Episode 6 of House of the Dragon, titled The Princess and the Queen, is likely to be among the most controversial in the series. Time jumps are risky things, so HBO is playing with fire here. There’s a gap of over 10 yearsand Sunday’s show. That means a bunch of new faces: Emma D’Arcy is Rhaenyra Targaryen now, and Queen Alicent is now played by Olivia Cooke.
Both the princess and the queen have a squad of children running about them now, too. Tensions are now much worse between Rhaenyra and the queen. After all, Alicent’s green dress in episode 5 did portend war.
A full recap of House of the Dragon episode 6 is below. Caution: Spoilers ahead.
The future is now
Last we saw Rhaenyra Targaryen she was getting married to Ser Laenor Velaryon. In this episode, the first thing we see is Rhaenyra giving birth – it’s a boy! Except it’s not the Rhaenyra we know. Now 10 years older, the princess is played by Emma D’arcy instead of Milly Alcock.
The second thing we see, literally as the child is delivered, is a messenger coming in saying the Queen has requested to see the child. What impeccable timing.
Accompanied by Ser Laenor, who’s also all grown up now, the two stumble to the queen’s chambers. The queen is also a new woman, Olivia Cooke instead of Emily Carey.
The family is joined by grandpa Viserys, who is somehow still alive. He collapsed at the end of episode 5, over 10 years ago. He looks older and more sickly — much more sickly — but he’s still kicking.
They’re calling the baby boy Joffrey, Ser Laenor announces, in honor of the lover Laenor lost on the wedding night. (He doesn’t announce that second bit.)
“Do keep trying, Ser Laenor,” Queen Alicent says privately to the Prince as she bids him adieu, “sooner or late you’ll get one that looks like you.”
Turns out young Joffrey is actually the happy couple’s third child. Well, Rhaenyra’s third child: They’re actually fathered by Ser Harwin Strong. Harwin is the son of the Hand of the King, Lyonel Strong, and was the guy who rescued Rhaenyra in the wedding brawl during episode 5. Rhaenyra and Laenor have apparently struck a bargain: As long as he pretends to be father of her children, Laenor is free to love as he pleases.
Queen Alicent and Viserys now have four children, three boys and one girl. They’re distinctly Targaryen, with silver hair, while the locks on Rhaenyra’s boys heads are all wavy brown. We see all six of the boys in the dragon pit learning how to bond with and command dragons.
The kids play a prank on Alicent’s youngest — Aemond — telling him they’d got him a dragon but presenting him with a pig strapped with faux wings. Classic zinger. The queen isn’t having it, confronting King Viserys about the larger issue.
“I have raised this matter before and you have forbade me to speak of it, so I held my tongue,” she tells Viserys. “To have one child like that is a mistake, to have three is an insult to the throne, to you, to House Velaryon and the match you battled so hard to make for her.”
Viserys shrugs her off with a parable about some stallion he once had, and reasons that nature is mysterious.
“The consequences of an allegation like the one you toy at would be dire,” Viserys warns. “Do not speak of this again,” he adds, with a kiss on the cheek.
That’s the end of that — for Viserys. Queen Alicent is fuming though, and lets off steam to none other than Ser Criston Cole, whom she saved from suicide at the end of episode 5.
“She flaunts the privilege of her inheritance without shame, she expects everyone in the Red Keep to deny the truth our eyes can all plainly see,” she vents.
“The princess Rhaenyra is brazen and relentless, a spider who stings and sucks her prey dry,” Criston adds.
10 years isn’t enough to dull the sting of rejection, it seems.
The love of a father
In episode 5, all those moons ago, Otto Hightower gave Alicent the 411 on succession: When Rhaenyra takes the throne, Alicent’s children will become threats to her reign, so she’ll have to put them to the sword.
Now, Queen Alicent is the one warning her child of the very same thing. We see Aegon Targaryen masturbating outside of his chamber windows – the thrills of royalty – but he’s interrupted by his mum. She reprimands Aegon for taunting his little brother with the pig gag, and says they need to be a unified front in public.
“As things stand, Rhaenyra will ascend the Throne and [her first born son] Jacaerys Targaryen will be her heir… if Rhaenyra comes into power, your very life could be forfeit. Aemon’s as well. She will move to cut off any challenge to her succession.”
“You are the King’s first born son, and what they know, what everyone in the realm knows, in their blood and in their bones, is that one day you will be our king.”
She then walks off. Not a mention of the wanking out of the window thing.
Viserys is hoping the answer to all this friction is some classic schoolyard tomfoolery. Lords don’t have school yards, though, they have fighting grounds, and Viserys is overlooking his grandsons train together.
“This is the stuff, Lyonel!” the grandfatherly king says in an extremely avuncular tone. “Train together, knock each other down, pick each other up, you’ll certainly form a lifelong bond, wouldn’t you agree?”
Obviously, this is a bad omen.
Queen Alicent’s silver-haired children are pummeling a strawman when Ser Criston, who as Kingsguard knight is in charge of training the royal boys, suggests they try to fence with him. Aegon and Aemon try and fail to hit the master with their swords.
At that point, Ser Harwin, who’s been lurking around, suggests that “the younger boys could do better with a bit of your attention, Ser Criston.”
That little comment ends up causing a huge fuss.
Ser Criston takes exception, and instructs Jacaerys to 1 vs. 1 swordfight with Aegon. Eldest son vs. eldest son, despite the unfair gulf in age.
Ser Criston coaches Aegon, while Harwin shouts advice to Prince Jacaerys. Eventually, Harwin steps in when Jacaerys is down and Cole shouts for Aegon to strike him with a big ol’ blow. Viserys, watching from the balconies, watches on with grave concern.
“Your interest in the princelings training is quite unusual, commander. Most men would only have that emotion for a cousin, or a brother… or a son.”
And then it’s on. Harwin tackles Cole to the ground and beats him bloody. Harwin is pulled off, and we see a big smile across Cole’s bloody face.
Rhaenyra is alerted to an incident in the courtroom, and as she walks to meet Harwin she eavesdrops on a conversation Hand of the King Strong is having with his son.
“Your intimacy with the Princess Rhaenyra is an offense that could mean exile and death for you, for her, for the children,” Lord Strong berates his son. “People have eyes, boy. Yet his grace the king, it seems, will not accept what his eyes see. This flimsy shield alone stands between you and the headsman.”
Rhaenyra is in her chamber when Laenor stumbles in, a little drunk. War is afoot in the Stepstones again, and he’s energized about the idea of going off to fight – a little adventure to enlivens the blood.
“Are you mad,” Rhaenyra barks, bringing him back to reality. There are dark, foul rumors and insinuations about their sons — no time for their father to leave the nest.
“I am a knight, and a warrior, and I have played my part here faithfully, for 10 years,” he says. Laenor says the wise sailor flees the storm as it’s gathering, but Rhaenyra commands — as her Queen — that he stay by her side.
Hell of a trump card there.
Meanwhile, while all this is going on, Daemon has been fathering Velaryon children too. He’s wed Laena Velaryon — we saw him chat her up at the end of episode 5 — and the two have two girls together. Laena is pregnant with a third.
Early in the episode, we see Daemon and the family sharing a meal with some lord bloke. They’re in Pentos, and Lord Bloke asks if Daemon and his family — and his dragons — will stay in Pentos. The Triarchy, who Daemon helped defeat years ago, are stirring up trouble again. If Daemon and his dragons expel them, he’ll be rewarded with gold aplenty.
Daemon’s into the idea, but Laena isn’t as stoked.
As Daemon mulls over whether or not he’ll fight the Triarchy, the King’s Small Council is doing precisely the same. It’s evident that the Small Council has become a political battleground, as the two loudest voices are that of Queen Alicent and Princess Rhaenyra.
When the Stepstones and the Triarchy’s new arrangement with Dorne comes up, Rhaenyra suggests defending the area Daemon won a decade ago with men and equipment. The queen says that would be too costly, but Rhaenyra fires back that war would be more costly still.
Yet after the meeting, Rhaenyra has a bold, conciliatory proposition. She apologizes for the strife their families have felt of late, and suggests that her son, Jaecerys, and Alicent’s daughter, Helena, be wed. That way, their two families can unite and rule the Seven Kingdoms together.
King Viserys is stoked, just unbelievably happy. Alicent is cooler on the offer, thanking Rhaenyra and promising to consider it.
“How sweetly the fox speaks when it’s being cornered by the hound,” Queen Alicent says to King Viserys.
Hand of the King Lyonel Strong comes to visit the flustered king, informing Viserys he’s resigning as Hand. Harwin’s outburst was a disgrace, one Lord Strong needs to pay for.
“Younger Harwins outburst was unfortunate, it’s true, but he’s been expelled from the City Watch,” Viserys protests. “Surely that’s punishment enough?”
Lord Strong says a shadow is being cast over his house, and that it’s damaging both his reputation and that of his house. Viserys demands he name the shadow — that is, verbalize the rumor that Harwin Strong has fathered Rhaenyra’s children — and Queen Alicent jumps in, daring him as well. But Harwin won’t, so the King doesn’t accept the resignation.
But Viserys does allow Lord Strong to escort his son back to Harrenhal. The implication here is Lord Strong is worried his son will get found out and summarily executed.
A friend in need
While King Viserys is counselled by Lyonel, the Queen gets advice from a Strong of her own — “Clubfoot” Larys Strong, who in episode 5 comforted Alicent in the Godswood.
Though Larys is essentially her Master of Whispers, tonight it’s Alicent filling Larys in on the goss. Larys’ father attempted to resign, she tells him, but the king wouldn’t allow it.
“The Hand is compromised by the acts of his son,” Larys says. “My father cannot give unbiased council to the King.”
Alicent bemoans the absence of her father, Otto Hightower, who she says would be brave enough to speak truth to the king. Larys reminds her that it’s a stretch to call Otto impartial in this matter.
“No, but he’d be partial to me,” she bursts out with frustration. “In all of King’s Landing is there no one to take my side?”
House of the Dragon’s creators seem to have a thing for confronting birth scenes. As the episode winds down, we see Laena Targaryen giving birth to her third child with Daemon. But it’s not going well, and a doctor gives Daemon the same choice Viserys got in episode 1: You can save the baby, but you’ll have to sacrifice the mother.
Daemon, allegedly the bad Targaryen, refuses.
The baby is lost, but that doesn’t save Laena. Ashamed at being unable to bare Daemon a boy, she prostrates herself in front of her dragon and yells “Dracarys.”
Daemon runs to try to save her, but doesn’t make it in time.
A Son’s Love
Harwin Strong takes his leave, and bids Rhaenyra and the boys a farewell before he leaves. After they see him off, Rhaenyra’s oldest child, asks the inevitable question.
“Is Harwin Strong my father? Am I a bastard?”
“You are a Targaryen,” she answers, ruffling his hair. “That’s all that matters.”
With Harwin gone from King’s Landing, Rhaenyra isn’t sticking around either. She finds Ser Laenor, swordfighting in the courtyard with his lover, and tells him they’re done in the capital.
“We’re finished here” she says, telling Laenor that they’re flying to Dragonstone. “We should have left years ago.”
Laenor is alarmed and saddened — but Rhaenyra tells him to bring his lover. “We’ll need every sword we can get.”
Unfortunately, Harwin won’t be able to join them.
A little earlier in the episode, we saw Larys in the King’s Landing dungeons, enlisting convicted criminals on a task he needs help with. That task, it turns out, was to kill his father and brother. We see Hand of the King Strong and Harwin Strong arriving at Harrenhal and, later that night, a fire breaks out in Harwin’s chambers. The dodgy chaps Larys recruited are seen at the scene of the crime.
“They’re dead?” an alarmed Queen Alicent asks Larys Strong.
“The queen makes a wish. What servant of the realm will not strive to fulfill it?”
The Queen is trembling with shock and anxiety. Larys, who has killed his father and brother, is cool as a cucumber.
“Larys, I did not wish for this.”
“I feel certain you will reward me,” Larys says, twirling a flower in his hand, “when the time is right.”
There’s a lot to take away from House of the Dragon episode 6. Possibly most significant is “Clubfoot” Larys Strong, who’s now a major element in the coming Targaryen combustion. The rivalry between Rhaenyra and Alicent has until now been political: Otto Hightower was dismissed, not killed, as was Harwin Strong earlier in this episode.
Now, thanks to Larys, that’s all changed. The first blood in the Targaryen civil war has been spilled. And his service came with a threat: He tells Alicent that he’s sure she’ll pay him back for this favor she’s paid him. Never trust a guy who twirls flowers while he talks to you.
Daemon Targaryen played a relatively minor role in this episode. His storyline with Laena felt rushed — her death was confronting, and a little abrupt. But now Daemon’s wife is gone, as is the father of Rhaenyra’s children. That opens the two Targaryens up to potentially link up, especially now that Rhaenyra has made a home in Dragonstone.
The other big question is how long King Viserys can hold on. Much was made of his willful blindness to Rhaenyra’s antics, but even still it’s the king who’s holding King’s Landing together. When he’s gone, war between the two Targaryen factions will follow. He’s old and infirm now. It can’t be long.