Oh boy! House of the Dragon returns with another killer episode this week. The show had the good fortune of beginning its season almost at the same time as The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Watching these two shows every week with just a couple of days between each episode has really created a new way to understand, for those who care, how to make a good show and a bad show. The contrast between both shows is so drastic that reviewing them together becomes almost mandatory.
On one hand, on Fridays we have The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a show that is only the best when it comes to costumes, production design, and visual effects. The show is being sold as the most expensive TV show ever produced, and you can see it each week on screen. However, for all its visual beauty, the show lacks the magic of Peter Jackson, or to be broader, it lacks any sense of what makes a good show. This week’s episode made the already weak writing go from passable to almost offensive. It is hard and sad to watch.
On the other hand, we have House of the Dragon. The show doesn’t look as expensive as The Rings of Power, but it doesn’t need to. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire is grounded in a universe that feels way closer to medieval times in real life. So not everything has to look as if it was made with magic or shine all the time. The visual effects, costumes, and sets are just amazing, and they serve the story. However, it is the writing that makes House of the Dragon stand out and basically beats down Rings of Power every week.
This week’s episode of House of the Dragon is titled “We Light the Way” and it is a very ironic title because what happens in the episode seems to descend our characters into their darkest moments. The episode serves as a sort of climax for the show. Many of the storylines we have seen since episode 1 come to a crossroads from which there is no turning back. Each scene is filled with tension and atmosphere. It is so powerful that a normal conversation is more exciting than having tons of orcs on screen screaming and fitting.
This is a violent episode, and the reason is that we are dealing with a wedding. Since the original Game of Thrones debuted on HBO, weddings have never been the same again. These weddings are supposed to be moments of celebration, but instead, all of them become moments of tragedy that turn the tide against many characters while putting many others into higher positions. This is an exciting, and sad episode. It will definitely be one of the greatest highlights of the season. It is really impressive to think that there are still 5 more episodes to go because so much has happened.
This episode also marks a turning point for the actors. This episode is the last apparition of Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as the younger versions of Rhaenyra and Alicent. Alcock was afraid that people would not accept her in the show because she thought people would think of her just like a copy of the always popular Daenerys Targaryen. However, the opposite happened, and Rhaenyra is far from Daenerys’ copy in people’s eyes. The actress has shown excellent command of her acting abilities, and it has left some big shoes for Emma D’Arcy to fill.
The same can be said for Emily Carey. The young actress had the challenge of playing Alicent Hightower, a character that in the first episodes of the show could have been seen as just filler, and very uninteresting. However, Carey managed to fill the role with a sense of innocence that felt unique among all the debauchery surrounding her. She also made Alicent look more than meets the eye and in this last episode, it is just wonderful to watch her play a different side of Alicent. One that Olivia Cooke will have to follow with the same level of charm and intensity.
The rest of the cast does an amazing job as always. Paddy Considine is also another highlight of the episode, and it is a very important moment in his journey. However, it is Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole, the one that makes the most impact in this episode. After the events of the previous episodes, the character’s perception of his job as a knight and her loyalty to the Princess has changed, and he will have to make decisions that will put him into very dangerous situations. Frankel kills it and becomes his best performance to date.
“We Light the Way” keeps proving that the world of A Song of Ice and Fire is an incredible place to tell stories. You just need good storytellers behind it, those that care for detail and characterization. The result is an episode and a show that will keep people on the edge of their seats and will mark a turning point for the series. Things will be different after this episode. We can only hope that different doesn’t mean worse, but we have confidence that that won’t be the final result.