House of the Dragon – Season 2, Third Episode Review

The Last Stretch Before the War

Fire and Blood is not a novel. It is a book of gossip compiled from the accounts of various individuals. As a result, some events in the book are mentioned anecdotally, while many events occur suddenly without much foundation or are passed over in a single sentence. According to the book, after the brutal death of young Jaehaerys, Criston Cole becomes the Hand of the King, and wars that will last for years begin with Harrenhal.

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However, the series attempts to build the foundations of the greatest war Westeros has ever seen in a more detailed manner, constructing a tension that isn’t present in the book. While the first two episodes focus on the sides seeking revenge against each other, they are also preparing for the impending war. The difficulty both sides face in gathering armies is a constantly mentioned topic. The third episode shows the last efforts to prevent the coming war. Unlike the book, the war does not break out suddenly. We are slowly approaching the boiling point, like water gradually heating up.

Therefore, they needed a spark, a boiling point, to start the war. The Blackwood and Bracken houses were chosen for this spark. Using their chosen sides to reflect their hatred for each other, the Blackwoods and Brackens killed each other in the Battle of Burning Mill, officially starting the Dance of the Dragons. Ryan Condal and his team chose a more dramatic approach by not showing the war directly. The stone fight among young people, who are even hesitant to draw their swords, results in the deaths of hundreds of people within seconds. While we watch the heroes of the war in the East, people in the West have already started killing each other.

I Claim Harrenhal

Dance of the Dragons begins on the fringes of the Riverlands. The Blackwood and Bracken houses clashed, spilling the first blood. From here on, it depends on who acts the fastest. While Criston Cole and Alicent’s brother Gwayne Hightower, arriving from afar, set out for Harrenhal to make their first move, Daemon, along with his dragon Caraxes, gets there before them. The biggest disadvantage for the Greens is the scarcity of dragons at their disposal, which prevents them from leaving King’s Landing to defend it.

Although Daemon reaches Harrenhal and enters, he is met neither with a friendly nor an aggressive reception. Harrenhal, far from its former glory, stands as a metaphor for the decaying Westeros. As Daemon advances into the castle, he encounters Simon Strong. Following the fire started by Larys and the deaths of Harwin and his father Lyonel, Simon, the only elder left of the house, kneels before Daemon and surrenders the castle to him. Simon will appear many times throughout the war. Similarly, Harrenhal and its burnt-smelling walls will be with us for a while longer.

Although the Harrenhal sequence is themed around surrender, two details overshadow this submission story. The first is Daemon’s vision of young Rhaenyra, portrayed by Milly Alcock. The audience may have found the first three episodes boring, but the time spent was actually used quite wisely. Throughout these three episodes, the foundations of the decisions that the characters will make in the future are being laid. Even though Daemon will never cease his support for the Blacks during the war, he will lose his loyalty to Rhaenyra. The foundations of this were laid with the fight in the previous episode and the Milly Alcock cameo in this episode. The only reason Daemon sees young Rhaenyra is because the adult Rhaenyra is not the one who took the throne he desired. Twenty years ago, his brother chose his little girl over him, completely extinguishing his dreams of the throne. It seems that Daemon’s ambitions will continuously resurface throughout the series.

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Another detail is our glimpse of Alys Rivers. Known for her ability to see the future, Alys will become a significant part of the story in the upcoming episodes and seasons. With a single sentence, she provides a beautiful example of foreshadowing. By saying, “You will die here,” she gives a spoiler for those who haven’t read the book, two seasons in advance.

No One Listens

One of the best foundations the show lays is the characters’ persistent disobedience. The warnings given to the characters serve as a good investment for the future. In the last episode, despite Rhaenyra telling Baela to fly high and stay away from danger, Baela felt the need to descend and hunt Criston Cole and his men when she saw them. Baela’s urge to jump into action will play a significant role later in the story.

The same goes for Aegon II. Since the beginning of the season, they have managed to stop the king, who is eager to mount his dragon and burn everything down every single time. In this episode, he again wanted to mount his dragon and burn everything, but this time he chose to stay back, deterred by Larys’ implications involving Alicent. However, they won’t be able to curb Aegon II’s love for action in the future, and it will lead to a great disaster.

Last Efforts

The entire episode is essentially about Rhaenyra’s efforts to prevent the impending war. The sorrowful mother, who initially demanded Aemond’s head at the beginning of the season, has softened upon realizing that her demands resulted in the death of an innocent baby. A mother who cannot even bear to see the death of one baby is now aware that her insistence on the throne will lead to the deaths of thousands. She is aware of this and wants to prevent it. Although the council urges her to take action and fight, she tries to stop the war until the last moment. Of course, Rhaenys’ influence here is significant. The only reason Rhaenys chose Rhaenyra is that she is not as bloodthirsty as the Greens.

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Although not as much as Rhaenyra, Alicent is also aware of the impending war and does not want it to happen. But the hatred she has sown has now grown beyond her control. Her council is eager for war, and Criston Cole is waiting to use his power to crush someone. Alicent’s disappointment at the table was a message to the audience. Maybe, if they could find common ground with Alicent one more time, the war could be prevented.

Of course, Rhaenyra does not know this, but she hopes for it and plans to enter King’s Landing secretly. She wants to meet with Alicent one last time and prevent the catastrophe.

New Tyrion

Although Rhaenys has an influence on Rhaenyra’s decisions, Mysaria’s words have a more significant impact. It seems that the series will turn Mysaria into a new Tyrion. Ryan Condal and his team are giving Mysaria, who will have the chance to see every tier of Fire and Blood and constantly find herself in high-level managerial positions, a more significant role. She will be the architect of many details whose background we don’t know from the book.

One of these details is the possession of unclaimed dragons. Seeing Seasmoke roaming the skies alone, Mysaria subtly plants the idea in Rhaenyra’s mind that the dragon might need a rider. Having also saved Rhaenyra from Arryk Cargyll’s sword, Mysaria will now appear much more frequently in the series and become one of the key figures directing the course of the war. You know, Westeros is full of sharp minds who come from nothing and steer wars and kingdoms.

At Last, She Knows

I have repeatedly mentioned this and must continue to do so because knowing the difference between the series and the book is essential. The book directly portrays the Greens as usurpers, while the series attributes the starting war to a misunderstanding. The name Aegon, uttered by Viserys in his final moments, actually referred to Aegon from A Song of Ice and Fire, but Alicent believed he meant her son and thought the throne belonged to him.

However, as I wrote in the previous episode, her father Otto knows that this is not the case. Otto knew they unjustly took the throne and that they had to do everything to keep it. But now, the game he orchestrated is out of his control. Not just his, but also out of his daughter’s control. Worse, Alicent has learned that her belief was based on a misunderstanding and that everything she fought for was a lie. From this point on, Alicent will either live with the regret of the blood on her hands or, like Criston Cole, live a life of denial, adding fuel to the fire. I’m eagerly awaiting to see which role the series chooses for Alicent.

Even though Rhaenyra secretly entered the city and confronted Alicent, it is now clear that the Hightower family has lost control of the civil war they started. The men at the table, especially Criston Cole, are ready to take this war to the very end, let alone stop it. The compassion of women is about to be replaced by the violence of men.

With Alicent’s words, “It’s too late, Rhaenyra,” the downfall of House Targaryen has begun. For those who found the first three episodes boring, here’s the good news: from now on, everything will be about war.

Some Beautiful Details

For two episodes, I have been continuously talking about Aegon II’s disrespect for his position and the fact that the cause of the war is someone unworthy on the throne. The show continues to bring all of Aegon II’s incompetencies to the screen. Now we see that Aegon II has made his friends members of the King’s Guard. As I wrote in the first episode, these characters are not in the book. The series has created characters just to kill them. When Rhaenyra comes to King’s Landing later, these friends will be the first to die.

Rhaenyra sent her children, Aegon III and Viserys II, to Pentos with Rhaena. Although Rhaena is leaving us for now, she will be one of the names to witness all the stages of the Dance of the Dragons. The main importance of this scene is this: the show’s producers have confirmed that three of the four dragon eggs Rhaena took with her are Daenerys’ dragons. As a lore lover, I’m torn on this. Because we believed that Dany’s dragon eggs were actually the three eggs that Elissa Farman stole years ago. And the fact that Rhaena took four eggs with her adds to the confusion.

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Although I haven’t dedicated a paragraph to the bastards this time, I still need to mention them. We learned that the man passing by in the second episode was actually Ulf White. So we have now met the fifth bastard. Last season, we briefly saw Gaemon Palehair and this season, we met Hugh Hammer, Alyn, and Addam Hull, and now Ulf. Only Nettles remains. The reason for her delay is probably because Daemon’s story hasn’t reached the necessary point yet.


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