Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the fifth episode of “House of the Dragon,” which premiered on September 18.
The fifth episode of “House of the Dragon” is actually significant for logistical reasons, essentially marking the end of the chapter before the show time jumps, featuring older versions of certain characters and mixing up the Game.
Still, the hour could generate just as much buzz for a brutal death that happened, prompting a discussion of old concerns and hurts about how LGBTQ characters are treated — and more specifically, killed off — on TV series.
Progress in terms of increased inclusion has coincided with a debate over how these characters are portrayed and the fates they meet, giving rise to a much-discussed trope known as “Bury Your Gays”. The phrase refers to a story in which gay characters have died disproportionately as a plot, creating the impression that they are more enduring in the eyes of the storytellers.
Given this, the ‘Game of Thrones’ prequel potentially plunged into controversy with its most recent episode, subtitled ‘We Light the Way’, which again demonstrated, among other things, that in Westeros, nothing good ever happens at weddings. (The series airs on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
As part of the plot, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has agreed to a marriage of convenience with Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) – a royal merger designed to fortify their respective bloodlines’ grip on power, where they can satisfy their “appetites” elsewhere.
Knowing that Laenor is gay, Rhaenyra – having been reminded by his uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) that marriage is just a political arrangement – reassured him that they would essentially live separate lives, allowing him to continue his relationship. with Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod). Rhaenyra, meanwhile, had flirted with her own knight, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).
At the wedding party, Joffrey let Criston know that he knew about the knight’s relationship with Rhaenyra, which clearly unsettled and disturbed him. When the event chaotically erupts into violence soon after, Criston is on top of Joffrey, brutally pounding him to death during the melee. He then flirts with the idea of killing himself, before Rhaenyra’s budding political rival, Alicent (Emily Carey), intervenes.
Martin’s vision is of a medieval world where life is often cheap. This includes everything from orgies to incest, and the horrors of childbirth to securing royal succession, even if that means marrying off underage girls.
Still, introducing Laenor and Joffrey’s relationship to dispatch the latter so quickly and horribly almost immediately sparked questions on Twitter on Sunday night about whether the “Bury your gays” trope applies here. Notably, past discussions of the practice have often surrounded sci-fi and fantasy series including “The 100” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and more recently BBC America’s dark spy thriller “Killing Eve. “.
It’s also worth noting that during the heyday of “Game of Thrones,” some questioned whether the show had a “gay problem,” as Vulture put it in a 2016 article citing the number of LGBTQ characters who until now there, had met a violent end.
Laenor’s character arc does not end with the final episode. The way this story unfolds could potentially offset or soften this latest turn of events in the eyes of those who criticize it.
For now, though, based on the high-profile nature of the franchise that glorifies almost everything about the series, “House of the Dragon” could face some short-term heat.
HBO declined a request to process the episode.