Shifting the action ten years into the future halfway through House of the Dragon Season 1 was risky, but House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 6 was the best episode to date.
Emma D’arcy, Olivia Cookie, Harry Collett, and Nanna Blondell helped make the big casting changes as seamless as possible, slipping into their respective roles with finesse.
There has been much criticism leveled at the show for pulling off such a move, but it makes sense to have more age-appropriate actors taking on the roles when you’re playing with such a significant time jump.
Understandably, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey were missed greatly, but it helps that the series has cast aged-up versions of the characters that look like their predecessors.
A lot has changed in King’s Landing in 10 years, and Rhaenyra continues to be the most impressive character because her arc is so tightly-woven and filled with depth.
The relationship between Rhaenyra and Alicent has grown frostier over the years, and to an extent, it’s easy to understand why they got to this stage.
Alicent was Rhaenyra’s biggest fan when they had such a strong bond that didn’t involve Rhaenyra lying to her. Alicent feels like the gloves are off now because things have deteriorated between them much more.
Also concerning is that Rhaenyra and Laenor’s children don’t look like Targaryen or a Velaryon. We can thank Rhaenyra’s secret relationship with Harwin for that.
It was evident after House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 5 that Rhaenyra and Laenor’s marriage was more about convenience than romance, so their deeply rooted relationship issues weren’t much of a surprise.
Neither of them is getting what they want from this marriage and are more often than not spending the nights apart from each other, which naturally leads to questions about their union.
Rhaenyra and Harwin’s chemistry burned bright, so it’s easy to see why they were attracted to one another enough to have a secret relationship that would bring three children into the world.
It’s a shame that so many people comment on the kids looking nothing like their father, putting the Princess on a bigger collision course with the Queen.
You could tell Alicent was so eager to meet the child because she wanted to cast a look of “I told you so” to her husband.
Alicent knows that the tension in the realm will reach a fever pitch when Viserys dies because why would Rhaenyra want to keep people who will challenge her reign and heirs in King’s Landing?
Rhaenyra’s offer to marry off one of her children to one of Alicent’s seemed like a last-ditch effort to unite the families before the imminent battle gets underway.
Viserys is fiercely protective of his daughter, something that’s driving a significant wedge between him and his wife.
Alicent went from coddling her husband to ignoring him because he’s blind to the fact that his daughter is clearly not in love with Laenor, and honestly, it’s getting a little bit exhausting.
Otto warned his daughter to prepare Aegon for the throne, and with the drama surrounding the dragons, she believes her son should be on the throne.
Alicent’s bond with Larys is a big cause for concern because that dude is more cutthroat and cunning than Littlefinger.
Even though Alicent didn’t give him any orders, he had his father and brother when they returned to Harrenhall.
My best guess is that this would clear the way to shore up his claim to Harrenhall and possibly get in the King’s ear as well as the Queen’s, allowing him to pull even more strings.
If he was cold enough to kill his father and brother, there’s no telling who’s next on his hit list.
Alicent looked both disturbed but satisfied when she realized what he did, but it also makes me question how long she’ll trust him if he goes rogue to kill people without her blessing.
Will she understand that he’s doing this for her, or will she believe he’s doing it because it benefits him?
Rhaenyra will be livid to learn what happened to Harwin, more so because her sons will never be able to communicate with their biological father again.
It makes me wonder whether Rhaenyra will learn about Larys and automatically assume that Alicent played a part in the harrowing events that led to the deaths.
The series is focused on putting these two women together, but I really want to see a moment in which they each understand how calculating the other can be, and how they need to up their respective games if they want to win this game of thrones.
Rhaenyra departing King’s Landing for Dragonstone with Laenor, his lover, and her children signals that she’s preparing to become the person sitting atop the Iron Throne one day.
Viserys is getting sicker by the episode, so I guess we’ll be at the point of someone new ascending the throne fairly soon.
The big question is who that will be. If Alicent gets it her way, she’ll have Rhaenyra killed and one of her own sons sitting on the throne.
Rhaenyra has played nice with Alicent up until now, and I suspect the fire burning through her veins will come out to play in the final episodes of the season.
Ser Criston treating Rhaenyra’s children differently from Alicent’s is just par for the course. Rhaenyra hurts him, he knows she’s unhappy, so he would love nothing more than to derail her claim to the throne in the name of getting back at her.
He does have some form of allegiance to Alicent because she kept his relationship with Rhaenyra under wraps, but will Alicent have much use for him if she gets her way?
That being said, watching Harwin beat his ass was satisfying because of how Criston has acted.
Daemon marrying Laena was a bit of a shocker because if he had it his way, he’d marry his niece and be done with this battle for the throne.
Laena’s death was heartbreaking, but it was probably one of the most powerful deaths in Game of Thrones franchise history.
Deviating from the source material is risky, but her taking control of the narrative and having Vhagar kill her before she died somewhere else was pretty badass.
The chemistry between Laena and Daemon was off the charts, so it was a shame to say goodbye to Laena so soon.
It was about time Vhagar got some screentime, and while I’m still not 100% sold on the CGI on House of the Dragon, it was surreal seeing such dragon royalty on-screen.
Vhagar is huge, towering above all the other dragons we’ve seen on the show so far, and despite her age, she will still pack a punch in any battle.
Understandably, there will be questions about who will ride her next, and with the constant drama between Rhaenyra and Alicent’s kids surrounding dragons, we should probably expect those kids to start fighting next.
“The Princess and the Queen” sent the narrative in a compelling new direction that is sure to be divisive amongst fans, but the execution of this quasi-reset was handled very well.
What are your thoughts on the cast changes?
Did you expect Laena to die the way she did?
What’s your take on Larys killing his brother and father? What do you think his endgame is here?
How will Rhaenyra react to Harwin’s death?
Hit the comments below.
House of the Dragon continues Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.