That’s what makes House of the Dragon such a challenging proposition as an adaptation. As a visual document, the TV series must depict certain moments onscreen almost by definition. It must show something rather than leaving it to the annals of the Westerosi gossip mill. For the most part, House of the Dragon has succeeded in filling in the details. In episode 5, however, it falls short on several occasions.
Like episode two (the only other “meh” episode of HotD thus far by my estimation), episode 5 fails to live up the imaginative potential that its source material provides. “We Light the Way” puts events onscreen that were “offscreen” in Martin’s world and the way it chooses to depict them ends up putting its viewers’ imagination to waste.
That’s not to say the episode is a disaster, far from it really. The middle portion of this hour is perfectly entertaining palace intrigue. It’s just frustratingly imperfect and wedged in-between two very bad ideas. The opening and closing moments of “We Light the Way” represent House of the Dragon at its least effective.
The episode begins with Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) paying a visit to his estranged wife, Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford), in The Vale. This marks our first trip to the Vale in quite some time within the Game of Thrones universe. Outside the oppressive confines of House Arryn’s The Eyrie, the craggy valley is actually quite lovely. As is Lady Rhea. If the Vale is full of “sheep-fuckers” as Daemon claims, then I, uh…would like to see those sheep.
To borrow some old-timey Westeros terminology, Lady Rhea is quite comely indeed, which adds a new layer to Daemon’s rejection of her. Perhaps it isn’t his wife’s appearance or demeanor (she seems really sharp and cool!) that repulses Daemon so but rather that she is not of his precious, precious blood. Or at least Rhea’s introduction would have added a new layer to Daemon, if he didn’t just go ahead and murder her in cold blood immediately.
There is nothing inherently wrong with Daemon Targaryen killing folks. Lord knows he’s done it before and we still love him for it. The issue here is that Daemon is supposed to be the show’s most complex character and this kind of mustache-twirling villainy is far too one-dimensional. Clad in a black hood and armed with some less-than-inspiring dialog (and a rock), Daemon looks and acts like a Sith Lord dropped into a fantasy series. Given the wild ride that Daemon has taken us on up until now, I can’t imagine that perception is what the show is going for.