Good episode, this one. Good. Epi. Sode. We start in the dark, some strange panting noises filling the void. Are they sex, we wonder, given that this is the Game Of Thrones universe? No – they are the other groaning activity; it’s labour, and it’s Rhaenyra, ten years after we last saw her, now played by Emma D’Arcy. We are in the future.
Unlike so many births in House Of The Dragon, this one goes relatively well and the baby is a boy – Rhaenyra’s third. “I’m glad I’m not a woman,” says her husband Laenor (John Macmillan) as Rhaenyra walks the long walk, bleeding as she goes, to see Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), who has requested to see the baby. Viserys (Paddy Considine), who has now entirely lost his grotesque left arm, asks what they will call the baby. “Joffrey,” says Laenor, before Rhaenyra can speak. (Joffrey was Laenor’s murdered lover, of course.) Alicent taunts Laenor, saying that if he keeps trying maybe he’ll produce a baby that resembles him.
We discover the true parentage of the baby – and presumably of all Rhaenyra’s boys – when Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), commander of The City Watch, cradles the child. He and Rhaenyra don’t go to enormous lengths to hide what is really going on here – something that will bite them in the arse later on.
Down in the dragon pit, there’s some juvenile drama as Aegon (Ty Tennant, son of David and Georgia), Viserys’ first son, torments Aemond (Leo Ashton), his half-brother, by colluding with Jacaerys (Leo Hart), Rhaenyra’s oldest son, to present a pig that they have kitted out to look like a dragon. (Side note here: it’s difficult to keep up with which of these boys is which, given their confusing names and parentage. The characters shouldn’t be comprehensible only to Game of Thrones nerds.) Channelling her anger at this, Alicent tries to make Viserys see that Rhaenyra keeps producing sons who look nothing like Laenor. “Nature is a thing of mysterious works,” says Viserys, who doesn’t want to see the truth. “Do not speak of this again.”
Aegon, who for some reason we find butt-naked wanking out of a window, is set upon by his mother Alicent, who wants him to stop being such an idiot: if Rhaenyra becomes Queen, he and his brother Aemond could be killed because of their claims to the throne.
Over to a place called Pentos next, where Daemon and his wife Laena (Nanna Blondell) are riding dragons around, having a great time. (It doesn’t bode well in the Thrones world when characters are having a great time…) Later, at dinner, they are offered indefinite welcome in Pentos if they lend their dragons to the effort to fight the Triarchy, which looks to be hungry for war. Laena, however, wants her imminent child to be born in Driftmark as she was.
Meanwhile, Jacaerys spars with Aegon, under the instruction of the erratic Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). When Criston says that Harwin’s care for Jacaerys looks like the care a father would give a son, Harwin repeatedly punches Criston in the face – a bad move, to say the least. Elsewhere, Laenor tells Rhaenyra that he wants to be back at war on the sea again. Fed up with him, Rhaenyra commands him to stay. Later, she proposes betrothing Jacaerys to Alicent’s daughter Helaena, allying the bickering families “once and for all”.
Ashamed by what his son did, Lyonel Strong, the King’s Hand (Gavin Spokes), tries to resign but is prevented from doing so by Viserys. Instead, he is to travel home with Harwin to Harrenhal. Realising the consternation that Harwin is causing Alicent, Larys (Matthew Needham) – Harwin’s brother – enlists a group of criminals to burn down Harrenhal, killing Harwin and his father. He has his tongue cut out so that they cannot speak of their crime.
And, adding further bloodshed, we go finally to Pentos, where Laena doesn’t look likely to survive childbirth. Realising it’s her or the baby, she walks onto the beach and asks her dragon to burn her alive. Vhagar does so but the anguished look in his eyes is, surprisingly, one of the most moving things of the series so far.
- “How sweetly the fox speaks when it is being cornered by the hound” – Alicent’s verdict on Rhaenyra’s desperate attempts to distract from her infidelity by marrying off their respective children
- “There is a shadow over my house and it grows ever darker” – aware that people assume (rightly) that Harwin sired Rhaenyra’s children, Lyonel can’t bear the matter affecting his duty to Viserys
- “I feel certain you will reward me when the time is right” – Larys’ creepy words to Alicent, for whom he believes he murdered the Strongs as a present
- “I think I called the midwife a cunt” – self-explanatory from Rhaenyra
‘House Of The Dragon’ releases new episodes at 2am every Monday on Sky Atlantic and NOW