'House of the Dragon' Episode 3 Recap: Daemon Targaryen's Big, Bloody Day
Well, that was a wild episode of television. Let's talk about it...
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House of the Dragon is moving at a rapid clip. In the premiere episode we saw the traumatic death of Queen Aemma and the naming of Rhaenyra Targaryen as heir to the throne. The second episode focused on King Viserys Targaryen's duty to remarry. Episode 3 takes place years later, and the theme of the show is once again marriage, but this time it's Rhaenyra in the matrimonial hot seat.
Much of House of the Dragon's first episode was spent introducing us to the cast of new characters, and episode 2 saw tempers and tensions escalate. We also got a hint of the intrigue that made Game of Thrones famous -- something that's expanded on this week. Court politics can be tiring, especially if you're a king. Heavy is the head that wears the crown and all that.
Below is a full recap of House of the Dragon episode 3, The Second of His Name. But beware: Spoilers are ahead.
Three years later
Fire and Blood, the book on which House of the Dragon is based, took place over 300 years. To cover much of that ground, the show needs to get a move on: Episode 3 is set three years after the events of episode 2. You'll recall in that episode King Viserys Targaryen announced to the Small Council his intention to marry Alicent Hightower. Now King Viserys and Queen Hightower have a son, Aegon, and as episode 3 opens we see scenes from Aegon's second birthday celebrations.
Hand of the King Otto Hightower is chatting with his brother, whose name we don't get. (He's the Lord of Hightower, I think.) It's about time, Brother Hightower says, that the king names Aegon the new heir. Otto rebuffs him, saying King Viserys prefers Rhaenyra and doesn't see Aegon as his successor. Brother Hightower tells him sternly: "Then it lies with you to make him see it, Lord Hand."
King Viserys, clearly just hanging out for a good time, is then accosted by a servant, who informs him of happenings in the Stepstones, where Daemon Targaryen and Lord Corlys Valeryon are waging war against The Triarchy. Episode 2 ended with Daemon and Corlys striking up a partnership to deal with the Triarchy and its apparent leader, the Crabfeeder. This episode's first scene shows Daemon attacking the Crabfeeder's army on dragonback, but being repelled by archers shooting flaming arrows.
Viserys is informed of this development and is told that the Crabfeeder's forces have retreated to Stepstone caves, neutralizing the dragon advantage. Viserys doesn't want to hear it: "It's been three years, it can wait another three days."
The servant keeps badgering Viserys with war developments, but all the king cares about is finding Rhaenyra, who's conspicuously absent from the celebrations. Queen Alicent Hightower finds Rhaenyra reading under the Godswood tree. The king and friends are about to go on a hunt to mark Aegon's birthday, and Queen Alicent requests Rhaenyra's presence. These two were close friends in the first two episodes, but Hightower's marriage to Rhaenyra's father has turned their warm friendship cold. Rhaenyra basically tells the queen to leave her alone, but begrudgingly comes along after Queen Alicent says the King has ordered Rhaenyra to join them.
"Well isn't this splendid?" King Viserys pronounces as he, Alicent and Rhaenyra are seen traveling via carriage to the hunt. "The whole of our family off to celebration and adventure in the king's wood." The glances exchanged between the three of them betray the fact that it is not, in fact, splendid.
Rhaenyra asked Alicent if she should be out on the hunt given her condition -- she's pregnant with King Viserys' second child. The king invites Rhaenyra to join in the hunt with him, but not before chiding: "You'll be with your own child soon, and make me a proud grandsire." A harbinger of things to come.
A royal hunt is an extravagant thing, with a town's-worth of comforts transported to the hunt headquarters. A food hall is built up within a huge tent, and Rhaenyra finds herself invited to chitchat with the ladies of the court. There, Larys Strong introduces himself -- he's the son of Lyonel Strong, the Master of Laws who appeared in the previous episode.
In between sips of tea and bites of cake, the ladies ask Rhaenyra for insight on the war in the Stepstones -- she must be in the know, one says, because it's her uncle who started the war. Rhaenyra shoots back that she hasn't spoken to her uncle in years. They try to throw shade on Rhaenyra, but Queen Alicent sticks up for her, saying Daemon made his own mistakes and that Rhaenyra is a more appropriate heir.
"He's made a mess and the king must put an end to it," says Lady Redwyne of Highgarden. "Send fleets and men and clear out the triarchy for good."
"But the crown is not at war," replies an alarmed Rhaenyra.
"The crown is at war, princess. Though your father refuses to admit it, we've been dragged into it by your uncle and the Sea Snake."
"And how have you served the realm of late, Lady Redwyne? By eating cake?"
Hopefully some maesters were brought along to the hunt -- because someone needs to treat that sick burn.
Rhaenyra walks outside to get a breather, and there she stumbles upon Jason Lannister. He introduces himself and offers her wine -- then brags about how good the wine of Lannisport is, and how much better Casterly Rock is for hunting than King's Landing. The only thing Lannisport doesn't have, he says, is a dragon pit, though he'd be happy to build one.
"I'd do anything for my queen," he says while gazing into Rhaenyra's eyes. "Or lady wife."
Rhaenyra immediately understands that her father has surreptitiously matched her with the Lannisters, and she's super not happy about it. She confronts King Viserys in the food hall, asking if all she is to him is a prize to offer the great houses.
"Since you came of age, I've been slowly drowning in a lake of parchment flung from every corner of the realm," Viserys says, getting increasingly frustrated. "Marriage proposals all, and I have tried often to discuss it with you and you refuse it at every turn."
At this point the conversation turns into a shouting match, one that the lords and ladies turn their heads to watch. Rhaenyra says she doesn't want to get married, Viserys yells that he's not above tradition and neither is she. Their combustion is interrupted by Otto Hightower, who informs the king that a white hart stag has been spotted in the woods -- a fine portent of Aegon's good fortune.
The dragon, the stag and the lion
Upset by the showdown with her dad, Rhaenyra rides off into the wilderness but is followed by Ser Criston Cole, the knight who she chose as Kingsguard in the last episode.
Meanwhile, the king and his men are on the hunt for the white hart stag. They surmise the stag is about two hours east.
"Before the dragons roared over Westeros, white hart was the symbol of royalty in these lands," the Targaryen hunting assistant guy tells King Viserys, referencing House Baratheon.
"And on this day of all days," Otto Hightower chimes in, "I've never been one for signs and portents, your grace, but if the gods did wish to show their favor..."
The gang are satisfied, comforted by the knowledge that the Baratheons will never again trouble House Targaryen.
Back inside the hunting tent, Jason Lannister presents King Viserys with a spear he had forged in honor of baby Aegon. "I would be honored to take the Princess Rhaenyra to wife, your grace. What I offer you, the crown and your daughter, is strength." "Do you think that House Targaryen wants for strength?" Lannister says Rhaenyra will be compensated fairly for her "loss of station" should she marry into the Lannister family -- since everyone knows the king will any day now be naming Aegon the new heir.
"Have your bannerman questioned my choice of heir? It is your sworn duty to report rebellion stirring in my kingdom," King Viserys spits at Lannister. "I did not decide the name Rhaenyra my heir on a whim. All the lords of my kingdom would do well to remember that."
The day isn't going well for Jason Lannister.
A clearly stressed King Viserys starts chugging wine. Hightower sneaks up and asks what Viserys thinks about Lannister's proposal, and says Rheanyra will follow the king's commands. King Viserys says he doesn't want to command his daughter, he just wants her to be happy. Aww.
"There is another choice beyond Casterly Rock," Hightower says. "One closer to home."
He encourages the king to betroth Rhaenyra to Prince Aegon, the 2-year-old child currently playing with a dragon toy. Hightower says wedding them would put an end to rumblings that House Targaryen is fractured.
"I came here to hunt," King Viserys says," not to be suffocated by all this fucking politicking."
The politicking is inescapable, however, as hours later a much drunker Viserys is approached by Lord Strong, his Master of Laws. Strong suggests King Viserys wed Rhaenyra to Laenor Velaryron, the son of Lord Corlys. Viserys walks off.
The power of prophecy
The next scene we see is Rhaenyra sitting with Ser Criston by a campfire. She wonders if the realm will ever accept a female monarch, but they're interrupted by a wild boar. Rhaenyra stabs it to death -- it's gnarly.
At the same time, King Viserys is standing -- more like swaying, thanks to the wine -- by a much larger fire. He's joined by Queen Alicent. He says he named Rhaenyra heir to protect the realm from Daemon, but that perhaps that was a mistake. He tells the queen about a dream he had after Rhaenyra was born, in which he saw a son of his wear the crown.
"I so wanted it to be true," he says. "I put all my thought and will into it. My obsession killed Rhaenyra's mother. I thought Rhaenyra was the way out of my abyss of grief and regret, that naming her heir would begin to set things right. I never imagined I would remarry, that I would have a son."
Jump ahead to the next day. King Viserys is hungover. His hunters have trapped the white stag -- which turns out to not be white at all -- holding it in place with ropes. Jason Lannister presents the gold spear to King Viserys, and all the men implore him to give it the killing blow. It's a distressing scene. Viserys stabs the stag once, but he only wounds it. It squeals in horror, but he's too hungover or sick or old to immediately act. After encouragement from an aid, he stabs the stag again, dealing a fatal blow. King Viserys gets a polite golf clap for his efforts.
Back in King's Landing, after the hunt, Otto Hightower goes to see his daughter, Queen Alicent. He's firmly of the mind that Aegon, his grandson, should be ruler of the seven kingdoms, not Rhaenyra.
"You mustn't ignore the certain truth that if Rhaenyra were to step over Aegon to ascend the throne, the realm would tear itself apart," he said. Queen Alicent objects, and says Rhaenyra will make a good queen, but Otto says the laws of gods and man would be broken if Aegon wasn't made heir.
"Aegon will be king. You must guide Viserys towards reason. He'll never find it on his own."
Queen Alicent goes to see the king, but the conversation quickly turns away from Rhaenyra and toward Daemon's war. Daemon and Lord Corlys are losing to the Triarchy's forces, but Viserys doesn't want to send help to the "malcontents." Queen Alicent, good soul that she is, convinces Viserys to assist his brother.
The true heir
Next we see King Viserys, he's in the Small Council chambers giving orders to send men to assist Daemon. Rhaenyra joins her dad for the chat they've needed to have all episode.
Rhaenyra starts by saying Viserys is trying to marry her off to Casterly Rock, and accuses the king of trying to replace her with Prince Aegon.
"The boy you've always wanted," she says. "You have no further use for me. You might as well peddle me for what you can. A mountain stronghold or a fleet of ships."
Viserys says she's mistaken him, that he was just trying to help. He exclaims that she's been alone and angry for the past three years, and that a family might help. Rhaenyra points out that if the king was only interested in serving the realm, he would have married Lady Laena, daughter of Lord Corlys, rather than Alicent Hightower. Viserys concedes the point. He says Rhaenyra needs to get married, but she can make the choice of who it's to.
Rhaenyra shoots him an appreciative look and begins to walk away.
"Rhaenyra," King Viserys calls out, stopping her in her tracks. "I did waver at one time. But I swear to you now, on your mother's memory, you will not be supplanted."
Daemon goes buck wild
Things are getting mutinous in the Stepstones, as Lord Corlys and Daemon's combined forces have become flustered. The Crabfeeder and his men are hiding out in Stepstone caves, so dragon's don't help much. There are mutterings from Corlys' soldiers that Daemon isn't worth fighting for. Just as all eyes turn to Daemon, King Viserys' men approach, informing the gang that the royal forces will be joining soon to help out.
Daemon, a very level-headed guy, beats the messenger to death with a nearby steel helmet.
We next see Daemon, alone, rowing his way over to the island in which the Crabfeeder's army is hiding. Walking through a battlefield and standing atop a knoll, he waves a white flag. The grotesque Crabfeeder creeps out of his cave, and he sends a group of men over to disarm Daemon.
A prostrate Daemon offers his sword to the enemy, but then pulls a knife out of his picket and stabs the Crabfeeder's goon right in the heart. Daemon gets his sword back and rips through the rest of the men.
It's impossible to do the next seven minutes justice with words. In short, Daemon was just luring the Crabfeeder and his army out. He then goes beast mode and becomes something approximating a one-man army. After slaying many a foe, he's struck by two arrows. Just as the Crabfeeder's men circle him, however, Lord Corlys' soldiers save the day-mon. Then a dragon comes out of nowhere and burns everything.
This all ruled a lot.
The Crabfeeder tries to retreat, but he's caught by Daemon. In battle we thankfully don't see, Daemon slices the Crabfeeder in half. What we do see is Daemon dragging the top quarter of the Crabfeeder into the battlefield, signaling that the war is won -- and that the episode is over.