House of the Dragon has jumped forward 10 years now. Rhaenyra is somewhat happily married to Laenor, both of whom have embraced their arrangement and has birthed her third child. Daemon is now a girl-dad to twins Baela and Rhaena, married to Laena Velaryon, and living in Pentos. Viserys is crumbling away slowly but surely. Most interestingly, Alicent and her confidant Ser Criston continue to push the (true) rumors that Rhaenyra’s children are actually Commander of the City Watch Ser Harwin Strong’s.
Showrunner Miguel Sapochnik has called this episode a second pilot, and that is exactly what it feels like. Despite having a fair amount of actors returning to their roles, it feels completely different. Rhaenyra and Alicent’s actors feel different interpretations of their characters. Rhaenyra now seems to be quieter and more reserved. Even while she was alone with Ser Harwin and baby Joffrey, she never let her guard down. Milly’s facial expressions were so dynamic, and Emma’s are rather toned down. Olivia and Emily are a better pairing, but she does not have the sweetness that Emily did which made me secretly hope for reconciliation between Alicent and Rhaenyra. This time jump is a bit harder to wrap one’s mind around. An episode placed in between these two would have been nice to show the development of Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin’s relationship and the continuation of the breakdown of Alicent and Rhaenyra’s.
The children are another new addition to the show, and seeing all their different personalities and relationships is interesting. Prince Aegon cares very little for the throne and simply enjoys being a rich Targaryen boy with a dragon and looking at girls. He is much less irritating than I was expecting. The second son Aemond is unable to match with a dragon. He’s naive, and he seems weak, like Viserys. Youngest child Helaena is quirky, as our first introduction to her is through watching her obsess over bugs. Apparently, she has the gift of precognitive dreaming that Viserys confessed to Alicent in episode 3 he wants so badly, and it’ll be interesting to see that come into play one day. It is clear that Alicent has a poor relationship with her children. Helaena and Aegon flinched when she touched them. She only sees them as a way to beat Rhaenyra rather than as three special individuals. When she grabs Aegon violently, she perpetuates this bad blood and tension between himself and his older sister, which Rhaenyra never seems to feel toward him.
Alicent claims she cares the most about decency and what is right, though we all know that is a lie she is telling herself. She fails to follow the king’s wish of keeping her mouth shut about her beliefs regarding his grandchildren’s parentage. She spills the drama to Larys Strong, who takes matters into his own hands later, and to Ser Criston, who is now being deemed on social media as the incel of Westeros. He is still boiling about what happened a decade ago. I was expecting him not to be Rhaenyra’s biggest fan, but if his anger was only about him breaking his oath many years ago, then he wouldn’t be calling her a certain c-word I dare not write. Ser Criston was able to maintain his position and everyone still thinks he is honorable. His anger is actually due to being a scorned lover. He pushed Aegon to hurt Rhaenyra’s eldest son Jacaerys during training because of it, and goaded Ser Harwin into beating him up.
Daemon being a nice and reasonable partner to Laena is such a wonderful twist and adds such complexity to his character. He rides dragons with his wife and teaches his daughter, Valyrian. He shows more genuine love and affection to his kids than the “good” people, Viserys and Alicent. He kisses her pregnant belly, has an actual conversation with his wife, and listens to what she wants. Once again, House of the Dragon doesn’t fail to remind us exactly how hard it is to be a woman as Laena (and Rhaenyra) struggle in labor. When Daemon is faced with the same choice as Viserys had in episode 1 with Queen Aemma, he lets his wife choose her death rather than decide for her. She chooses to have a dragonrider’s death and commands Vhagar to light her on fire, which the she-dragon does hesitantly. Since Daemon has no male heirs, potentially getting a son would have been beneficial to him.
This episode is the least exciting of them all so far and has the most plot holes. Many questions come to mind, such as how did Ser Criston murder a good friend of the honored guests in cold blood in public for all the major houses to see with no repercussions in episode 5, but after a single fight in the courtyard, Ser Harwin gets fired from his post? Did Daemon receive anything, such as Runestone, after his previous wife Rhea Royce, died? Why is Alicent sitting in on the council? Rhaenyra having a voice makes sense considering she is the future ruler, but a queen consort never has been so involved. Why does Larys Strong not have love for his family? The dialogue itself is still wonderful, but the choice to go straight to this after episode 5 is questionable.
Within the last two episodes, a rat has appeared twice. First, when Viserys collapses after Rhaenyra marries Laenor and when he is alone in his room crying in this episode. Is this the indication of his weakness or a metaphorical rat in the Red Keep? Will Otto Hightower be asked to return as Hand of the King? How will Alicent repay her debt to Larys Strong? What will happen to Vhagar now that Laena is gone? Finally, will Daemon and Rhaenyra rekindle their connection on Dragonstone? Since there won’t be a time jump, we will get to actually watch the repercussions of everything that happened in episode 6.