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.

House of the Dragon Episode Two, The Rogue Prince Review: Medieval Matchmaking.

House of the Dragon‘s first episode was a great start for the series, bringing many fans who were burned by Game of Thrones‘ final season back into the fold.
The second episode “The Rogue Prince” is just as fantastic, in my opinion.
Directed by Greg Yaitanes and written by Ryan Condal, the episode begins in gory fashion, showing off the victims of Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith), the Crab Feeder, on one of the beaches of the Stepstones.
The Crab Feeder’s method of murder is particularly brutal, as he stakes his enemy’s to posts and then leaves them for the crabs to eat alive.
His actions naturally anger Corlys Velaryon, since a ship with his banner has been hit and his men slaughtered, however, King Viserys and Otto Hightower seem reluctant to do anything about it.
Viserys because he wishes to avoid conflict and Otto because, well, House Velaryon is the richest house in Westeros and I suppose them falling in stature could put the Hightowers higher up in the pecking order.
Rhanerya, however, is team attack the Stepstones, along with Corlys.
Unfortunately, she is not taken seriously, even though Viserys named her his heir last episode, and she is instead religated to choosing a new member of the Kingsguard, since one of their number recently died.
Rhanerya has a lot of noble knights to choose from but instead chooses Ser Criston Cole, the only knight among the lot with any experience in combat.
Otto advises against this, wanting someone from a noble house in the Kingsguard but Rhanerya argues her case well.
After all, someone whose job is to protect the king should be selected on their fighting skills, not for political reasons because that is just asking for the king to get assassinated.
Following this scene, we then get one between Viserys and Alicent, showing that her father is still directing her to try and seduce the king for power.
However, Alicent is still certainly not comfortable with this, as shown by her numerous expressions across the episode.
Along with this, she proves herself to be a kind and caring person by using her influence with both Viserys and Rhanerya to try and bring the two to talk again after Aemma’s death.
The scene between Alicent and Rhanerya is also particularly great, with Milly Alcock giving a great performance as the Realm’s Delight, which she does across the entire episode really.
As for Viserys, even though it has only been six months since his wife died, various lords are insisting he get remarried, and I don’t just mean Otto subtly shoving Alicent his way.
Corlys and Rhaenys take a more direct approach with Viserys, bringing up all the signs of weakness his rule over Westeros has, before suggesting he marry their daughter Laena (Nova Foueillis-Mose) to show strength in the realm.
Unfortunately for Corlys and Rhaenys’ attempt at medieval matchmaking, Viserys brings up this marriage proposal to Otto.
Rhys Ifans did a fantastic job portraying Otto’s inner panic here, as he realizes the Velaryons may get one over on him, first bringing up Laena’s youth as an excuse before going in more subtly, comparing the loss of Visery’s wife to his own.
This may have planted the idea of marrying out of affection more firmly in Visery’s mind.
Frankly, I’m just surprised Viserys could continue the conversation normally while those maggots were eaten the rotten flesh around the finger he cut on the Iron Throne.
The wonders of medieval medicine.
Speaking of medieval times though, the next scene showcases one of the most uncomfortable things about those times, this being underage arranged marriages.
When Otto said Laena was young it may have been an excuse but that does not change the fact that she is only twelve years old, making the whole planned speech from her about joining their houses and not having to bed Viserys until she turns fourteen deepy disturbing.
Thankfully, Viserys seems just as creeped out about the idea of marrying a child as the audience is.
He is far happier to discuss anything else with Laena, other than the prospect of the marriage, like Vhagar, the oldest and largest living dragon.
Vhagar was a dragon who lived during Aegon’s Conquest and was ridden by Visenya Targaryen but her location, something Laena is interested in, is unknown.
As Laena and Viserys walk togethor, Rhanerya and Rhaenys are watching them and have a discussion, which is one of best dialogue exchanges in the entire episode.
Watching these two throw shade at each other was great.
Rhaenys was harsh but, in the end, she said many things that Rhanerya needed to hear.
If she wants to sit the Iron Throne, it will be an uphill battle.
As Rhaenys says, “men would sooner put the realm to the torch, than let a women assend the Iron Throne.”
But, while the shade throwing between Rhanerya and Rhaenys was great, there is one character who can throw shade better: Daemon.
He makes his return in Episode Two in a big way, stealing a dragon egg off screen to give to Mysaria, who is pregnant and he intends to marry.
Daemon did not just steal any dragon egg, however, but the one Rhanerya chose for her brother Baelon, the child Daemon titled “the heir for a day.”
As I said, major shade thrower Daemon is.
Yet, this reveal does lead to the first moment Rhanerya commands a small council meeting, as she demands to know which dragon egg Daemon stole, the answer of which causes Viserys to act, wanting to bring Daemon to justice, before Otto offers to go instead.
Leading a group, including Criston Cole, Otto journeys to Dragonstone, where he confronts Daemon on a foggy bridge.
This confrontation is excellent, even though no blood is shed.
The banter of the episode continues to be great, as Daemon and Criston share barbs, Otto demands Daemon return the dragon egg and send Mysaria away, and Daemon remains entirely flippant about the situation.
Eventually, swords are drawn but this was a bad call on Otto’s part because it alerts Daemon’s dragon Caraxes, the CGI for which is fantastic.
Lucky for Otto and the rest, Rhanerya then arrives to prove her worth as the heir by convincing Daemon to hand over the egg.
Their discussion in High Valyrian is another great moment and its interesting to note how respectful Daemon suddenly becomes when talking with his family compared to everyone else.
Even more interesting is how Rhanerya quickly deduces that Daemon’s claims about Mysaria being pregnant and marrying her were lies just to get Viserys to come see him.
Essentially, what we are seeing here is the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum to get their big brother’s attention.
In any other show, this would be incredibly obnoxious but the writing for Daemon is so great it makes him all the more compelling.
Daemon hands the egg over to Rhanerya, in the end, and she and the others depart, leaving Daemon with Mysaria, who is none too pleased about Daemon’s lies, since they put her in danger.
And, it is here that I have to talk about Sonoya Mizuno’s accent.
I’m sorry but it is flat out terrible.
I did not talk about it in my review for the first episode because I wanted to see if it would get better but her accent was just as bad here and I have no idea what she’s trying to go for.
Hopefully, her accent gets softened or she ditches it entirely in future episodes because otherwise it is going to be incredibly distracting.
Upon returning to King’s Landing, Rhanerya receieves an initially frosty reception from Viserys, who is understandably angered that she would risk her life like that.
However, the conversation eventually evolves into a moving moment, when the two finally reconnect for the first time since Aemma’s death, promising not to become estranged, even if Viserys remarries.
Well, maybe Viserys should have been more clear with Rhanerya about who he was going to marry.
Honestly, did he really think Rhanerya would take it well when he announced that he was going to marry her best friend?
Maybe he was too worried about Corlys’ reaction to notice, since the guy is extremely angered that his daughter was passed over, the second time his family has been passed over for the Iron Throne, in fact.
No matter what Viserys thought Rhanerya’s reaction might be, however, the end result is almost certainly the destruction of her friendship with Alicent.
I would not be surprised if Rhanerya now thinks every single interaction she had with Alicent was all a ploy for her so-called friend to get into her father’s pants.
As the audience, we know this is not true, but it would be understandable for Rhanerya to come to this conclusion.
On another note, Otto’s smug face during this whole scene is particuarly funny.
The man is an expert at manipulating Viserys, at this point, while Corlys was far too direct.
Having been denied by one Targaryen, Corlys turns to another, extending an invitation for an alliance with Daemon.
The final scene with the two of them is also excellent, with the slow reveal that it is Daemon Corlys is talking to.
Corlys suggests that Daemon help him conquer the Stepstones, insulting Viserys as he does so.
Daemon’s response to this is epic.
“I will speak of my brother as I wish… you will not.”
Again, Daemon’s attitude toward his family is very compelling.
He has no qualms speaking ill of them if he thinks they have screwed up buts gods help you if he hears you doing it.
Despite this, Corlys apparently still manages to persuade Daemon to help him, as the final intercutting shots tease a fight between Daemon and the Crab Feeder.
On a final note, I would like to talk about the new opening.
I think it is pretty decent with nice visuals.
The theme itself is great, of course, what with it being the one from Game of Thrones. 
My biggest criticism is that the symbols shown are a bit vague and flash across the screen so fast, meaning that many viewers may not even know what the symbols mean.
I was one of the these people until I looked up exactly what was happening in the opening afterwards.
Still, a good opening, I think it just should have moved a bit slower with the visuals and been a bit more clear about what it was displaying.
“The Rogue Prince” is another great episode of House of the Dragon with various compelling character interactions that set up the future of the story.
Speaking of…

Book Spoilers:
I said in the spoiler free section of the review that Rhanerya is probably questioning her entire friendship with Alicent.
Since we have now seen the beginning of Rhanerya’s grudge against Alicent, I wonder what exactly will be the start of Alicent’s against Rhanerya?
Despite seducing Viserys under Otto’s command, Alicent clearly still cares about Rhanerya, proven by the attempt to help her reconcile with her father, so I wonder what will drive her to that point?
Another thing I am interested to see is Laena taming Vhagar.
Or rather, I am hoping to see it.
Unlike Alicent growing to hate Rhanerya, Vhagar becoming Laena’s dragon might not be something we see.
We might just see that she has tamed her off screen later on.
Still, Laena seemed interested in finding Vhagar during her talk with Viserys, so I hope we get to see this happen.
Finally, I am excited to see the war in the Stepstones next episode with the innevitable fight between Daemon and Crab Feeder.
It will be the first big battle of House of the Dragon and it will be interesting to see how the show handles it.