[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 3, “Second of His Name.”]
If hunts leave you suspicious after that fateful excursion for Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy), never fear — the hunt in “Second of His Name” leaves all main characters unharmed. It does, however, expose the realm’s fraying faith in Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his choice of heir, and sends Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) away from her father to process her feelings. Here’s how it happens.
Most of Rhaenyra and Viserys’ story continues to revolve around the line of succession. After a two-year time jump, Alicent (Emily Carey) has borne Viserys a son, and she’s pregnant with the king’s second child by her. Everyone from the heads of the houses to Viserys’ own advisors expect that first-born son, not Rhaenyra, will one day ascend the throne. Meanwhile, Viserys has been attempting to pair his daughter with suitors to no avail: unsurprisingly, Rhaenyra has no interest in marrying.
Their argument grows so tumultuous on the hunt that she storms off and rides into the woods, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) following her. He chases her down and gets her to stop, but even then, she suggests they take in the Kingswood rather than return. They have a nice little chat, and Criston assures her she is not, as she claims, “toothless” in her power. After all, everything he has, he owes to her.
Back at the camp, Viserys drinks himself all but into a stupor. He goes outside to the fire and Alicent follows him, where he shares with his wife a vision he had in his youth. “When Rhaenyra was a child, I saw it in a dream,” he says, “a male babe, born to me, wearing the conqueror’s crown. I so wanted it to be true… I never imagined that I would remarry. That I would have a son. What if I was wrong?”
Both Rhaenyra and her father encounter violence in their separation; she and Criston are attacked by a boar, which she ends up killing; his hunting party tracks down a white hart — a symbol of royalty in a pre-dragon age — and he kills it. That Viserys kills the majestic beast feels like a bad omen, especially when Rhaenyra comes across one of her own and shows it mercy.
She and Criston return to camp, and everyone returns to the castle. There, Alicent plays a key role in the events to come. She goes to see her husband, who has received a letter from the army at the Stepstones. Daemon (Matt Smith), Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and their men are struggling, and without the crown’s help, they’ll surely lose the war. Viserys is caught between not sending assistance lest the crown appear weak, or sending help to his brother. Alicent resolves his turmoil by posing a simple question: “Is it better for the realm if the crab-feeder thrives, or is vanquished?”
The following day, Viserys sends assistance to Daemon and his army. Following that, he has a discussion with Rhaenyra, who is still upset with him for his attempt to marry her off to a Lannister(!) earlier. She feels that since her father now has a son, he’s trying to trade her off to the highest bidder, her worth in his eyes utterly degraded. Shocked, Viserys tells her nothing could be further from the truth.
As Alicent suggested to him, he tells her she can choose whom she weds. He does want her to marry, but not so he might reap the benefits — he wants her to strengthen her claim to the throne, and he wants her to be happy. Oh, and he very much does still intend for her to be his heir. “I did waver, at one time,” he says, “but I swear to you now, on your mother’s memory, you will not be supplanted.”
Miles and miles away, Daemon’s fighting force against the Triarchy is in rough shape. Thankfully, his brother’s messengers arrive just in time, with good news; Viserys has sent ships as well as men to aid the cause. You’d think Daemon would be thrilled, but instead, he… beats the poor guy who gave him the message, viciously. Oof!
The extra soldiers allow them to put a risky plan into place, which pays off. Daemon pretends to surrender to Craghas, who is hiding in the caves. This draws the man’s forces out, where Daemon then fights them alone for several waves, until he’s wounded by Craghas’ archers. The soldiers keep coming, and things look bad for Daemon. And then, of course, a dragon soars in. But it’s not Daemon’s — it’s Laenor Velaryon’s (John MacMillian)! Between the dragon fire and Daemon and Corlys’ army, the crab-feeder’s forces are overwhelmed. Daemon then stalks into the caves and kills the leader, cutting him in two and dragging the upper half of his body out into the waves. The war, it seems, is over… but what’s next?
Rating: 4.5/5. “Second of His Name” mixes breathtaking action and stunning visuals (Daemon’s fighting sequences) with stirring character development for many of the show’s major players. Even Criston Cole gets moments to shine in this episode, as we discover his bond with Rhaenyra and the strong emotion behind it. Killing the white hart might prove Viserys isn’t long for this world, but his genuine fatherly connection with Rhaenyra is sweet… although Alicent’s father clearly resents her status as heir. With a little less than a third of its season done, Dragon continues to challenge Westeros’ patriarchal ideals while telling a compelling story.
House of the Dragon, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO