In Westeros, a wedding without at least one death is a dull affair.
“House of the Dragon” episode five, titled “We Light The Way,” sees the union of two ancient families: House Targaryen and House Velaryon. A sickly King Viserys Targaryen secures the marriage between his daughter and Lord Corlys Velaryon’s son by playing publicist and politician—the move would help put down rumors of Rhaenyra’s incestuous relationship with her uncle Daemon Targaryen, and it would gain the crown a strong ally. (For those hoping for a completely incest-free marriage: Laenor Velaryon is Rhaenyra’s cousin.)
It’s a match that serves as a convenience for the two houses. And Rhaenyra wants to make it convenient for her, too. Speaking through food metaphors, the headstrong teen forges a deal with her husband-to-be regarding their differing “tastes.” Rhaenyra proposes to Laenor, “that we perform our duty to our fathers and to the realm and when it’s done, each of us dines as we see it.”
In other words, she’s proposing an open relationship, and she’s telling Laenor that she doesn’t care he’s gay. Laenor happily accepts her deal and confides in his lover, the Knight of Kisses, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, about the agreement. The two share a tender kiss, and it’s best to savor the moment, for romances have a losing record in the game of thrones.
Nothing proves that point more than the tough breakup between Ser Criston Cole and Rhaenyra. After Criston asks Rhaenyra to elope with him to Essos, the continent east of Westeros, the heir turns him down, pointedly telling him that she cannot abandon her royal duty. The knight doesn’t take rejection lightly; after having broken his kingsguard’s vow of chastity for her, he sought to “restore” his honor by marrying Rhaenyra.
Though Rhaenyra assures him they can continue their affair, Criston storms off.
Tense emotions fill up King’s Landing on the day of Rhaenyra and Laenor’s bethrothal dinner. With all the main players in one room, the evening is much more awkward than a Thanksgiving dinner conversation that just can’t stay away from politics.
Daemon — who has killed his wife, the lady Rhea Royce, earlier in the episode — makes a dramatic appearance. Ser Gerold Royce emerges from the wedding crowd and accuses Daemon of causing his cousin’s death, which was widely accepted as an accident. (Rhea, played by Rachel Redford, stunned in her limited screen time as a no-nonsense, hard-nosed fighter.) The rogue prince feigns ignorance, instead eyeing Laena Velaryon, who’s grown up a bit since we last saw her, across the table. But old habits die hard for the Targaryens: Daemon still flirts with Rhaenyra at the wedding, while she dares him to marry her.
Alicent Hightower firmly steps into the position as queen and, most importantly, as a devoted family member when she enters the throne room in the middle of Viserys’ speech. Alicent, whose father was fired at the end of episode 4, is dressed in “Hightower green,” the color of the flame atop the Hightower when the house calls its soldiers to war. Ser Criston has confessed his affair with Rhaenyra to the queen and she is revolted by Rhaenyra’s deception and schemes —and apparently moved by her father’s parting words that she must choose between her own children and her former friend turned stepdaughter.
The wedding promptly devolves into chaos as Joffrey — an unfortunate name to have in Westeros for those familiar with the vicious boy-king in “Game of Thrones” — suggests to Criston that he knows about his relationship with Rhaenyra. As most guests raise glasses to mark the occasion, Criston raises his fists, bludgeoning Joffrey to death in the midst of the celebrations. The murder on the dance floor doesn’t exactly brighten the mood. Laenor is left grief-stricken and Viserys has no choice but to immediately marry Laenor and Rhaenyra before more disaster could arise. Viserys collapses after the two are married, another show of weakness from the ailing king.
In the garden, Criston, guilt-ridden and haunted by his broken oath, prepares to take his own life before Alicent discovers him. Through only glances, the two, who Rhaenyra has hurt, seem to form some sort of understanding. As tides begin to turn against Rhaenyra, viewers are left to wonder how she’ll weather the storm.