Yikes. Now, there’s an episode that feels like Game of Thrones. The latest edition of HBO’s House of the Dragon, titled We Light the Way, is a rollercoaster ride of political intrigue and romantic persuasion. Milly Alcock’s Princess Rheanyra Targaryan is engaged to be married with Theo Nate’s Ser Laenor Valeryon, only neither of them are all that interested in each other. Instead, they’d rather be with their paramours. For Rheanyra, that is Fabien Frankel’s dashing Kingsguard soldier Ser Criston Cole, and for Laenor, it’s Solly McLeod’s Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, his secret partner and battle companion. As the wedding draws near, things begin to take a turn for the worse, with Paddy Considine’s King Viserys Targaryan growing increasingly ill and Emily Carey’s Queen Alicent Hightower learning the truth about her closest friend. If that wasn’t enough, Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryan is still up to his violently mischievous ways and causing quite a bit of trouble all on his own.
It’s a lot to tackle, but nothing Murphy’s Multiverse can’t divide into “best” and “worst” categories. Let’s get into it.
BEST – Planning a Wedding
Obviously, what is now being called “The Green Wedding” was the big spectacle of We Light the Way. It’s what everyone will be talking about coming out of this week and the highest point of the entire season thus far. However, none of that pageantry would be possible if it weren’t for the exceedingly wonderful build-up happening in the first three-fourths of the episode. King Viserys and Princess Rhaenyra’s trip to visit Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys, played by Steve Toussaint and Eve Best, in their home provided immaculate foreshadowing for what was to come. The wordplay between Corlys and Viserys in coming to political agreements, the conversations Laenor has with both his future wife and his lover, and the moment shared between Rhaenyra and Criston aboard her ship – all existed to serve the episode’s ending, and yet still managed to be more interesting in the long run.
As has been said before, this sort of thing is actually the juice that keeps this franchise running. It’s the slow build-up and quick pay-off combo that keeps fans coming back for more, and oftentimes, it’s the first half that really stays with viewers for weeks to come. For example, Alicent’s arc in this episode alone is magnificent. Yes, it’s her beautiful green dress and dramatic wedding entrance that stands out, but it’s the tearful argument with her father and the quiet rage she displays as Ser Criston drops a bombshell that stick in the brain. Game of Thrones’ infamous Red Wedding had seasons worth of material to play off of when everything went down, but the Green Wedding had no such advantage. It had only a handful of episodes to use as meat in the emotional grinder, and We Light the Way did a fantastic job of bringing all those elements together before finally pulling the rug out from under Westeros.
WORST – The Death of Ser Joffrey Lonmouth
It’s so unfortunate that people can never just be happy in these shows. It’s even more unfortunate how often it’s women and LGBTQ+ folks who face the brunt of the suffering. All commentary aside, Ser Laenor and his partner were so close to having the best kind of future Westeros could possibly afford them, and then Joffrey had to have his face bashed in for, assumedly, making a comment he shouldn’t have. It’s an old and tired trope, to have the gay character suffer for being gay, and it would have been nice if the show could have embraced Joffrey and Laenor as an interesting subplot instead of slaughtering the former and forcing the latter into a loveless marriage against his will. Alas, this is how it is and how it shall continue to be. There is much opportunity for storytelling with Laenor going forward.