Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

House of the Dragon: The Princess and the Queen

"Once they're fully bound to you, they will refuse to take instruction from any other."

This is where things start to get real complicated.

Ten years have passed since Rhaenyra Targaryen married Laenor Velaryon. The episode opens with the Princess giving birth to her third son, Joffrey. He, along with her two elder boys Jacaerys (Jace) and Lucerys (Luke), have none of Rhaenyra and Laenor's Valyrian features. That's because Rhaenyra's been carrying on an affair with Ser Harwin Strong, Commander of the City Watch, while Laenor's been indulging himself with various lovers over the years.

This is of great interest to Queen Alicent Hightower, Rhaenyra's stepmother, former friend and current rival at court. Pretty much everyone knows that the Velaryon princes are Harwin Strong's bastard sons, but Alicent is irate over it. Somewhat understandable: illegitimate kids have a bad reputation in this world, and one of these kids will be heir to the Iron Throne when Rhaenyra becomes Queen; this is another case of Rhaenyra's bold-faced lies that, while made for sympathetic reasons, make it appear like she's flaunting her status. Alicent is grooming her son Prince Aegon to believe he is the true heir, teaching him to fear Rhaenyra's ascension as a death sentence. Her main allies in her crusade against Rhaenyra are Ser Criston Cole, the not-so-honorable Kingsguard knight Rhaenyra seduced, and Larys Strong, second son of the King's Hand and Harwin Strong's manipulative brother. The Princess and the Queen (see what I did there) even engage in petty sparring while discussing matters of the realm with the small council.

King Viserys, ever the optimist, refuses to acknowledge the obvious bastardy. He just wants his family to be happy and whole, wishing for his children and grandchildren to grow up loving and aiding each other. Sadly, the boys are already being poisoned by the animosity between their parents.

This is most clearly witnessed during the princes' training. Criston Cole guides and enables Alicent's sons while being either dismissive or sneakily abusive toward Rhaenyra's, even provoking Harwin Strong into beating him to the ground by needling him about his relationship with the Velaryon boys. Since Cole got away with murder in the last episode, seeing him get decked here was quite satisfying. Unfortunately, it ends up working in his favor.

This ill-advised move compels Hand of the King and distressed father, Lyonel Strong, to attempt to resign his post. He is refused by Viserys for not spelling out the very obvious situation they're facing, but opts to remove his son from court for his and the Velaryon princes' protection. After Harwin leaves and her attempt to propose a marriage between her son and Alicent's daughter fails, Rhaenyra decides she's taking the boys and moving to Dragonstone, which she is now the Lady of as heir to the throne.

While this is all going on, Daemon has been across the sea in Pentos. After ten years, he's become somewhat domesticated. He is married to the beautiful dragon-rider Laena Velaryon, and they have two bright daughters, Rhaena and Baela. They are celebrated guests of the Pentoshi aristocracy, who seek their aid in the coming war with the Triarchy. Daemon claims to be cool with how things are going, but Laena knows he is dissatisfied and she herself wishes to get back to her roots. She gets her wish in a most horrific way when her third pregnancy goes wrong. When the child won't come out and a miserable death is all but certain, Laena commits suicide by dragon. In the wake of this traumatic event, I'm thinking single-dad Daemon will be moving back to Westeros like Laena had wanted. Where he will likely join his broken family with Rhaenyra's on Dragonstone.

Which is good, because Rhaenyra will need an ally like him. The coalition mounted in opposition to her reign is growing. Alicent Hightower and Criston Cole's lives are centered around their hatred for the Princess they once loved; being bitter and vengeful seems like their default now. Perhaps even more dangerous is Larys Strong. A soft-spoken man with a disability, yet he is also one of the most cunning players in the game of thrones right now, which he proves near the end of this episode.

When Alicent voices her frustration at Viserys not removing Lyonel as Hand, Larys takes it upon himself to have his father and brother die in a fire at Harrenhal. This not only paves the way for the return of Alicent's father to the office of Hand, it also makes Larys the new Lord of House Strong and Harrenhal. More importantly, it makes Alicent an unwitting accomplice in this act of kinslaying, the most taboo kind of killing. He's a valuable ally, whether she wants him as one now or not. With gruesome twists like this, you know things are only getting darker going forward.

I'm really loving this show so far. It's done a wonderful job of portraying this world, in some ways even better than the show it spun off from. They handle the escalation of events and build up of the plot and the various players so well, it makes me glad to be a fan of this stuff again. This franchise needed a shot in the arm, at least on the HBO front; don't believe any shot exists for George R.R. Martin and the main book series, at this point. Even knowing the broad strokes of where everything is going, I look forward to every episode.

Blacks and greens:

* Seven hells, they weren’t kidding about the birthing scenes.

* Speaking of that, very interesting that Daemon is presented with the same choice as Viserys in the first episode: to let his wife and child die or make his wife’s last moments torturous in an attempt to save the child through a caesarian. But he doesn’t have a chance to decide because Laena chooses to take her own life.

* In addition to looking kind of like the Crypt Keeper, Viserys appears to have lost most of his left arm.

* After seeing how well Rhaenyra, Daemon and Alicent have been portrayed, I was eager to see how they handled the other pivotal player in this story, Aegon the Second of His Name. Considered by many to have been heir-presumptive by right of birth, he is the lusty, lazy and indifferent prick I imagined when reading the histories. Him jerking off atop the Red Keep like Homelander and struggling to ignore his mom's concerns was all very apt.

* Likewise, Viserys and Alicent’s other children, the bullied second son Aemond and neglected daughter Helaena, are given interesting characterization. Aemond’s got a dangerous obsession with dragons, and he is mocked by Aegon, Jace and Luke for being one of the only royal children who doesn’t have one. Meanwhile, Helaena has an insect fixation, doesn’t like being touched, and occasionally says things that are vaguely prophetic.

* Small council updates: Rhaenyra and Alicent both have seats on the council now, ceremonial orbs and all. Jasper Wylde is Master of Laws after Lyonel Strong was made Hand. Tyland Lannister has been Master of Ships since Corlys Velaryon left. Mellos is replaced as Grand Maester by Orwyle; liking that change so far. Lord Beesbury, the Master of Coin, seems to be going a little senile.

* The Triarchy in the Free Cities is raising a stink again, this time with the backing of House Martell of Dorne. At this point in time, Dorne is the only region of Westeros House Targaryen didn't manage to conquer and they remain a thorn in the crown's side. This is why Rhaenyra refers to them as the "old monster."

* Lots of great little details here and there. For instance, Alicent and Larys are always careful not to speak while servants are around.

* Lots of Game of Thrones parallels in this episode. Rhaenyra's sons are like a fun combination of Cersei Lannister's children and Jon Snow. The part where Harwin beats down Criston Cole and Cole laughs was very reminiscent of a moment towards the end of 'The Battle of the Bastards.' The part where Harwin bids farewell to Rhaenyra and their sons was very reminiscent of the scenes in Season One where Ned Stark says goodbye to members of his family, promises and all. And the monologue from Larys Strong toward the end really brought to mind those masterful Littlefinger and Varys scenes that permeated the first few seasons of GOT.

* I was kind of bummed knowing that we only had five episodes with Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as young Rhaenyra and Alicent. Their performances were engaging and nuanced, and perfectly established these characters. However, the casting department deserves double the praise when it comes to Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke as the adult versions. As do the actors themselves, who perfectly embody and expand upon the roles we just saw their younger counterparts own so well.


Queen Alicent: “Do keep trying, Ser Laenor. Soon or late, you may get one who looks like you.”

Viserys I: (to Alicent) “The consequences of the allegation like the one you toy at would be dire. Do not speak of this again.”

Ser Criston: “The Princess Rhaenyra is brazen and relentless. A spider who stings and sucks her prey dry. A spoiled cunt… That was beneath me, Your Grace. I apologize.”
Alicent: “I have to believe, that in the end, honor and decency will prevail. We need to hew to that and to each other.”
Funny how Alicent's two biggest allies are a crazy jealous guy and a shameless kinslayer, but Rhaenyra is the menace to honor and decency.

Alicent: “If Rhaenyra comes into power, your very life could be forfeit. Aemond’s as well. She could move to cut off any challenge to her succession.”
Prince Aegon: “Then I won’t challenge h—“
Alicent: “You are the challenge! You are the challenge, Aegon! Simply by living and breathing!”
Sadly, no one in this world understands the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Laena: “We are not minstrels or mummers who play at the pleasure of an alien prince. We are the blood of Old Valyria. We don’t belong here.”
Daemon: “Valyria is gone. We don’t belong anywhere.”

Viserys I: “This is the stuff, Lyonel. Lads that learn together, train together… knock each other down, pick each other up. They will certainly form a lifelong bond, wouldn’t you agree?”
Lord Lyonel Strong: “That is the hope, Your Grace.”

Ser Harwin Strong: “You have your honor, and I have mine.”
Gone too soon, him and his father. Shame.

Jacaerys Velaryon: “Is Harwin Strong my father? Am I a bastard?”
Princess Rhaenyra: “You are a Targaryen. That’s all that matters.”
You might not have my name, but you have my blood.

Lord Larys Strong: “What are children, but a weakness? A folly? A futility? Through them, you imagine you cheat the great darkness of its victory. You will persist forever, in some form or another. As if they will keep you from the dust. But for them… you surrender what you should not. You may know what is the right thing to be done, but... love stays the hand. Love... is a downfall. Best to make your way through life unencumbered, if you ask me.”
Alicent: “... They’re dead.”
Larys: “You’ve heard the stories of Harrenhal, Your Grace. It was built by Harren the Black as a monument to his own greatness. Blood mixed into the mortar. It is said to be a cursed place. That it passes judgement on all who pass beneath its gates.”
Alicent: “You... You passed judgement.”
Larys: “The Queen makes a wish. What servant would not strive to fulfill it?”
Watch out for this guy.

Five out of five burnt castles.


  1. I loved this episode, but at the same time felt like I was having to reinvest all over again. Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke are amazing, though; I look forward to seeing what they do. Also, I could have done without the squelching sounds during the first childbirth scene--yikes!

  2. They're killing it so far, in my opinion. Don't believe I've seen D'Arcy in anything else, but I've been a fan of Olivia Cooke since Bates Motel. Great to see her in an epic role like this.

    And yeah, ditto on the squelching.


We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.