The latest, seventh episode of the "Game of Thrones" sequel series "House of the Dragon" has been released. Those familiar with the book by cult fantasy author George R.R. Martin (74) will notice a significant change to his work "Fire and Blood" (2018) in the episode "Driftmark": Instead of Daemon (Matt Smith, 39) and Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy, 30) her husband Laenor If Velaryon (John MacMillan) is murdered, he can live - and most likely even be happy abroad with his friend and life partner. There are many reasons for this deviation from the template.
First of all, about the book template: Laenor really dies here and in a very public way at that. His lover Qarl Correy (Arty Froushan, 27) is actually responsible for the murder here - presumably because he was paid by Daemon. Qarl flees, manages to escape and was never seen again.
The HBO series House of the Dragon is now changing that story. Laenor likes his wife Rhaenyra here in principle, but the two have a purely platonic relationship and he is not the father of their children. This severely weakens Rhaenyra's claim to the throne and rulership, as the series "House of the Dragon" beautifully illustrated in the previous sixth episode of season one.
In the show, Rhaenyra and Daemon devise a plan to fake Laenor's death. Daemon murders a servant, throws his corpse into the fire, and with no forensics yet in the medieval fantasy world of House of the Dragon, everyone assumes the charred corpse is really Laenor. Theon Greyjoy used a similar trick in "Game of Thrones" to fake the deaths of Bran and Rickon Stark.
Laenor and his friend Qarl get something that is truly a rarity in the series universe of "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon": a happy ending. Although viewers will probably never see how the two fare on the continent of Essos, across the strait, they are allowed to live out their forbidden love in Westeros much more freely abroad, and Laenor is also freed from the burden of the throne. He would otherwise have become Rhaenyra's queen consort at King Visery's (Paddy Considine, 49) death.
In the Targaryens' understanding, the "incestuous marriage" between the two is also legitimate. You can now father offspring of pure Valyrian blood.
But not only that. Rhaenyra and Daemon actually desire and love each other. Both seem unhappy with their lives so far, and sleep together for the first time in episode seven.
Another, almost Machiavellian calculation is at play here: Daemon explains to Rhaenyra that nobody except the four involved knows that Laenor is actually still alive. Her numerous noble rivals such as Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, 55) and his daughter Alicent (Olivia Cooke, 28), the new wife of King Viserys, will suspect that Rhaenyra goes over corpses in cold blood. And for a future ruler whose claim to the throne is being questioned, it's certainly not a bad thing to be feared.
And one last advantage is the deviation from the original book by George R.R. Martin – but at the level of the series creators around Miguel Sapochnik (48) and Ryan Condal: If Rhaenyra had her husband murdered in cold blood, it would have been more difficult for viewers to have sympathy for her. However, this is important because she is the main character of the "House of the Dragon" series, after all.
After episode seven, and after Rhaenyra lets her former husband Laenor live and be happy abroad, viewers of the HBO series can still identify with Rhaenyra and hope that she will ultimately triumph in the game of intrigue.
Her big competitor Alicent, on the other hand, is not at all likable in the new episode when she demands that a child's eye be taken out. There are a number of reasons why the series creators made a not insignificant change to Martin's book template.