House of the Dragon, Episode Six: A New Era in Westeros

We are entering a new era in House of the Dragon following the mid-season finale and a 10-year time jump. With so much change and a lot to catch up on, how did episode six set us up for the rest of the season?

New Cast Takes Over

The biggest non-story related change from this episode is the arrival of Emma D’Arcy (Rhaenyra Targaryen) and Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower). Taking over the roles from the phenomenal Millie Alcock and Emily Carey, D’Arcy and Cooke have big shoes to fill.

Alicent Hightower and Ser Criston Cole in House of the Dragon Episode Six
Alicent Hightower and Ser Criston Cole via HBO: House of the Dragon

In their first episode, both knock it out of the park. D’Arcy notably brings the same amount of charisma and strength to the role that made Rhaenyra such a fan favorite in the first few episodes. As for Alicent, Cooke kills it in every way. She does a tremendous job at making you hate her guts. She demonstrates this in a tense scene between her and her son, Aegon (Ty Tennant). Alicent scolds Aegon for his reckless behavior, reminding him that he will be king one day, despite Rhaenyra remaining the rightful heir to the throne. Cooke delivers a masterclass in acting with her emotional performance, making this scene stand out. Olivia Cooke’s performance evokes strong reactions from the audience, making Alicent someone we will love to hate by the end of the season.

One Decade Later…

The Princess and the Queen was a packed episode with a lot to talk about. Taking place 10 years after the events of Episode 5, things have changed drastically in Westeros. Rhaenyra is now a mother to three boys, one of whom she gives birth in the beginning of the episode. Speculation arises, however, as to the identity of their real father, as none of her children resemble her husband, Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan).

Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon in House of the Dragon Episode Six
Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon via HBO: House of the Dragon

Harwin Strong and Rhaenyra have become very close and based on looks and emotional connection, it’s clear he could be the children’s father. Harwin later gets into an altercation with the unpopular Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). This leads to Harwin’s father attempting to resign his duties as Hand to the King, and Harwin returning home to take up his role as heir to the throne of Harrenhal. Unfortunately, he is attacked and killed, left to burn alive. This attack is arranged by Harwin’s brother, Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), who serves as a confidant to the Queen. This is heartbreaking, as many fans have fallen in love with Harwin in this show, and it continues to add to the list of reasons to hate the queen.

King of the Narrow Sea

Someone else we have been keeping tabs on is Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). He is now married to the daughter of the Sea Snake, Laena Velayron (Nanna Blondell). They have two children together in the ten years, and live across the narrow sea in Pentos. Laena is stunning and Blondell’s phenomenal performance makes her character easy to root for, especially in the scenes with her children and with Daemon discussing their relationship. These are some of the most compelling moments in the episode, rendering her death all the more heartbreaking to watch.

In this episode, Laena is pregnant with their third child and is struggling to give birth, leaving Daemon to face the same choice Viserys (Paddy Considine) does in episode one – whether to save the child, killing Laena, or potentially lose them both. However, Daemon does not follow in his brother’s footsteps and decides to save his wife

Sadly, it becomes clear that Laena will not survive either way. Wanting to die a Dragon Rider’s death, Laena leaves her bed and goes to the beach where, in a visceral moment, she says “Dracarys,” ordering her dragon to kill her and her unborn child. This is a devastating and powerful moment, which Blondell portrays beautifully.  

Episode Review

Overall, due to the large time jump and the staggering number of events that happen within those 10 years, this episode could have been a mess in terms of pacing and context. I think the show did a great job, however, of catching us up while moving the story forward eventfully. The casting for this show continues to be near perfect, especially in regard to the additions of D’Arcy and Cooke.

Visually, this show is as stunning as ever, and the story continues to heat up. Going into the next couple of episodes, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Alicent and Rhaenyra continues to deteriorate. All roads lead to the inevitable battle for the throne, and it will be fun to see how characters like Daemon and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) play into it. 

What did you think of episode six? Let me know on Twitter! And make sure to watch House of the Dragon every Sunday at 9pm EST/6pm PST!

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