‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 6 Recap: Who’s Your Daddy?
The Princess and the Queen
Season 1 • Episode 6
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 6, “The Princess and the Queen.”]
Ten years have passed in Westeros, and holy moly a whole lot happened in King’s Landing.
In the real world, House of the Dragon bade farewell to several younger cast members, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey among them, and brought in the elder versions of the characters. Rhaenyra and Alicent are now played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively. But while the actresses have changed, the tension between the princess and the queen remains.
As on Game of Thrones’ initial season, the gist of the King’s Landing drama boils down to parentage. Rhaenyra has given birth to another son, and like the rest of her children, he bears little resemblance to Laenor Velaryon (John MacMillian). “Keep trying, Sir Laenor,” Alicent jabs. “You may get one that looks like you.” For his part, Laenor isn’t offended that all of his children bear a suspicious resemblance to Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). But the more brown-haired and brown-eyed offspring he and Rhaenyra supposedly have, the more the court talks… and the more eyebrows raise.
Alicent, especially, finds Rhaenyra’s actions offensive given that she, and not Aegon (Ty Tennant), is set to inherit the throne. She tries to make a literally rotting Viserys (Paddy Considine) see the truth, but he refuses, content to believe a lie. Ser Criston Cole (still played by Fabien Frankel) sees it as well, so he treats Rhaenyra’s children as lesser during their combat instruction. And of course, there’s fighting amongst the kids as well; everyone gangs up on Alicent’s poor Aemond, who does not have a dragon.
One day, things get out of hand. Criston insists that Aegon spar with Rhaenyra’s eldest son, Jacaerys (Leo Hart), even though he’s far younger and smaller. Obviously, Jacaerys is beaten, badly and fast. Harwin sees what’s going on and steps in to help the kid — his — and is enraged by Criston’s treatment of him. Snidely, Criston remarks that anger like that is usually reserved for a family member: “A son.” Harwin loses it and pummels Criston (but, unlike him, he stops before punching through his skull).
With everything unraveling around her, Rhaenyra decides to extend an olive branch to Alicent. At a small council meeting, she proposes marrying their eldest children when they are of age. Viserys thinks it’s a lovely idea, but Alicent is insulted; she knows Rhaenyra’s offer only comes because she’s cornered and at risk. She laments to Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) that she has no one on her side after her father’s firing and that she wishes the Hand of the King would give Viserys an unbiased council… or at least, a council in her favor. Harwin is forced to leave after his stunt in the courtyard, and the Hand goes with him; hearing the queen’s lament, Larys creates a small army of mutes from the King’s Landing cells, who then kill Harwin and Lyonel by starting a fire at Harrenhal. Goodbye, Harwin. Feels like we barely knew you.
That is, perhaps, the biggest shortcoming of “The Princess and the Queen.” Several characters are in new relationships that end badly, but because we didn’t see those relationships grow, we don’t feel much as they end. Another example is Daemon (Matt Smith) and Laena (Nanna Blondell), who seem to have a happy enough marriage. They’ve been living in Pentos, eternally guests whose dragons are used as a means of resolving conflict. A pregnant Laena wishes to go home, but Daemon wants to stay where they are. That’s a source of conflict between them.
Perhaps predictably, there are complications with Laena’s labor. In the end, she chooses to incinerate herself with Dragonfire rather than have her womb cut open; Daemon arrives seconds too late to stop her. (The scene where she orders her dragon to burn her to death is surprisingly emotional. It’s clear the creature doesn’t want to kill its rider, and she has to say “Dracarys!” multiple times before it obeys.)
Back in King’s Landing, Rhaenyra senses trouble, as does Laenor. At first, he wants to leave to join the fighting in the Stepstones, but Rhaenyra forbids him. But in the end, they decide to leave and go to Dragonstone together, intent on fleeing the storm before it hits. And by the look of him, Viserys doesn’t have long… once he dies, there’ll be no avoiding that storm.
House of the Dragon, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO