I was quite excited for Episode Six of House of the Dragon “The Princess and the Queen” because it would give us our first look at the new actresses for Rhanerya and Alicent, Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke.
After watching the episode, I can definitley say that the two live up to Milly Alcock and Emily Carey’s performances, and I am looking forward to seeing more of them.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik, “The Princess and the Queen” is the best directed episode of the series so far, in my opinion, beginning with some terrific long takes as a now older Rhanerya gives birth to her third son, Joffrey, named after Laenor’s lover.
D’Arcy does a great job showing Rhanerya’s pain during the birth and her instant love for her child, yet this joy is halted when a midwife tells Rhanerya that Alicent wishes to see the child immediately.
Rather than allow them to take her child, Rhanerya decides to stand up to Alicent by taking the baby to her, instead of resting.
An older Laenor arrives and is disgusted by Alicent’s actions, helping Rhanerya to see her, yet things have obviously grown cold between them, recently.
They meet with Alicent and it is then that the viewers receive what may be the biggest shock of the episode… which is Viserys still being alive.
Kidding aside, it is funny how so many viewers were surprised that Viserys still lived.
The King looks even worse than he did ten years ago and he is now missing an arm, although he is overjoyed to have a new grandson.
What is less joyous is Alicent immediately picking up on the fact that the child is clearly not Laenor’s because he has none of the Velaryon features, as she cruely tells Laenor, “Soon or late, you may get one that looks like you.”
The actual father of the child is Harwin Strong, who Rhanerya and Laenor leave to see, along with Rhanerya’s two other children with Harwin, Jacareys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler), leaving a trail of blood as she does so, highlighting Alicent’s cruelty.
As for Rhanerya and Harwin, all we really get of the couple is a few brief looks between the two and loving exchanges.
I wish we could have got more but Harwin dies at the end of the episode.
In all honesty, I kind of like the subtle way their relationship is handled.
It is really not all that important to the overall story, except for Rhanerya’s children being bastards, so it makes sense for it not really being featured much in the show much.
Despite the short amount of time, I still think we got enough to make it work.
After the brief moment between them, the scene cuts to Jacaerys and Lucerys going to the Dragon Pit with Aegon (Ty Tennant) and Alicent’s other son Aemond (Leo Ashton) to train Jacaerys dragon, Vermax.
Jacaerys does well in training Vermax but then he, Lucerys and Aegon make fun of Aemond for not having a dragon, gifting him a pig to use they dub “the Pink Dread.”
This prompts Aemond to enter the Dragon Pit to try and claim a dragon of his own, only to be met with the dragon Dreamfyre, who is actually the mother of Daenerys’ dragons.
Her flames drive the boy away.
We then meet Alicent’s only daughter Helena (Evie Allen) who seems to be a bit of a bug collector.
On that note, I would like to praise the portrayal of Alicent’s children in this episode.
We did not get much of a sense of their personalities during their earlier years in Fire and Blood, especially with Helena, and I like what this episode did with them.
Upon learning what Jacaerys and Lucerys did to Aemond, Alicent goes to Viserys about it, using this as an excuse to bring up the boys’ obvious parentage.
Viserys is still in denial, however, bringing up a story about how a silver stallion he once had gave birth to a chesnut foul.
His denial is understandable since if the truth came out it would end badly for his daughter and grandchildren.
Alicent is frustrated by this, venting to Criston Cole about it, who goes on his own rant about Rhanerya, calling her “a spider who skins and sucks her prey dry” and a “spoiled c***.”
Criston’s feelings for Rhanerya have clearly grown into outright hatred, yet even Alicent thinks his statements go too far, saying that she hopes honour and decency will prevail.
Therefore, the shot perfectly cuts to Aegon masterbating in the window looking over King’s Landing, Homelander style, showing exactly how hypocritical Alicent’s claims of “honour and decency” are, considering how she seeks to make the perverted Aegon king.
Alicent arrives and admonishes him for making fun of Aemond, strangely ignoring the fact that she just caught her son masterbating in a dangerous position.
Her attempts to raise Aegon to rule have clearly failed, as he would rather not challenge Rhanerya, causing Alicent to grab him and shout that he is the challenge.
Meanwhile, we finally see what Daemon has been up to these past ten years.
He is revealed to have married Laena (Nanna Blondell) and had two daughters with her, Bela (Shani Smethurst) and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning), and the four of them are visiting Pentos.
Laena has also claimed the largest and oldest of the dragons, Vhagar.
I and many other book readers had been anticipating seeing her and she did not disappoint, being absolutley massive and covered in scars from various battles.
In Pentos, the prince offers them a home, so their prescence can ward off the recently reemerged triarchy.
Daemon seems to consider this idea, appearing much more laid back to Westerosi politics than he was ten years ago.
Laena is reluctant, however, wanting to eventually die a dragon rider’s death.
Back in King’s Landing, we see Criston orchestrate a confrontation between himself and Harwin to further spread the rumors of him being the father to Rhanerya’s sons.
He does this during a training session, deliberately putting the boys in a fighting situation in which Harwin has to step in, prompting him to say Harwin treats the boys like his sons.
Just as Criston expected, this leads to Harwin attacking him, spreading the rumors and ultimately resulting in his banishment from King’s Landing.
Unfortunately, this has the unintended side effect of having Criston getting away with murdering Joffrey last episode make even less sense.
Hearing of the assault, Rhanerya goes to see Harwin, only to overhear an argument between him and Lyonel, stoking her fears of what may happen to her and Harwin’s sons if the rumors are confirmed as fact.
Laenor certainly does not help matters, as he arrives in her room with his latest lover, Qarl Correy (Arty Froushan).
The two argue, with Laenor wanting to go out and fight the triarchy again, ending with Rhanerya ordering him to stay.
Rhanerya’s desperation is also seen when she offers a marriage between Jacaerys and Helaena to Alicent at the next Small Council meeting.
Although desperate, this is quite the smart call from Rhanerya, and Alicent too would have been wise to accept it.
Marrying the two would extend protection to Helaena and Alicent’s other children, which is a priority for Alicent.
It would also mean Helaena becomes queen if Alicent’s plan to make Aegon king fall through.
Unfortunately, Alicent is too prideful to accept this deal, refusing it, and Viserys is too complacent to argue.
Before the two can talk further, Lyonel arrives to resign as Hand of the King because of Harwin’s actions but Viserys will not allow it unless Lyonel says why.
Lyonel is reluctant, since this would mean admitting that Harwin fathered Rhanerya’s children, spelling disaster for his house.
Unable to resign, Lyonel instead asks to take Harwin back to Harrenhal, which Viserys concedes.
Alicent is angered by this, meeting with Larys to rant to him, even admitting her own bias, wanting Otto back because “he would be partial to me.”
Larys interprets this as permission to recruit death row prisoners, remove their tounges to keep them from talking, and then send them to kill his father and brother.
The fire at Harrenhal was another mystery in the book that I think the show answered well, with Larys ordering it and Alicent accidentally implicating herself.
One change from the book is Laena’s fate.
Rather than die of a fever after a stillborn birth, she instead suffers a similar fate to Aemma, as the baby will not emerge.
Faced with the choice of dying by C-Section or dying like a dragon rider, Laena chooses the latter, going to Vhagar and shouting, “Dracarys!”
Vhagar appears reluctant but, in the end, honours her rider’s wish, burning Laena to death, while Daemon looks on in horror.
Back at King’s Landing, Rhanerya decides to go to Dragonstone as the heir, bringing her children, Laenor and Qarl.
Upon their arrival, word of Harwin and Lyonel’s deaths reach King’s Landing, which Alicent is horrified about.
She clearly did not wish for this, as she says.
The question is if Larys really did interpret her words to mean that she did, or if he is just saying he saw it that way to blackmail her.
My bet is on the second possibility.
Larys wants his reward for killing his family eventually, after all, and Otto’s return must surely bring a big one.
It is on this disturbing note that the episode comes to an end.
“The Princess and the Queen” is another great episode of House of the Dragon.
My only criticisms are that Harwin being punished while Criston is not is weird, and that some scenes, like Laena’s death, feel a little rushed.
Although, this is understandable, given that the writers have to hurry to reach the events they want to by the end of the season.
I am quite excited for the next episode, “Driftmark”, which is sure to be a big one.
Book Spoiler Section:
In this part of the review, I would like to discuss the theory that Helena is a dreamer.
She does seem to prophesy Aemond losing an eye, which will happen next episode, stating that, “he will have to close an eye.”
I am unsure what the other vague statements she makes could be in reference to.
Speaking of Aemond getting his eye cut out, I am extremely excited to see that whole fight between him and Rhanerya’s kids.
I have heard rumors that Bela and Rhaena’s role in the fight will be bumped up, along with another rumor of a massive book change so I am intrigued to see what that will be.
Laenor’s death and Rhanerya marrying Daemon also looks to be happening.
Alot of interesting things will occur in Episode Seven and I am eager to watch then unfold tomorrow.