Game of Thrones fans experienced déjà vu upon watching the seventh episode of the HBO series Home of the Dragon.
It’s not about the elaborate sex scenes or CGI effects, it’s about the lack of light and clarity most of the time from the episode “Driftmark”, which turned out to be the twin brother of “The Long Night”, the third episode of the last season of GoT.
What this time remained hidden from the eyes of the viewers, or more precisely, from the listeners of “The House of the Dragon”?
“Driftmark” opens with the most embarrassing funeral since the spinoff began, not because Lena Velarion technically killed herself after failing to deliver her baby, but because tensions have built up between the assembled grieving Targaryens, Velarion, and Hightower that prevent them from to exchange sweet talk and glances.
A bracket must be opened here for Rhaenyra, Daemon and the elemental chemistry between them, for whom a charred ex-wife is a minor touch of the everyday. The two meet again after the uncle does not have the courage to abduct his niece from her wedding and make her his wife.
As Renira herself says in the episode, years have passed since then, she’s no longer a child, and after three illegitimate boys, and a sexually unhappy marriage, she’s figured out how to arrange things so that she can be widowed without time to marry for Demon.
The good news for House of the Dragon fans, who have been waiting for this moment since the failed sex between Rhaenyra and Daemon in episode four, is that uncle and niece are finally together. But the bad thing is that they forgot to take their flashlights or dragons to illuminate this momentous indulgence of feelings.
Throughout the seventh episode, the light was scarce, but specifically in the first love scene of Daemon and Rhaenyra and the parallel taming of a dragon by Emond Targaryen, the darkness almost completely covered the characters, which did not please the fans of the series.
Hours after “Driftmark” aired on Twitter, a firestorm erupted, calling the episode unwatchable and “a disservice to the entire season of Home of the Dragon.”
“I expect a written apology from HBO Max for the literally black screen in episode seven of ‘Home of the Dragon,'” one fan wrote, and to the surprise of his followers, and possibly himself, the streaming service didn’t issue a written apology, but an explanation like reply below the Twitter post.
“We appreciate your comment about the night scene in Home of the Dragon, episode 7, which appeared dark on your screen. The subdued lighting in this scene was an intentional creative decision. Thank you,” HBO Max wrote.
The same response appeared under dozens of other grumbling posts who felt that the talent of actors Matt Smith and Emma Darcy as Daemon and Rhaenyra remained hidden due to the lack of lighting.
And while HBO Max has been tight-lipped about its decision to black out the erotica between the two Targaryens, Game of Thrones director and Home of the Dragon season one co-showrunner Miguel Sapocnik sheds more light on the elusive definition of “creative decision.” which clarifies the episode’s use of darkness.
On the IndieWire podcast a few years ago, the director stated that dark cinematography is used when the desire is to create a palpable mood among the audience. It is possible that this leads to some inconvenience, since the figures are barely distinguishable, but emotionally the picture achieves its goal.
An occasion for Sapocnik to comment on the darkness of the screen in 2019 was the GoT episode “The Long Night”, which, like the seventh series of “The Dragon’s Home”, was met with negative reviews because of the dark scenes.
“It made sense in terms of the metaphor of hope and the last ray of light. And in terms of where we were taking the story, we had to create a chaotic, surreal climax to set that environment. So we had reasons to do it. And none of us are sat there and didn’t wonder why it was so dark,” Sapochnik told the podcast.
While no such explanation has been heard for Home of the Dragon, it can be assumed that the realistic night scene from Driftmark also aims to create an atmosphere suggesting that nothing good comes after Daemon and Rhaenyra’s marriage.
If the episode eight trailer is anything to go by, the GoT spinoff sees an increasingly stark rift between the children of King Viserys, who hides from the plot and leaves his heirs to their scathing attitudes towards each other.
And whether this presumptively dark scenario will be transferred to cinematography will be known next Monday, when the series premieres in Europe.