We’re only on Episode 3 of House of the Dragon, but already I find myself really excited to watch each new chapter — yeah, I’m hooked.
Now, after each viewing, I like to go out and listen to what others have to say about the most recent episode. Surprisingly, there are quite a few detractors. Many of the criticisms take umbrage with last week’s moment in which our girl Rhaenyra swooped in on her dragon Syrax and stopped a battle between her uncle Daemon and Otto Hightower.
Honestly, I thought the scene in question worked just fine. Sure, Rhaenyra has yet to endure much in the way of obstacles outside of the normal patriarchy, particularly when compared to Daenerys, but keep in mind that House of the Dragon is essentially moving backward. Where Game of Thrones told the story of a young Targaryen’s rise from the ashes of her ancestors, Dragon begins with our white-haired pals basking in a paradise that will soon crumble because of their stupidity. I imagine Rhaenyra’s trials will come swiftly and result in plenty of, ah, bad days.
There was also a lot of outrage over the proposed pairing of King Viserys and Coryls Velaryon’s extremely young daughter Laena. Yes, the moment was uncomfortable, but … wasn’t that the point? Viserys was forced to make a difficult decision: marry a 12-year-old girl in service of the kingdom, or follow his heart and marry the still young, but at least not too young 18-year-old Alicent Hightower. Luckily for us, Viserys chooses the latter option, but his decision will obviously come with a price. (Remember when Robb Stark placed love over responsibility? That didn’t turn out so well, either.)
In other words: there’s a purpose to this awkward beat beyond just shock value. As Aaron Rodgers once said: “R-E-L-A-X.” (Also, considering how Viserys chose duty over love when it came to his wife, can anyone blame him for going in a different direction this go round?)
The only other tidbit I wanted to touch upon was the opening theme music. Episode 1 introduced new intro music for House of the Dragon, but Episode 2, for whatever reason, opted to go with the original Game of Thrones theme. I thought it was a bizarre creative choice, to say the least. After the debacle of Game of Thrones’ final season(s), I would think the Dragon showrunners would want to distance their new creation as far away from Thrones as possible. Instead, each episode is layered with so many callbacks that tend to dampen the viewing experience. All roads lead to Season 8, unfortunately.
Anyway, let’s get to House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 3 titled “Second of His Name.”
We open on another shipwreck. The Crabfeeder is up to his usual antics — hammering victims to posts before feeding them to crabs. We see one of his victims pleading for help when suddenly Daemon arrives on Caraxes. The duo light up the beach (and squash the poor fellow in the process) in an extraordinary display of might as the Crabfeeder watches from afar. Daemon beckons the villain to come out and face him but is met instead by flaming arrows that somehow drive his beast from the battle.
(One of the main worries I have about this show is that it’s going to make the same mistake as Thrones and lean on spectacle more than creativity. Thrones worked best when it relied on politics over silly, CGI-infused theatrics. I mean, a blend of both can certainly work, but special effects alone aren’t enough to carry a series.)
Anyways, back with Viserys, who celebrates his wedding to — oh, shit! Never mind. Apparently, this episode zipped forward two years (or more). Viserys is married to Alicent. The pair have a kid and are expecting another. Wow. I assume this means Daemon’s attack on the Crabfeeder was just one of many … or did it really take two whole years for him to go after the dastardly pirate?
Viserys has yet to name his firstborn son as heir — probably out of respect for his daughter — which is causing some tension among the members of his council. No matter, before the group can discuss politics, a man named Tyland arrives and tells his King the bad news: shit went down at Sandstone.
Viserys is too busy celebrating to care about this urgent business. “It’s been three years,” he says. “It can wait three more days.” I like Viserys. He’s a kind man with mostly good morals, but, as Dameon noted last week, he’s not a very good King. He shrinks from tough decisions and sticks his head in the sand whenever problems arise. That’s not good for anyone.
Tyland persists, letting his King know that the Crabfeeder’s army is dug in deep, rendering the dragons useless. Mercenaries and potential foot soldiers know it’s a losing effort and can’t be relied upon. Viserys mostly ignores the news. “Where’s Rhaenyra,” he asks Criston Cole.
No one knows.
We learn that Daemon engaged the Crabfeeder on his own accord, but has driven his men too hard. Tyland thinks the crown should step in, but Otto believes doing so this late in the game makes them look weak. Sure.
“Where the f**k is Rhaenyra,” Viserys basically says.
Why, under a tree reading a book near Samwell, the singer. He belts “Under the Dragon’s Eye,” evidently for the umpteenth time. Rhaenyra orders him to sing the song again, but Alicent appears and pulls the poor chap away. She tries to get Rhaenyra to join the family on a road trip, and the young dragon rider reacts the way my youngest daughter did when I invited her to watch Jaws with me on the big screen.
Eventually, the royal family unit bounces along in a carriage. Alicent looks uncomfortable, what with her pregnancy. Rhaenyra wants nothing to do with any of them. “No one’s here for me,” she states.
Our clan arrives in a camp, greeted by applause. Rhaenyra lags behind, invisible to all. She’s no longer the heir, see? Well, her father hasn’t exactly made a formal announcement, but everyone knows.
We meet Jason Lannister — the lions give him away — twin brother to Tyland. I’m grateful for this news because I thought I was going crazy. Jason clearly has his eyes set on Rhaenyra and tries to win her affections by laying down some dragon talk — “I can totally build you a dragon pit,” he says. “I’d do anything for my queen … or lady wife.”
“Ah, thanks for the wine,” Rhaenyra says before fleeing the scene as quickly as possible.
She confronts her father, who urged Jason to make a move. “I do not wish to get married,” Rhaenyra shouts in front of everyone. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched a lot of TV lately, but I feel like this same plot has featured in a lot of content. Like, to an absurd degree.
Anyways, Viserys puts his foot down. “You must marry.” Otto distracts him with some nonsense and by the time he turns around, Rhaenyra is gone.
Criston spots her hopping on a horse and takes off after her. They ride through the forest and he manages to slow the princess down. After offering to kill Jason for her, the pair wander through the woods and enjoy a heart to heart. He mentions how her naming him to the Kingsguard made him who he is today. Swoon.
Back with Viserys, the old guy goes on a buck hunt to catch a White Heart, which is an incredible sign from the gods, particularly on this day (Viserys’ son Aegon’s birthday). At least, according to Otto.
Later, the King sits on his seat and looks like he just wants everyone to leave him the hell alone. Jason appears and makes a bid for Rhaenyra. Casterly Rock is cool, he says. Plus, since she’s not heir to the throne anymore …
Viserys is shocked by this. Everyone assumes he’s going to announce Aegon as heir to the throne, but he has yet to comply with this request. He shoots down Jason’s offer and notes that anyone who disagrees with his choice of heir should, well, shut up. Plus, he’s pretty drunk.
Otto then sits next to Viserys and reminds him that as the King he can force Rhaenyra to marry who he sees fit. “I want her to be happy,” Viserys says. Again, good guy, terrible King. Otto does his mind trick thing and says there is another option. “One … closer to home.”
“Who did you have in mind,” the King asks.
“Prince Aegon,” Otto blurts out.
Viserys looks at his newborn son. “The boy just turned two, Otto.”
Yeah, but it would keep other suitors at bay and let you get a little more rest, Otto injects. The King laughs. “I came here to hunt, not to be suffocated by all of this fucking politicking,” he snaps. Amen. And so the conversation ends and the King drinks … and drinks … he starts rambling about his failures as a father and king.
Lord Strong arrives and tries to put the King’s mind at ease, reminding him that King Jaehaerys, while an amazing ruler, still had children who drove him mad. He then drops his two cents on the matter: Rhaenyra, he says, should marry Corlys’ son, Laenor for the same reasons he urged Viserys to marry Laena.
It would be so cool, he says.
King Viserys has no response to that. He staggers off the stage while Alicent watches from a nearby table.
Back with Rhaenyra and Criston, she wonders if the realm will ever accept her as the Queen. Well, they’ll have to, he replies.
Suddenly, the horses grow restless and the trees are quiet. Criston investigates. Peers into the woods and a giant friggin’ CGI boat bursts from the trees. The pig thing attacks Rhaenyra, but Criston slices it through with his sword and then she goes all Mel Gibson in The Patriot and stabs the beast over and over with a dagger.
Viserys chills in front of a massive fire, finally alone — Alicent appears. Bloody hell, even I’m rooting for this poor guy to get some peace and quiet. He goes on another drunken rant about a dream he had about a young male heir … a dream that drove him to obsession and more or less led to Rhaenyra’s mother’s death. “What if I was wrong,” he asks.
The next morning, he cruises through the forest with a nasty hangover. His men have a massive buck bound by ropes. It’s not white, but it’ll do. Jason hands him a spear — that he made himself — and the King reluctantly stabs the animal. I wonder how many online users will say the acts of violence against animals is bad …
Back with Rhaenyra, the White Heart buck thing appears to her. She smiles. Later, she drags the dead boar carcass back to camp and holds her head high as everyone — including her father — watches in astonishment.
Back at King’s Landing (I think?), Otto gets up to his old tricks and tries to convince his daughter — Alicent, the very pregnant Queen — to convince Viserys to name Aegon heir to the throne. Mostly because doing so would make Otto a boss for life, but also to put an end to all the nonsense surrounding the whole heir debacle. Alicent doesn’t look so sure, but also looks extraordinarily uncomfortable carrying that enormous belly.
She goes to Viserys and tries to do her father’s bidding and ends up spotting a letter lying on a nearby table. “Lord Corlys and Prince Daemon are losing their war,” she says.
“Yup,” he replies, but he’s still not gonna help because, well, they were stupid to go to war without his permission. Pettiness rules.
Alicent poses a simple question: is it better for the realm if the Crabfeeder lives or dies? Nice.
The next morning, Viserys sends aid to the Stepstones. Rhaenyra arrives and notes his decision but does not reveal her feelings on the matter. She’s still pissed her dad tried to sell her off to a Lannister. She’s obviously seen Game of Thrones. They bicker. “You want to replace me,” she says. Actually, no, Viserys just wants her to be happy. In fact, he gives her the option to choose her husband. Imagine that. He’s obviously seen Aladdin.
This makes her happy. He then drops this bomb: “I swear on your mother’s memory, you will not be supplanted.”
At the Sandstones, a battle rages in the distance between dragon and ships. Corlys and his men make battle plans. They also squabble about who’s to blame for this catastrophe. Daemon? Corlys? “If King’s Landing will not support Daemon, why should any of us?”
Speaking of which, Daemon arrives (Matt Smith needs more screen time) battle worn and scarred. He looks over the men. What to do? Luckily, a messenger arrives announcing the King’s support. Daemon grins and then beats the holy shit out of the poor lad. I mean, the King is only two years late.
A voice-over by Viserys states that he has delivered thousands of men and ships to aid his quest to stop Crabfeeder. Also, sorry.
Daemon rows to a nearby beach covered in human carcasses. Waves a white flag. Crabfeeder arrives, looking like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Daemon offers his sword. Crabfeeder orders his men to take Daemon prisoner. The scene is intense. Something’s about to happen, but what?!
Daemon truly gives up his sword, then stabs the nearest man with a knife, slaughters the others; evades arrow fire, and makes his way through the battlefield, his eyes fixed on Crabfeeder. Arrows whiz by, more men arrive. Daemon drops them without much hassle. Eventually, he’s pierced by three arrows but manages to find cover.
More men arrive. Daemon braces for the end, prepared to go out like a boss. But it’s only Episode 3. He can’t die. Suddenly, a dragon arrives and burns the holy snot out of Crabfeeder’s army as Daemon’s army attacks.
Crabfeeder retreats into his cave with Daemon in hot pursuit.
The battle rages on. Daemon emerges from the rubble dragging Crabfeeder’s corpse. Or, so we assume.
Sometimes all it takes is a little pep talk to get the job done, am I right?
Okay, so three episodes down. I’m really digging this show. No, it’s not offering anything new, per se, but it’s interesting. I like the characters, even if we’re only getting slight glimpses into their lives, and so far there’s a nice balance between action and character.
We’re still getting to know everyone moving about this massive chess board. There’s a lot of drama, violence, and spectacle, but where is this season heading? Game of Thrones Season 1 ended with the shocking death of Ned Stark and the revelation that the Lannisters had no claim to the Iron Throne. Will House of the Dragon follow suit and offer its own stunning finale, or are we in for something entirely different?
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I want the showrunners to follow in the footsteps of Game of Thrones, or would rather they chart their own course. I mean, we expect the other shoe to drop at some point — but is that what it takes for House of the Dragon to leave its mark? Can this show exist as a simple fantasy featuring complex characters mixed with a little political intrigue? Do we need Red Wedding-styled events to hold our attention?
I’m not sure.
Though, it feels like something is coming. Viserys is making far too many political mistakes as a result of his noble heart. He’s essentially this season’s Ned Stark — a good man surrounded by vipers. Who will make the first audacious move? Alicent? Corlys? Daemon? Otto? Rhaenyra? If we’ve learned one thing from Game of Thrones its that good people have no place reveling in the politics of Westeros. At some point, I imagine someone close to Viserys will need to decide whether to kill him for the good of the realm or let him squash the Seven Kingdoms with his incompetence. His removal will pave the way for Rhaenyra to begin her quest to reclaim the throne, which will pit her against Daemon and others vying for power.
This could get very interesting.
What say you? Did I miss anything — a crucial detail, a line of dialogue, an important character beat? I haven’t read the books, so I have no idea what to expect. And that’s exciting.
Until next week, folks!