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House of the Dragon and its predecessor series, Game of Thrones, have quite a bit in common. Both involve struggles for the Iron Throne, both take place primarily on the continent of Westeros, and both feature Valyrian steel swords, dragons in flight, and dramatic family squabbles. Now, after this week's episode of Dragon, we can add another commonality to the two series: They've both aired episodes that viewers complained were too dark.
"Driftmark," the seventh episode of House of the Dragon's first season, arrived Sunday night on HBO and HBO Max, and it proved to be a very consequential hour in the ongoing saga of the Targaryen and Velaryon families. Both houses, as well as various other Westerosi nobles, gathered at the title castle (the seat of House Velaryon) for the funeral of Lady Laena, who committed suicide at the end of the previous episode, but it was what happened after the ceremony that proved most important, and hardest to make out onscreen.
**Spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 7 ahead.**
In one very eventful evening following Laena's funeral, we saw (or tried to see, depending on who you ask) two very important events play out on the beaches of Driftmark. In one scene, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) made the crucial decision to abandon her marriage to Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan) and instead consummate a long-standing sexual tension with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith). The pair joined together under cover of darkness, in a little ramshackle structure on the beach, but they weren't the only people out that evening. Rhaenyra's half-brother, Prince Aemond (Leo Ashton), also ventured out in an effort to bond with and ride Laena's former dragon, Vhagar, cementing his place in the Targaryen family and helping his case to overtake Rhaenyra as the future ruler of Westeros.
In both cases, but especially in the case of Aemond's scene, viewers complained on Twitter that they had a very difficult time parsing some of the action. It didn't help, of course, that several major characters on the series have the same long platinum-blonde locks, but it seemed like more than just a little character confusion. The promo image above, shot on the same beach, is noticeably lighter than many viewers found the show to be, which reveals just how much things were darkened. As some journalists have already pointed out, the episode may have been shot "day-for-night," meaning it was filmed during the day, or the evening, and then darkened in post-production to create the illusion of night.
Whatever the case, enough fans weighed in via Twitter that by the end of Sunday evening, HBO Max's official customer account responded to the uproar, calling the visuals on the show an "intentional creative decision," and leaving it at that.
Of course, this isn't the first time a Game of Thrones series has faced such complaints. A similar uproar came in the wake of the Thrones final season episode "The Long Night," a lengthy battle episode which took place almost entirely during a single night at Winterfell, leaving many viewers literally and figuratively in the dark over which characters were onscreen at any given time. As with House of the Dragon, the darkness was defended as an intentional creative choice.
Whatever you thought of the somewhat dim episode, it's not likely it will dim the show's prospects very much. House of the Dragon debuted to great ratings earlier this year, and has already been renewed for a second season on HBO.
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