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We flash nearly three years into the future for episode three of House of the Dragon and King Viserys is troubled — should he change his succession plans yet again and name his 2-year-old son, Aegon, as his heir or should he stick with Princess Rhaenyra, now 17 years old and choosing not to attend her 2-year-old half-brother’s birthday?
Oh, and we also have the battle in the step stones still raging, even with Daemon flying in on his dragons all the time.
So let’s dive right in and see what we learned tonight.
1. “No one is here for me.”
Princess Rhaenyra may be the heir, at least for now, to the Iron Throne, but she’s also a teenager, and a fairly petulant and bratty one at that.
She’s made to attend her 2 year old’s birthday party and hops in the royal carriage with her pregnant step-mom, and former best friend, Queen Alicent, for awkward banter on the road to the 2 year old’s hunt party.
2. At the party, Jason Lannister makes a play for Rhaenyra’s hand.
But Rhaenyra rebuffs him, eventually leading King Viserys to remark, “That man’s pride has pride,” which is a great line. Only it would have played better when delivered to describe Jaime Lannister before his hand was chopped off.
And this is becoming a bit of an issue, so far as I can tell, with the new show, many of the characters feel like impostors for better versions in the original show. Rhaenyra is a lesser Daenerys, Ser Criston Cole, the Jon Snow doppelganger, is like Jon Snow if he had no story to support his handsome face, and that’s probably why the overnight trip to the woods plays so weak between the two of them.
3. Rhaneyra and Criston seem destined to end up together, but with much less interest and stakes than when Daenerys and Jon Snow did the same.
When Daenerys and Jon Snow made beautiful incestual love, the white walkers were coming, the world was threatened, we’d spent years waiting for them to meet and they had become two of the top contenders for the Iron Throne.
Princess Rhaenyra grabs a horse and goes running off on her own. Criston chases her, but, what, no one else cares that the would be heir to the throne is off in the woods by herself, potentially?
This feels like a Lifetime movie, the would be queen who falls in love with her father’s keeper, the loyal knight. It’s like a bad Lady Di spoof. And the entire narrative arc feels inevitable. She likes him, her father hates the idea, he doesn’t deserve her, you can see how this boy meets girl storyline might progress.
But, anyway, a boar runs into the camp and Criston saves Rhaenyra, who then stabs the boar way too many times, covering herself in the boar’s blood.
Rather than walk over to the lake and wash herself off, the princess decides to remain covered in blood for 24 hours so she can return to camp covered in blood.
There’s zero romance at this point between the two, probably because the writers knew how forced it would feel, but this entire storyline still feels forced.
4. Meanwhile King Viserys is getting drunk and everyone wants something from him.
While many of the characters in this series feel like lesser versions of their future progeny, here Viserys is at least interesting in that he seems to genuinely hate being king. This is a twist, as it were, off the prior Game of Thrones seasons where everyone else wanted the kingship so badly they’d do anything for it.
Here Viserys wishes to be done with the task of choosing a successor and doesn’t seem that happy to be king at all.
Could he end up abdicating? And, by the way, what happened to his health issues? We’re three years, at least, into the future since the first episode and he now appears to be completely healthy. So what was the point of the health scare in episode one?
Back in camp, everyone has a different suggestion for him, maybe even the gods, who appear to have placed a legendary white stag to be found on Aegon’s 2-year name day.
Viserys is getting drunk and going mad with worry over his daughter’s brash teenage years. And everyone has a suggestion on whom she should marry. Our good friend, Otto, the king’s hand and now the grandfather, potentially, of the future king, even suggests that Viserys should marry Rhaenyra to her two year old brother and solve the succession issue once and for all.
His other advisor, the one who previously suggested Lord Corlys’s 12-year-old daughter, now suggests Rhaenrya should be married to Corlys’s son, this time to make up for the fact that he upset Corlys by taking turning down his 12 year old daughter to take Alicent as his wife.
This rumination culminates with Viserys standing alongside Alicent before a roaring fire, debating what he should do as it pertains to his succession.
5. The stag is caught, the king is called, but it’s a normal brown stag, not the legendary white one.
Everyone stands and watches as the king stabs the stag, which is held on ropes and has already been captured, to death.
Only the first stab doesn’t work.
So the king has to be instructed how to kill it on the next stab.
Which he does.
To the applause of his loyal subjects.
6. The white stag, meanwhile, reveals itself to a bloody Rhaenyra as she and the dreamy Criston stand staring off into the beautiful distance.
Criston pulls his sword from his sheath, but Rhaenyra simply says, “No,” leading us to an unrequited end to this blissful overnight love session.
Prediction: Everyone wants to sleep with Rhaenyra, but Criston, whom her family will hate because he isn’t of high enough class, has no interest in sleeping with her. So she’ll end up pursuing him. There has to be some obstacle here, but for now the lack of rumors over a would be queen spending all night alone in the forest with a dreamy knight is a bit surprising.
Wouldn’t there be at least some gossip over this? The would be queen comes back covered in blood with her dreamy hunk and no one even says a word about it? Come on, we need some palace intrigue here, someone who can make us laugh and comment on the goings on. We need the clown, the town crier, the drunk gossip in the palace crew.
Which brings me to my biggest issue with the first three episodes so far — there’s zero humor. Everything is all very ponderous and intense. That’s fine, the original Game of Thrones didn’t lack for seriousness either, but there was some humor, and many funny characters, to take the edge off.
Has there been any real humor at all through three episodes? Have you laughed once? Does any character feel very likeable? Or at least likeable in his dreadfulness? Or just incredibly funny in his own laconic cynicism, who is our Tyrion Lanninister?
So far no one.
7. Back in the step stones, Daemon receives word that King Viserys is sending 10 ships and 2,000 men to his aid.
Enraged by the news, Daemon attacks the messenger and then offers up himself as the ultimate Trojan Horse, a sneak attack disguised as a fake surrender.
Daemon gamely rows to the crab beach — which reminds me of poor Gendry, who spent seasons rowing in the original GOT — and pretends to surrender to the crab island crew.
When the surrender gambit is revealed via the knife to the dick sneak attack — seriously, a knife to the dick is just uncalled for — guts start spilling everywhere in a massive battle on crab island.
And we get a Jon Snow like solitary, slow motion sword attack from Daemon.
Inexplicably, every soldier is told to leave the safety of the caves, whereupon instead of attacking Daemon in a large group these soldiers all approach Daemon one at a time as arrows rain down around him.
Finally hit by arrows, Daemon, who has killed many men in solitary combat, lays on the beach surrounded by the enemy soldiers and…just at that perilous moment the dragon arrives to kill all the men outside the caves.
Now I’m no military genius, but if you’ve spent 3 years hiding in the caves, would you really send your entire army outside in the broad daylight to surround a dude who just fake surrendered? This is the worst generalship since Fredericksburg.
I mean, come on, after three years of war the grand plan of the opposing army is to have one guy row to the beach, fake surrender, and then the entire army falls for it and gets waylaid? If it was this easy to beat these dudes, why didn’t they do it three years ago? And how do none of the arrow guys see the troops coming in boats to back up Daemon, can they really row that fast?
Anyway, the bad guy crab leader gets sliced in half and Daemon wins the war without his brother’s help.
Aside from the stupidity of the attack plan, here’s the bigger issue — why do I care about any of this? The bad guy looks scary, but we don’t know anything about him. A 3-year war has passed in the space of less than twenty minutes, essentially, of TV time. Have we learned anything about the Corlys Velaryon and Daemon relationship? Not really, aside from the fact that Corlys’s brother begged for help from the king, which will probably emerge as an issue going forward when Daemon finds out about it. But, again, why do I care about their contentious relationship? We’ve only seen them interact once for a single minute.
Sure, the battle scene was cool, but what stakes were there? Compare this with, say, Battle of the Bastards or the white walker battles, there was narrative growth, there was anticipation, there was mystery, here there was just one scary dude fighting another scary dude.
And one scary dude won. After a really crappy battle attack plan that somehow worked.
But I didn’t really care. And I bet you really didn’t care either.
8. Back at King’s Landing, the ongoing daddy-daughter battles continue between Viserys and Rhaenyra.
Alicent is angling for her son to be the king, but first she tells Viserys to send him to his brother and to let Rhaenyra marry whomever she wishes to marry. Viserys accepts her counsel on both issues, suggesting Queen Alicent may be more powerful than we’ve thought. Or maybe Viserys is just sick of making decisions and wants someone else to rule.
Viserys then tells Rhaenyra to marry and multiply to increase her standing in the kingdom. And he tells her to pick a mate that she desires, just as he did with Alicent, after being committed to her mother when they were just ten and seven years old. This is an interesting detail, but wouldn’t it have been better deployed by Viserys in explaining why he was turning down a 12 year old bride? Maybe, you know, in the King’s Council when he made his decision on a new wife? Just an idea.
Significantly, Viserys tells Rhaenyra, “I swear to you on your mother’s memory, you will not be supplanted.”
So there we have it, at least for now, Rhaenyra remains in line for the queendom, but danger looms.
More ominously, do we care very much who sits on the Iron Throne after three episodes?
That better change, and quick.