After last week’s banger of an episode (haha, get it?) things are heating up on House Of The Dragon. Which isn’t surprising, since we’re almost at the halfway point and things are only going to get wilder from here. Wilder than peasant cosplay as foreplay to incest in a steamy brothel? Oh, yes. The show seems to be just about finished laying the groundwork for the next phase of the story. The characters are in place and the subject of succession has been established as a fault line among nobles and the small folk alike (it also happens to be a hot topic in the real world right now). Now the real game begins. The preview for this week teased an upcoming royal wedding, and if we know anything about big weddings in George R.R. Martin’s world, we know they’re usually rather eventful affairs. Here are a few other things we’re pondering as we head into the next new episode.
1. What factions are forming inside the Red Keep and who will back whom?
Although King Viserys seems unwavering in his conviction to keep his daughter Princess Rhaenyra in place as the rightful heir, there aren’t many others in King’s Landing eager to jump in and declare for her when the time comes. That’s one of the reasons why it’s vital that Viserys heal the rift with Lord Corlys Velaryon through Rhaenyra’s marriage to his son, Ser Laenor. Having the rich and powerful House Velaryon on her side will boost Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, despite being connected to young Aegon—the more popular contender for the crown—House Hightower will have less influence at court following Otto’s departure. Will Alicent and Rhaenyra’s already strained relationship be fully broken once people start choosing sides? And where will Daemon, who’s still resentful at being kicked out of line, come down in all of this?
2. What’s Prince Daemon’s next move?
Oh Prince Daemon, what a fascinating and aggravating character you are (thanks, in part, to Matt Smith’s portrayal). We can’t help but sympathize with Viserys, who wants so badly to believe in his brother and his capacity to be a stable, high-functioning member of society, but his hopes are bludgeoned every time (in much the same way as Daemon beat that messenger in the Stepstones). The Rogue Prince, King of the Narrow Sea, whatever you want to call him—he just can’t help himself. So now he’s been banished once again, but where can he go this time? Mysaria’s set herself up nicely in Flea Bottom so she’s not following him anywhere. Plus, we’re pretty sure she’s the spy who made sure word of his exploits with Rhaenyra made it back to court. There’s always Runestone, where he was supposed to go when he was exiled the first time at the end of episode one. You’d be forgiven if you’d forgotten that he actually has a wife and home there. Daemon would prefer to forget that too.
3. Will someone spill the tea on that tea?
What was Viserys thinking when he sent the maester with that Plan B tea to Rhaenyra at the end of the last episode? Was it his way of telling her he didn’t believe her when she said nothing happened with Daemon? Was it a precautionary measure to protect her, just in case? Either way, it was a risky move on his part. Perhaps not as risky as not sending it, but couldn’t he have brought it himself and explained? Never mind, this is Viserys we’re talking about. He’s never been comfortable talking to his daughter about touchy-feely stuff, let alone the birds and the bees. Unfortunately, that makes them both vulnerable to whispers. Nothing stays secret in the Red Keep for long. If anyone saw Ser Criston Cole slipping in and out of her chambers, it could be curtains for the both of them. Worse, with Rhaenyra’s reputation already on shaky ground, the rumor that she needed birth control will only make for more tremors. Viserys had better get a move on with that wedding pact.
4. What’s Otto Hightower’s next move?
Otto overplayed his hand with the king one too many times and got sacked for it, but he doesn’t strike us as the kind of guy who’s going to be content to sit on the sidelines. As a second son, he’s had to fight and scrape for every ounce of power he can get. That determination is what landed him the second-most (some would say the most) powerful position in the Seven Kingdoms. He’s not about to throw it all away now, especially with the chance that his grandson could one day become king. Though he may not be the Hand of the King anymore, he still has a way in through his daughter. Viserys trusts Alicent more than he ever did her father. Will Otto be able to convince her to advocate for her son’s succession? She was hesitant to betray her best friend before, but now that her relationship with Rhaenyra is fracturing there may be an opportunity there. And far be it for Otto to miss an opportunity when he sees one.
5. Will this be the last episode we’ll get with Milly Alcock and Emily Carey?
Ever since HBO released the cast list and there were two actresses named in the roles of Rhaenyra and Alicent, we knew a time jump would be coming at some point, and we would be bidding farewell to two cast members. What we didn’t know was how attached we’d become to them in the first half of the season.
Milly Alcock has been knocking it out of the park each week as Rhaenyra. She’s given us so many different sides of the character—irreverence, ambition, naïveté, heartbreaking grief, simmering indignation, unbridled lust—while always remaining true to the steely Targaryen core beneath it all. Meanwhile, Emily Carey has quietly become one of the show’s most valuable players. She doesn’t get to do the big, showy scenes like Alcock and Smith. But we can see so much of Alicent’s inner turmoil expressed in her face. We know how isolated and trapped she feels in her position, though she isn’t allowed to come right out and say so. That, in itself, is a tragedy.
With the pace at which the show is moving forward in time, we may be seeing the last of them in this episode. So we’ll be spending as much time as we can savoring the scenes they have left. Fortunately, their characters will still be with us, and we can’t wait to see what Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke bring to them for the rest of the season.