House of the Dragon Episode 3: “Second of His Name” Review

Back in the world of Westeros, we have skipped forward two years. It is the name day of King Viserys and Alicent Hightower’s first-born son Aegon. Daemon and the Sea Snake are battling against the Crabfeeder in the Stepstones, which seems like a losing battle. Rhaenyra has isolated herself from her father and best friend since they betrayed her. All of the men of Westeros are now assuming that Viserys will go back against his original declaration and name Aegon II his heir. This is the first time we truly see the results from the set-up in episodes 1 and 2.

Viserys wants so badly for Rhaenyra to celebrate her little brother at the hunt, all while giving no effort to teach her to rule despite their breakthrough in episode 2. It is clear she despises that she has become a pawn for her father to use now that she is of age, especially since she feels replaced by a new family. “Nobody is here for me” she says, and she is right. However, despite her anger, she defends her father when Lady Redwyne is insulting him for not putting an end to the war in the Stepstones.

Unfortunately, that quick moment of kindness ends whenever Jason Lannister, who is just as egotistical as his descendants, proposes to Rhaenyra, and she confronts her father. She is a teenager with the right to be uncomfortable and upset, but Viserys is the first to raise his voice and make a scene in front of all his subjects. Why would anyone trust Viserys’s choice of Rhaenyra when he has seen squabbling with her? However, it is nice to see Viserys defend his daughter when Jason assumes her loss in the station and offers her Casterly Rock and when Otto Hightower suggests promising her to Prince Aegon. Targaryens are the only people who can criticize each other.

A potential relationship between Ser Criston Cole and Rhaenyra is ignited. He stays with her and protects her out in the Kingswood rather than force her back to camp when she runs away. He knows he owes everything to Rhaenyra after she chose him over knights from more prominent families. He injures the boar that attacks her, though she gets the final kill, which harkens back to something she said earlier in the episode: “Boars squeal like children while being slaughtered. I find it discomforting.” She takes out all her frustrations and jealousy over Viserys’s new son and her difficult situation out on the boar. It seems that this moment of catharsis will bond her and Criston together.

One of the most interesting things we learn in this episode is Viserys’s strong belief in the supernatural. His obsession with dreams, signs, and prophecies weighs on him so heavily. He even admits he values dreams even over dragons. He wants it so badly, to be free of his depression of losing Queen Aemma, for Rhaenyra to be happy, and for his dream of a son to be King to be reconfirmed with another vision. The white hart supposedly appearing during his son’s name day throws him for a loop, especially with Otto Hightower whispering in his ear. His sense of relief is palpable whenever the hart turns out to be regular brown. When Rhaenyra sees the white hart it confirms she is worthy of being heir to the Iron Throne.

Viserys and Rhaenyra finally have their necessary heart-to-heart where he asks her why she resists him at every step. She finally tells him how she feels and that she has been hearing from others that she’s of no use now that he has a son. She stuns him into silence when she tells him that if he only thought marriage was for advantage he should have married Laena Valeryon. The biggest thing that comes from this tête-à-tête is that Rhaenyra can choose her own husband, her King consort, which is much more freedom than most women have at the time.

The episode is bookended with the Valeryons and Daemon in the Stepstones. Many are irritated by Daemon’s leadership. When he reads the note from his brother, one can see his face shift in the smallest of ways. He seems affected by his brother’s care and aid until he gets frustrated and overwhelmed, and he acts out by attacking the Kingsguard who delivered the note. He realizes in order to prove himself without his brother’s help he must be bold and decisive. The following fight is so well-executed from Matt Smith’s performance to the music to the choreography. Daemon is a one-man fighting machine. Besides the knowledge of his name, Prince Drahar, the Crabfeeder remained an enigma, though several Easter eggs, including the greyscale and the Sons of the Harpy mask, give us clues. Daemon’s gutsy plan is successful, and he returns from the caves covered in blood with half of the Crabfeeder.

The parallel between Rhaenyra returning to camp and Daemon ending battle covered with blood hauling back their kills cannot go unnoticed. It will be exciting when all the Targaryens are back under the same roof next week, and we can see how these two interacts, especially considering Rhaenyra is now allowed to pick her future husband.

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