You can always count on House of the Dragon to deliver a shocking cliffhanger at the end of an episode. Episode 7 marked a turning point in the Dance of Dragons because it established many important elements for the show’s future.
After Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) passes away, the entire family gathers in Driftmark to grieve together. The newly minted Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) and the re-minted Hand of the King, Otto Hightower are there as well as Viserys (Paddy Considine) and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) (Rhys Ifans).
The Velaryons including Rheanys (Eve Best) and Corlys welcome Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), Laenor (John Macmillan) and their two older sons upon their arrival (Steve Toussaint). After visiting Laena on Pentos, Daemon (Matt Smith) brought back the body along with his two daughters.
Some of the people involved are seeing each other for the first time in over a decade, so understandably, tensions and emotions are running high. The main plot points include Rhaenyra’s reunion with her uncle Daemon the veracity of her offspring and the differentiation between the Blacks and the Greens.
At the end of the episode, Rhaenyra and Daemon get back together after being apart for years and eventually get married. But first, they must eliminate the stumbling block presented by her husband.
Does Laenor Die?
Laenor must be absent for Rhaenyra’s wedding but does that mean he perishes? Many readers of George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood felt that Laenor’s death was inevitable from the beginning of the series.
In their conversation, he admits to Rhaenyra that he hasn’t always been the best father to their children but he promises to do better in the future. Moreover, the conversation reveals that the couple tried to start a family but ultimately was unsuccessful.
While they did eventually get married, Rhaenyra eventually accepted his sexuality and they both agreed to seek sex elsewhere. In a sad twist of fate, this meant that Rhaenyra’s offspring were not Laenor’s but rather Ser Harwin’s (Ryan Corr’s).
In spite of this degree of independence, we learn in Episode 6 that Laenor has not had a particularly happy decade. Despite his self-indulgence, he has never felt safe enough to be himself in public. In this episode, we see Alicent make a snide remark about Laenor’s sexuality in front of everyone and we also know that being gay is socially unacceptable in Westeros.
He is honest with Rhaenyra about his feelings toward the gods who shaped him and she assures him that she does not share his animosity and that he is in fact, a good and honorable man. Laenor survives because, despite appearances, this is not a man she wishes to see dead.
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How Does Laenor Stay Alive?
Laenor survives Qarl’s (Arty Froushan) attack and sails off with him, his head shaved to hide his Valyrian heritage. Who knows? Rhaenyra tells Daemon she loves Laenor and he tells her to free him. What seems cruel is actually kind. He and Rhaenyra plan to fake Laenor’s death at this time.
Daemon pays Ser Qarl gold and tells him, “There are places across the Narrow Sea where a man’s name doesn’t matter only how much gold he possesses,” requesting a quick death with witnesses.
He knows from experience that Pentos is less prejudiced about sexuality. Laenor can escape the pressures of being the king’s consort and hiding who he is there. At first glance, it appears Daemon is hiring Qarl to kill Laenor for himself and Rhaenyra.
Knowing Laenor doesn’t die makes things clearer. Knowing that Qarl loves Laenor means he can be trusted with the plan but their dialogue before their fight is off when Qarl says, “You’ve always looked down on me,” when the audience hasn’t seen that.
Daemon kills a servant and after Qarl and Laenor start fighting, the servant runs to get help, giving them time to put Laenor’s boots on the man. The Velaryons rush into the hall and see Laenor’s burned body in the fireplace.
Why Did Rhaenyra and Daemon Plan His Death?
The faked death of Laenor serves a dual purpose. First, Laenor is set free and second, Rhaenyra’s enemies are terrified. Daemon explains to Rhaenyra that a king has no authority unless he is feared.
Both of them want word to spread that they are responsible for Laenor’s death. Even though they know the truth, their enemies will think the worst and wonder what else they are capable of.
After the fight with the kids in which Aemond’s (Leo Ashton) eye was cut out by Lucerys, this happens (Harvey Salder). They were constantly thinking about whether or not they were acting legally.
Rhaenyra understands that by joining her uncle in marriage, the two of them will form a stronger bond and may be better able to defend themselves against their enemies. Rhaenyra is confident that her claim will not be easily contested now that she has Daemon as her prince consort. Both she and her offspring can feel secure in her heirship status.
What Makes This Different From The books?
This moment is so unexpected because it goes against the routine. Ser Qarl kills Laenor at a fair in Spicetown in Fire & Blood. As in the episode, witnesses saw the two argue before the fight broke out with swords but it appears that Laenor’s actual death was also seen.
Since Daemon soon after married Rhaenyra, this has led some to speculate that Laenor had found a new lover and that Qarl was jealous. Episode 7 demonstrates how easily history can be manipulated by rumors and uncertainty even though it is clear that the history books consider Laenor dead.
Although Daemon hired Qarl to fight Laenor in public, the whole thing was a charade designed to set Laenor free rather than kill her. New episodes of House of the Dragon air on HBO and HBO Max every Sunday night.
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