“House of the Dragon” episode 3 recap: “The second of his name”

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The Crabfeeder is back. Before a mess of burning ships, he listens silently, almost questioningly, as his latest Westerosi victim hurls insults at him. Oaths bounce off Craghas Drahar’s mask as he drives the lock. But before the crabs can engulf Caraxes emerges from the darkness and the creature’s fiery breath devastates marauders and survivors alike. Prince Daemon even lands his mount on the guy who was about to be harassed. The Prince and his dragon incinerate a few other bands of pirates, but the Crabfeeder escapes to his cave-bound fortress, and the flaming arrows of his archers eventually drive the Dragon Rider away. Daemon and Lord Corlys “Sea Snake” Velaryon’s proxy war in the Stepstones does not go well.

Like episode 3 of Dragon House begins, three years have passed since the events of “The Rogue Prince” and King Viserys is planning a celebration. The grim reports of his brother’s war of attrition can wait – it’s his son Aegon’s second birthday, and he will be celebrated with a great hunt in the woods. That’s right, Queen Alicent gave the king a male heir, and not only that, she’s pregnant with their second child. You get the feeling that over the past few years, if Princess Rhaenyra – who is still technically the heir apparent – could have started a punk rock band out of protest, she would have. But instead, she hides in a side garden and forces a lute player to sing dragon ballads on repeat.

On the hunt, the tunic game is strong among those gathered to receive the king and his retinue, and inside the royal tent, drinks and food are not lacking. Gossip is not lacking either. Rhaenyra glides among the revelers. She may be the heiress, but they’re not her people. And outside the tent, she learns why Viserys demanded her presence. Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall), the wealthy and arrogant lord of Casterly Rock, seeks to make Rhaenyra his lordship, and the dude dazzles. Furious at her father for seeming to propose her to any willing lord – “You must marry!” the king retaliates by pulling hard on a chalice of wine – the princess rides out of camp on the back of a white horse with Ser Criston in pursuit.

Viserys definitely hits the sauce, which only adds to the murmurings in the royal tent. But he also seems generally dyspeptic and weak. Called to the wood to deliver the ceremonial kill of a proud, full-sized male, the king uses a miniature staircase to descend from his horse. There are no dishes full of palliative maggots in this episode. But in the background, the king’s health is suspect, making the nagging question of his true heir an even bigger headache. It’s his burden, the whole “fucking politics”, and as he medicates himself with another stain of rouge, Viserys makes two more suggestions. Otto Hightower, now sporting a beard, watches as Rhaenyra’s engagement to her half-brother Aegon would solve everything. And then that disgusting proposition ricochets off Lord Lyonel’s return to Viserys’ earlier consideration of Laena Velaryon, who was only twelve at the time. Lyonel believes that Rhaenyra should marry Laenor (played here by Theo Nate), the son of Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys, as this would resolve the ongoing rift between Houses Targaryen and Velaryon.

If only we had more time to watch Rhaenyra and Criston wander through the woods. There’s an ease between these two that’s so comfortable, so free from the sour talk and deceit that hangs over every interaction at court or petty council. Later, his grace and the knight cool off near a fire. If cigarettes were a thing in Westeros, they’d share a pack. Instead, a boar bursts from its cover and stomps them both before Criston runs through it with his steel and Rhaenyra’s dagger finishes the job. The next morning, Rhaenyra arrives at camp, her kill on a litter behind her horse, her hair still streaked crimson. That’s right, all of you. Your beautiful princess won’t be forced to do anything she doesn’t want. And Jason Lannister can keep his lion heralds and his riches.

HOTD EP 3 WHITE HART

Ser Otto, the grumbling one, is convinced that Aegon will be king. Never mind that everyone in the realm bent the knee to Rhaenyra, he told Alicent; that was before the king had a son. “You have to guide him to reason,” he advises his daughter. Otto says the kingdom would be torn apart if a woman ascended the Iron Throne. The real truth is that he probably wouldn’t have any personal control over Rhaenyra if she got the top spot. (No wonder he wants her to marry Aegon, his grandson.) For Viserys, these questions of power and succession are shrouded in what he calls his personal abyss of grief and regret. Her dreams of a male heir sank, and then Queen Aemma died due to her obsession. Naming Rhaenyra heir was correct course, but it only brought more drama with the arrival of Aegon. Will his choice stand or will Otto’s interference prevent it? “You must get married,” Viserys said to Rhaenyra for the second time. “Strengthen your own claim. I swear to you now, on your mother’s memory: you will not be supplanted.

In the Stepstones, Corlys and Deamon are down to their last ball. With the caverns covered by dragonflame strafing runs and archers on the heights, their dwindling forces cannot break through the Crabfeeder’s bottleneck. His brother’s belated dispatch of ships and reinforcements only enrages the rogue prince, and he goes for a typically cold-blooded gamble. Under a flag of truce, he reaches the fortress of Craghas Drahar, but this is a ruse. Daemon fights his way through 20 pirates in a cave rush, dodging arrow fire long enough for the Sea Snake’s infantry to advance and the Dragon Riders to arrive in position. A close melee ensues. Daemon absorbs three arrows but also enters the cave where the Crabfeeder is hiding. And he comes out covered in the blood and entrails of his enemy. This whole sequence, nearly fifteen minutes of screen time, will once again transform the story of House of the Dragon. And Matt Smith, as Prince Daemon, didn’t say a single word.

Johnny Loftus is a freelance writer and editor living in Chicagoland. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glenganges



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