We’ve reached the halfway point of the ambitious and epic high fantasy series, House of the Dragon. A royal wedding is now on the table, and everyone is vying for their seat at the event that will determine the future of Westeros. But Westerosi weddings are known to be cursed events, and secrets, jealousies and violence all have their place in this mid-series event moment.
Daemon visits his wife in the Vale. Viserys and Rhaenyra broker agreements with the Velaryons. Alicent seeks the truth about the princess.
Having rejected every lord in Westeros’ hand for marriage, and having enraged her father King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) now finds he fate in her father’s hands, and a very interested party is seeking her hand in marriage. House Velaryon, under the leadership of Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and his wife Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), see Princess Rhaenyra as their ticket to ultimate power in Westeros, and with little choice, the King accepts their offer. Princess Rhaenyra’s chosen husband, Ser Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) has his own queer tastes, and both understand that their marriage is purely of convenience and each has their own ideas as to how to live their married life. But of course, there are a few thorns in the side of this royal event that include the brooding Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and the now scorned Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey).
Director Clare Kilner returns following her very impressive work on Episode Four, ‘King of the Narrow Sea’ for Episode Five, ‘We Light the Way’, and she certainly turns the temperature up on this ‘joyous’ occasion. With her talent for wringing out the drama and tension of characters when they are at their most vulnerable, Kilner has plenty of material to weave together into a thrilling piece of television. And the gloves are off, and the knives are out. Kilner starts off with all of her characters in a state of isolation from one another and then brings them together for the tumultuous wedding event. This is an episode of high emotions, and Kilner goes to work on her characters and it all shows in the end product.
From the visual standpoint, ‘We Light the Way’ is an utterly glamorous affair, with every inch of the camera’s frame filled with decadence and splendour. As House of the Dragon sees House Targaryen at the height of its power, this golden, gilded age is directly seen in this massive wedding banquet, and it’s a fitting setting for the drama to unfold. Elegant costuming and pristine art direction brings out the pomp and ceremony of this event, and all the regal houses of Westeros are in attendance, and each is showcasing its best. With this massive assembled cast and the trappings of extreme medieval luxury and wealth on display, ‘We Light the Way’ is a treat for the eyes.
This extravagant wedding setting is a great place in which Kliner can serve up the drama of ‘We Light the Way’, and this episode is chiefly concerned with more giant leaps in terms of character development. This emotional growth affects Milly Alcock’s Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen as we see her come under the wheel of the ‘game of thrones’ as she is to be married off to a man, not of her choosing. But the inquisitive Rhaenyra finds an interesting angle to her future, and she exercises her own choices in this moment. The Princess has been through much character development and this event and its unfolding consequences have a very big effect on her.
It wouldn’t be House of the Dragon without a bit of conflict, and of course, Matt Smith arrives to deliver it in ‘We Light the Way’ after a chilling trip to the Vale that of course ends in murder, Prince Daemon returns to King’s Landing and invites himself to the wedding. With a coy-like cat appearance, Smith turns up the heat with his snarky back and forth, and his eyes have not waivered from his niece’s beauty or her inheritance. Kliner ramps up the tension between the both of them in an intriguing dance where Daemon spies his chance to woe Rhaenyra, and he’s of course playing up his tricks at every possible turn.
But it’s Emily Carey’s Queen Alicent Hightower who commands the attention of this episode and her appearance is a scene-stealing moment. Left with no allies at court after the expulsion of her father as the King’s Hand and having suffered the final insults from her husband the King, Alicent dons a regal gown of amber green and in a war-like pose showcases a cunning new sense of power as she interrupts the nuptial feast and establishes her dominance in the capital once and for all. Emily Carey transforms into the ultimate Queen Bee in ‘We Light the Way’, and her temperament and tone display an all-new kind of character who will be far more dangerous in her actions moving forward. ‘We Light the Way’ is the moment of ultimate transformation for Queen Alicent, and Carey’s performance is delivered with plenty of strength and leaves a major impression on the audience.
With its building character tensions and manipulations and jealousies, ‘We Light the Way’ is the powder keg moment that House of the Dragon has so far been building to all season. And it explodes with fury in Episode Five. The violence is sudden and filled with an equal mixture of rage and tragedy, and at this moment any hope for a beautiful future for any of our characters is completely tarnished in every possible way. This episode’s penultimate third act is shocking in its violence, and the audience won’t know what hits them.
The halfway mark of House of the Dragon delivered one hell of a wallop to audiences, and all is not well for the Targaryen Dynasty. New wounds are ripped open, bad blood leaves its stain, and the very future of House Targaryen is now in doubt.
House of the Dragon is available to watch on SKY SOHO and NEON.
Image: SKY TV