House of the Dragon gives one of its characters a different destiny

Warning: This article contains spoilers for house of the dragon episode 7

As fans now know house of the dragon‘s primary resource—George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood– is full of contradictions about how certain events play out. But in the latest episode, sometimes even the ironclad events aren’t as set in stone as we thought.

“Driftmark” reunited Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), and with it came one of the first questionable moves for the blacks, which is the name for people who supported Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne; the Greens supported Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). She wants to marry the newly widowed Daemon, but he points out the elephant in the room. Although Daemon wasn’t one to take issue with polygamy, having previously suggested it for himself, the rest of Westeros would not be in favor and Rhaenyra’s husband Laenor (John Macmillan) is still very much alive.

Rhaenyra is rightly afraid of her enemies’ rumors of Laenor being killed so close to her; She thinks they will think she had something to do with it. She doesn’t want to be a tyrant.

“A tyrant rules only by terror,” Daemon tells her. “Unless the king is feared, he is powerless. If you want to be a strong queen, you must cultivate love and respect, yes, but your subjects must fear you.”

Daemon finds Qarl Correy (Arty Froushan), Laenor’s lover, and makes him an offer he can’t refuse: give Laenor a quick death (but one with witnesses), take the gold, and you can reinvent yourself in Essos, where only you are need money And it seems like Qarl did just that, as we see the two fight in the Hall of Nine before a body is removed from the chimney, face twisted beyond recognition; Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and Rhaenys (Eve Best) are devastated after losing another child. Some time later, Daemon and Rhaenyra celebrate a Valyrian wedding while their unenthusiastic children look on.

Only in the final scene do we see a cloaked man running to a boat on the Driftmark shore while another is in the boat. The first man removes his hood, revealing that Laenor, no longer with his silver dreadlocks, was waiting for him. The duo who faked Laenor’s death prepare to row far away from Westeros, allegedly never to return.

The Rare Character who gets a “happy ending”.

Laenor’s fate in HEAT differs greatly from Fire & Blood, and for once a welcome one: In the book, Laenor dies, which is never questioned. We learn that he was killed by his lover Qarl Correy (Arty Froushan) in a sword fight after they got into an argument in Spicetown, a town on Driftmark. Qarl then escapes the island and disappears, never discovered by anyone again.

It is at Laenor’s funeral (rather than Laena’s as portrayed in the show) that a young Aemond Targaryen (Leo Ashton) claims Laena’s dragon Vhagar, fights with Jacaerys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys Velaryon (Harvey Sadler) and loses one his eyes on Lucery’s hand after Aemond called the boys “strong ones”. The show also brings Laena’s daughters Baela (Shani Smethurst) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) into the fray, making Aemond’s theft even more personal for Rhaena, who had planned to claim Vhagar for herself.

While Laenor’s death is never questioned in the history books, the motive behind it was. One in-universe source, Grand Maester Mellos, merely mentioned the dispute that led to Laenor’s death. Septon Eustace blamed Qarl and posited that Laenor was trying to move on with a young squire. The bailiff Mushroom suggested that Daemon pay Qarl to kill Laenor, leave him free to marry his niece Rhaenyra, and kill Qarl so the knight could never reveal Daemon’s role in the plan. Corlys also put a bounty on Qarl’s head, but he was never seen again. Fake aside, Mushroom’s account seems to be the closest thing to the truth.

At the beginning of this season HEAT came under fire for playing into the ‘bury your gays’ trope with the death of Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), a character introduced and killed in a single episode. There’s an argument that while Westeros is brutal for its queer characters (like game of Thrones also demonstrated with Loras Tyrell), it’s brutal to almost anyone trying to play the game; By and large, Joffrey’s death is one of the first leading up to the great bloodshed to come for many of its main protagonists.

If Laenor let his book die, the criticism was great HEAT Killing his strange characters so quickly would probably be even louder: his death opens the way for Daemon and Rhaenyra to wed. And before Qarl came at him with a sword, Laenor apologized for being a terrible husband and father and promised to get back to Rhaenyra’s cause.

“We made an agreement all those years ago to do our duty and still explore happiness,” Laenor told her. “But I think there are times when these things can’t exist together. Ser Qarl will be returning to the Stepstones battles soon, but I recommit myself to assisting you and strengthening our house as we prepare you for your ascension. I will raise our sons to be princes of the realm.”

Did Daemon play a role in faking Laenor’s death?

When Daemon proposed to Qarl that he kill his lover, he appeared morbid and suggested a way for Qarl to live his life after killing the prince consort.

“You know, there are places across the straits where it doesn’t matter what a man’s name is, only how much gold he has?” asked Demon.

Though we see Daemon and Rhaenyra appear to be plotting Laenor’s death and talk about how it would take Corlys and Rhaenys off, he likely played a part. You can read her kindness in releasing him to mean something other than death. Daemon’s conversation with Qarl could be about how he needed to make the fight look convincing enough, at least until all the Velaryon Guardians left the room for help and Qarl could explain.

Daemon is on site at Castle Driftmark when Qarl makes his move and kills an unsuspecting Warden whose face was likely put on fire to make it appear as if Laenor had died. This gave Laenor the opportunity to run away from his parents, wife, and children (in name if not blood).

Will we ever see Laenor and Qarl again?

We know that Laenor currently has no role to play in Dance of the Dragons because in Fire & BloodHe died almost a decade before the war began. Any role he might play would be speculative.

Laenor’s appearance in Westeros in the future, whether to answer the possible death of a loved one or to fight for Rhaenyra’s cause, would have deadly consequences. Any revelation that he is alive to the people of Westeros is a threat to Daemon and Rhaenyra’s marriage and whatever children they may have. It’s also fodder for the Greens, who can use Laenor to portray Rhaenyra as a sacrilegious polygamist (technically) and whore who has no respect for the common sense of Westeros law. Politically, what choice would the two have seen other than making sure Laenor really is dead this time?

And could we have a look at Laenor and Qarl living free in Essos? There could be a chance, way later in the story, when they could possibly show up, whether in another Targaryen story or as other, not yet cast, characters in disguise. But for now, given the scope of the story, it’s unlikely HEAT tries to tell.

What the heck is going to happen to Seasmoke?!

Honestly? We are not sure. Fire & Blood offers different types of bonds between dragon riders and their dragons. We hear about bonds formed with an egg in the cradle. Bonding occurs when Targaryens are young and older. As Aemond showed in Episode 7, a rider can also force a bond on a dragon that may not be quite past the last bond. But so far we’ve only seen the bond break in two ways: Death of the Dragon (Viserys and Balerion) and Death of the Dragon Rider (Laena Velaryon). The fact that a dragon rider fakes his own death and abandons his dragon takes us into uncharted territory.

Criston Cole’s half-baked plan to flee to Essos with Rhaenyra in Episode 5 theoretically resulted in the dragon’s abandonment, though Rhaenyra quickly shot him down; Aside from not abandoning the throne, it’s hard to imagine Rhaenyra ever abandoning Syrax. But with Laenor, it’s a reality now.

It leaves us with many questions that we may never get an answer to. Does Seasmoke know Laenor is still alive? Do dragons have some sort of sixth sense for the people who bond with them, or is it more like the type of depression that sets in with a cat or dog whose owner recently passed away? When the bond fades, can someone else eventually claim Seasmoke? Whenever someone actually claims Seasmoke, what would happen if Laenor suddenly reappeared in Westeros?

Then again, if the near-total brawl between Alicent and Rhaenyra over the fight their respective children got into is an indication that Laenor is better off staying on the other side of the strait, even if it means not leaving behind only his family but his dragon.


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Jaclyn Diaz

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