Sunday, October 2, 2022

‘House of the Dragon’ Recap: Season 1, Episode 3 “Second of His Name”

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In this week’s episode of House of the Dragon, a number of conflicts involving Viserys come to a head at a two-year-old’s birthday party (not so different from our world, eh?) while Daemon and Corlys struggle to end the Crabfeeder’s reign of terror. Will the prince prevail? And will Viserys drink all of the wine in Westeros before the episode is over? Read on to find out what happened in “Second of His Name”!

Everybody Wants To Rule The World

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Picking up three years after the events of episode two, Alicent has given birth to baby Aegon. The birth of a boy after naming Rhaenyra as his heir has Viserys facing criticism from all sides for standing by his chosen heir. Otto Hightower is anxious that his grandson hasn’t been named yet, his advisors drop subtle (and not so subtle) hints that the realm won’t accept a queen now that a little king has arrived on the scene, and Alicent… well, Alicent is pregnant again, cranky, and still on Team Rhaenyra.

Unfortunately, Rhaenyra is decidedly not on Team Alicent. The relationship between the once close duo is frosty, with Alicent trying to extend olive branches and being met with hostility from Rhaenyra. She believes her father will go back on his promise to her and name Aegon as the heir. It’s only a matter of time, in her view. Her relationship with Viserys is even more strained as the two trade barbs and Rhaenyra throws a typical teenage tantrum about having to accompany the royal entourage to a hunt celebrating Aegon’s second birthday.

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At the hunt, Viserys gets drunker and drunker while Rhaenyra overhears the ladies at court discussing the failure of Daemon’s campaign in the Stepstones. Viserys has thus far refused to step in, believing that it will lend legitimacy to a war Daemon and Corlys started without his permission even as Ser Tyland Lannister begs for his help. But it’s clear public opinion is close to turning against the king for not helping his subjects, if it hasn’t turned already.

Overwhelmed by the prospect of disappointing his daughter or disappointing the realm (or both! Not a lot of good options here), Viserys stumbles out to the large bonfire while Alicent follows. He rants at her about the vision he once saw of his son sitting on the Iron Throne. He thought naming Rhaenyra his heir would make his doubt go away, but it has only made things worse. He wonders aloud about making Aegon his successor, and Alicent quietly listens without offering her own thoughts.

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To make a bad few days worse for Viserys, they are unable to track down the mythical white stag they’ve been looking for the next morning. He settles for killing another, needing to be directed at each step. When they return home, Otto urges Alicent to use her influence with the king to get him to name Aegon his heir. Alicent is reluctant to do so, still seemingly on Rhaenyra’s side. But ever the dutiful daughter, she goes to Viserys to present her case.

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But a piece of Viserys’ mail catches her eye. It’s yet another update about the Stepstones, and it’s not looking good. Viserys complains about the predicament Daemon and Corlys have put him in. Proving that she does have influence as well as some scheming ability, Alicent sets aside the question of Aegon’s role and instead shrewdly pushes Viserys towards helping with the conflict. She’s establishing that she can be trusted to give sound advice in gentle, sweet packaging that is a direct contrast to the calculated advice he gets from his council. It works on the spineless and exhausted Viserys, who sends a fleet to the Stepstones.

Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning)

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At the hunt, every eligible bachelor in Westeros is circling Rhaenyra. Some of the courting is allowed by the frustrated king, hoping that the whole marriage question could just be settled already. He’s got more important things to do, like drink himself into a stupor at a child’s birthday party and generally ignore his duties. He’s clearly troubled by the Aegon vs. Rhaenyra question as much as he pretends the matter is settled.

Some of it is also opportunistic lords looking for a lady whose (presumed) downgraded status from heir to marriage material will help their own social prospects. Ser Jason Lannister (Tyland’s twin), flirts with Rhaenyra for about five seconds before casually mentioning that there’s plenty of room at Casterly Rock for a dragon pit… especially for his future wife.

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This turns the simmering tension between Rhaenyra and Viserys to a boil. She storms in and angrily confronts him in front of the entire court for pushing Jason on her. He informs her that he married for the good of the realm and that like it or not, that’s part of the princess gig. Because she’s 17 and fairly spoiled, she immediately takes off on horseback as her bodyguard Ser Criston rushes after her. When he eventually catches up to her, she opens up about her fears at being pushed out of the Iron Throne and of marriage. Criston carefully reminds her that most people would kill (and have killed) for the level of power and influence she enjoys. He’s not unsympathetic, but he pushes back at the idea that she isn’t privileged.

That night, they camp out in the woods as Rhaenyra stubbornly refuses to go back to the party. A wild hog nearly kills her (nice Game of Thrones callback given the location), but after Criston mortally wounds it, she then goes into overkill mode and stabs it over and over again. The next morning, covered in blood, she and Criston see the white stag the rest of the hunting party missed. It seems to look directly at Rhaenyra before vanishing into the woods.

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After the hunt is over, Viserys has a candid discussion with Rhaenyra about her future. She is finally honest with him about her fears regarding being replaced, particularly that whether or not he wants to see it, the entire court treats her like she is going to be replaced. He admits he did waver, but that he is now fully committed to Rhaenyra as his heir. He also reaches an uneasy compromise with her on the marriage question: she can pick who she wants, but for heaven’s sake choose someone.

Prove You Wrong

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The only person having a worse weekend than Viserys is Daemon. We open on the prince blasting the Crabfeeder’s army to smithereens with his dragon (stepping on one of his own men in the process in what was a hilarious moment of comedic timing amid the carnage). But the Crabfeeder has one secret weapon that has kept him and his army in the winner’s spot: his cave retreats. The dragons’ fire can’t reach them inside, and they keep retreating. This has kept Daemon and Corlys’ army from claiming any decisive victories.

Desperate, Corlys’ brother Vaemond secretly writes to Viserys begging for help. They don’t have enough supplies to last much longer. Corlys, Vaemond, and Corlys’ son Laenor (one of Rhaenyra’s potential suitors and Laena’s brother) discuss one last-ditch plan. If Daemon pretends to surrender long enough to get the Crabfeeder’s men out of the caves, the army can kill them with assistance from the dragons.

Daemon returns from the fighting just as a messenger arrives with Viserys’ offer of aid. Angered that one of his own men expressed a lack of confidence in his leadership to the king (and by the king’s passive-aggressive “you tried, baby brother” energy in the letter), Daemon beats the messenger to a pulp before agreeing to the almost suicidal plan. He will win this war on his own terms without help from his brother.

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The battle that follows is stunning. Director Greg Yaitanes (Lost, Castle Rock) and cinematographer Pepe Avila del Pino (Ozark, The Deuce) deliver the first battle sequence in House of the Dragon that feels worthy of the award-winning scenes Game of Thrones was known for. Daemon fights off several warriors at once while the Crabfeeder watches, and just when a few well-placed arrows seem to spell doom for the prince, Laenor and his dragon Seasmoke sweep in along with the rest of the army. Matt Smith does his best work yet in this episode, especially in this scene. Not even reacting to the carnage around him, a single-minded Daemon stalks to the caves where he knows the Crabfeeder waits. With no fanfare, the Crabfeeder is killed offscreen. A bruised and bloodied Daemon drags what remains of his body to the sea, leaving him to be eaten by the crabs.

House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

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