Who’s ready for another time warp? House of the Dragon has long been inching the clock forward between episodes, showing the birth of Queen Alicent‘s children and King Viserys’s declining health. But Episode Six marks a major turning point for the series. It has now been 10 years since we last saw everyone. Princess Rhaenyra (now played by Emma D’Arcy) is pregnant. Her cousin-husband, Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan), is also older, as is Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). They all have kids now?! Jeez. Welcome to Full House of the Dragon, folks.
Let’s get right to it. Immediately after giving birth, Rhaenyra is ordered to appear before the Queen. Oh boy, another horrific childbirth scene. Alicent, once Rhaenyra’s best friend, demands to see the baby. Laenor helps her through the halls and up a massive flight of stairs in full view of King’s Landing. The princess is in pain, leaving a trail of blood as she approaches the Queen’s chambers. “She can come to us, this is absurd,” Laenor pleads, but Rhaenyra perseveres up the steps. If Alicent learning that Rhaenyra lied to her in Episode Five was anything of a preview of the conflict to come, the friendship between them now seems completely over. To make matters even worse, Rhaenyra passes Ser Criston Cole before entering. He’s now guarding Queen Alicent’s door—a total shift from the scorned lover who almost took his own life. The Queen knows that the knight slept with the princess, and she’ll surely keep that dirty secret in her back pocket until the time is right.
We’re soon met with an ever greater shock: King Viserys is alive?! Not only did he survive his collapse at Rhaenyra’s wedding, but he’s still kicking after the time jump. The possibilities of the man dying in an even sillier way are back on the table. He does, however, look absolutely awful. Oh, and his left arm is completely gone. Leanor and Rhaenyra name the boy Joffrey, after the prince’s paramour whom Ser Criston murdered in the last episode. Sure, it’s also the name of a future, evil little boy king from Thrones, but what’s in a name, really? The king, oblivious as always, comments that the baby has his father’s nose. It’s news to no one else in the room that Laenor certainly did not father this child. “Do keep trying, Ser Laenor,” the Queen tells him. “Sooner or later you may get one who looks like you.” The shade!
In the next scene, we find out that not only is this Rhaenyra’s third child (!) but that the father is secretly Ser Harwin Strong, the the gold-cloaked Commander of the City Watch, nicknamed “Breakbones.” He’s made a couple of tiny appearances in the series, catching the princess when she was galavanting with Daemon in the streets of King’s Landing and later saving her from the wedding feast brawl. The two share a moment together with the newborn, while Laenor sends the older two sons off to the dragon pit. The Dragon Pit? As dark as the lighting is there, I’m absolutely delighted to see a baby dragon.
Alicent’s son, Aegon Targaryen, leads the children to pick on Aemond (Alicent’s second son), since he has yet to train a dragon for himself. Meanwhile, Helaena Targaryen (Alicent and Viserys’s daughter), takes a liking to bug collecting. Aegon spends his time masturbating out his window, completely nude. Casual! His mother walks in on him, but she seems completely unfazed. She reprimands him for picking on his brother, reminding him what father once told her before leaving King’s Landing: when Rhaenyra comes into power, there’s a chance that she could kill any challenger to her claim. Number one on that list? Her eldest stepbrother, Aegon. “You’re the king’s first-born son,” Alicent tells him. “One day, you will be our king.”
Later on, the Queen chides King Viserys for letting his daughter’s affair with Ser Harwin Strong produce not just one child, but three. Viserys recounts some story about a horse he had who was born with a different hair color than its mother. The man’s brain is gone. Soon, he’ll be talking about his days at the local pool with a man named Corn Pop. “The consequences of an allegation like the one you toy at would be dire,” he eventually tells her. “Do not speak of this again.” Of course, she immediately speaks of this again—to Ser Criston Cole, of all people! “Princess Rhaenyra is brazen and relentless,” Ser Criston replies. “A spider who stings and sucks her prey dry. A spoiled c**t.” Eek! Villain arc, engaged. Queen Alicent stops him and he apologizes. “I’m sorry, that was beneath me, Your Grace,” he says.
Next up on Ser Criston’s to-do list is training the boys in sword-fighting. Ser Harwin arrives during his lesson and remarks that the knight is giving more attention to Alicent’s sons than Rhaenyra’s. He pits Aegon against Rhaenyra’s firstborn son, Jacaerys, and the older Aegon easily overpowers him. Multiple times. “Is this what you teach, Cole?” Harwin asks. “Cruelty to a weaker opponent?” Ser Criston remarks that most knights would only have such interest in a pupil as young as Jacaerys if they were their son. And… Ser Harwin decks him in the jaw twice, before bashing his face into the ground—much like Cole did to Laenor’s paramour at the wedding. Ser Harwin is pulled away from Ser Criston before he can do any permanent damage. The incident, by the way, is an entire courtyard spectacle, happening in full view of his father, Hand of the King Lionel Strong, and King Viserys.
As punishment for his shameful actions, Ser Harwin is to be sent back to Harrenhal, accompanied by his father. Lionel believes that he will be safer there, given his relationship with Rhaenyra. The princess’s problems are far from over, however, as Laenor wants to sail off to the Narrow Sea and fight pirates. “You will not abandon your family,” she warns him. Laenor believes that he has “played his part” as Rhaenyra’s husband, feeling trapped in King’s Landing. She commands him to stay. At a council meeting, Rhaenyra seeks to broker further peace by offering a marriage between her son, Jacaerys, and Alicent’s daughter, Halaena. For those doing the math at home, Rhaenyra just offered to have her son marry her step-sister. Even more confusing incest for House Targaryen! Viserys loves the idea of his grandson marrying his second daughter, but the Queen is unamused. Alicent embarrasses her by pointing out that she is lactating through her dress.
The weaselly Larys Strong is in the Queen’s chambers, eating pie, when she returns. She believes that his father should resign as Hand of the King, because he can no longer give unbiased counsel. If her father, Otto Hightower, was Hand again, he would be just as impartial, but “partial to me,” she says. Later, Larys tortures criminals in the dungeons and cuts their tongues off, so that they cannot repeat what he is about to say to them—that he’s one of the king’s confessors. Larys offers them mercy from the death penalty in exchange for one horrifying deed. In the dead of night, they travel North to Harrenhal and burn the castle to the ground. The fire presumably kills both Lionel Strong and Ser Harwin, making Larys the last living member of House Strong. I did *not* see this coming so soon. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment also occurs, where the criminals are shown wearing broaches with the sigil of House Beesbury on it. Is Larys trying to kill two birds with one stone by pinning the crime on Lord Beesbury, the king’s Master of Coin? What could the old man have possibly done to deserve such a framing? Queen Alicent is horrified to learn what Larys did the following morning, telling him that she “did not wish for this.” Larys assures her that he will be rewarded, “when the time is right.”
In Pentos, we check in on Prince Daemon, who is flying around the city on his red dragon, Caraxes. He’s joined by Laena Velaryon on the back of Vhagar, an even larger white dragon. Wow: after the past few dragon-deprived weeks, House has finally delivered on the Dragon. Daemon has allegedly taken Laena as his new wife, and they now have two twin daughters. He’s contemplating a quiet life of peace in the East. Fat chance. Laena is pregnant with their third child, but complications arise during pregnancy. Fearing the worst, she walks out into the castle grounds and begs for Vhagar to burn her alive as Daemon watches. Fire & Blood indeed. In the end, Rhaenyra moves her family to the castle at Dragonstone, which punctuates the full season’s worth of plot that occurred in this episode alone—and the story is still just heating up. (Literally.)
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; his work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.
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