House of the Dragon 2×3 Review: The Burning Mill

Rhaenyra Targaryen
Courtesy of HBO

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be a fan of this show, not entirely because of the show itself but because of the fandom. There are definitely flaws with House of the Dragon – some of them severe – but it’s gotten to the point that if you express a positive opinion on anything, people jump on you and assume you haven’t read the books. Well, folks, I’ve read the books and I still enjoyed quite a bit this week. Not all changes are catastrophic to the plot. 

If we’re being honest, this show is a mixed bag of good and bad changes.  Some things flesh the characters out in interesting ways while others will have a clear domino effect on the plot.  This week, the good parts were very good, from my point of view while the bad was irritating at worst.  Let’s start by talking about the good.  

First and foremost, I enjoyed the hell out of everything Baela and Rhaena. Their departure from one another gave me some of the biggest feels of the season so far.  And for a show with dramatic deaths and epic family feuds, that’s a pretty high bit of praise, but I mean it.  I truly felt their turmoil when they parted ways and had to pause for a moment to collect myself. 

Courtesy of HBO

Baela dive bombing Ser Criston was also a highlight for me, and I kind of wish she’d lit the entire damn forest up. But alas, these characters need to survive a bit longer for plot reasons so it isn’t to be. But I could see the Daemon energy in her at that moment and couldn’t help but think that she’s certainly her father’s daughter. She isn’t afraid of using her dragon to make a heat-of-the-moment decision that may or may not be against her queen’s more cautious wishes. 

Which brings me to a bit of criticism. The propensity for violence is not a gendered trait. Baela is incredibly similar to Daemon. She’s got a rebellious spunk about her and I can see her causing massive bloodshed pretty easily.  Meanwhile, King Viserys and Jaehaerys – both men – were known to be peaceful.  Having Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Rhaenys allude to these traits as being largely gendered bothered me greatly. Especially since Rhaenyra is played by a non-binary actor. Do we really want to lean into gendered stereotypes with this particular character? It made me, as a non-binary person who is a huge fan of Emm D’arcy, cringe just a little bit. 

Rhaenys tried to point this out at one point, mentioning that Jaehaerys was known to be peaceful, but later conversations reinforced this gender divide and it bothered me immensely.  This isn’t a man and woman thing.  It’s a temperament issue.  Some Targaryens are more volatile than others and it has nothing to do with their gendered role in society.  I feel like that’s a pretty well-established fact with this family.  

The other scene from this episode I wasn’t too fond of was the one between Rhaenyra and Alicent in the Sept.  I’ve always been mildly annoyed by fast travel in this series, but cutting between her arguing about not wanting to leave her war council to then taking the long trip to King’s Landing was jarring.  Dragonstone isn’t too far from King’s Landing, but it’s not close enough for her to be gone any less than a few days at best.  If they’d stretched this out over at least an episode or two, or didn’t include the scene where she’s adamant she can’t leave the war council alone, it wouldn’t have been as jarring.  It was a bit messy, in my opinion.

Even with that change, though, I’m not sure I’d have been terribly fond of the scene.  It seemed completely unnecessary and pushed the bounds of believability.  Did they really need to meet face-to-face?  Risking Queen Rhaenyra’s life for a chance at reasoning with Alicent seems ill-advised.  Even for the headstrong Rhaenyra, this felt a bit silly. 

It feels like I’ve been consistently hating the last scene of each episode this season, doesn’t it? The first two episodes were Queen Alicent and Ser Criston sex scenes, and now we get this one between her and Queen Rhaenyra.  Or maybe I’m just always hating on Alicent.  I don’t know.  But it’s definitely a pattern at this point!

Rhaenys and Corlys
Courtesy of HBO

Like I said, though, I loved quite a bit about this episode regardless of these moments.  Rhaenys and Corlys continue to be one of the most interesting pairings on the show.  It’s a mature romance that’s remarkably honest in a world dominated by backstabbing and subterfuge.  It’s probably one of the happiest relationships on the show, though I recognize that the bar is incredibly low.  They aren’t perfect at all, and I know terrible things lurk around every corner in this story, but I’m choosing to enjoy them. 

I wish these two characters could retire to Driftmark and live peacefully.  But this isn’t that kind of show.  People don’t get happy endings here.  We just need to soak up the sweet moments while we can.  It doesn’t get any happier from here. 

Courtesy of HBO

The other sequence I enjoyed was Daemon’s entire journey at Harrenhal.  Harrenhal is a haunting place, but we really got to see just how eerie it is this week.  It’s large, cold, and leaky.  And yet he was able to take it single-handedly, largely because House Strong generally has little love for the Greens and largely because, well, he’s got a dragon.  And that dragon is perched on the roof and wailing into the thunderous night.  I’d give up without a fight, too. 

The sequence at Harrenhal also brought in more of the magic that I’ve become such a sucker for in this franchise.  Alys Rivers definitely has some psychic stuff going on and has no problem creepily predicting Daemon’s death.  Daemon is also seemingly having prophetic dreams, which is ironic considering he’s the one who was so insistent that dreams did not make them kings (dragons did).  When the magical Targaryen blood chooses you to have prophetic dreams, there’s not much you can do, I suppose.  Even the skeptics in the family aren’t immune. 

I’m hoping we get more action-packed dragon scenes next week because this show does those pretty damn well.  And hopefully, we step away from disappointing Alicent scenes to wrap up every week, because it’s clear the show doesn’t do those ones well at all.

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 identify as queer.

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