How Episode 8 could solve ‘House of the Dragon’ pacing problem

The Lord of the Tides, the eighth installment of The House of the Dragon, asks a question few of us cared about before tonight: who will inherit the Driftwood throne? If my disinterest had been measured in a t-shirt slogan, it could have read, “I’ve been waiting for ‘House of the Dragon’ all week and all I got was a stupid piece of beach debris.”

And I don’t think my desperation was unreasonable. Game of Thrones was a great series, but it took many detours that, in hindsight, seem pointless: the warlocks of Qarth, the wight babies, the hippie commune only remembered because their leader was struck by the magnetic Ian McShane was played. However, television is a much more crowded space than it was then. There is no time for meandering travel, not even on the back of a dragon.

Despite its shaky start, Sunday night’s episode of House of the Dragon turned out to be the most consequential and groundbreaking episode of the prequel to date. Fates swung, heads rolled, enemies combined, and the wishes of a dying dynasty were miserably misinterpreted, ensuring 200 years of bloody turmoil and plenty of fodder for seasons to come.

The final seven episodes of the series have been a crash course in the people, places and rivalries of old Westeros, and while it was an immersive ride, it felt rushed at times. On Sunday, the drama finally seemed to settle into a solid timeline, choosing its main actors for the long haul. The series is now ready for epic battles between relatives and more about who sits on the Iron Throne.

Episode 8 continues six years after Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy) perfectly acceptable marriage to her father’s brother, Uncle Daemon (Matt Smith). They have blonde twins and another child on the way when news arrives in Castle Driftmark that Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) was injured in battle and may not have survived. The legitimacy of his heir, Rhaenyra’s brown-haired son Prince Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault), is immediately challenged by the sea serpent’s brother, Ser Vaemond (Wil Johnson). The stakes are high as the Sea Snake is wealthier than the Lannisters and has the largest navy in the world. Vaemond calls for a petition hearing at King’s Landing. As all of the families in the Red Keep come together, a series of events begins that will forever change the course of the empire.

Add to that the health of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). He is terminally ill and barely lucid from regularly taking painkillers known as “poppy milk.” And because the show delights in gore, the Decline of the King is a chilling and graphic affair. (Admittedly, I could only look at him through the safety of my hands.) At Rhaenyra and Daemon’s urging, he absorbs the power to oversee the hearing and restore his grandson’s right to Driftmark, much to the dismay of Queen Alicent (Olivia Koch).

Anyone daring to question the legitimacy of the princess’ “bastard” son will lose their heads, then it’s on to dinner, where the king implores his family: “Put your grievances aside, if not for the crown, then for the sake of this old man who loves you all very much.” For a brief, touching moment, enemies band together around the sick king. Rhaenyra and Alicent even make toasts in each other’s honor. However, once he is put back to bed, old grievances between their offspring (e.g. gouging out a cousin’s eye, stealing a dead aunt’s kite) rise to the fore, revealing a powder keg of claims and resentments. The fuse is lit by the end of the episode.

The royal children, now young men and women, will be played by new cast members. Harry Collett portrays Rhaenyra’s eldest son, Jacaerys Velaryon, and Ewan Mitchell plays the king’s arrogant middle son, Aemond Targaryen. Aemon One Eye is an insidious character, replete with an evil grin and an eye patch. He is able to take Prince Daemon’s place as the court’s most dangerous villain.

The future looks bleak for Westeros, no matter who sits on the Driftwood throne. Let the games begin.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-10-09/house-of-the-dragon-hbo-episode-8-the-lord-of-the-tides How Episode 8 could solve ‘House of the Dragon’ pacing problem

Sarah Ridley

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