House of the Dragon 1×3 Review: Second of His Name
‘Second of His Name’ featured a time jump, a new baby, more dragons, and a lot of blood and guts. House of the Dragon continues to impress, though the battle logic has baffled me.
This week’s episode inspired my first real complaint about the show. The end of ‘Second of His Name’ featured a battle between Daemon and the Crabfeeder’s men on the Stepstones. Daemon chooses to pretend to surrender (a war crime, in modern times, but not in Westeros), then solos all the Crabfeeder’s men by surprise. At the last minute he’s saved by Laenor on his dragon, Seasmoke. While the rest of the men are being taken out by dragon fire, Daemon pursues the Crabfeeder to a cave and chops him in half.
The ease in which the Crabfeeder and his men were defeated doesn’t surprise me. The Crabfeeder clearly has Greyscale, which can effect one’s cognition in the later stages. The terrible battle plan can easily be attributed to that. He is also just some pirate from Essos, and his men aren’t much better. These aren’t trained knights or anything. Going up against highly trained Westeros nobility and their dragons is clearly not going to go well,
The confusing part for me was that it took them three years to defeat such a weak antagonist. What exactly has the Crabfeeder been doing differently the past three years? They ran to the caves this time, just like they had been before. That was supposedly their best strategy, but it was no match for them when it came down to it. The only difference I can see is that the other pirates were distracted by the dragon, but they’ve had dragons this entire time. Why did they only do this now?
But I can get over this. No show is going to be solidly perfect all the way through. Besides, it looked damn cool, didn’t it?
All Hail Prince Daemon
I have no excuse for loving Daemon as much as I do. His complete disregard for the lives of his men on the island, illustrated especially well when his dragon stepped on that one guy, should make him entirely unlikable. But here I am loving the hell out of him. I can’t explain it. Charisma, I guess? He’s got loads of it. He has so much charisma I’m able to look over all the, you know, war crimes and such.
It’s a good thing I’m able to separate real life morals from fiction, or I’d be in loads of trouble with Daemon Targaryen! I’m weak. Kill them all, my Prince. I’m here for it.
Despite my issues with the logic of that final battle scene, Matt Smith absolutely killed it. He didn’t say anything during the entire sequence, and yet I was absolutely riveted. Daemon is capable and brave, which are positive traits in contrast to his disregard for any life that isn’t Targaryen. He’s also proud, choosing to go on a nearly suicidal mission just to avoid getting help from his brother.
Basically he’s a cocky bastard, and he looks good doing it.
Daemon’s dragon Caraxes is also taking up a special place in my heart. He’s so… noodly. He’s sort of snake or worm-like and kind of weird looking. Caraxes is a fine noodle boy and I dig the hell out of it.
But we also got a brand new dragon this week. Laenor’s dragon, Seasmoke, made an appearance. As Laenor is half Targaryen, he has the ability to ride dragons as well. According to early interviews, there should be seventeen dragons on this show. I doubt they’ll all be in the first season, but we’ve got three so far: Daemon’s Caraxes (fine noodle boy), Rhaenyra’s Syrax, and Laenor’s Seasmoke.
If you analyze the trailers for the shows, promo images, and leaks, you can determine a couple other dragons that are going to show up, but I’m not going to dig down deep into that material. Might as well leave some surprises for those of you who haven’t read the books and don’t obsessively search out leaks, right? But just know there are many, and they are very cool.
I know the age of dragons doesn’t last, but I’m glad we get to see so many of them now on this show. Choosing the Targaryens for a follow up show was the correct choice.
Rhaenyra is the Rightful Heir
Speaking of Targaryens that I adore, Rhaenyra had an incredible episode. I see a lot of complaints that she seems whiny and entitled, but she’s a teenage princess. Those seem like traits that would be common with one in her position. Besides, it’s not like she doesn’t have a reason to complain. Her father went behind her back and married her best friend, and a huge chunk of the realm is ready to ignore her rightful place as heir because a male child was born. These are pretty legitimate complaints.
Throughout the episode she proves her worthiness as an heir to the throne. The most notable moment is, of course, when she takes down the boar. Ser Criston Cole took the first stab at the beast, but Rhaenyra took the killing blow. You can argue that they took it down together, but she undeniably had a hand in the beast’s demise.
Her worthiness is confirmed when the white hart greets her on the way back to the camp. The crownlands were once Baratheon territory, and its appearance signals her spiritual claim to it. The white hart did not show up for her brother Aegon II. If the white hart was a sign from the gods, I think it’s clear who the gods back in this fight.
But Does It Matter?
I’m trying my best to set aside the issues with the last season of Game of Thrones. For the most part I’m able to do so. However, whenever the topic of destiny comes up I can’t help but feel a little bitter. The visions about the Song of Ice and Fire say that a Targaryen must be on the throne when the Long Night comes, but that wasn’t the case. A Lannister was on the throne during the Long Night, and a Stark became the ruler after the throne was melted by Drogon.
So what do we do with signs like the white hart? Does destiny matter if the vision is never fulfilled? Why would the gods send signs like these if it wasn’t necessary for a Targaryen to be on the throne at that moment?
The only way I’ve managed to push past these moments is with a bit of fanfiction in my head. Perhaps that wasn’t the foretold Long Night. Perhaps that’s still to come. Maybe they can rebuild a new throne and a resurrected Daenerys will claim it and defeat the true threat from beyond the wall. Who’s to say the Night King was the final boss anyway?
I get that that’s a complete fabrication. It’s fanfiction. But it’s the only way I can make sense of these continued signs that the Targaryens were meant to rule.
For what it’s worth, I don’t blame House of the Dragon for this problem. The blame lies at the feet of the two chuckleheads who wanted to blow through the end of the story on fast forward so they could get to their other contracts (contracts that were then eventually cancelled). It still makes me pause whenever it’s mentioned, though.
Viserys Continues to be Annoying
It wouldn’t be a weekly review of House of the Dragon without me complaining about King Viserys. You basically have to deal with my consistent complaints about him until his character dies. I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with this.
The only positive thing Viserys did this week was stick up for Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne. Truly, I appreciate that. But his good decisions stop there. His take down of the hart was abysmal. He let the poor beast suffer far longer than necessary and I genuinely don’t know why. Viserys seemed confused about how killing an animal was supposed to go, which only further proves his unworthiness for the throne. Contrast that with Rhaenyra taking down the boar and it’s clear that one’s gender has no bearing on who is more qualified to rule.
Additionally, the rot of his body from the wounds the Iron Throne are inflicting on him continue to worsen. It seems he’s missing at least two fingers now. I would bet his festering back wound isn’t all that great at the moment, either. That chair knows he’s not cut out for this and it’s viciously rejecting him. Can’t say I blame it. I’d try to spit that guy out, too.
He’s been rotting for three years now, and yet he’s still alive. The Targaryens are nothing if not persistent.
Alicent’s Character is Baffling
While my feelings about Viserys are pretty straight forward, I can’t quite settle on Alicent. As I noted in the first episode, she seemed very cold towards Rhaenyra’s affections. This characterization seemed to change the following week, and I began to feel she truly cared about her. Now this week she seems to be consistently defending Rhaenyra, and even insisting that she’s the rightful heir. I know this is going to unravel soon, but she’s not in the position I thought she’d be at this point in the story.
Ultimately I suppose it comes down to Otto Hightower’s manipulation. He manipulates the King and he manipulates his daughter. The show is clearly positioning Alicent as a victim at this point, and I can totally accept that. I’m just confused about her rejection of Rhaenyra’s affection in the first episode. If it wasn’t out of dislike of Rhaenyra, what was that all about?
Once again, I’m spinning a bit of fanfiction in my head so bear with me for a moment. I want to make sense of this and writing my own theories is the only way I can do it right now. Perhaps Alicent loves Rhaenyra as a friend and her rejections of her in the first episode were because she knew Rhaenyra loved her as more than a friend. Once the prospect of a romantic relationship with her was off the table due to Alicent’s impending engagement with Viserys, she was more open to caring about her in an obvious way.
Headcanon: Rhaenyra is a Lesbian
I know I keep going on and on about Rhaenyra loving Alicent romantically, but I’m starting to think Rhaenyra doesn’t like men at all. Her scoffing at the idea that a man would ‘fix’ her issues set off big gay alarm bells in my head. In order to expand on this, I do need to talk a bit about the books though.
SPOILERS: Book Details Regarding Marriage and Children
Rhaenyra will eventually marry Laenor. In the books, it’s strongly implied that Laenor is either gay or asexual. He doesn’t have a sexual interest in women at all. Perhaps their respective queer tendencies are why they end up being such a good match. They have children out of duty, but have no interest in being sexual with each other beyond that.
Of course, there’s rumors that their children aren’t Laenor’s, and are actually from Rhaenyra’s lover. If that’s the case, perhaps she’s not gay. Maybe she’s a bit bisexual. But this part of the plot hasn’t played out on screen yet, so I don’t know where it’s going to go. Additionally, we haven’t gotten to her other husband yet, and I don’t want to dig too deep into that yet either. I think her being a lesbian can still track with her second husband, but I’ve spoiled enough already! Let’s not spoil things further.
I’m going to let this theory sit for a bit and revisit it again later.
Overall, This Episode Was Great
I look forward to next week’s episode quite a bit. Despite some of the writing issues, such as the confusing battle tactics at the Stepstones, or the occasional green screen problem, I’m enjoying it a lot. The only thing I dread is saying goodbye to Milly Alcock when the show inevitably does another time skip. We already know Emma D’Arcy is slated to play the older version of Rhaenyra, so this is going to happen before the end of the season. I’m sure I’ll love Emma, too, but Milly has been amazing.
Hopefully next week we’ll have some more dragons and badassery. Things are heating up and I’m excited!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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