House of the Dragon’s third episode just landed – arguably more gracefully than Daemon Targaryen’s dragon did – and it’s brought with it a two-year time jump.
We’ll let your brain catch up to that news while we set the scene for episode three’s “Second Of His Name.” We open on the Stepstones, looking very post-apocalyptic chic with raging fires, deafening explosions, and plenty of close-up shots of crabs feeding on human flesh. It’s all very gruesome, very gory, and very Game of Thrones -esque. While Daemon and Corlys Velaryon carry out their unsanctioned war on the Crabfeeder, King Viserys celebrates his son’s second birthday by imbibing in too much wine and worrying over whether crowning his daughter as his successor was the right choice.
Here’s where everyone stands in the ever-shifting line of succession after this week’s episode.
Controversial take: Daemon Targaryen is most definitely a Leo. Westeros’ sh*t-stirring drama queen is up to his same old tricks in House of the Dragon’s latest episode. Desperate to prove himself to his brother, Daemon has joined Corlys Velaryon, waging war on the Crabfeeder without the king’s permission. And, despite having a fully grown dragon that likes to crash land on the very subjects he’s trying to save, things, weirdly, aren’t going well. Viserys refuses to help for a couple of years — because he’s petty like that — but when he does decide to send ships as an “I’m sorry,” Daemon loses it on the poor messenger and then martyrs himself for a chance at glory. He gets it in a rousing, slow-mo action sequence that shows rather than tells how lethal he is on the battlefield. But, once again, Daemon is reckless, unpredictable, and prone to violent temper tantrums – not exactly the kingly qualities the rest of the Realm can respect.
Rhaenyra is firmly in her adolescent emo phase. She’s bailing on family dinners to sit under her favorite tree and read books while listening to the medieval fantasy version of My Chemical Romance. (Side note: How many times do you think she had that poor bard croon that weird ditty?) On the one hand, we feel for her. It’s been two years and clearly, the sting of seeing her best friend marry her father, supplant her dead mother as queen and pop out a male heir that will likely usurp her, just hasn’t dulled. On the other hand … get your sh*t together, girl. Rhaenyra spends much of this episode sulking and whining and lying down so that her former best friend can step over her to get to her throne (metaphorically, of course). She eventually finds a bit of spunk after being attacked by a wild boar in the King’s Wood, using the creature as her own emotional support pin cushion, but she’s going to have to be more cunning and less sensitive about everything if she’s going to inherit the crown. Just because a mythical white stag thinks you’re worthy to rule doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, honey.
King Viserys Targaryen
Viserys continues to prove that genetics and a Y chromosome do not a competent and capable king make. His sins in this episode are many. He’s allowed fighting in the Stepstones to grow increasingly worse over the last two years, refusing calls for aid in favor of hosting birthday parties for his male heir. He’s allowed animosity to fester in his own House, refusing to make amends to his daughter for marrying her best friend. He’s wavered on his choice of successor, sometimes publicly, and he’s so fixated on being a well-liked monarch that he’s incapable of making any decision more controversial than what kind of pig should be roasted for his son’s name-day. This week, he tries and fails to pimp his daughter out to House Lannister, get white girl wasted, whines about how hard it is to be a medieval girl dad in front of a trash fire, and practically rolls out the red carpet for his enemies hoping to steal his crown. Can this guy die already?
Alicent Hightower is making it very easy to hate her. After cozying up to the king for a couple of episodes, she’s officially wormed her way into his dead wife’s place. Is it all kinds of gross? Yes, especially when she tries to make amends with her former best friend who is now her stepdaughter and, technically, her subject. What’s worse? Alicent seems convinced House Targaryen can once again be one happy family, that Rhaenyra is somehow in the wrong for behaving so childishly and that she’s really the victim in all of this. And in some ways, she is. She’s the by-product of her father and uncle’s political machinations, but she also relishes the power that comes with being Queen and, after Viserys’ drunken bonfire confession, it’s easy to imagine she might one day betray Rhaenyra to ensure her own son sits on the throne. Alicent Hightower is shaping up to be Westeros’ resident Regina George. Put her in the Burn Book, stat.
We know this blonde-haired cherubic little angel is likely to grow up and steal his sister’s throne but damn if he’s not cute. Look, children, in general, don’t fare well in Westeros which is why King’s Landing is making such a big effing deal about this boy’s second birthday. (Really, a hunt, a feast, and a couple of days of glamping? He won’t even remember any of this!) And sure, Aegon’s busier cutting teeth than he is plotting to sit on the Iron Throne, but he doesn’t need to do that kind of dirty work – his grandfather is doing it for him. It just goes to show, that if you were born with a power-hungry relative and, of course, a penis, you can be anything – even a King who still wets the bed every night.
Rhys Ifans does his best Caucasian Jafar this episode, pulling strings behind the scenes to puppeteer his grandson closer to the Iron Throne. He’s got a black hole where his moral center should be, something that’s made clear when he tries to pawn Rhaenyra off, first to Jason Lannister, then to her own brother – the toddler whose chubby fingers are already grasping for her crown. We shouldn’t be surprised by the lengths Otto Hightower will go to gain more influence – he’s already sold his daughter like prized cattle to his best friend, the king — but his ruthless ambition does make us sympathize a bit more with Alicent’s predicament. It also makes us worried for Rhaenyra’s birthright because, when it comes to one’s capacity to do despicable things for more power, he’s clearly got her beat.
You’re forgiven for forgetting about Corlys Velaryon’s other offspring. While his poor sister was being auctioned off as a royal child bride, Laenor was obliviously watching name-day tourneys and serving as plot filler. But this week, the kid has a major growth spurt – we assume he’s a teenager now – complete with his own dragon and a desire to prove himself in the war of the Step Stones. He does, swooping in at the last second to save Daemon Targaryen’s ass, but it’s not just his heroics that have him jumping the line of succession. Laenor – being half Targaryen, full Valyrian, and incredibly rich – is the ideal candidate to marry Rhaenyra, an idea that seems to stick in the King’s mind by the end of the episode. Joining their two houses will strengthen the princess’ claim to the throne and mend relations between the Realm’s most powerful families. If Viserys can manipulate his headstrong daughter into thinking the idea to get hitched to Laenor is all her own, we might be looking at the next King consort.
*Alexa, play Sheryl Crow’s ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’*
Technically, King Viserys didn’t slice himself on any swords this episode — a miraculous feat considering how sloshed he got at his son’s B-day bash — but we did happen to notice something’s going on with his left hand, the same hand he knocked a couple of episodes ago. It looks like he’s now missing two fingers, which might mean the rot is spreading. Not ominous at all.