In 2022, many Americans are marrying later, if at all, and never are we more grateful for this cultural shift than watching “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon.”
Sunday’s “Dragon” episode, “We Light the Day,” celebrated the wedding of heiress to the Iron Throne Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) to powerful Driftmark heir Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). The young and decidedly not in love couple are barely related, a victory in the seven kingdoms, but their nuptials were far from uneventful, and not in a good way.
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Back in “Game of Thrones” Season 1, it was observed that “a Dothraki marriage without at least three deaths is considered a boring affair.” This was spoken during Daenerys’ wedding to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), in a scene that portrayed the non-white Dothraki as savage and barbaric. But the citizens of Westeros are no better; during “Thrones” and now “Dragon”, it seems that weddings are the most chosen occasion for violent and vengeful murder.
The murder in question: an innocent — albeit petty — Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod), Laenor’s secret lover. For reasons known only to the deceased, he decides to steer Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) over their shared position as ranked royal consorts, resulting in Criston beating Joffrey to a pulp on the banquet hall floor.
(It doesn’t matter that there are actually a lot of happy, successful marriages in George RR Martin’s “Fire & Blood,” but almost all of them are between direct siblings. Point one on incest, I guess.)
“Thrones” is best known for two doomed wedding celebrations: the Red Wedding, where Houses Frey and Bolton brutally slaughtered the Stark family and their banners, and the Purple Wedding, when Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) was poisoned at his own party. The only marriage where no one was murdered was that of Sansa (Sophie Turner), which cannot be considered successful or joyous by any metric. The events of “House of the Dragon” took place long before all of that, testifying to Westeros’ long history of wild wedding festivities. Indeed, one could say that “House of the Dragon” shows the values of its most primitive society in this scene; Joffrey is barely wiped off the floor before the wedding and everyone acts like a knight hasn’t committed murder when people have barely finished dinner.
Criston’s attack on Joffrey kills the mood in several ways. Until then, the wedding is at zero deaths, which is the ideal number of deaths to have at any event! In his defense, young Joff couldn’t have known that Criston wasn’t as cool as him with the marital arrangement, that it was actually destroying him to see Rhaenyra marry someone else, even though said groom is spoken to . It’s a shame because Laenor and Rhaenyra’s arrangement was as promising and progressive as things are getting in Westeros, even centuries later; she accepts his sexuality and he accepts her colorful history, and they agree to live and let live while performing the required duties of the crown and their houses. But such relationships are tricky; Joffrey may have been content with it, but Criston’s disappointment is understandable. He doesn’t even have the option of not attending the wedding because he works for the crown! It’s a situation that most people might struggle to stay together – but could we suggest redirecting that anger next time? Hit a few punches at the back of the room like a normal person, Criston!
But being petty was definitely the look of the day at Princess Rhaenyra’s wedding to Laenor Velaryon. Before Criston splashed the floor with bits of Joffrey, the most outrageous event of the evening was Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) entering the event wearing a dazzling green dress. That would be pretty breathless without additional context – homegirl is wearing this dress, on a mission to outshine a bride on her wedding day – but the prominence of House Hightower’s emerald hue matters deeply. Until now, Alicent was supportive of Rhaenyra, even as their relationship was tested. By abandoning Rhaenyra and affirming her Hightower roots, Alicent sends a message. She goes one step further after the wedding by enlisting Criston’s sword, forgiving him on the spot for ruining Rhaenyra’s day and Laenor’s life because Alicent might just enjoy watching her old friend suffer. The rift between these women can no longer be denied, a rift that could destroy Westeros and countless homes when it opens.
“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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