Although they couldn’t marry out of love — Rhaenyra with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), Laenor with Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod) — they could at least marry out of duty, and remain friends and confidants. Rhaenyra and Laenor agree they can bed whomever they please, so long as they keep their romances tight-lipped and present a united front at court.
Resentment, however, quickly unravels Rhaenyra and Laenor’s hopes for the future. Chaos at their wedding banquet leads to an on-screen death and another potential passing, rendering the marriage between the cousins one formed not only out of obligation, but also tied together by tragedy.
Spoilers ahead for Episode 5 of House of the Dragon.
What happened on House of the Dragon Episode 5?
Jealousy gets the best of Criston after dropping off his lover in Driftmark so she can hang out with her betrothed.
The knight is frustrated that Rhaenyra won’t give up her title and run away with him after he betrayed his Kingsguard vows for her. Criston is further enraged after a conversation with Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), where he reveals to the queen that he’s tarnished his honor for the princess. Though Criston doesn’t get into details, Alicent fills in the blanks, and she runs out of patience for Rhaenyra and her husband. She arrives at the wedding banquet in a green gown, indicating that she’s all-in for House Hightower and her direct bloodline, not for House Targaryen and Viserys’ wishes for the Iron Throne.
Viserys, who looked considerably weaker this episode, doesn’t take his wife’s melodramatic entrance in the middle of his speech well. He manages to hang on, though viewers can tell Viserys is starting to look woozy.
Criston, meanwhile, is pushed over the edge at the wedding banquet, when Laenor’s boyfriend tells him that he knows he’s Rhaenyra’s lover. Criston flies into a blind rage, clobbering Joffrey’s face in the middle of the dance floor.
As a result, Rhaenyra and Laenor realize that they’ll never be genuinely happy in a union that requires them to keep dangerous secrets.
Meanwhile, overwhelmed by his difficult journey to Driftmark and all the chaos that followed, Viserys is seen bleeding and passing out in the final moments of the episode. This is a cliffhanger, although if House of the Dragon continues to follow the broad strokes of its source material, it’s also a misdirect.
Potential spoilers ahead!
HOW DOES KING VISERYS I TARGARYEN DIE?
In George R.R. Martin’s prequel novellas, Viserys’ reign lasts from 103 to 129 AC (After Conquest, as in Aegon’s conquest of Westeros). Unlike in the show, which seems to be setting up a more painful death for Viserys, he dies during a nap in the Red Keep, although there are rumors that Queen Alicent Hightower may have put something in his drink to make that afternoon snooze his last.
That would put Viserys’ death at age 52, which was elderly for a Targaryen (the bloodline’s inbreeding created a slew of health issues). It should also be noted that, in the texts, Viserys doesn’t have this mysterious dermatological condition that’s causing blistering and the rotting of digits.
Queen Alicent Hightower conceals Viserys’ death from the public and summons the small council to discuss the accession of their son, Aegon II Targaryen. This act ignores her late husband’s wishes, who wanted Rhaenyra to assume the Iron Throne. While Viserys is a well-intentioned ruler, we learn in Martin’s stories that he’s surrounded by malicious men until the end of his time on the Iron Throne. Rhaenyra was his only trustworthy ally.
The princess isn’t in King’s Landing at the time of her father’s passing, but is instead on Dragonstone pregnant with one of her children by her uncle-husband, Prince Daemon Targaryen. Rhaenyra’s first husband, Laenor Velaryon, dies nine years before Viserys.
As the small council negotiates the messy political situation, Alicent forbids anyone from treating Viserys’ body, which causes it to rot. Eventually his passing has to be revealed to the public, because there was no way to conceal the corpse any longer. His body is burnt via dragon breath in a traditional Targaryen funeral rite.
Rhaenyra hears about her father’s demise, and refuses to recognize her half-brother Aegon’s claim to the throne. Back at King’s Landing, Aegon and his mother Alicent have accrued a faction of supporters known as the Greens. Rhaenyra, on the other hand, has her own legion of followers, the Blacks, who want Viserys’ will to be respected. At this point Rhaenyra is 32-years-old, her half-brother Aegon II 22, and her step-mother Alicent 41, although these ages have been tweaked for the show.
While we have no idea how House of the Dragon will adapt its source material for the screen, we do know one thing for sure: Viserys’ death, whenever and however it happens, will lead to a ferocious sibling rivalry.
HOUSE OF THE DRAGON AIRS SUNDAY NIGHTS ON HBO.