House of the Dragon Episode Three, Second of His Name Review: The War in the Stepstones.

Episode Three of House of the Dragon, “Second of His Name” is probably my least favourite of the four episodes so far, however, this does not mean I consider it bad, just the weakest.
The Greg Yaitanes directed episode certainly starts off fantastic, by showing just how badly the war in the Stepstones is going for Daemon, Corlys and the Velaryon fleet, as we see the Crab Feeder and his men nailing captured soldiers to stakes on the beach, so they can be eaten by crabs.
One such soldier is particularly defiant, and his cries of how the Crab Feeder’s time is up seems almost foretold when Daemon launches a surprise attack with Caraxes.
The staked soldier calls out to Daemon for help, certain that he is about to be rescued, and I am sure this is where we all realized this guy was going to be collateral damage.
What was the bigger suprise was him getting stomped to death by Caraxes, rather than burned alive, although I suppose it is the better way to go.
This brutal end is not for the Crab Feeder yet, however, as he and his men hide in caves to avoid the dragon fire, which is how they have managed to drag this war out.
It makes a lot of sense when you think about how this guerilla warfare is one of the many tactics Dorne used to avoid being taken over by Aegon the Conqueror.
Eventually, Daemon is forced to flee when he takes an arrow to the shoulder and we get an interesting moment of Caraxes reacting to this, as if he can feel Daemon’s pain, showing how close the bond is between a rider and their dragon.
After this display of how poorly the war in the Stepstones is going, we cut back to King’s Landing, where a hunt is being planned to celebrate the second birthday of Visery’s son by Alicent, Aegon.
Three years hve passed since the end of the second episode, where Viserys declared that he would marry Alicent, and this is where one of my minor issues with the episode comes into play.
I was a bit disappointed that we did not see Rhanerya’s first interaction with Alicent after Visery’s announcement, nor her reaction to Aegon’s birth, considering now Viserys has a son who everyone wants him to replace her with.
Still, we do get a bit of a display of both in the following scenes, as Otto’s brother Hobert pressures him to convince Viserys to name Aegon the heir, and Alicent then goes to retrieve Rhanerya for the hunt.
She is sitting below the Wierwood Tree where she and Alicent were shown talking in Episode One, only now she is listening to a bard sing about Nymeria and her 10,000 ships.
Interestingly enough, this is what she and Alicent were talking about in that scene from “Heirs of the Dragon” so I am sure that Rhanerya listening to this, rather than talking about it with Alicent, is an indicator of how far their friendship has fallen.
Further proof of this is how cold Rhanerya is to Alicent now, wanting the bard to keep singing over the queen, but Alicent outranks her so she sends him away.
Alicent seems much more confident than she did in the first few episodes, now commanding people as opposed to constantly being ordered around by Otto.
She convinces Rhanerya to come along, although reluctantly, and throughout the journey Rhanerya does an honestly bad job of making allies, something she will need in the years that follow.
That said, she is not exactly wrong either, criticising Lady Redwyne for complaining about the War in the Stepstones when she just eats cake all day.
Well, well, it seems Rhanerya really does jest about cake, the little liar.
On another note, did anyone find the random pug Lady Redwyne was holding to be weirdly funny?
Out of all the animals I expected to see in a Game of Thrones show, a pug was not one of them.
Rhanerya’s next interaction is with a new key character, Jason Lannister.
What is funny about this character is that he is played by Jefferson Hall, who played Hugh of the Vale in Game of Thrones.
Not only that but Hall also plays Tyland Lannister, Jason’s meek twin brother.
Jason is much more assertive than his brother but also pompous and arrogant.
Hall honestly does a great job of making us dislike the character based on his attitude alone.
His attitude certainly does not impress Rhanerya, who immediately spurns his marriage proposal and storms off to argue with Viserys about him planning to have her married off.
It is here that neither royal proves very smart by taking their argument to a private area.
Instead, they argue loudly in full view of everyone, displaying a loud amount of weakness, something you must never do in the game of thrones.
Thankfully, Otto is there to break it up but only to further his attempt to persuade Viserys to name Aegon heir by declaring that a White Hart, a sign of royalty, has been spotted in the area, indicating Aegon’s legitimacy as heir to the various lords.
In frustration Rhanerya storms off, leaving Criston Cole to pursue her.
The two have some good banter and we see how Cole appreicates Rhanerya for granting him a place in the Kinsguard, a high position for the son of steward.
Their stay in the woods goes on into the night, while Viserys continues to entertain various lords at camp, among them Jason, who presents him with a spear and uses it as a means to offer to marry Rhanerya.
Unfortunately for him, he chooses his words very poorly, thinking that it is a fact that Viserys will name Aegon heir, replacing Rhanerya.
This causes Viserys to grow a backbone and his verbal beatdown of Jason was excellent to watch.
The next marrige proposal Viserys gets for Rhanerya comes from Otto and it is a suprising one.
Otto wants Viserys to betroth Rhanerya to Aegon.
Viserys, naturally, laughs at this idea because Aegon is a toddler.
When you think about it from Otto’s perspective, however, it is interesting to see why he makes this proposal.
He has just been pressured by his brother to convince Viserys to name Aegon heir, however, given how smart Otto is, he likely knows Viserys is reluctant to supplant Rhanerya.
So, he suggests marrying Rhanerya to Aegon, which would make Aegon the future king so, even if Rhanerya remains heir, the lords of Westeroes would still acknowledge Aegon more as the rightful ruler because of the patriarchal society they live in.
As I said, though, Viserys thankfully shoots this idea down, growing more displeased with every proposal of marriage for Rhanerya.
The final lord to make a suggestion is Lord Lyonel (Gavin Spokes), who proves himself to be the most honourable man in Visery’s small council.
Rather than propose that Rhanerya marry his son Harwin for his own family’s power, Lyonel instead proposes that Rhanerya marry Laenor Velaryon, the son of Corlys, since this will help mend the broken relationship between the crown and House Velaryon.
It is rare to see a lord outside of the Starks give advice to the king that is good for the realm rather than just for their own political ambition.
Lyonel reminded me a lot of the show version of Varys in this moment and Viserys also seems to have appreciated the good advice, patting Lyonel on the shoulder as he drunkenly stumbles out.
Meanwhile, Rhanerya and Cole are still out in the woods and have made camp and Rhanerya asks him if he thinks the realm would ever accept her as queen.
Cole answers that they will have no choice but to, which is not exactly a good answer.
Before the two can continue their discussion, they are interrupted by an attacking boar.
Their luck is far better than Robert Barethon, however, as they slay the boar, with Rhanerya getting blood all over herself.
While this is happening, Viserys is standing drunk at his own campfire, when Alicent approahces him and Viserys goes on a drunken rant about the dream he had of his son becoming king, leading to Aemma’s death and how the guilt from it resulted in him naming Rhanerya heir.
It is here where I once again have to give praise to Paddy Considine.
Every episode his performance is fantastic and he has turned the one dimensional ruler from Fire and Blood into a sympathetic, yet flawed and complicated character who is incredibly investing to watch.
This continues in the following scene, where a stag is captured in the hunt, rather than a White Hart, the animal that was supposed to signify Aegon’s right to rule.
It is difficult to tell if the look on Viserys’ face at the sight is one of disappointment or relief.
Knowing how complicated Viserys is, it’s probably a mixture of both.
In the end Viserys’ kills the stag, although he does a poor job of it, displaying yet more weakness while his men applaud.
It is Rhanerya who shows true strength, as she and Cole come across the White Hart, signifying to the audience that she is the rightful heir, yet Rhanerya chooses to let the animal go.
I have to wonder what the lords’ reactions would be if Rhanerya actually walked back into camp with a dead White Hart, though?
I am sure they would have found some mental gymnastics to explain how it was still a sign of Aegon’s right to rule but I feel it would have brought quite a few allies to her side, not that Rhanerya does not do that already when she walks into camp.
As we can see, a few people are impressed by her walking in, covered in the blood of the boar, in particular Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), who throws her an impressed grin.
After the hunt, the royals and lords return to King’s Landing, where Otto turns to plan b for convincing Viserys to name Aegon heir… have Alicent do it.
Although Otto is still manipulative with his daughter, it is interesting to see the shift in the power dynamic, as Alicent fights the idea a lot more, having gained confidence as queen.
It was bit distracting to see the orgy art in the background of this scene though.
Wonder what the High Septon would think of that?
As for Alicent, she does go to talk with Viserys but, as proof that she is still a good person, rather than attempting to convince him to name Aegon heir, what she actually does is convince Viserys to help out in the Stepstones by sending support.
Another interesting detail in this scene is Viserys’ hand, as when he removes his gloves we can see that he has lost two of his fingers from the cuts he recieved when sitting the Iron Thone, yet another sign of his weak nature as a king.
The next morning Viserys summons Rhanerya to speak of her future marriage and the two argue again, with Rhanerya making a lot of good points like that if Viserys had married for political reasons then he would have just married Laena rather than Alicent.
Viserys concedes to this but does make good points for why Rhanerya needs to marry because it will help build alliances and any children she has will strengthen her line and claim to the throne.
However, he does allow Rhanerya to make her own choice in husband, just like he chose Alicent.
He ends the conversation by revealing to Rhanerya that he did waver about keeping her as heir but swears on Aemma’s memory that he will not replace her with Aegon, temporarily bridging the gap between father and daughter once more.
The episode then cuts from this touching moment to the war in the Stepstones, where Corlys and his advisors, including his brother Vaemond (Wil Johnson) and son Laenor (Theo Nate), are planning their next move.
Laenor has an ambitious plan to draw out the Crab Feeder using Daemon as bait but Vaemond is against this, leading to Laenor dubbing him “the master of complaints” in a funny moment.
As the argument progresses, Daemon arrives, followed by messengers, who deliver Daemon a letter from Viserys, promising his brother aid.
Rather than react joyfully, Daemon reacts violently, beating the messenger, since the entire reason he entered this war was to gain recognition for himself, and Viserys sending him help now would make him weak.
This causes Daemon to go on a suicide mission, appearing to surrender to the Crab Feeder’s men, before killing them and going on a mad dash to reach his opponent, dodging multiple arrows before being struck.
Then, right as Daemon is surrounded and about to be killed, Corlyss’ forces arrive, with Laenor on his dragon Seasmoke.
United, Corlys’ forces defeat the Crabfeeder’s, while Daemon chases the prince down and cuts him in half off screen, emerging from the cave blood soaked.
The episode then ends on Daemon having proved himself with blood, just like Rhanerya did on the hunting trip earlier.
Oh, and Daemon does all of this without a single word, making it even more awesome.
As for the Crab Feeder, I was a bit disappointed not to see their fight since Episode Two’s cliffhanger hyped it up but the Crab Feeder is pretty much a footnote in the book so I suppose it makes sense.
Although, I do have quite a few criticisms of this battle, mainly Daemon’s plot armour.
Sure, it is can be argued that a group of archers would find it difficult to hit a lone man at a distance, but Daemon still seems to recover from the arrow wounds he does get very quickly.
Then there’s the fact that the Crab Feeder’s army surrounds Daemon first, rather than immediately kill him, allowing Laenor and Seasmoke to blast them with fire, which also somehow avoids hitting Daemon.
Finally, there is the fact that Corlys’ army is somehow able to completley sneak up on the Crab Feeder’s with no one noticing.
Admittedly, had this been in any other show then it would not have been as much of an issue.
But, since House of the Dragon is a Game of Thrones show, this did break my suspension of disbelief slightly and reminded me of the absurd plot armour seen in Seasons Seven and Eight of the original show.
It was these issues that made “Second of His Name” the weakest episode of the show so far, for me, although it is certainly by no means a bad episode.

Book Spoiler Section:

For Episode Three’s spoiler section, I do not have much to discuss, other than some of the minor characters introduced who will later go on to be important, like Harwin and Larys Strong (Mathew Needham).
Harwin smiling at Rhanerya when she walks into camp is a great touch, subtly hinting at their future relationship.
As for Larys, I did not catch that he deliberately sat himself amongst the women so he could gather information until someone pointed it out online.
Already, he is setting himself up to be a Varys or Littlefinger type of character and most of the show only audience do not even realise this yet.
I look forward to seeing how these two characters will be portrayed in future episodes.

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