After the endless speculation about whom King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) would marry, we begin episode three of House of the Dragon – Succession with dragons – more than two years after the show’s second episode, with Viserys’ firstborn son Aegon celebrating his second ‘name day’. Everyone gathered around the King is inexplicably amused by the mere utterance of the phrase “He has your eyes” – presumably something people said to reassure fathers in a time before DNA tests. All is well until Viserys learns that in the Stepstones, where his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) has waged war against a weirdo called the Crabfeeder (Daniel Scott-Smith), things are going from bad to worse; the men are beginning to turn against Daemon. Should His Majesty intervene? The King’s Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) – father to Viserys’ wife Alicent (Emily Carey) – thinks it would look weak.
Forever a self-confident thorn in her father’s side, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) – who is now 17 – reluctantly agrees to travel to Kingswood on a hunt with the lads, where Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall) tries and fails to woo her with honeyed wine. Furious at Viserys’ attempts to marry her off, Rhaenyra runs off, pursued by Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel). In a surprisingly creepy move, Otto proposes betrothing Rhaenyra to her own half-brother Aegon, who has only just turned two. Much more sensibly, the faithful Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) suggests a marriage to Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillan), who is a not-all-that-distant cousin of Rhaenyra’s. Perhaps at last a sensible option has been proposed…
In the woods, Criston and Rhaenyra are having a chat when an enormous boar runs headlong at them and they have to take turns stabbing it to death. In the next scene, Viserys kills a majestic stag that is being held still by his men. It is not a noble sight, and the death feels pointless. After this, Alicent convinces the hungover King that in the Stepstones the best course of action is intervention – Viserys should step in to help his brother. Perhaps realising that nothing is more important than flesh and blood, Viserys also backs down with Rhaenyra – he wants her to marry but says that the choice of husband is hers. He also reassures her that she will not be supplanted as heir to the throne, despite her fears.
In the episode’s final sequence, the soldiers in the Stepstones, frustrated at how little progress they are making, propose that someone act as bait in order to lure the men out of the comfort of their caves. Who would take on such a suicidal mission? Laenor suggests Daemon, who turns up only to be delivered the news that his brother will be stepping in to save his skin. Beating up the messenger, Daemon rows off to become the bait himself. He fakes a surrender to the Crabfeeder then kills the multiple men who have come out to disarm him. Though he is shot by two arrows, he is saved by his men, who turn up with a dragon able to incinerate swathes of the enemy. As the men are dispatching the rest of the soldiers, Daemon strides into one of the caves and emerges blood-stained with half of the Crabfeeder’s body. At the beginning of this House Of The Dragon episode he had declared, “I’m going to feed you to your own crabs.” He was true to his word.
- “You must marry: strengthen your own claim; shore up your succession.” This command from King Viserys to his daughter Rhaenyra says much about the pressure on women and also on royalty, to do what is expected of them by the crowd. It is no great wonder that Rhaenyra constantly wants to rebel.
- “It wouldn’t matter if she were Jaehaerys himself, born again. Rhaenyra is a woman.” A reference from Otto Hightower to Viserys’ father and his 55-year reign, this once again illustrates the inflexible, tradition-bound way of doing things in the Seven Kingdoms. Simply because Rhaenyra is not a man, the people will always, Otto says, be unhappy to see her on the throne.
- “’tis not my wish to command her, Otto. I want her to be happy.” Viserys is a sweety at heart, really, and here – slightly drunk – he lets his true feelings about Rhaenyra be known: he cares much less about protocol than about her being happy.
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