that Aemond called them bastards.

Viserys asks Aemond to tell the truth of what happened, but Alicent angrily interjects that his son has been maimed and Rhaenyra's sons are responsible, and nothing else matters. Rhaenyra says Aemond's maiming was a regrettable accident, but Alicent says her sons brought a knife to the fight intending to kill Aemond, which Rhaenyra denies saying they only brought out the knife when they were forced to defend themselves. Rhaenyra says that Aemond made "vile insults" against her sons that they are bastards, and questioning their legitimacy is the highest of treasons. She demands that Aemond be "sharply questioned" to find out where he heard these slanders. Viserys asks where the boys' father Laenor is, to which Alicent snidely remarks that he must be "entertaining" his squires.

Viserys turns to Aemond and asks where he heard the accusation that Rhaenyra's sons are bastards, but after a tense moment looking towards his mother, he says that he heard it from his other brother Aegon. Viserys turns to his eldest son and asks where he himself heard this, but in a deft response, rather than blame his mother Aegon implores Viserys that "We know father. Everyone knows", and it is obvious from just looking at them. Distraught, with his voice breaking Viserys commands that they are one family and must cease this infighting. He orders them all to make their apologies and show good will to each other by command of their king.

After a pause, Alicent says this is insufficient, as apologies will not restore Aemond's eye - but the debt can still be paid by taking out the eye of one of Rhaenyra's sons. Viserys is aghast, but Alicent commands Criston Cole to bring her the eye of Lucerys. Enraged, she says that Luke can pick which eye he loses, which is more choice than he gave to her son. Criston hesitates, protesting his oath as her sworn shield and protector does not extend to maiming others of the royal family at her command. Viserys insists that the matter is finished, and from now onward anyone who dares to question the legitimacy of Rhaenyra's sons will have their tongue cut out.

Shaking with grief and fury, Alicent refuses to accept this: as Viserys turns to leave she pulls the Valyrian steel dagger from his belt and rushes across the room towards Luke. Just before she can reach him, however, Rhaenyra blocks her and grabs both her wrists. As they continue to grapple, the panicked onlookers circle up around them; Criston tries to support Alicent, only for Daemon to intercept him as Ser Harrold shouts at the other Kingsguard to hold the crowd back, including Hightower and Velaryon men-at-arms drawing their swords. Alicent shouts accusations at Rhaenyra which she has bottled up for years: she has only ever done what was expected of her, upholding her family and the law, while Rhaenyra was always free to do as she pleases (Alicent entered into an arranged marriage to a man old enough to be her father, while Rhaenyra blatantly had a love affair outside of marriage producing three obviously bastard sons). This is the last straw for Alicent, that now Rhaenyra can even have her son maim Alicent's son and once again face no repercussions. Alicent shouts that Rhaenyra has no sense of duty or sacrifice, even as Viserys and Otto demand she put down the blade. Rhaenyra coldly answers back that it must have been exhausting for Alicent to hide beneath the cloak of her own righteousness, but by attacking her like this, everyone now sees Alicent as she truly is. Alicent makes a final push to break free of her grip, and ends up slashing Rhaenyra along her left arm. Seeing the blood, even Alicent is horrified at how out of control the situation has become. She drops the dagger and starts coming to her senses. The room falls silent, then Aemond steps forward and despite the grievous injury to his face calmly tells his mother not to mourn him, for it was a fair exchange: he may have lost an eye, but he gained a dragon.

Later, Alicent's father Otto visits her in her private chamber. She is humiliated and ashamed by her attempted attack on Rhaenyra and her son, which now guarantees Viserys will always side with Rhaenyra over her. She fears for her reputation as well, as word must already be spreading that she has gone mad with grief. Otto is filled with pride, however, saying that they are playing an ugly game but up until this moment he didn't know if Alicent had the determination to win it. Otto says that young Aemond was correct, because winning the largest dragon in the world to their side was well worth the cost of his eye and the temporary damage to Alicent's reputation. He advises her to humble herself to Viserys and cite her grief as a mother for inflaming her passions, and in time he will forgive her because it is all he can bring himself to do. For now, they will bide their time.

The next day Viserys, Alicent, and their entourage leave on their ship back to King's Landing, while their children leave on the backs of their now three dragons: Aegon on Sunfyre, Helaena on Dreamfyre, and Aemond on Vhagar. Larys Strong approaches Alicent on the deck of the ship and offers that if she still seeks revenge for Aemond's eye, he can easily arrange some sort of assassination through his spy network. Alicent politely declines, saying that his help has not gone unnoticed and she will have need of it in the future, but now is the time for patience and discretion, which he accepts.

Removing Laenor[]

In Rhaenyra's chamber, Laenor arrives as Maester Kelvyn finishes stitching the slash on Rhaenyra's arm. Laenor is ashamed, saying that he has fought dreadful enemies in war but couldn't defend his own sister from death and could not defend Rhaenyra. She informs him that Aemond called their sons bastards. Laenor admits that he has failed Rhaenyra, that he tried to make their marriage work even though they both knew it was a sham, and that he truly loves their boys, but maybe he has not loved them enough. Rhaenyra says she did hope that the few times she and Laenor lay together it would have produced a child, and then things may have been different. Laenor says he hates the gods for making him as he is, but Rhaenyra gently insists that he is an honorable man with a good heart, a rare thing which he shouldn't be ashamed about. Laenor says that Ser Qarl is returning soon to the renewed fighting in the Stepstones, but he will not go with him: instead he will rededicate himself to Rhaenyra, to strengthening her claim to the throne and raising their sons as princes of the realm. He promises he will be the husband she deserves.

Rhaenyra then watches Viserys and Alicent's ship leave from the shore, while speaking to her uncle Daemon in High Valyrian. She has realized that conflict is now inevitable and says that she needs him to strengthen her side. He says that they could only marry if Laenor were dead, and she says she knows this.

Daemon then discretely meets with Laenor's lover Qarl Correy at the docks of Driftmark. He remarks to him that he is a lowborn knight with a lord's expensive tastes, but there are places across the sea where the name a man was born with doesn't matter, only how much gold he has. Qarl asks what Daemon wants in return, to which he says, "a quick death, one with witnesses".

Rhaenyra's conversation with Daemon continues: she does not want to be a tyrant and rule through terror, but he says tyrants only rule through terror. Daemon says that a king or queen must cultivate love and respect, but if they are not feared they are powerless. Rhaenyra says she does love Laenor, but Daemon says that if she loves him she will "set him free". She says their enemies will whisper she was responsible for Laenor's death, but Daemon says they want them to whisper: they can't prove anything and it will make her enemies fear what she and Daemon are capable of.

Back in High Tide castle, Daemon discretely sneaks up on one of the guards and snaps his neck. In the main hall, Qarl angrily approaches Laenor claiming he has always looked down on him, and draws his sword. Laenor draws his sword as well and they begin to fight in front of Laenor's frightened servant, who rushes out saying he will summon the guards. When the guards return along with Laenor's parents, they are horrified to find his corpse shoved head-first into the fireplace, horrifically burned beyond recognition. Rhaenys howls in anguish while Corlys furiously berates his guards for allowing such an atrocity to happen.

Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon then marry each other in a Valyrian rite ceremony on the beach, a small gathering witnessed by their children and Maester Gerardys.

Late in the night, however, a cloaked figure runs to the beach on Driftmark where Qarl Correy is waiting for him with a rowboat: Laenor Velaryon, his head shaved so he won't be recognized for his Valyrian silver hair. Daemon and Qarl helped Laenor fake his death, swapping his clothes with the guard that Daemon killed and then burned. Rhaenyra and Daemon "set him free" from the arranged marriage he was trapped in, so Rhaenyra and Daemon could enter into a marriage alliance with each other, and Laenor could pursue the life he wanted with Qarl adventuring in the Stepstones.

Appearances[]

Main page: Driftmark (episode)/Appearances

Firsts[]

Deaths[]

  • High Tide page

Cast[]

Starring[]

Co-starring[]

Uncredited[]

Notes[]

Quotes[]

"Hand turns loom; spool of green, spool of black; dragons of flesh weaving dragons of thread."
―Helaena Targaryen
"What is this brief, mortal life if not the pursuit of legacy?"
―Corlys Velaryon
"History does not remember blood. It remembers names."
―Corlys Velaryon
"Where is duty? Where is sacrifice? It's trampled under your pretty foot again."
―Alicent Hightower
"Now they see you as who you are."
―Rhaenyra Targaryen
"I may have lost an eye, but I gained a dragon."
―Aemond Targaryen

Behind the scenes[]

General[]

  • The title of the episode refers to Driftmark, the island seat of House Velaryon and where both High Tide and Castle Driftmark are located.
  • Unlike several other episodes this season set entirely in or around King's Landing, this entire episode is set on Driftmark island (barring that the Rhaenyra/Daemon wedding briefly seen at the end might actually be on Dragonstone, but it isn't specified).
  • Rhaenyra tells Daemon she needs his support, since she cannot face the Greens alone. This is the first time the Greens, the supporters of Alicent's son Aegon, have been identified by name. The opposing faction, the Blacks, have not been named on-screen yet. In the behind the scenes video for this episode, however, Emma D'Arcy (Rhaenyra) refers to them as "the Greens and the Blacks". Moreover, within the episode Helaena does make a cryptic prophetic reference to "dragons of flesh" (Targaryens) weaving threads of black and green.
  • The books don't give any specific details about funeral practices for House Velaryon. The TV show invented that they inter their remains in a sarcophagus, which they then drop into the ocean off a specific cliff on Driftmark, so that they can rest in the sea with their ancestors. The Targaryens typically burn their dead, and because they were married to Targaryens it appears that both Laena and Laenor were cremated in the books.
    • Vaemond's eulogy prominently mentions the Merling King, a local mythological figure in the lands around the Narrow Sea. According to legend, the Velaryons were given the Driftwood Throne as a gift from the Merling King. This figure isn't one of the Old Gods of Valyria at all but is a local deity that got mixed in with the Velaryons' cultural practices, being located out on the fringes of the Valyrian domains.
  • Baela and Rhaena arrive at their mother's home Driftmark, and meet their grandparents Rhaenys and Corlys, for the first time in this episode. This is somewhat of a change from the books, in which Daemon and Laena actually moved back to Driftmark from Pentos about one year after the girls were born (who are twins in the book). Thus Baela and Rhaena spent more of their early lives on Driftmark in the books and already knew Rhaenyra's sons, while in the TV version Baela and Jace meet for the first time at the funeral and seem to bond over their shared grief.
  • Rhaenyra remarks to both Daemon and Laenor that they actually did try to conceive a child together, but it never worked. Rhaenyra herself believes that Harwin Strong is the father of all of her children, but it is unknown if this is objectively true, as the possibility remains she could be mistaken. This was much more ambiguous in the books.
  • Rhaenys insists that because Rhaenyra's sons aren't really Laenor's, Baela should be named the heir to Driftmark as the eldest daughter of Laena - ahead of Corlys's younger brother Vaemond (who is a nephew in the book). Most of Westeros (except Dorne) follow male-preference primogeniture, but it is still primogeniture: a lord's daughter inherits ahead of that lord's younger brother. Thus the daughter of Corlys's daughter should still stand ahead of Corlys's younger brother in line of succession. If this rule had been strictly applied to the new Targaryen dynasty, Rhaenys herself should have been named the heir of King Jaehaerys after the death of her father Aemon, who was the crown prince and eldest son. Instead she was passed over for Viserys, son of Jaehaerys's second son Baelon (Baela's namesake), on the pretext that he had unbroken male-line descent. Thus if Rhaenys was the rightful heir all along, and Laenor had no legitimate children, technically - even according to male-preference primogeniture - Baela would actually be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
  • The wake scene presents a juxtaposition between Larys Strong and his secret nephew Lucerys: Alicent notes that Larys is almost gleaming with pride after recently becoming the new Lord of Harrenhal by secretly killing his own father and older brother. In contrast, when Corlys tells Luke that one day he will one day be ruler of Driftmark and House Velaryon, Luke says he doesn't want this at all, because he would only inherit rule after Corlys and Laenor are dead.
  • When Daemon is naked in the beach scene, it can be seen that his back has several burn scars. This continues to show that Targaryens are not actually invulnerable to fire, as seen earlier when Daemon himself took a wound to the shoulder from a flaming arrow in the third episode. Game of Thrones made a change in Season 6 that Daenerys Targaryen was always invulnerable to fire, even though George R.R. Martin himself has repeatedly said that her survival of Drogo's funeral pyre when she hatched her dragon eggs was a one-time, miraculous event due to a magical spell.
  • At the end of the episode, Viserys can be seen kissing a ring on his finger: it belonged to his wife Aemma Arryn, and has the Arryn falcon sigil on it. The death of Laena heavily reminds Viserys of Aemma's death, and she is so much on his mind that at one point he accidentally calls Alicent "Aemma".
  • During the confrontation between Rhaenyra and Alicent at the climax of the episode, Alicent calls on Criston Cole as her sworn shield and personal protector. This is the only explanation given so far, even indirectly, for why Criston wasn't punished for killing Joffrey Lonmouth at Rhaenyra and Laenor's wedding, or even dismissed from the Kingsguard. It was somewhat implied that he retained his position due to Alicent's political influence, as the final shot of him in that episode showed Alicent intervening to prevent his suicide, and they had now both turned against Rhaenyra. In the book, Criston killed Joffrey during the tournament held to celebrate the wedding, and killing a man in a tourney is not considered murder. Immediately afterward, Criston became Alicent's sworn shield just as he once was for Rhaenyra.

Filming locations[]

  • The filming location for the exteriors of High Tide castle on Driftmark are not CGI or a matte painting, but the famous castle of St Michael's Mount on the south coast of Cornwall, England. "High Tide" is so-called because it is a tidal island, with a land bridge connecting it to the main island at low tide which gets subsumed by the ocean when the tide rises. Rather than digitally add these elements, the production team simply found a castle that is actually located on a real-life tidal island which was willing to allow filming there. Extensive spy photos of Laena's funeral scene leaked out back when filming on the series began in May 2021. The scenes of Rhaenyra and Daemon alone on the beach, and Aemond finding Vhagar on a separate beach, were both filmed at Hollywell Beach on the north coast of Cornwall, about a 45 minute drive from St Michael's Mount.
  • Greg Yaitanes originally intended to direct this episode, but was unable to due to scheduling issues. At the last minute, an on-location shoot for the second episode had to take place immediately: Miguel Sapochnik was supposed to direct it but was busy with a different shoot, so Yaitanes had to step in to film the second episode based on Sapochnik's storyboards. Yaitanes then swapped back directing duties on episode 7 to Sapochnik, though in return Yaitanes got to direct the season finale.[6]
    • After the successful premiere of House of the Dragon resulted in its quick renewal by HBO, director Miguel Sapochnik announced that he would not be returning for work on Season 2. Co-showrunner Ryan Condal acknowledged in interviews that Sapochnik never intended to stay for a potential second season, citing his extreme exhaustion and need for a break, though neither of them ruled out Sapochnik returning to the franchise at some point in a later season. For now, this makes "Driftmark" the chronologically last episode that Sapochnik has directed for the franchise (though his final wrap was actually on filming one of the other two episodes he directed this season).
  • The behind the scenes video explains that this was actually the first episode filmed during production on the first season, and indeed the first for the entire series as a whole. TV series are filmed out of order, and a cast will inevitably be less familiar with each other in their first episode compared to later in filming when they've had time to refine how they play off each other. Recognizing this, the showrunners decided to work with it: people at a funeral often don't know what to say to each other and would be expected to have awkward interactions, so they made the funeral episode the first one they filmed in order to mask the cast's unfamiliarity with each other when they began. For example, Matt Smith (Daemon) and Paddy Considine's (Viserys) interaction at the wake is awkwardly paced compared to conversations they later filmed for earlier episodes, but it fits that Daemon would be at a loss for words at his wife's funeral.
    • It's stated in the behind the scenes video that the absolute first scene filmed for this episode, and thus the entire TV series, was the Laena funeral scene when her sarcophagus is dropped into the water. Almost the entire cast from both sides of the Targaryen family were gathered for it. The wake scenes then took four days to film after that.
      • The sarcophagus was actually built out of fiberglass, not stone, so it was buoyant and could be recovered after each take. When the camera switches to an underwater position to show the sarcophagus sinking, it switches to a digital effect.
  • According to behind the scenes video, location filming at St Michael's Mount resulted in numerous logistical difficulties:[7]
    • Due to its nature as a tidal island, materials could only be driven out to the site in a narrow window of the day. Most had to be sent weeks in advance, but they couldn't rush out to acquire new materials if an issue came up.
    • The coastline of St Michael's Mount is almost entirely sheer cliffs (the beach scenes were filmed separately in northern Cornwall). Therefore, the platforms that the funeral and wake scenes take place on had to be built out by the production team. This was complicated by the fact that they couldn't legally drill into the rock of the island itself, but attach them with poles and straps - this meant that they could not build very large platforms. The entire wake scene contains about 40 people crammed into a small cliffside courtyard/platform, without enough space to fit the dolly or crane cameras: to change the elevation of the cameras they had to be propped up on ladders.
    • As a tidal island, St Michael's Mount is of course famous for its rapidly changing tide levels - which presented a major challenge for scene continuity. It was also intermittently raining throughout the exterior shoot, even though it was supposed to take place on a bright sunny day. They had to wait for just the right hours to film when the sun was out and the tides were at the same level. Ultimately the funeral scene took a full day to film, and the wake scene took four days to film.
    • Filming the relatively brief funeral scene was difficult, because it took 20 minutes to retrieve the sarcophagus from the water to reset for each take.
    • Combined with the storms and tide levels, the surrounding bay is actually a major tourist area, which meant that they had to digitally remove tourist boats from the surrounding waters, as well as modern towns on the opposing coastline.

Aemond's fight[]

  • In the books, Aemond actually got his right eye slashed out, but his left eye is slashed out in the TV series. This was possibly done for safety reasons: the adult actor playing Aemond is right-handed, and it would be more difficult for him to see where his sword is going if his right eye was covered.
  • In the book, it is Rhaenyra's three sons who fight Aemond: Jace, Luke, and Joff - though Joff's contribution to the fight is minimal given that he was only three years old. Jace was six, Luke was five, and Aemond was ten years old. The TV series altered their ages slightly so that Jace and Luke are closer to nine and eight, but Joff is significantly younger and still just a baby. The TV version therefore swapped out Joff and added in the girls Baela and Rhaena (who were both around four when this happened in the books, but also older in the TV show). In both versions, Aemond is still about ten years old and thus the largest of all the children, so despite it being a four against one fight the strength of both sides is roughly even.
  • This entire incident (in both the book and TV show) of the children of two rival families getting into a fight and the adults arguing over it in front of the king parallels how Arya got into a fight with Joffrey Baratheon, which resulted in her direwolf biting him, and his mother Cersei demanding a punishment (A Game of Thrones, Sansa I, Eddard III; "The Kingsroad").
  • There actually was an archaic law in Westeros, during the Targaryen era, that striking someone of royal blood is to be punished by amputation; it is mentioned in the books by Oberyn Martell at Tyrion's court trial (A Storm of Swords, Tyrion IX). Cersei demanded to punish Arya for injuring Joffrey, without specifying the punishment (in A Feast for Crows chapter 30, Jaime reveals that she wanted Arya killed or maimed), but at the time Robert thought she was just being emotional and argued her into settling for killing a direwolf. Later in the fourth novel, when Cersei gets her own POV chapters it reveals that she was being completely serious, and even years later she still feels slighted that Arya's hand wasn't cut off as punishment. This also came up in the first of the Dunk & Egg novellas (90 years before the first novel, and about 90 years after this incident with Aemond), the central dilemma of which was that Dunk beat up Prince Aerion Targaryen because he was striking a commoner woman. Aerion insisted on the ancient law that Dunk should lose a hand or have his teeth knocked out as punishment, which Dunk avoided by asserting his right to a trial by combat.
  • After Viserys forbids Alicent's demand for Luke's eye to be taken out in reprisal, the entire sequence in which the enraged and grief-stricken Alicent grabs his dagger to charge Luke and Rhaenyra is an invention of the TV series, not present in the book.

Dragons and riders[]

  • This episode features the most dragons ever seen in a single shot so far in the franchise, with five shown perched on the cliffs next to High Tide castle between the funeral and the wake for Laena. Rhaenyra's Syrax and Daemon's Caraxes are flying overhead with a third dragon out of focus. Perched on the ground are two other dragons, one of which is the debut of Aegon's Sunfyre (but distant and out of focus). The dragon to the left of Sunfyre might be Laenor's Seasmoke or Helaena's Dreamfyre, and the third one in the sky might be Rhaenys's Meleys (all are the same "breed" of dragon with the same general body shape). Dreamfyre definitely does appear later, albeit in the distance, when Alicent's children leave Driftmark with three dragons. Vhagar isn't present during the wake scene but Aemond finds her later on the beach. Assuming that Dreamfyre wasn't in the wake shot but was on-screen when she left the island, a total of seven dragons appeared on-screen within the episode overall. In the book, historians accurately point out that this funeral was the largest gathering of dragons in a single place since the Doom of Valyria.
  • This episode shows for the first time just how difficult it is to ride a dragon. Riders need chains to secure themselves to a saddle, otherwise they risk falling off when the dragon flies up or makes sharp turns. The task was difficult for Aemond, and even he wasn't totally inexperienced: as shown last episode, he's been present for lessons by the Dragonkeepers so he knows all the basics and verbal commands, and Vhagar has had previous riders so she knows how to respond. In contrast, all of this knowledge was lost by the time of Daenerys Targaryen, who basically had to figure this out through trial and error in the books, for freshly hatched dragons with no prior training. Daenerys only starts riding Drogon at the end of the fifth novel, an act of desperation to escape the fighting pits, so she doesn't have a saddle yet and finds it difficult to hold on. She also has to figure out a major difference between riding a horse and riding a dragon: horses are prey animals and will turn away from danger, so a rider must whip them on their left side to make them turn right; dragons, however, are predators, so if a rider whips them on their right side they will instinctively turn right, to attack whatever is harming them.
    • An ongoing complaint in the later seasons of Game of Thrones is Daenerys never had a saddle, and seemed to be riding by just gripping the horns on her dragon's back for hours at a time, and never falling off even during quick turns. This was amplified when Jon Snow with even less experience or training managed to quickly bond with and ride Rhaegal, also despite not having a saddle and just holding on to the horns. The books do strongly imply that riding a dragon isn't merely like riding a horse, but some form of low-level psychic bond, so it is possible that Daenerys and Jon managed to ride them so well due to their strong Targaryen bloodlines - but the original TV show never introduced the psychic bond as an explanation.
    • When Vhagar first flies vertically, Aemond nearly falls off because he wasn't secured properly, and is left dangling from the reins until Vhagar levels off. The behind the scenes video reveals that this was not a digital effect: the dragon-riding rig was hung vertically, and actor Leo Ashton was actually hanging from the reins (though he was secured with safety lines that were later removed digitally). Ashton filmed these scenes on the virtual set six months after he filmed his corresponding scenes on Hollywell Beach in Cornwall, so the production team had to make sure to hide how much he'd grown (through makeup, costume, having his hair hide his face in some shots, etc.)
  • Aemond gives Vhagar several verbal commands in High Valyrian: this detail isn't in the books, but the TV series established that the dragons are trained to follow multiple different commands in it. Daenerys only taught her dragons that "dracarys" means "dragon-fire". When Aemond first approaches Vhagar he says "dohaerās!" - which means "serve!" (in the sense of "obey!"), and then "lykirī!" - which means "be calm!" / "calm!" / "heel". When Aemond then urges Vhagar to take off, he says "sōvēs!" - which means "fly!". When Daenerys first ordered her dragon to fly at the end of Game of Thrones Season 5 she told him to "ride!" in Dothraki ("valahd!"), not Valyrian, due to a mix-up on set that day.
  • In the behind the scenes video, the production staff says that the TV version of Vhagar is about 150 meters long (slightly less than 500 feet).

Helaena and prophecy[]

  • As hinted at in the preceding episode, Helaena Targaryen has strongly inherited her family bloodline's propensity towards having prophetic visions or dreams (known as "dragon dreams" in the books, because dragons are often present in them). Helaena isn't described like this in Fire & Blood, though as an in-universe history book it wouldn't cover such specific details.
  • In the preceding episode, when Alicent assured Aemond that he would have a dragon someday, Helaena cryptically remarked, "He'll have to close an eye", which is exactly what happens in this episode when he loses an eye in the process of claiming Vhagar.
    • Her words: "Hand turns loom; spool of green, spool of black; dragons of flesh weaving dragons of thread" are clearly about the bloody conflict between the Greens and Blacks, known as the Dance of the Dragons.
  • As explained in the first episode, Aegon the Conqueror (grandfather of Viserys's grandfather) secretly had a prophetic dream about the return of the White Walkers, and generations before him the Targaryens survived the Doom of Valyria because Daenys had a prophetic dream of impending destruction. Helaena's own father Viserys had a prophetic dream of a son being born to him who wore the crown of Aegon the Conqueror, and though it greatly influenced him he said in the third episode that this is the only prophetic dream he ever had, and he only had it once in his entire life. Several other Targaryens have prophetic dreams throughout the books, such as Daenerys, Jon Snow, and Maester Aemon's older brother Daeron.

Laenor's fate[]

  • In Fire & Blood, Laenor Velaryon's death is not faked - this is a major departure from the source material. The book is framed as an in-universe history book, so by definition if a character successfully faked their own death the history books would not record it. George R.R. Martin is also fond of plot twists in which characters fake their own deaths or are reported to be dead only to reappear alive later (for instance, Aegon Targaryen, Davos Seaworth, and Mance Rayder). This seems unlikely, however, in this specific case: in the book Laenor was stabbed to death in the middle of a market, and no mention is made that the corpse was burned beyond recognition.
  • Qarl Correy's motivation and fate are unknown in the book, as this is another "unreliable narrator" moment between the three main historical sources: Munkun merely says Laenor died in a fight with a household knight, while Eustace gives the knight's name and says that it was a lover's quarrel. The ribald court jester Mushroom alleges that Daemon bribed Qarl to kill Laenor, so that he could marry Rhaenyra. Mushroom also claims that Daemon had a ship waiting for Qarl off-shore - but as soon as they were out at sea, Daemon killed him and dumped his body overboard, to destroy all evidence of the crime. The main historian writing Fire & Blood, Gyldayn, notes that this is one of the rare points in which Mushroom's typically preposterous version of events actually seems quite plausible.
  • Laenor's departure does raise the issue of what will happen to his dragon, Seasmoke. Dragons have a powerful homing instinct to find their bonded rider, even when they are hundreds of miles away. Moreover, dragons only bond with a single rider at a time and this apparently psychic bond is only broken when their current rider dies. Another character during the coming succession crisis eventually bonds with Seasmoke. This raises three possibilities:
    • 1 - Laenor simply died off-screen in the six-year time skip between this and the next episode, the warrior's death in battle he always wanted (much like Laena).
    • 2 - The TV series will simply ignore this rule.
    • 3 - No mention will be made of Laenor actually dying, but some sort of explanation will be introduced to at least address it (i.e. that Laenor has been gone for so long that their bond weakened, or that a dragon can rarely bond to a second rider).

Rhaenyra and Daemon's wedding[]

  • Rhaenyra and Daemon marry each other in a traditional Valyrian rite wedding ceremony. While the old Valyrian religion did presumably have its own wedding ceremony, it is only mentioned once in the books when it is said that Maegor the Cruel wed his second wife in Valyrian rites, because it was a polygamous marriage (polygamy was uncommon but permitted in the Valyrian religion). No septon could be found who would marry them in the rites of the Faith of the Seven, so Maegor's own mother Visenya officiated the Valyrian wedding ceremony. Even so, the exact details of the ceremony aren't described in any detail.
  • Recognizing that no details on what Valyrian wedding ceremonies are like were given in the books, Ryan Condal said:
"The writers took what material we had, knowing what we know about Old Valyria, knowing that any kind of marriage ceremony would probably be quite primal. So one of our writers wrote vows, which we gave off to David J. Peterson our Valyrian translator, to translate into High Valyrian, and we turned it all into a ceremonial Valyrian wedding."[7]
  • 107 Rhaenyra Daemon Valyrian Rite Wedding Costumes Concept Art

    Concept art for the Valyrian rite wedding costumes.

    Costume designer Jany Temime put a great deal of thought into the designs for Rhaenyra and Daemon in this scene, because wedding clothes are ceremonial, which means they are usually a glimpse into archaic fashions - an echo of what ancient Valyrian designs looked like thousands of years ago. She decided to base them on the ceremonial robes that the Dragonkeepers wear, but much more ornate:
"That was actually one of the most difficult costumes. I couldn't do more than what I had done before for the different wedding (in episode 5), so I thought it would be a good approach to do something completely different. We thought, 'What about going in the direction of the dragonkeeper?' Something very simple, very kimono-like, which seemed to have been created before the Targaryens. I wanted the red blood-elements in it. We had to create the tie-dye, going from red into the purity of white, and that was a lot of work."[7]
  • Rhaenyra tells Daemon "Let us bind our blood, just as Aegon the Conqueror did with his sisters" - referring to the Targaryen custom of marrying family relatives, not to the aspect of polygamy (since both of them are currently unmarried).
    • When Daemon asked Viserys to wed Rhaenyra ("King of the Narrow Sea") he also mentioned Aegon the Conqueror, but that was a reference to the polygamy aspect of Aegon's marriage (Daemon was still married then).
  • The book makes no mention of Rhaenyra having sex with Daemon before they were married, though several accuse that they did. In the TV version they only have sex once after Laena's funeral, and Rhaenyra's marriage to Laenor was always an open one. There is also a fan theory that it is may be implied Rhaenyra was herself attracted to Laena. Septon Eustace, the source biased against Rhaenyra, said that she and Daemon married so quickly after Laenor's death (only six months later). Mushroom's ribald account claims that they married because Rhaenyra discovered she was pregnant and she did not wish to give birth to another bastard. One way or another, Rhaenyra did become pregnant around the time they were married, and at the end of the same calendar year in which Laena and Laenor died, Rhaenya and Daemon's first son was born.

Altered and deleted scenes[]

  • The scene in which the Green dragons fly back to King's Landing was storyboarded to include Dreamfyre and Sunfyre in the foreground, taking off from the cliff like Vhagar. The final version has only Vhagar in the foreground, with Dreamfyre and Sunfyre already flying in the distance.[8]

In the books[]

Main page: Differences in adaptation/House of the Dragon: Season 1#"Driftmark"

This episode is adapted from the chapter "Heirs of the Dragon — A Question of Succession" from Fire & Blood. It is also influenced by the following chapter of A Game of Thrones:

Gallery[]

Videos[]

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Stills[]

Screenshots[]

Concept art[]

References[]

Notes[]

  1. "Driftmark" picks up only days after "The Princess and the Queen," which takes place in 126 AC.

External links[]


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