Almost two months back, House of the Dragons was all the rage over social media. This is the prequel of a show that took people by storm few years back – Game of Thrones, a series based on popular novel written by George R. R. Martin. I so proudly kept myself away from all the talks even remotely related to the show- as I was deeply disappointed by the ending of the former show. I just didn’t want to follow the mass and fall prey to another let down. Finally, before season finale I gave in to the tiny voice inside and changed my mind! There was a long weekend around the time of Diwali and the rainy weather prevented us from going out and visit some pandals – so took this opportunity to binge watch the entire season over the weekend…
Episode 1: The Heirs of the Dragon
The story started from the timeline that is 175 years before Daenerys Targaryen’s birth. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, the 4th king of Westeros after Aegon the conqueror united the seven kingdoms, needed to decide an heir to the throne as both of his sons were dead. He chose the eldest male heir and his grandson Viserys, over his eldest heir, Princess Rhaenys.
King Viserys’ eldest daughter princess Rhaenyra was a free-spirited girl, all she wished was to fly on her dragon… Her friend was lady Alicent Hightower, also the daughter of King’s hand, Ser Otto Hightower. King and Queen have been trying to conceive a male heir, the successor to the iron throne. Viserys organized a tournament to celebrate queen Aemma’s pregnancy after few miscarriages.
In the small council, everybody dismissed Master of Ships Lord Corlys Velaryon’s warning that the Triarchy, an alliance of Essos’ Free Cities, threatened to cripple Westerosi shipping lanes. King’s younger brother Daemon returned to attend the tournament and receive successorship of the throne while there would be no one to challenge his claim to the throne (assuming queen would give birth to another girl or miscarry like the previous few times). His brutality as the City Watch commander was reported to the king by Ser Otto and king let it slide with just a warning to his brother.
On the day of the tournament, the queen went into labor. Upon medical complications, the king chose to save the child over his wife. The new born prince Baelon lived no longer a day and the tournament ended with Ser Criston Cole winning over Prince Daemon. Prince Daemon went to a brothel to drink and spend the night… Ser Otto informed king about Daemon’s private celebration over “The Heir for a Day”, outraged Viserys banished Daemon from King’s landing and announce princess Rhaenyra to be the heir to the iron throne after him.
I already heard a great deal about the female actor Milly Alcock who was playing the role of princess Rhaenyra… We as audience were trying to connect the newly introduced characters with the ones we knew for years through the former show, Game of Thrones. Princess Rhaenyra reminded me of Daenerys because of her looks, even though character and mannerism wise I felt no similarity between the two. Alicent and Rhaenyra’s friendship was pure, Alicent was the good girl, always respectful towards the customs- Rhaenyra on the other hand was the rebellious one who couldn’t care less about the iron throne. By the end of the episode, she was appointed with the most serious responsibility she could ever imagine- to realize Aegon the conqueror’s dream of uniting the seven kingdoms against the cold enemies.
My favorite scene from this episode would be Daemon and Rhaenyra’s conversation after Daemon came to King’s landing. They used to speak in high Valyrian language with each other making things even more interesting!
“Everyone says Targaryens are closer to gods than to men, but they say that because of our dragons. Without them, we’re just like everyone else.”Rhaenyra Targaryen
“The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion. They’re a power man should never have trifled with. One that brought Valyria its doom. If we don’t mind our own histories, it will do the same to us.”Viserys Targaryen
Episode 2: The Rogue Prince
After being banished from King’s landing, Daemon illegally captured Dragonstone with the help of loyal City Watch guards. Crabfeeder was another peril lurking around the coast, posing greater danger to the kingdom. Princess Rhaenyra suggested to bring him under control by showing force, instead of paying heed to her opinion, she was sent to appoint a new Kings guard knight. She chose Ser Criston for having battle experience over the high-born candidates who had better political significance.
Daemon on the other hand stole a dragon egg and announced himself as the true heir and his decision to marry his mistress and a sex worker, Mysaria. Ser Otto went to bring back the dragon egg and put an end to his illegal possession of Dragonstone. The situation heated up as Daemon disagreed and his dragon started intimidating Ser Otto and company. Rhaenyra flied to Dragonstone on her dragon Syrax, made Daemon give up his claim over the iron throne and the dragon egg without bloodshed.
After queen’s untimely death, king was grieving for months unwilling to remarry. Ser Otto asked her daughter Alicent to keep him company and gain his trust. Lord Corlys and his wife Princess Rhaenys, proposed that Viserys unite their Valyrian houses by marrying their twelve-year-old daughter, Laena. King ended up marrying Alicent who was slightly older than princess Rhaenyra. Offended lord Corlys reached out to Daemon to form an alliance.
There are 3 scenes which I liked a lot in this episode.
scene #1: Rhaenyra confronting Daemon to renounce his claim to the throne. The scene and the dialogues perfectly showed the unique relation between the two. Maybe a teenager, Rhaenyra wasn’t a stranger to her power over the rogue price…
“I’m right here, uncle. The object of your ire. The reason that you were disinherited. If you wish to be restored as heir, you need to kill me. So do it, and be done with all this bother.”Rhaenyra
Scene #2: Little princess Laena talking to old king Viserys while their marriage was proposed. Laena’s curiosity over the largest living dragon, Vhagar was definitely pretty interesting. This made more sense in later episode.
Scene #3: Viserys announcing his decision to marry Alicent… Alicent followed the words of her father even when she wasn’t mentally prepared to marry an old king, who also happened to be the father of her beloved friend. This marriage changed the destiny of two little girls and their friendship forever!
Episode 3: Second of His Name
Three years passed; queen Alicent was pregnant with her second child with Viserys. Their first son, Aegon II was already in the talks, his extravagant birthday celebration by the king was annoying to Rhaenyra. The princess, then 17, was getting a lot of proposals from honourable houses. The princess got marriage proposal from Lord Jason Lannister of Casterly Rock, which she readily rejected.Many started doubting her claim to the throne after Aegon’s birth, but the king reiterated his decision of choosing Rhaenyra as the rightful heir to the throne. Viserys asked the princess to get married to build political alliance to protect the lineage. Lord Lyonel Strong recommended Lord Corlys’ son, Ser Laenor Velaryon to settle down the bad blood that started when the king chose Lady Alicent over Laena Velaryon for his second wife.
On the hunting day she took a horse into the jungle to spend time by herself. Having failed to stop her, Ser Criston followed her into the jungle to ensure her safety. The two spent the night in the forest and the princess killed a wild boar upon being attacked by the beast. In the morning she came back to the tent.
Daemon on the other hand was fighting by the side of Lord Corlys to bring down Crabfeeder and his pirates. As they were on the verge of losing the battle, Vaemond Velaryon sought for king’s help, however Daemon wanted to win the battle without any aid from his brother. Daemon acted as a bait to ambush the Triarchy warriors and killed Crabfeeder, winning the battle.
Viserys’s illness was kept a secret, even though it was getting worse day by day. King’s hand Ser Otto already started scheming with his friends to secure Aegon’s claim to the throne, to farther his house’s political power in Westeros.
After the 3 years gap, the two girls Rhaenyra and Alicent were still somewhat friends, except a lot had changed because of King’s marriage with Alicent. Rhaenyra missed her father after her mother’s untimely death, she was also in anguish for how the king’s wish for a male heir took her mother’s life. Viserys wasn’t stranger to her misery, but instead of approaching her himself, he pushed Alicent to console her.
I felt pity for Alicent because of her position in the plot. Her father didn’t care for her and used her as a pawn to extend his reach to the iron throne. She silently followed her father’s order and got married to the king, her role was limited to attending to king’s needs. She lost her identity, her best friend and made peace with her gilded cage.
The battle scene was pretty gross to watch. Daemon beating the shit out of the king’s messenger when they were about to lose the battle was confusing at first… Loved all the scenes with dragons specially.
Episode 4: King of the Narrow Sea
Rhaenyra met with bunch of her suitors, from all age groups and houses and abruptly cut short her tour to return to King’s landing. Daemon gained the title “King of the Narrow Sea” after recapturing most of the Stepstones. He came back to swear his allegiance to the king and hand over his crown. The king was very happy to get his brother by his side. Queen Alicent confessed about her loneliness after being the queen to Rhaenyra.
Daemon: Marriage is only a political arrangement. Once you are wed, you can do as you like.
Rhaenyra: For men, marriage might be a political arrangement, for women it is like to be a death sentence.
Daemon: Would that it were, I would have been rid of my Bronze bi— ages ago.
Rhaenyra: Your wife has been fortunate. You haven’t put a child in her.
Daemon: I doubt a child could grow in such hostile environs.
Rhaenyra: My mother was made to produce heirs until it killed her. I won’t subject myself to the same fate.
Daemon: What happened to your mother was a tragedy. But this is a tragic world.
Daemon: You cannot live life in fear, or you’ll forsake the best parts of it.
Rhaenyra: I have no desire to live in fear. Only solitude.
That night Daemon and Rhaenyra sneaked out of their rooms to explore the city in disguise. After roaming around and drinking Daemon took Rhaenyra to a brothel, introducing her to pleasure and seduction – something that men and women enjoy… They kissed. Daemon seduced her and pulled himself away almost abruptly and left without an explanation. Confused and still in the mood, Rhaenyra came back home, seduced her protector Criston Cole and had sex with him.
Ser Otto got the scoop of Daemon and Rhaenyra and spilled the tea to the King. Alicent overheard the conversation and confronted her friend, but Rhaenyra denied the accusation.
Hung over Daemon came to the king and admit the truth, he asked Viserys to marry Rhaenyra off to him. Infuriated more than ever, the king exiled his brother to Vale… Shortly after that he ordered the princess to marry Ser Laenor.
Alicent trusted her friend over his father’s spies. In all this, King fired Otto from his position of king’s hand. He finally realised how smoothly Alicent was placed to soothe him right after his first wife’s death.
Daemon and Rhaenyra’s affair is questioning my sense of morality in every possible way, except Game of Thrones did that to me with John and Danaerys…On one side, the two actors have very natural chemistry, on the other side- how can I ship an uncle-niece pair? I’d be a fool to not see that coming. But greater surprise for me was to see Rhaenyra tricking Ser Criston on the same night into her bed. Not because it was him, more because how fast she learnt and implemented the lessons taught by Daemon.
As far as Daemon is concerned, he always has me confused. Was he leading Rhaenyra on just to take a revenge on his brother or was it because he wanted the iron throne for himself or he actually had feelings for her? Even after watching the whole season, I couldn’t make better sense of this sequence and why he left in the middle.
As usual Alicent was still somewhat the pure soul in this twisted world. Her natural instinct was to support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne and not for her son Aegon II. However, she didn’t oppose much when her father used her to manipulate the king on daily basis. She considered Rhaenyra lucky enough as a girl to have been given option to choose her consort, while she couldn’t even question her father’s choice. She was displeased with her father’s loss of the position but stayed clam as usual.
Episode 5: We Light the Way
Ser Otto warned Alicent that one day Rhaenyra would be the biggest threat to her children because of the iron throne and left King’s landing.
As Laenor was gay, there was a mutual understanding between Laenor and Rhaenya that they will perform the duties to their respective houses and will not interfere with each other’s individual affairs.
Criston Cole was in turmoil for breaking his oath by sleeping with Rhaenyra, he wanted to start off fresh and proposed the princess to elope with him to Essos… Rhaenyra rejected the offer and wished to continue their affair even after her marriage. This displeased Criston.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Ser Laenor Velaryon were betrothed to unite the 2 houses. Daemon killed his wife Lady Rhea Royce and gave a surprise visit to Rhaenyra’s engagement ceremony.
Daemon: Is this what you want?
Rhaenyra: I wasn’t aware that what I wanted mattered to you.
Daemon: This is not for you. Laenor is a good man and a fine knight. He will bore you senseless.
Rhaenyra: Marriage is only a political arrangement I hear.
Daemon: Mine was recently dissolved.
Rhaenyra: So take me then. Has this not been your purpose? I am not yet married but the hours pass swiftly. You are surely armed. Cut through my father’s kingsguard. Take me to Dragonstone and make me your wife.
Daemon seemed to be a little jealous by all the arrangement, while Rhaenyra asked him one last time to take her to be his wife. Daemon was also accused by his dead wife’s cousin for the treacherous murder, however he shut him off mentioning his wish to inherit her lands.
Alicent looked stunning in a gorgeous green gown and made her entry pretty late in the engagement ceremony, interrupting King’s toast. She remained cold and detached for the rest of the night. Upon enquiring Criston about Rhaenyra’s affair with Daemon, he confessed about his own affair with the princess to the queen.
Ser Criston was already on the edge because of the entire situation with Rhaenyra. After being teased by Laenor’s love interest repeatedly, he killed the guy in bloody fight right in the middle of the party in front of everyone. That night he attempted to end his life too, Alicent reached just in time to stop him.
Meanwhile Rhaenyra and Laenor got married in a haste with few witnesses and the king collapsed while they were taking the vows.
This episode was really chaotic in comparison to all the previous episodes. Daemon’s dark side was so much more prominent in this one. Rhaenyra was getting better at negotiating for her own happiness while fulfilling her duties to the realm. On the contrary, Alicent seemed to be shaking off her old innocent self and started strengthening the Hightower base while the Targaryens and Velaryons weren’t watching. Rejection from Rhaenyra, changed Ser Criston’s sentiments towards her very dramatically- and this was just the beginning.
Check out the breakdown of episode 6-10 here.