In the “House of the Dragon” recap, King Viserys celebrates his son’s second name day, Rhaenyra feels forgotten and Daemon faces the consequences of his war in the Stepstones…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Another time jump serves as the centerpiece of the latest episode of “House of the Dragon” and there will be many people wondering why this keeps happening?
Truth be told, the story at the center of this series unfolds over several decades, which means the events just to get to the main conflict could take numerous seasons and that’s undoubtedly why the creators behind the show decided to go this route rather than play everything out in real time.
Now it must be noted that one of the biggest complaints surrounding the final two seasons of “Game of Thrones” was how everything felt sped up. Travel no longer took weeks or even months, which would sprawl out over several episodes or sometimes almost an entire season and the events just happened in rapid-fire succession rather than the slow burn that defined the series for so long.
It was legitimately an issue when “Game of Thrones” suddenly abandoned one of the hallmarks of that series just for the sake of getting to the finale. Many of the events that unfolded over the last two seasons would likely take twice as many episodes to unravel given the nature of the show up to that point.
That said, “House of the Dragon” has set this precedent since the beginning after the second episode jumped ahead six months and then this latest installment fast-forwarded nearly three years. As explained in a previous recap, “House of the Dragon” will eventually endure an even bigger time jump to get to the main conflict in this story — likely jumping ahead more than 10 years — but it’s not for the sake of sacrificing the plot but actually the exact opposite.
If it’s not clear by now, the battle over who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne once King Viserys dies really is the main plot that will continue to dominate this show for however many seasons it runs. Even in George R.R. Martin’s book “Fire and Blood” that details this story — he often jumps ahead and takes up huge chunks of time with just a little bit of prose, especially when it comes to children being born and growing up.
It’s for that reason that “House of the Dragon” will continue with these time jumps until we get to where we’re eventually going — although this latest episode really laid out rather plainly the fight that’s already brewing between a faction of supporters who believe Princess Rhaenyra is the true heir to the Iron Throne because her father named her his successor and plenty of others who now feel the King’s firstborn son should supplant any prior claim his sister may have made.
There’s a lot to unpack from this episode, which takes place almost exactly three years after the second episode as King Viserys and Queen Alicent celebrate their son’s second name day.
With that said, let’s get to our “House of the Dragon” recap for the third episode titled “Second of His Name”…
The Second Name Day
When the last episode of “House of the Dragon” ended, King Viserys announced that he would take a new wife and her name was Lady Alicent Hightower, daughter of his Hand of the King, Otto Hightower. The move surprised many — none more so than the King’s Master of Ships Lord Corlys Velaryon, who had proposed that Viserys should marry his daughter Laena, thus bringing their two houses even closer together, especially considering they both share pure blood as families from Old Valyria.
After hearing that King Viserys chose Alicent Hightower as his wife, Lord Corlys abandoned his post on the Small Council and decided to visit Prince Daemon Targaryen to invite him to join a war against the Triarchy — an alliance of three free cities Myr, Lys and Tyrosh — that had set out to conquer the Stepstones, a series of rocky islands that served as a constant home to pirates looking to sack any ship that came nearby.
Because Lord Corlys Velaryon’s entire wealth has been built around shipping and sailing, he saw the attack on the Stepstones as a direct affront to his business, which by extension means it’s a threat to the crown but King Viserys had no interest in waging a war for the Stepstones. If anything, Viserys felt like the Triarchy — led by a man named Craghas Drahar aka Craghas Crabfeeder — were doing them a favor by wiping out the pirates that set up camp on the Stepstones.
Of course, Lord Corlys saw the bigger picture — if the Triarchy took over the Stepstones, they could then control the shipping lanes through that area, which would mean House Velaryon and all the other houses that depended on seaports to survive would then have to answer to not only the King in Westeros but the men in charge of the free cities.
Taxes, tolls and other costs could potentially cripple House Velaryon but King Viserys saw the Stepstones as a battle that wasn’t worth fighting. That’s when Lord Corlys decided to take matters into his own hands by teaming up with Daemon Targaryen and launching a war of their own against the Crabfeeder and his army from the Triarchy.
Now three years later, Daemon and his dragon Ceraxes have helped Lord Corlys fight back the advances of the Crabfeeder but the many caves and caverns on the Stepstones have allowed the Triarchy forces to retreat away from dragon fire while launching stealth attacks against the Velaryon fleet under the cover of night. In other words, the Crabfeeder is no fool and the war for the Stepstones would not be won so easily even as Daemon continued to rain down fire upon his enemies each and every day.
Meanwhile back in King’s Landing, King Viserys and Queen Alicent are celebrating the second name day of their first born son Aegon II Targaryen — obviously named after Aegon I Targaryen, better known as Aegon the Conqueror, who was the first ever Targaryen king to rule Westeros.
The entire kingdom has shown up to celebrate young Aegon’s birthday while Queen Alicent is already far along in another pregnancy to give the King yet another child.
Lord Hobert Hightower — older brother of The Hand of the King Otto Hightower and the lord of Hightower — sees Aegon’s birthday as the perfect time to celebrate the natural line of succession. He sees Aegon as the true heir to the Iron Throne regardless of what King Viserys declared years earlier when he named his daughter Rhaenyra as his successor.
When Otto tells him that King Viserys might not see the line of succession quite as clearly, especially after he named his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir, Hobert says that now it’s time for his brother to remind him of his duty when it comes to his firstborn son.
Remember, the line of succession was always supposed to go father to eldest son — but even when that didn’t happen, a male was the only one who was expected to sit as King on the Iron Throne.
As for King Viserys, he’s enjoying the birthday party for his son but his Master of Coin, Tyland Lannister is in his ear with reports out of the Stepstones.
This is our first real look at Tyland Lannister and his slightly older brother Jason Lannister, who rules as the Lord of Casterly Rock. Obviously House Lannister plays a major part in the future of the realm, particularly regarding “The Mad King” Aerys Targaryen being overthrown and Lord Tywin Lannister serving as arguably the most powerful man in the Seven Kingdoms.
Even at this stage, nearly 200 years before the events in “Game of Thrones,” the Lannisters are still a very powerful family and just as cunning with what we see unfold during this episode.
Tyland tells the King that despite the best efforts of Prince Daemon and Lord Corlys, they are stuck at a standstill in the fight against Craghas Crabfeeder and his army from the Triarchy. In fact, Daemon and Corlys have suffered many losses and it’s believed that they may not be able to win this war, which is why Tyland is asking the king to send reinforcements.
King Viserys doesn’t want to hear anything about it, especially after his brother Daemon and Lord Corlys went against his wishes to start this war in the Stepstones. Otto reminds the King that sending his army to help in the battle would only make him look weak after refusing to engage in the war for the past three years.
As the celebration continues, King Viserys can’t help but notice that his daughter Rhaenyra is nowhere to be found.
It turns out, Princess Rhaenyra has little desire to see all the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms and their wives fall over themselves to praise her brother Aegon. Even as the named heir to the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra understands that Aegon’s birth complicates her claim as the rightful successor because just as Princess Rhaenys told her a week ago — there are men who would rather watch Westeros turn to ash than see a woman rule the Seven Kingdoms as queen.
Queen Alicent eventually finds Rhaenyra reading under a tree and it’s obvious the relationship between them has all but disappeared. Rhaenyra clearly saw Alicent marrying her father as a betrayal, especially after they were best friends growing up.
Now as Alicent prepares to have a second child, Rhaenyra grows even more vengeful against the woman who bedded her father and finally gave him a son — something her mother was never able to do for him.
When Alicent reminds Rhaenyra that it’s her duty to join the King in the royal hunt to celebrate Aegon’s name day, she begrudgingly removes herself from the tree, slams down her book and heads inside to parlay with her father and all of the Lords of Westeros come to celebrate her brother’s birthday.
At this stage, Rhaenyra joins her father, her brother and her stepmother in a carriage being drawn to the Kingswood where they will hunt a stag to celebrate Aegon’s name day.
After arriving, Rhaenyra feels completely out of place but she soon drifts into a conversation being held by Queen Alicent and some of the other wives of the Lords who have gathered as they gossip about the conflict in the Stepstones.
Larys Strong aka Larys Clubfoot also joins them and he’s a character to watch as the series moves forward.
Larys was born with a twisted, misshapen foot — thus his nickname “Clubfoot” — and he’s the younger son of Lord Lyonel Strong, who is the Master of Laws under King Viserys. His older brother, who we briefly see later in the episode, is Ser Harwin Strong — also known as Harwin Breakbones because he’s widely regarded as the strongest knight in all the Seven Kingdoms.
House Strong is a powerful family from the riverlands that rules over Harrenhal — the half melted castle that Aegon burned during his conquest to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Harrenhal has long been considered cursed after Harren Hoare also known as Harren the Black took 40 years to build the largest castle in the realm and he believed the massive walls and tall towers made it impregnable.
That all changed when Aegon arrived on the back of his massive dragon, Balerion the Black Dread. Aegon blasted the castle with so much dragon fire that Harren and all of his family members perished inside.
The entire House Hoare was wiped out in that one attack.
Ever since that time, Harrenhal has changed hands numerous times while the castles continued to carry that black, charred look thanks to the dragon fire from Aegon’s conquest. Harrenhal appeared during season 2 in “Game of Thrones” when Tywin Lannister set up camp there during the War of the Five Kings as Robb Stark led his army south to avenge the death of his father, Ned Stark.
Larys sits and listens as he does quite often while Ceira Lannister opines about the war in the Stepstones and the losing effort being forged by Prince Daemon and Lord Corlys. Lady Redwyne — the same family that eventually produces Lady Olenna Tyrell — complains about the war after Rhaenyra balks at their suggestion that perhaps she knows more since it’s her uncle waging the battles in the Stepstones.
Of course, they also have to slight Rhaenyra by reminding her that she hasn’t spoken to Daemon since she supplanted him as heir to the Iron Throne, which she fires back at Lady Redwyne by telling her that she’s done nothing to contribute but gossiping while feeding her face with cake.
Hearing enough from those women, Rhaenyra heads outside where she’s introduced to Jason Lannister — twin brother of Tyland Lannister and the Lord of Casterly Rock. Jason speaks with Rhaenyra while waxing on and on about the beauty of Castlerly Rock and the power that the Lannister family maintains, especially as one of the biggest supporters of her father.
Jason’s entire speech is leading to his proposal — he wishes to marry Princess Rhaenyra and make her his wife while also combining the Lannister family with the Targaryen royal bloodline.
Rhaenyra bristles at his advances before heading back inside to confront her father over this obvious setup to put her in a position to get married and start having children. King Viserys reminds his daughter that she’s now turned 17 years old — and that means she’s old enough to take a husband and start producing children, which is essentially seen as her duty as a Targaryen princess.
Of course, Rhaenyra sees this as an attempt to ship her off to Casterly Rock thus making it that much easier to remove her as heir to the Iron Throne and instead name her brother Aegon as the true successor to his reign as King. Viserys fires back that none of this was about taking away her rights as his successor but rather a duty all kings and queens must carry out.
“Even I do not exist about tradition and duty, Rhaenyra!”
~ King Viserys
The angry conversation gets rather loud as the entire audience begins turning to look at the king and his daughter, who are then interrupted by Otto Hightower with a report that a white stag has been seen in the area. A white stag is seen as a great symbol for the hunt, especially on a day like this where Aegon is celebrating his second name day with so many already believing he should be the next king.
Frustrated with her father, Rhaenyra storms out of the tent, mounts her horse and rides off into the Kingswood with Ser Criston Cole — her sworn protector and member of the Kingsguard — giving chase behind her to ensure that the princess doesn’t suffer any harm.
The End of Innocence
Back at the tents where King Viserys is awaiting word on his scouts tracking the white stag that he’s to kill to celebrate his son’s birthday, he’s starting to drown his rage with cupful after cupful of wine.
When Jason Lannister comes calling on him to speak about claiming Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage, he mentions that Casterly Rock will serve as a fine home for his daughter and it will also allow King Viserys to quietly remove her as his heir if he plans to name Aegon as his successor now. Jason mentions that there are those who believe Aegon is the rightful heir as his firstborn son and marrying off Rhaenyra would just make the line of succession that much easier.
This only serves to anger the King as Viserys then questions Jason Lannister about these Lords who dare to suggest a mutiny against his choice for the rightful heir. Jason quickly bows down to his King but he’s also only speaking the truth to the many people in Westeros who never want to see any woman, much less Rhaenyra Targaryen, sit on the Iron Throne.
Once he dispatches of Jason Lannister, the King is then visited by his Hand, Otto Hightower, who has another suggestion of his own that could put all this debate to bed. Otto suggests that King Viserys marry Princess Rhaenyra to Prince Aegon and that alone would settle any debate about who will eventually succeed him on the Iron Throne.
It must be remembered that the Targaryen bloodline is not only filled with incest but it was often tradition and custom for brother and sister to marry. In fact, Aegon I Targaryen — the man who conquered the Seven Kingdoms — took both of his sisters as wives.
King Viserys scoffs at the suggestion — considering his son is only two years old and Rhaenyra is 17 — but Otto’s idea does merit consideration.
Finally as King Viserys is nearly falling off his chair drunk, he’s visited by Lord Lyonel Strong — his Master of Law and arguably the most trusted confidant he has on the Small Council. Lyonel was the one who told the King he should marry Laena Velaryon — the young daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon — because it would strengthen the bond between their two houses and bring the richest family in the realm even closer to his own.
King Viserys went against his suggestion and instead married Alicent Hightower, who was more suitable in his eyes because at 15, she was already of age and able to bear children.
Now Lord Lyonel has returned with more advice to give his king about Rhaenyra and who she should marry.
At first King Viserys just assumes Lyonel will offer his own son — Ser Harwin Strong aka Harwin Breakbones — as the choice to marry his daughter but that’s not what his Master of Law had in mind. Instead, Lyonel suggests that Rhaenyra marry Laenor Velaryon — the eldest son of Lord Corlys and the rightful heir to his kingdom in Driftmark.
Once again, Lyonel believes this is the best course of action to strengthen the crown while also attempting to rebuild the bridge that was burned when King Viserys turned down Lord Corlys’ offer to marry his daughter three years earlier. Marrying Rhaenyra to Laenor would bring two great houses back together again and only serve to make the Targaryens even more powerful because the Velaryons are also a pure Valyrian bloodline.
King Viserys offers no actual response before stumbling off to have some time to himself by a great firepit built nearby.
It’s there King Viserys is joined by his wife Alicent where he reveals his own doubts about naming Rhaenyra as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. He tells her about a dream he had years earlier after Rhaenyra was already born about the son he expected to have with his first wife, Queen Aemma Arryn.
“Many in my line have been dragonriders. Very few among us have been dreamers. What is the power of a dragon, next to the power of prophecy. When Rhaenyra was a child, I saw it in a dream as vivid as these flames, I saw it. A male babe born to me wearing the Conqueror’s crown. I so wanted it to be true. To be a dreamer myself.”
~ King Viserys
The Targaryen family has been deep on prophecies ever since Daenys the Dreamer — daughter of Aenar Targaryen — had a dream about the Doom of Valyria. So convinced by her vision, Aenar moved his entire family from Valyria to Dragonstone with the Doom claiming Valyria 12 years later. If not for Aenar listening to his daughter’s prophecy, the Targaryens would have been wiped out along with every other family from Valyria.
That’s why King Viserys can’t quite decipher his own dreams and he now blames himself for putting so much pressure on his wife that she eventually lost her life while trying desperately to give him a son.
Meanwhile out in the Kingswood, Princess Rhaenyra sits and talks with Ser Criston Cole about her own doubts that she’ll ever be accepted as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. She knows the customs better than most and now that her brother has been born and lived to his second name day that there are going to be plenty of Lords calling for him to become king.
Criston attempts to dissuade her fears by reminding her about all the great houses who already pledged their fealty to her father and the declaration that Rhaenyra would be next in the line of succession. He promises that they’ll all bow before her because she will maintain the power once she is queen.
As they continue to chat, Criston hears some rustling in the nearby woods and a moment later a giant boar comes charging at them, knocking over the knight and making a beeline towards Princess Rhaenyra. She attempts to fend off the attack until Criston can draw his blade and stab the beast.
After the boar falls off her, still clinging to life, Rhaenyra draws her own knife and finally releases all the rage she’s been feeling by stabbing the beast to death with numerous blows.
While Rhaenyra was literally in a life and death struggle with her beast, King Viserys is called out into the Kingswood the next morning after his scouts, hunters and dogs have captured a giant stag for the slaughter. It’s not the white stag he was promised — another sign of prophecy that could be regarding his son — but it’s still a giant beast for the king to slay in Aegon’s honor.
There’s no actual hunting involved here but rather King Viserys taking a spear made for him by the Lannister family and then using it to stab the stag that’s already being held by ropes tied to its antlers. The King plunges the spear into the animal twice to finally kill it as all of the people gathered for the royal hunt celebrate him.
Before returning to camp, Rhaenyra looks out over the Kingswood with Ser Criston Cole by her side as they spot the actual white stag approach them. Criston begins to draw his sword but Rhaenyra stops him — the beast is no threat to them and she doesn’t want it killed. The animal eventually turns and runs away.
When Rhaenyra finally makes it back to camp, she rides on horseback with Criston dragging the dead boar behind him as everybody watches their arrival. Covered in blood, Rhaenyra walks through the camp with all eyes upon her including Ser Harwin Strong, who can’t help but smile at the conquering princess returning with her kill in tow.
Even King Viserys, Queen Alicent and Otto Hightower can’t look away as they watch Rhaenyra return to camp after killing a beast of her own.
At the conclusion of the royal hunt, the entire party returns to King’s Landing where Otto seeks an audience with his daughter as she prepares to give birth to another child. Otto arrives to tell his daughter that she should begin preparing for the day when her son Aegon II Targaryen is named successor and rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
While Alicent admits that’s what she would want for her son, Viserys has already named Rhaenyra as his rightful heir and she may end up making quite a queen.
Of course, Otto reminds Alicent that no matter what King Viserys declared and how much Rhaenyra believes she has a right to sit on the Iron Throne, the rest of the Seven Kingdoms will never stand for it. Now that Aegon has been born — the entire kingdom will expect that he will be the one rule once his father perishes.
In fact, Otto reminds Alicent that it’s not Rhaenyra being robbed of her birthright but rather Aegon because he’s the firstborn son of the king and thus it’s his claim to become successor. The same would be said if Daemon Targaryen had been named heir — as soon as the King had a son, Aegon would then be expected to sit on the Iron Throne after his father’s death.
“The road ahead is uncertain but the end is clear. Aegon will be king”
~ Otto Hightower
Whether she likes it or not, Otto tells Alicent that she should prepare for that inevitability and it’s in her best interest to start putting that same thought into King Viserys’ head as well.
Alicent then decides to pay her husband a visit as he continues to recover from the hunt and the remarkable about of wine he drank during the celebration. When the conversation turns to Rhaenyra, the King comments about how his daughter needs to take a husband, whether she likes it or not, and he knows that Jason Lannister isn’t going to be a match.
He’s also been busy reading a letter sent to him by Vaemond Velaryon — younger brother of Lord Corlys Velaryon — with an update on the war in the Stepstones. It seems Vaemond is willing to admit what his brother and Prince Daemon are not — this war can’t be won without the help of the King and his forces.
Still, King Viserys doesn’t want to give into the request because just as Otto mentioned earlier, getting involved now would make him look weak after his brother and Lord Corlys started a war without his permission. But it’s Alicent who wonders how much King Viserys gains by allowing Daemon and Lord Corlys to lose this battle while also letting outsiders from the Free Cities gain a stronghold that much closer to his kingdom in Westeros.
Isn’t that a fate worse than assisting Daemon and Lord Corlys in their war?
The next day in the Small Council room, King Viserys calls an audience with his daughter and she arrives just as he sends word to the Stepstones that reinforcements are coming to help win the war. He tells Rhaenyra that Daemon would rather die than ask for help but King Viserys is giving it anyways.
The King then strengthens his request for Rhaenyra to marry because it strengthens her bloodline and furthers her claim to the Iron Throne once he dies. He promises his daughter that she’s not being supplanted in favor of her brother Aegon, no matter what she thinks or what anybody is saying behind her back.
Viserys admits he wavered momentarily but he’s now forged in his decision that Rhaenyra will rule once he’s gone but she needs to take a husband that will allow her to gain alliances and build strength with another great house. Rather than force her to marry someone, however, King Viserys declares that Rhaenyra can choose her own husband while promising her that no one — not even her brother Aegon —will prevent her from one day becoming Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
The War of the Stepstones
For the past three years, Prince Daemon Targaryen and Lord Corlys Velaryon have led the charge to defeat Craghas Crabfeeder and his forces from the Triarchy to drive them from the Stepstones. The arrival of Daemon on dragonback was supposed to make this fight one that Crabfeeder couldn’t win but with caves all over the islands, the crafty leader from the Triarchy has found a way to save his men from being burned while launching stealth attacks that continue to weaken the Velyron stronghold.
At a strategy meeting, Vaemond Velaryon essentially tells his brother and nephew that this war is now unwinnable even with continued attacks from the dragons. Laenor suggests a more forward attack with a garrison of men landing on the island by foot to draw out the Crabfeeder, which would then allow the dragons to actually do more damage to their enemy’s forces.
Laenor suggests it should be Daemon leading that attack but Vaemond reminds his nephew that any such plan would basically be sacrificing the general in a suicide mission to lure the Crabfeeder out of the caves.
That’s when Daemon arrives on the back of Caraxes and joins the meeting — and just a few moments later, the letter arrives from his brother offering support. Rather than celebrate the news, Daemon pummels the messenger and then heads down to the shoreline to get into a boat bound for the island where Craghas Crabfeeder resides.
The letter comes with news that King Viserys is sending ships and 2,000 men to help his brother and Lord Corlys end this war but Daemon refuses to accept his brother’s assistance.
Instead, Daemon would rather die fighting the war he started than allowing his brother to win it for him.
After landing on the island, Daemon goes up on a hill with a white flag in hand as he waves it in the air, which gets the attention of the Crabfeeder and his men. Daemon eventually kneels down with his sword Dark Sister in his hands as he holds it in the air to offer his surrender.
The Crabfeeder sends his men out to retrieve the sword and accept Daemon’s surrender but it’s all a trap as the prince strikes down the soldiers and begins waging a one man war of his own. Daemon charges forward, running through a barrage of arrows being fired in his direction, as he cuts down more and more of the Crabfeeder’s soldiers emerging from the caves.
Daemon is making a straight line trying to get to the Crabfeeder but he’s completely outmatched and outnumbered. Still, he makes a valiant effort as he continues marking towards his own doom while arrows strike him in the shoulder and leg.
Once Daemon hits the ground, the Crabfeeder orders his men to surround the dragon prince and prepare to kill him. In this moment, Daemon has accepted his fate and he’s preparing to die.
But before he can be struck down, Laenor Velaryon arrives on the back of his own dragon named Seasmoke as he rains down fire upon the Crabfeeder’s troops include the archers on top of the mountain. From the shore comes Lord Corlys and his men for one last charge against the Triarchy’s army.
If you’re wondering how Laenor Velaryon is riding a dragon — remember, the Velaryon family is a pure Valyrian bloodline so even though they weren’t dragonlords previously, they still maintain that same kind of relationship with the fire-breathing beasts.
The battle turns bloody rather quickly while Laenor continues to blast the Crabfeeder’s men with dragon fire from the sky.
As the Crabfeeder retreats into the caves again, Daemon spots him from the distance and decides to give chase to go after him and put an end to this fighting once and for all. The battle rages on until Daemon emerges from the cave covered in blood but dragging the lifeless torso of Craghas Crabfeeder, who has been cut down by the Targaryen prince.
Lord Corlys looks back as he sees a victorious Daemon standing over the Crabfeeder as the War of the Stepstones has finally been won.
“House of the Dragon” will return for a new episode next Sunday night at 9 p.m. on HBO