One Tide to Rule Them All
Welcome back to Rings of the Dragon, a Wonder series where we recap new episodes of House of the Dragon (HOTD) and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (TROP), and then determine which show wins the week. Because somebody has to.
Previously on Rings of the Dragon, the people of the Southlands welcome their new king right before they were decimated by a volcano, kids fight each other violently, and Rhaenyra and Daemon gear up for war by using their most powerful weapon: incest. Let’s check in on the latest episodes!
SPOILERS AHEAD, as usual.
The Rings of Power Episode 7: The Eye
In the last episode, the volume for the series was finally turned up with a grand battle between the Men, from the Southlands and Númenor, and the Orcs, culminating in the birth of MOUNT DOOM. This episode, the volume gets turned down again. Waaaaay down.
Galadriel, Theo, Miriel, Entitled Millennial Isildur and other survivors wake up to a land of ash, smoke, cinder and fire. Mirel gets some cinders on her eyes. Entitled Millennial gets an entire burning roof dropped on his head. Everyone thinks he’s dead. If this series is indeed a prequel to the movies, he is not.
The Harfoots finally arrive at their grove, but it’s been burned to ashes by the eruption of MOUNT DOOM. Meteor Man tries to heal the land and accidentally almost kills a child. He gets kicked out of the caravan.
Elrond pleads for Durin III to help the Elves by mining Mithril, but gets shut down. The king is afraid that if they dig for the magical ore, they’ll find something else. He will not risk the lives of Dwarves for the lives of Elves.
Durin IV is having none of it. After seeing what Mithril can do to an infected leaf, he and Elrond go against the wishes of the elder Durin. They start digging. I’m sure there’s nothing dangerous down there.
Elendil is told that his son, Entitled Millennial, is dead. If this is a prequel to the movies, he’s not. Miriel finds out she’s now blind in the most awkward way possible.
Responsible adult Galadriel gives hotheaded child Theo a sword. She also drops a bomb on all of us: she has a dead husband. Again, if TROP is a prequel to the movies, Celeborn is not dead, and we may see him turn up in the series somewhere. They encounter a band of Orcs, but manage to avoid detection by staying downwind. +1 point for the callback to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Elrond and Durin IV break through to a large cache of Mithril, but before they could celebrate, Durin III catches them with their hands in the Mithril cookie jar. Elrond gets kicked out of the mountain. Durin IV gets kicked out of the family. He still insists that they should help the Elves by mining for Mithril even if it’s risky. I’m sure there’s nothing dangerous down there.
The Harfoots find the grove actually healed, offering all the apples they can possibly harvest and more. Meteor Man’s magic is good for something else other than hurting Harfoots after all. But happy times for the wee nomads don’t last as the creepy white robed perverts from episode 5 finally catch up to them.
As the White Robe Weirdos pick up Meteor Man’s scent, Nori tries to throw them off his tracks by revealing herself. Her dad and the rest of the Harfoots stand up for her, revealing themselves as well in the process. The White Robe Weirdos respond to this noble act by burning everything that the Harfoots own. +1 point for the White Robe Weirdos making the whole Harfoots and Meteor Man part of the series a little bit more interesting.
With his son presumed dead, and his queen now blind, Elendil regrets pulling Galadriel out of the sea. He can’t wait to get the hell out of Middle-earth. Miriel is also angry, but she doesn’t blame the Elf. She focuses her anger on their enemies, who do not know that they have started some shit. She vows vengeance. Galadriel, speaking for all Elves, which I’m pretty sure she should not, declares that the Elves will be ready for when Númenor returns.
Elendil, hearing his queen promising that they will come back to exact revenge on the Orcs, turns his back on Miriel and ugly cries. -1 point for unintentionally funny sad people.
Nori puts together a small fellowship of Harfoots to find Meteor Man and warn him about the White Robe Weirdos.
Some Númenoreans stay to search for their missing and to protect the Southlanders as they look for new settlement outside the Cinderlands. Galadriel rides with Off-brand Aragorn to Lindon to help him heal his wounds. Miriel, a sad Elendil, and the rest of the Númenoreans sail back to Jerk Island.
King Durin III closes the small opening to the Mithril cache. I’m sure there’s nothing danger—oh wait. It turns out that there’s a Balrog down there. Uh oh. +3 points because Balrogs are awesome.
To end the episode, we check back quickly with Orc Daddy Adar, the new lord of the Southlands. As his first act as lord, he changes the name of the Southlands in the cheesiest way possible: the text “Southlands” appears on the screen and is then replaced with the text “Mordor.” No one speaks the name. It just appears on the screen as text.
The reveal of MOUNT DOOM in the last episode was one of the most epic, goosebump-inducing reveals in TV/streaming history. The reveal of Mordor in this episode? Sad trombone. -3 points for killing the vibe.
While episodes 1-5 of TROP felt like a long, agonizing setup to episode 6, episode 7 was its sad (trombone) aftermath. Also, there’s only one episode left in the first season, and we still haven’t seen any ring with any kind of power.
Final Score: 1
House of the Dragon Episode 8: The Lord of the Tides
We get yet another time jump in HOTD’s antepenultimate episode, The Lord of the Tides: The Tides of Power. This time, we jump six years after the Targaryen kids had a knife fight.
Corlys Velaryon AKA Sea Snake AKA Father of the Year is missing. It is believed that he is now dead. His brother, Vaemond, tries to slither into Driftmark’s throne. Rhaenys is having none of it. She insists that her grandson (Luke, son of Rhaenyra and Laenor who secretly ran away with his secret boyfriend) is the rightful heir to Driftmark and the next Lord of the Tides. But she is convinced to go to King’s Landing anyway. I imagine Vaemond losing his mind with anticipation.
Daemon discovers Rhaenyra’s dragon, Syrax, has laid three eggs. Rhaenyra has a bun in the oven, too. She keeps stroking her oven as she helps Jace with his royal learning module. They get news that Vaemond and Rhaenys are on their way to King’s Landing to discuss the Driftmark succession. They’re like “OH. HELL. NAW.” +1 point for HOTD being amazing at time jumps—never over explaining things yet still keeping the audience up to date on what the hell is going on.
Viserys now looks like a zombie. Congratulations, Viserys? Rhaenyra introduces him to two of her children that he has never met: Aegon (like the OG Aegon; like Viserys and Alicent’s son, Aegon; like Jon Snow Aegon) and Viserys (like the OG Viserys; like Daenerys’ brother Viserys; like Viserys himself Viserys). -1 point for royal people’s penchant for recycling the same damn names.
Alicent slaps the morning breath out of Aegon (her son, not Rhaenyra’s) because he had sex with the help. He’s the worst. She hugs her daughter, Helaena, for being married to her own dumbass brother. The queen then has an ice-cold reunion with Rhaenyra and Daemon. It’s apparent that when Alicent and her father, Hand of the King Otto, hear the petitions of Vaemond and Rhaenyra for Lord of the Tides-ship, the Hightowers will most likely declare the former as the new heir to Driftmark’s throne. I’m sure Vaemond will lose his mind with excitement.
Rhaenyra confronts Rhaenys and proposes marriage between her sons and nieces/step-daughters. Rhaenys doesn’t seem to want to take sides. She’s looking out for number one. Rhaenyra then asks her father, the Phantom of the Opera, to support her. She only gets confused grunts and the incomprehensible mumbling of a dying man. She loses hope for her son. If Vaemond saw this, he would have lost his mind with glee.
In front of the Hand of the King, the king’s immediate royal family and the rest of the court, Vaemond lays his claim to being the true heir of Driftmark. Rhaenyra begins to petition for her son, but is interrupted by the Phantom of King’s Landing by making a dramatic entrance and the longest walk to the Iron Throne possible. He will sit the throne today. +1 point for the most badass scene of an old man struggling to walk ever.
King Phantom, ever the sensible one, declares his confusion about the whole discussion about Driftmark’s succession. He calls on Rhaenys to reaffirm the Sea Snake’s will. The Queen Who Never Was does exactly that, and takes Rhaenyra’s offer of marrying her grandchildren to each other. Grandparent of the Year.
It’s official. Again. Luke will be the next Lord of the Tides. Vaemond loses his shit. He declares Luke and Jace as “BASTARRRDS,” and he then calls Rhaenyra a whore. Everybody gasps. Vaemond loses his mind. Literally. Because Daemon casually slices his head like he was playing Fruit Ninja.
Rhaenys keeps losing members of her family. As she watches Vaemond’s body being prepared for transport, she looks like she’s boiling inside and is about to explode. Can’t wait to see the fireworks.
By order of the king, a family dinner is arranged for the Targaryens. As the whole medieval modern family are about to eat, Viserys chooses this time to show everyone his grotesque face. This somehow leads to Alicent and Rhaenyra seemingly—finally—reconciling. Too bad their children want to kill the shit out of each other. +1 point for Helaena Targaryen for being the lone ray of sunshine in the House of the Dragon.
For a brief moment, Viserys sees his family having some laughs and dancing together. It’s his last, dying wish. After looking around the room and the short respite from infighting, he seems happy. He then feels pain, so the guards carry him off to his chambers.
The fun family festivities inevitably end as the younger Targaryen boys go at it. Daemon breaks up the fight. When Daemon Targaryen is the voice of reason in the room, you know your family is in deep doo-doo.
Viserys, now on his deathbed, rambles on about the OG Aegon’s dream about the prince that was promised, some song about ice and fire, and a vague threat coming from the North. This confuses Alicent so hard. We can all safely assume that she will massively misinterpret Viserys’ rambling and do some very, very, very dumb things to accelerate their family’s march into all out war.
Rest in power, King Viserys. You need not suffer any longer. +1 point for a relatively quiet death for a relatively likeable character. +2 points for this being the quiet before the firestorm. The king is dead, long live whoever will be left standing to take the Iron Throne.
Final Score: 5
With the final scores being HOTD: 5, TROP: 1, HOTD takes back the Rings of the Dragon crown. While episodes 1-5 of TROP felt like a long, agonizing setup to episode 6, episode 7 is the sad trombone aftermath. With one episode left, let’s all hope we get more goosebumps moments like we did in episode 6. If you’re doing new Lord of the Rings content, you better make sure you’ll generate goosebumps from the audience, because if not, then what’s the point?
HOTD, on the other hand, keeps barreling towards the inevitable civil war of the dragons by continuously pushing characters both forward and straight into each other. The next episode is the ninth one, and if HOTD will follow the tradition of GOT, where the penultimate episode of every season is always when the craziest things go down, we’re going to lose our minds. Figuratively.
We’ll see you again next week, fantasy fans!
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver