The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 5, “We Light the Way,” which debuted Sept. 18, on HBO.
One of the most unforgettable aspects of HBO’s Game of Thrones will always be the Red Wedding. Avid readers of the George R.R. Martin books knew what was coming, but the slew of deaths caught non-readers off-guard. No one expected Houses Frey and Bolton to turn on the Starks like that, mercilessly murdering Rob, Catelyn and their banner men in a matter of minutes.
The well-orchestrated betrayal went down as one of the most shocking moments in pop culture, and no matter how divisive the series ended, the mini-genocide stands the test of time as a brilliantly executed moment. House of the Dragon, set centuries before, remixed things with a Red Wedding of its own, but it was steeped in a lot more infantile drama.
The trouble occurred when King Viserys held a celebration for the union of Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Laenor Velaryon, eager to unite the two powerful clans. Little did he know so many folks would be embroiled in turmoil fit for The CW or MTV. Atop the list was Daemon, who was accused of murdering his wife, Rhea, by Ser Gerold (her cousin). He laughed it off, however, making it clear he’d be coming for House Royce’s inheritance by law.
Daemon also flirted with Princess Laena to tease he’ll find a way into House Velaryon to remain in the royal picture. He even disrespected Queen Alicent by refusing to stand and acknowledge her, and later flirted with Rhaenyra in full view of the public. When a scuffle broke out, it seemed like he tried to kiss her too, letting her know she’d be bored with marriage.
Alicent’s green dress and her statement against the Targaryens also stood out, with Larys Strong noting this was her way of flipping Rhaenyra the bird and reminding the king what the Hightowers stood for after Otto (her father) was fired. At this point, Viserys’ political headaches and family problems were reaching fever pitch. It came to a head thanks to jealous lovers, which didn’t even need Jason Lannister to show his true toxic colors.
Instead, Joffrey (no, not that one) whispered to Criston how, as the bodyguards and secret lovers to Laenor and Rhaenyra respectively, they would basically be in a love quadrangle. But Criston would have none of it, hating how he gave up his vow of chastity for Rhaenyra, who was only interested in the crown. Criston sparked a mass brawl that ended with him bashing in Joffrey’s head, with Laenor taking injury, too.
It continued the Westerosi trend of weddings being bloody, with this one resulting in Viserys rushing to marry Rhaenyra and Laenor. Ultimately, he had enough of the all these theatrics, and just like Rob’s wedding saw sides being taken in the war against the Lannisters, sides were chosen for the ailing king’s crown. Except all these intersecting arcs were spread out over a lengthier period of time in a chaotic manner fit for reality TV. And while Rob’s wedding was a mass slaughter, House of the Dragon only needed one — albeit a bloody kill — to shift the future of King’s Landing and incite a civil war.
New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on HBO and stream on HBO Max.