This review contains spoilers for House of the Dragon, to read last week’s review, please click here.
We last left off House of the Dragon with Viserys (Paddy Considine) dropping a bomb on the small council, announcing he would marry not Laena Velaryon but Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). About three years later (everything online says two, but they’re celebrating Aegon’s second nameday, and ten months to make a baby if they get it the first time… this is a timeline mishap… anyways). Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) is basically dragged along to the hunt in Aegon’s honor in the Kingswood. Which also allows potential suitors to see her up close, including Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall).
Jason has no idea how to properly flirt with a queen-to-be, going from calling her a queen to his lady wife. The two do not compute! Viserys still continues to run into issues with Rhaenyra after Jason’s comment, and she runs off with Ser Criston (Fabien Drankel) following her. Lyonel Strong reminds Viserys he recommended Laena, and now he recommends Laenor for Rhaenyra. A good match to unite two powerful houses! To everyone’s utter horror, Otto (Rhys Ifans) recommends betrothing Rhaenyra to Aegon.
Viserys isn’t looking great. It’s not shown, but you have to wonder if the infection he’s had issues with in the first two episodes is taking its toll. He drinks heavily in this episode of House of the Dragon. He’s led to believe Otto when his hand tells him of a white stag in the forest, a sign to cement his legacy on the throne (Otto hints this is heavily for Aegon). He’s let down when his huntsmen find a brown stag instead and lazily kill the poor animal. This leads him more in the direction of continuing to stick with Rhaenyra as his heir.
Rhaenyra in the forest has conversations with Criston about her privilege as a member of the ruling family, but also how frustrated she is because her father won’t talk to her, and she thinks she’s already been replaced as heir, even if there’s been no formal announcement. After all, Alicent is pregnant yet again, so the Hightower-Targaryen line is more than likely set. They are tracked by a boar, ending with Rhaenyra letting all her anger out as she stabs the boar excessively.
They head to return to camp and are met by the white stag. Criston goes to raise his sword, presumably to kill it, and Rhaenyra says no. The stag bows its head, which feels like an acknowledgment of the true heir. When they enter the camp, she is the center of attention as she’s still caked with the boar’s blood. Viserys and Rhaenyra end their part of the episode with Viserys agreeing to send aid to the Stepstones, where Daemon and Corlys are fighting the crab feeder. Viserys also tells Rhaenyra to find a man she wants and that she will always be his heir. This leads to the best part of the episode.
Daemon (Matt Smith), Corlys (Steve Toussaint), Laenor (Theo Nate), and Vaemond (Wil Johnson) Velaryon are all trying to figure out how to survive. They’re planning, saying someone will need to be the lure as the crabfeeder and his men are all hiding in the caves, out of the dragons’ reach. Then, Viserys’ messenger shows up, and Daemon beats him to his death. He doesn’t have any desire to be saved by his brother and steps up to be the lure. What follows is one of the best battles to come across in a Game of Thrones show. The Velaryons and Daemon are successful, and the episode ends with Daemon dragging the torso of the crabfeeder leader, Prince Drahar, out, covered in blood.
Overall, I’m very happy with the production quality of the episode. Things continue to look fantastic, and Alcock needs to be up for some guest star Emmy if she’s due to leave soon. It’s hard to know with how wide the time skips have been thus far. It feels like we could have spent a full season where we are and seeing how the marriage announcement affected Rhaenyra. Two years forward was drastic, and it made the show feel very rushed. What happened when Aegon was born? Stuff like this could have been covered and added a lot more depth to the characters.
The ending battle scene looks incredible. It’s just plain gory, and it makes you wonder what the fight between Daemon and Drahar was like for them just to go, ‘not gonna show that.’ Speaking of Daemon, the performance Smith gives in this episode is fantastic. You can see the trauma of being a second son, always rescued by your older brother. Now obviously, beating the messenger is not the trait you want to emulate. But Smith doesn’t utter a single word and just brings out so much emotion. This is a fantastic cast, and the show has gone leaps and bounds above Game of Thrones for me already. – Katie Rentschler
House of the Dragon is currently streaming on HBO Max. New episodes air Sundays at 9 pm EST.