What are the Stepstones, who is the Crabfeeder, and other burning questions ahead of House Of The Dragon episode 3

·6 min read
Left to right: Rhys Ifans, Paddy Considine, Gavin Spokes, David Horovitch, Milly Alcock, Bill Paterson, and Steve Toussaint
Left to right: Rhys Ifans, Paddy Considine, Gavin Spokes, David Horovitch, Milly Alcock, Bill Paterson, and Steve Toussaint

We’re only two weeks into House Of The Dragon and the show has already given us so much to speculate about. Between the palace intrigue of the Red Keep and the expansion of the world outside King’s Landing, there’s plenty to explore. It seems like viewers are also hungry for more too, once again tuning into the Game Of Thrones prequel in droves for second installment. This week’s episode had us wondering about the geography of George R.R. Martin’s world and the motivations of the characters with regards to the question of succession. Read on for the latest in our ongoing series of questions about what’s in store and what it all means.

1. How big of a mistake did King Viserys just make?

Emily Carey and Paddy Considine
Emily Carey and Paddy Considine

Viserys barely had time to grieve his first wife before his advisors started urging him to find another queen to fortify the line of succession (which basically means have more children, and fast). The most strategic match is also the least appealing to him—12-year-old Laena Velaryon, the daughter of his cousin Rhaenys (The Queen Who Never Was) and his Master of Ships Lord Corlys Velaryon. Instead, the king announced that he would marry Alicent Hightower, the daughter of the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower.

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The decision took everyone by surprise (except perhaps Otto) and may have alienated at least two very important figures at court. The first is obviously Lord Velaryon, the Sea Snake, whose help the king will need if war breaks out in the Stepstones, which looks pretty likely at this point. The second is Princess Rhaenyra, Alicent’s closest friend, or so she thought. From her point of view it’s a betrayal on several fronts. Neither her father nor Alicent had shared with her that they’d been meeting in private the past few months (platonically, but still). And while Rhaenyra seemed to be okay with him remarrying as long as it was for political reasons, this looks like something else. Are these forgivable offenses? And what happens if Alicent bears him a son? Will the realm still accept Rhaenyra as the rightful heir when there’s a male alternative?

2. Is Alicent playing her own game?

Emily Carey
Emily Carey

After this episode we were left to wonder the same thing Rhaenyra probably was—what part did Lady Alicent play in this decision? She seemed as surprised as anyone when Viserys made his announcement, but we know she’s had the king’s ear for some time now. After their first meeting, prompted by Otto’s suggestion to comfort him in his grief, she kept coming back. For six months. She said and did all the right things, and eventually became a sort of shadow advisor, at least when it came to his personal life and relationship with his daughter. She seems kind, but she’s also bright. Was she acting with sincerity or was there some subtle manipulation going on there? Or is Otto still pulling the strings from the sidelines to secure his own advantage? Maybe they’re working together towards the same ends?

3. What does Daemon really want?

Matt Smith and Sonoya Mizuno
Matt Smith and Sonoya Mizuno

The subject of succession has always been a sore point with Prince Daemon Targaryen. As a second son he’s expected to make his own way in the world, despite the remote possibility of inheriting the Iron Throne always dangling over his head. It must be maddening to have your entire future dependent on your elder brother’s ability to father sons. And yet we’ve seen signs that maybe the throne isn’t what Daemon wants at all. He seems to bear no ill will against Rhaenyra, even after she’s named heir over him. If he really wanted the crown, he’d have had a better shot at it if he’d killed her on the bridge to Dragonstone when she dared him to. Besides his affection for Rhaenyra, which seems genuine, he knows his brother would never forgive him if he’d done it. It’s more likely that the stolen egg, the sham marriage, the entire “mummer’s farce” on the bridge, was orchestrated to get his brother’s attention. Matt Smith clearly conveys Daemon’s disappointment when the King’s Landing contingent arrives and Viserys isn’t with them. Would a little familial affection smooth things over now? We may be past that point. One thing is for sure, though—Daemon’s not out of moves yet.

4. What are the Stepstones and why are they so important?

Illustration:  Jeffrey L. Ward/Random House
Illustration: Jeffrey L. Ward/Random House

We’ve been hearing about this place (these places?) since the first episode, and they seem to be the subject of some concern among the king’s small council, but what actually are they? Fortunately, when it comes to getting a better understanding of the geography and politics of Westeros, we always have the books for reference. According to George R.R. Martin’s source material, the Stepstones are a chain of small, rocky islands spread across the southern portion of the Narrow Sea between Westeros and Essos. They lie to the south of King’s Landing, just off the coast of Dorne and connect to a region known as The Disputed Lands. They mark an important trade route between the two continents, but because of the wealth of goods passing through they are also a haven for pirates.

When House Of The Dragon begins, the Free Cities of Lys, Myr, and Tyrosh have just united to form a Triarchy and have begun clearing the pirates out of the Stepstones. This might seem like a good thing for the Seven Kingdoms, as Viserys notes, but once they gain control of the passage they’ll also be able to control all the trade going through it as well. This would be bad for Westeros, but especially bad for House Velaryon, whose wealth is built on shipping. His warnings seem to go unheeded, however, with the pressing issue of succession looming over everything. Will Lord Velaryon’s new alliance with Prince Daemon, built on a mutual animosity toward the king, prove to be a smart move or reckless one?

5. Who is the Crabfeeder and what’s his deal?

Daniel Scott-Smith
Daniel Scott-Smith

At the beginning of the episode we’re shown a horrific scene of torture-by-crab and other brutal intimidation tactics on a vast beach. This is the work of the Crabfeeder, a mysterious individual who hides his disfigured face behind a metal mask. What does he have to do with the turmoil in the Stepstones? Is he acting alone, as some believe, or is he supported by the Triarchy, acting on their orders to establish a base of power in the Stepstones? If it’s the latter, then attacking him could potentially drag the Seven Kingdoms into a war with the Free Cities, which is the last thing anyone needs right now. Lord Velaryon doesn’t care, though, he just wants Viserys to deal with this monster who keeps destroying his ships and feeding his men to the crabs (the nickname is apt, if not a bit too literal). According to the books his real name is Craghas Drahar and he’s an admiral from Myr, but that’s about all we have to go on for now. Except that he’s super creepy.