House of the Dragon S1, Ep 6 Review
Until tonight, I thought the Lannisters were the most messed up family in Westeros. Emotionally abusive dad, incestuous twins, and alcoholic son. However, after seeing what House Targaryen was like in their heyday, it’s clear that I was mistaken. The Targaryens take the top spot as Westeros’ most messed up family. A family that’s only staying civil while the King lives. Once he dies, the House of the Dragon will go to war…and it already has its first casualties.
New Girls on the Block
This episode marks the debut of Emma D’arcy and Olivia as the now adult Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent, and they hit the ground running and don’t stop. I was skeptical that we couldn’t replace Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as the female leads, but these post-timeskip actors do a wonderful job. In their first scene as Rhaenyra, we see Emma play the Princess as she goes through the labors of childbirth, which the show depicts in vivid detail. Ten years have not softened Rhaenyra one bit, as no sooner has she given birth than she heads off to see Alicent with her newborn son, even while trailing blood on the way.
While Rhaenyra’s now the mother to three sons, there’s a problem, and everyone but the King seems to know it: they’re not Laenor’s sons. They’re all bastards, born from Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin Strong of the City Watch. And the more that are born, the more frustrated Alicent gets. Her attitude makes it clear: she doesn’t understand how her husband doesn’t see that his daughter’s undermining the marriage he worked to build.
In all fairness, Viserys might be aware of what’s going on, but chooses to ignore it. What matters to him is Rhaenyra’s sons are of his blood, regardless of who the father is, though everyone else may not feel the same way. Or maybe he’s just deluding himself in the hopes that his family will be as happy as he wants them to be.
Targaryen Family Is Messed Up
Truthfully, the whole Targaryen family is messed up, best shown through how Rhaenyra and Alicent’s kids interact with each other. Rhaenyra’s eldest boys, Jace and Luke (they’re nicknames) are nice enough, but it’s Alicent’s kids that are odd. Aemond laments how he’s the only Targaryen without a dragon, leading him to be the butt of a cruel prank by his brother.
As for Aegon? He acts like a spoiled brat. We see him standing naked on a window doing his…business, which is not something I want to remember. He’s basically a foolish boy.
Daemon Has a Happy Family, Though.
Ironically, the family that has it best ends up being Daemon’s new family with Laena Velaryon. They’re now living in Pentos as guests with their dragons, and this marks the first time that we see Vhagar, the largest dragon alive and the last one from the time of Aegon the Conqueror. She easily dwarfs all other dragons and is a triumph of CGI.
In other words, Daemon goes from being unhappy to having a loving wife, two daughters, and another one on the way. Best of all, he’s away from the toxic environment of King’s Landing.
If only fate would be kind enough to spare the kids the heartache of what’s to come. Westeros doesn’t work like that, though.
Scandal Rocks the Royal Family
After what he did at the end of last week’s episode, Ser Criston’s gone from golden boy to hated by the show’s fans, and it only gets worse from there. This week, he provokes fights between the Targaryen kids, and when Ser Harwin steps in, he accuses him the things he’s guilty of. So, Harwin beats him up, and the resulting scandal opens the floodgates.
And from here, the bodies start dropping.
The First Big Casualties
I never mentioned him last week, but there’s another member of House Strong, Larys Strong. And he’s this era’s Littlefinger, acting the mild-mannered servant in public. In private, though, he’s just as cunning. Maybe even more so, to the point that Alicent fears him.
Case in point, when Lord Strong takes Hardin back to Harrenhal to quell the rumors of Rhaenyra’s children, he burns them alive. He wipes out his own family, which isn’t new, but still disturbing. It also prompts Rhaenyra to take her family and leave for Dragonstone, depriving her of her power base.
Meanwhile, Laena dies from the stresses of childbirth in Pentos. In a moment meant to contrast Viserys’ decision to sacrifice his wife to save their child, Daemon hesitates to take the same route. However, Laena takes the choice out of his hands by approaching Vhagar and having the ancient dragon immolate her. It’s a tragic example of female agency and one that leaves everyone saddened.
A Family Divided Against Itself
Thus, the episode ends with the die already being cast. The first members of the house of the dragon have fallen, and more will follow.
Watching all this, I’m mentally berating everyone for pushing things to this point out of pride. At one point, Rhaenyra even offers an olive branch by promising to marry Jace to Alicent’s daughter, Helaena. The latter refuses to marry her daughter to a bastard, and another chance to make peace flies out the window.
Right now, I’m glad I promised not to become attached to the characters in House of the Dragon. It lets me see the entire Targaryen family for what they’re being: dumb. And once King Viserys dies, fire and blood will consume them all. Meanwhile, I’ll be munching on popcorn, lamenting the foolishness of everyone.
That, and the sight of Prince Aegon doing his business in a window. Who does that?!? Even if that was David Tennant’s son playing him.