House of the Dragon – S1E6: The Princess and The Queen. Reaction/Breakdown – Spoilers!!

As the title suggests, episode 6 was a battle for power and standing between The Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent. Episode 6 begins 10 years after the wedding debacle fans are calling The Green Wedding, due to Alicent’s statement dress. The casting has been updated with new actors for Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), Laena (Nanna Blondell) and Laenor Velaryon. The casting switch makes the episode feel like a new season or as some of the showrunners describe it, like a 2nd pilot.

The opening scene is a black screen set to moans and cuts to a sweaty Rhaenyra in the midst of childbirth. Both her looks and current position reminds the audience of her mother Aemma when last we saw her. The audio here really connects the audience to the scene as Rhaenyra pushes. Unlike Aemma, Rhaenyra successfully delivers her third son, whom we later see Laenor name after his boyfriend killed at his wedding, Joffrey.

Immediately following delivery a handmaid enters and informs Rhaenyra that Queen Alicent requests to see the baby immediately. The handmaid must have been sent with the message earlier and told to deliver it once the baby was delivered. We are clued in to Rhaenyra’s mistrust of Alicent as she does not send the baby but rather gets up gets dressed, delivers the placenta as she’s getting dressed, and walks across the Red Keep, up stairs, past the entire court, to Alicent’s chambers, accompanied by her husband Laenor.

Alicent is getting another green dress fitted as Rhaenyra labors into the room. She appears bewildered why Rhaenyra would be out of bed. In contrast, Viserys enters, now missing a whole arm, and greets Rhaenyra and Laenor with genuine excitement to see them and his new grandson, even proud at Rhaenyra calling the midwife a cunt. Viserys comments that Joffrey has his father’s nose and Laenor laughs. There is an elephant in the room that is almost as uncomfortable as Alicent holding, or should I say inspecting, the baby. Rhaenyra chose to come in person because unlike Otto’s suggestion that Rhaenyra would put her children to the sword, it very much feels like Alicent is the one who would harm children be it physically or through ill-will and suggestion japing at Laenor that one day one of the babies will look like him.

As Rhaenyra and Laenor walk back to their chambers they leave behind a trail of blood. They squabble over Laenor’s naming Joffrey on the spot without consulting Rhaenyra, and we see the power dynamic between the two to favor Rhaenyra. As the episode goes on we see that Laenor has grown bored and somewhat discontent with the marriage pact over 10 years. It does not appear to have boiled over but may soon come to a pinnacle despite Rhaenyra’s attempts to indulge Laenor’s dalliances to quell the problem.

When Rhaenyra and Laenor get back to their chambers, Westeros gives us it’s version of a blended family. We meet Rhaenyra’s older 2 children Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon who picked a new egg for Joffrey. The unexpected family member in the room is Ser Harwin Strong, now Lord Commander of the City Watch. While it is only Strongly hinted at during the episode, it is clear that Ser Harwin is father of all 3 boys. Laenor even leaves, taking Jacaerys and Lucerys back to the dragon pit, giving Harwin alone time with his new son.

In the dragon pit we meet Alicent’s sons Aegon and Aemond, shown above later training in the courtyard dressed in green. Jacaerys is training his dragon, Vermax. Aegon rides Sunfyre and although we are not told the name of Lucerys’ dragon we know he has one as we are told Aemond is the only one without a dragon when his brother and nephews prank him giving him a pig in dragon costume they call The Pink Dread a play on Balerion the Black Dread. Saddened, Aemond walks away from them and wanders into the the dragon cells and is nearly roasted by his sister Helaena’s dragon Dreamfyre.

Helaena is the only girl between Alicent and Rhaenyra’s children. She is an entomophile and barely looks at Alicent as she is consumed in a particular blind bug at the moment. She actually winces at her touch. A guard brings in Aemond and as he explains to Alicent that the other boys are bullying him, Helaena continues to speak to her bugs in the background but it is almost prophetic, in that we saw in one of HBO trailers an older Aemond is missing an eye, but probably only foreshadowing, but who knows as Targaryens are knows to be dreamers.

Alicent: You will have a dragon one day.

Helaena: He’ll have to close an eye

Alicent: I know it

Alicent is later telling Viserys what happened to Aemond and has decided that it must be the doing of Rhaenyra’s boys, calling them a menace. Viserys takes up for them and suggests that it was likely Aegon’s orchestration which seems more likely as he is the eldest and later calls Aemond a twat, after being interrupted by Alicent (who casually conversed) as he stood naked and masturbated from his bedroom window.

Viserys dismisses his stone mason Eddard, as Alicent continues to raise paternity concerns over Rhaenyra’s sons. Viserys explains that biology is difficult but it’s clear Alicent is hell bent on getting Rhaenyra replaced with Aegon through delegitimizing Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey who are all ahead of Aegon in the line of succession.

Not getting any satisfaction from Viserys, as he forbade her from speaking of it any further, Alicent storms through the halls complaining to a still bitter Criston Cole. Cole says that Rhaenyra is brazen and a spider who sucks her prey dry, referencing how he felt after being turned down by Rhaenyra 10 years ago. He calls her a cunt and hypocritically, Alicent reprimands him in the name of honor and decency.

Alicent is channeling Otto this episode. When she confronts Aegon about pranking his brother, she has a lack of shame at having interrupted Aegon while masturbating and continues to speak with him only instructing him to get dressed as she was leaving. Instead when he displays no interest in the throne, she chastises him for not having the wherewithal to see his half sister and nephews as a threat in a manner we’ve seen Otto speak with her in the past. she aggressively snatches his face demanding he see his path as she does.

Meanwhile, over in Pentos. Daemon and Laena are traveling the world and performing dragon tricks, wowing crowds and getting paid to protect cities with their dragons, Laena now riding Vhagar, the largest dragon alive, recalling that a 12 year old Laena showed interest in Vhagar’s whereabouts during her walk with Viserys. Leana later tells Rhaena (whom is without a dragon) that she claimed Vhagar when she was 15, she would have already had her during the last episode at the wedding but was cut from the show.

Despite some hinting that Daemon is in love with Rhaenyra, Laena and she look to be in a happy and marriage, especially compared to his last marriage. They have twin daughters, Baela and Rhaena, and Laena is pregnant. Laena expresses being home sick and recognizing the same in Daemon though he is unwilling to admit it. Dameon considers Prince Reggio’s offer of permanent residence in Pentos in exchange for protection from the Triarchy, Laena wants to go to Driftmark to have her baby and raise their family. She wants to die a dragon rider’s death not a fat country lord.

While Daemon seems to be enjoying his time away from Kings Landing, the boys are being trained by Ser Criston as their grandfather Viserys and unnamed his Hand Lyonel look on. Aegon is distracted by passing maids and has to be redirected by Criston. Criston is redirected by Ser Harwin because Criston is favoring Aegon and Aemond and neglecting the training of Jacaerys and Lucerys. Criston aggressively snatches Jacaerys causing Viserys to furrow his brow. Criston pairs Jacaerys and Aegon in a sparring mismatch.

As Aegon easily beats Jacaerys at the encouragement of Criston, Harwin intervenes, as it is hard to watch his son be treated unfairly, throwing Aegon off of Jacaerys. Aegon erupts in a Joffrey Baratheon manner to Viserys’ disappointment but Criston chastises Harwin for putting hands on the prince, who is honestly further down the succession than Jacaerys but it shows where Criston’s loyalty lies. As Harwin calls Criston out for cruelty, Criston outright questions Harwin on the boys’ paternity and Harwin gives us the most satisfying scene in the episode by pummeling his face but is pulled off before he could duplicate Criston’s interaction with Joffrey Lonmouth last episode.

Rhaenyra is alerted about the incident and sneaks off to check on Harwin but meets him being yelled at by Lyonel who is dishonored by the incident and now fears their lives. Though he will not outright say it and Harwin dismisses it as rumor spun by Rhaenyra’s rivals, it is clear that the paternity looms over their heads. while it seems the dangers are rising, Laenor is strolling through the castle openly with his new boyfriend Qarl, drunk and singing loudly. He comes in to tell Rhaenyra about the war raging in the stepstones and he can’t wait to get out to sea. You’re almost included to feel bad for Laenor as Rhaenyra commands him to stay happily in their marriage pact, she also reminds him that he knew what he was getting into and through the years have indulged in that agreement and she is holding him to the at pact.

Laena comes in to see Rhaena warming her egg in front of the fire in hops that it will still hatch. It’s here Laena tells her that she doesn’t have to hatch her egg to be a dragon rider, she can claim a dragon as her mother did Vhagar. Laena offers the encouragement further stating that Daemon would say the same. Rhaena says that her father ignores her, which the only difference between the twins would be that one has a bonded dragon and the other does not. However, I wish they’d given us Daemon’s perspective on why he favors one twin over the other. Laena says he is doing his best and later we see her trying to encourage Daemon to go home telling him she misses her brother Laenor and suggesting that he also misses his brother Viserys. She encourages him to remember himself.

The Small Council is discussing his whereabouts and lack of responsibility in holding the stepstones after being crowned King of the Narrow Sea. As the meeting goes on we see the power struggle between Rhaenyra and Alicent yet again. As the meeting ends Viserys has to ask toe council to be seated as Rhaenyra has something to add, to which only Alicent remains standing. Rhaenyra uses the council meeting to make a proposal to betroth Jacaerys and Helaena and also offered to give Aemon a new egg from Syrax’s clutch. Viserys is elated by the proposal unlike Alicent who views it as an unworthy and insincere proposal. She disregards the suggestion instead using the moment to try to embarrass Rhaenyra who is leaking breastmilk. While I’ll admit the timing of the proposal is likely driven by Rhaenyra feeling unsafe and insecure at the Red Keep, it is nonetheless a great suggestion.

As they walk back to their chambers, Alicent tells Viserys that over her dead body would be have her only daughter married to one of Rhaenyra’s plain featured sons. She storms off and Viserys catches up to her in the room she tucks him in despite his protests. Lord Lyonel comes to talk to Viserys about resigning because Harwin disgraced himself. Viserys protests saying being fired from the City Watch is enough and unless Lyonel has something else to confess he doesn’t accept his resignation. Lyonel does not elaborate and Viserys rejects his resignation telling him that he is the most loyal Hand he ever had, enraging Alicent. Viserys then grands Lyonel leave to take Harwin to Harrenhal to begin his duties as Lord there.

Alicent, fuming, is late to dinner with the other Strong, Larys. The scene suggests that they have dinner regularly as we did not see this one planned and Larys says it has been his duties to tell her of the happenings in the castle. He complains about not having her father to support her interests regardless if it is in the King’s best interests or not. Larys clearly has no loyalty to his own father and brother and has aligned himself to Alicent. He goes into the black cells to recruit criminals to go on an errand, but first he severs their tongue so they could not snitch if their plan is found out.

In Pentos, Daemon is faced with the same decision as his brother in episode one, as Laena’s labor is proving difficult. Laena knows the position she is in and the choice Daemon is being presented, she leaves the room unnoticed, goes to Vhagar and commands Dracarys. Vhagar is unwilling and she has to command it 6 times before Vhagar complies. Daemon calls to her but is too late. There is no doubt that he would’ve stopped her if he could. Laena does as she said to him earlier, ending her life as a dragon rider, not allowing them to perform a c-section and suffer the same fate as Aemma. This is by far the saddest scene in the episode and may have been the saddest in the show thus far, as we have had some time to with the characters, and even though Laena has not had as much screen time, this episode alone has done great work of character development. She is all grown up with a family and children who look like she did with we first saw Laena in episode one.

Also sad was the scene of Harwin saying a final goodbye to the sons he has been unable to openly father. Jacaerys asking if Harwin is his father and unable to receive a straight answer. Rhaenyra knows she must get her family to safety as the Red Keep is becoming more dangerous. She tells Laenor they should’ve left years ago to Dragonstone. A hesitant Laenor is reassured he can bring Qarl with him to Dragonstone. While it is a kindness to her husband it is also securing some swords on their side for the impending rift.

They then lose a likely ally in the Strong’s as we see Larys’ plan unveiled as he sent those criminals to Harrenhal to kill his family. They set fire to the castle as Harwin and Lyonel were trapped inside. Later blaming it to accident or the curse of Harrenhal. Curiously the criminals wore a bee pin on their cloaks suggesting some association to Lord Beesbury or a plan to frame him later on.

There is a voice over of Larys giving a speech about children being weakness as Rhaenyra and her children arrive in Dragonstone and Viserys sits crying and kissing Aemma’s ring grieving his daughter’s departure while he is likely being spied on by Larys somehow through the rats in the castle. the fall out at Harrenhal where father and son die leaving 3 boys fatherless and back to Pentos to 2 motherless twins and their father also distraught. I wonder why the showrunners decided against showing Daemon consoling his daughters. The scenes were shot and pulled as thought they didn’t want him to appear too caring.

Larys and Alicent are given the final scene as they orchestrated Otto’s return coming next week. Alicent says that she did not ask for this and Larys carried out heinous tasks on his own. She seeks to remain righteous in appearance when he gave her exactly what she wanted when she carried on about not having allies in their last meeting. As Rhaenyra loses her allies, Alicent will get her father back and has aligned herself with a kinslayer in Larys and murdering in Criston Cole.

I give this episode a 8.75 for the emotion it elicited from beginning to end with the birthing scenes and deaths. Episode looks exciting even though it is the shortest episode of the 2nd half of the season. There will be some emotional scenes back on Driftmark for Laena’s funeral. I’m ready for Daemon to return to Westeros.

What do you rate this episode? What was your favorite or least favorite scene or character?

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