The pleasures of a good family drama come not from the explosive moments but from watching minor slights and injuries build into unbreakable rifts over time, and House of the Dragon gets this possibly even better than its predecessor. To that end, “Second of His Name,” the show’s third episode, treats the Targaryen family more like a feuding Kardashian family than the royal family of Westeros.
An enraged Daemon (Matt Smith) is convinced that his brother abandoned him to fight Westeros’s conflicts alone. The king eventually stops ignoring him and sends assistance, but in classic smaller brother psychology, this only makes Daemon feel worse about his situation. Milly Alcock’s Rhaenyra is fuming because her father refuses to accept the idea of his daughter’s ascension to the throne and, even less, to stand by her as she endures repeated attempts to undermine her authority.
Viserys (Paddy Considine) is furious with them both for acting like spoiled brats, furious with Rhaenyra for changing from his joyful little girl, and furious with himself for being unable to let go of the image of his muscular young son sitting on the Iron Throne. That calls for a celebration if you ask me!
Who Is Aenys Targaryen?
The name Aenys was given to her at birth is one she probably would have preferred to not have. (Though to be fair, it’s pronounced “Ennis.”) But he got through that and became a fair ruler until his brother shot him dead. He wed Alyssa Velaryon, who is descended from the other noble Valyrian family to have survived the destruction of their city, however, the Velaryons are not Dragonriders. However, the Velaryons quickly rose to prominence in the Game of Thrones after forming an alliance with the Targaryens.
There is a party, but nobody seems to be having fun. Paddy Considine excels in parts where he plays the well-intentioned but deliberately stupid father who, via benevolence and conflict avoidance, hopes against hope that disaster can be avoided. Considine turns Viserys’s shortcoming into a frustrating but hilarious weakness; it’s easy to sympathize with everyone who wants to throttle him, from the anxious Rhaenyra to the patient Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, still a droll villainous delight).
Viserys’s Hesitation to Settle
Viserys’s hesitation to settle on a specific plan of action, as we explored last week, frequently leaves those around him in a state of uncertainty. The stakes of having a monarch who can’t make up his mind have always been high, but they’ve only gotten higher because of the time jump of this episode (we’ve jumped ahead two years).
During that time, Viserys and his new wife Alicent (Emily Carey) had a boy named Aegon, and everyone who had previously been hesitant to accept Rhaenyra as the next ruler now treats the infant with extreme reverence and has given him regal nicknames. The fact that Rhaenyra saw the writing on the wall long before her father and has emotionally distanced herself from him in the typical manner of rebellious teenagers has only reinforced her father’s reservations about selecting her as his heir.
Aegon’s Second Birthday
Daemon and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) have been busy fending off an Essos coalition commanded by a frightening fellow who feeds victims to crabs while they sulk on the thankless channel islands known as the Stepstones. Last week, we saw that the two allied to start this war without Viserys’s authorization;
now, he’s taking a passive-aggressive approach by not sending them any aid or military help. Their forces, which were strengthened by Daemon’s loyal legions and funded mostly by Corlys’s wealth, have been depleting during the previous two years. Since Daemon still refuses to ask for help, Corlys’s son Laenor (Theo Nate) takes the initiative to write to the king himself.
There is a small celebration going on to mark Aegon’s second birthday when the letter shows up. With the court in full celebration mode, the king initially ignores Laenor’s plea along with any political debate. A rare white hart (an albino stag) has been discovered in the King’s Wood, and this is being taken as a positive omen for the rule of Aegon, which everyone except Viserys believes he will have. Even while their assurances annoy Viserys, he can’t bring himself to put a stop to them.
Rhaenyra to Reign in His Stead
Instead of preparing Rhaenyra to reign in his stead, giving her a seat in the little council or as a military leader, or anything else that would scream “here’s my heir, show some respect,” he is urging her to marry and go be the wife of some landed gentry. In response to a Lannister fuckboy’s attempts at courtship, she storms away from the celebrations and embarks on a daylong hunt through the woods.
Otto counters with the most obscene proposition we’ve had on a show that has included many such suggestions: Rhaenyra, 16, should marry her 2-year-old half-brother, Aegon. Viserys recoils in horror at the thought; he may be immoral enough to kill his wife to speed the birth of their heir, but he is not this immoral. The fact that Dany is his half-brother doesn’t concern Viserys nearly as much as the age of the infant she’s offering herself to him in marriage; after all, a Targaryen will always be a Targaryen. Possibly that it ought should. After all, this half-brother is Otto’s ticket to ruling over King George and his realm.
Otto’s Control Over Him upon Witnessing
The king has always put his faith in Otto, even after he supported the growing schism between Daemon and Viserys and inserted his teenage daughter into the royal marriage bed. Immediately following Viserys’s heartfelt opinion that he would rather see Rhaenyra married for her own happiness than out of duty, the topic of Rhaenyra’s marriage to Aegon is broached. A maniac for authority, Otto doubles hard on arming his offspring.
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One may assume that Viserys would break free of Otto’s control over him upon witnessing such a blatant display of grandparental love and sacrifice on Otto’s part for his own grandson. Instead of thinking through the implications of what Otto is proposing, Viserys abruptly cuts off further discussion. A more reasonable proposition comes later when council member Lyonel Strong suggests Laenor and Rhaenyra, a pairing that is theoretically excellent.
Viserys Follow Orders and Kill the Deer.
Later, when Laenor requests military assistance, Alicent must remind Viserys to prioritize the well-being of the kingdom over the satisfaction of his closest advisors. Though this should be the king’s first priority, Viserys is so concerned with maintaining harmony among his immediate courtiers that he needs to be nudged and prodded into taking even the most obvious of actions.
An emotionally taxing sequence in which the king goes on his “hunt” (he is given a spear and instructed to stab a splendid stag that has already been captured for him) serves to emphasize this point. Even though it isn’t the white heart that was promised, he must still kill it to prove his royal authority. Whether it’s due to inexperience, his signature hesitance, his fear, or all three, Viserys can’t land the knockout blow.
Rhaenyra Meets the Legendary
One of the courtiers has to instruct him on how to humanely put an end to the suffering of the deer as they wait awkwardly for the animal to die from his inept stabbing. Despite being visibly repulsed by the entire process, Viserys follows orders and kills the deer. However, this just serves to reinforce the public’s perception of him as a weak-willed monarch who is unable to take effective action.
Rhaenyra meets the legendary white hart on her all-night woodland adventure, and while that may be a favorable omen, the fact that she survives an attack from a wild boar is a much more telling sign that she is worthy of the throne. Despite her initial hesitation, she rushes in and completes the slaughter. Just like Carrie at the prom, she comes from the woods covered in blood but fully awake.
Daemon and Rhaenyra Are Appropriately
As this is going on in the Stepstones, Daemon is receiving his brother’s offer of assistance and is becoming increasingly enraged by it. Alone, in his insanity, he launches a Hail Mary attack by feigning to surrender in order to draw the Crabfeeder and his army into the open. Greg Yaitanes, a seasoned filmmaker, arranges a quick but thrilling route;
the Westerosi warriors have it easy after Laenor arrives on the dragon Seasmoke, who appears to torch everyone in sight. The death of many Essos minions was nothing compared to the sight of Daemon emerging from the chaos with the severed head and upper abdomen of a Crabfeeder. This villain’s brief tenure was all the more impressive for its effectiveness, but Daemon may have eventually usurped his role.
The analogies between Daemon and Rhaenyra are appropriately hyperbolic in their symbolic significance.
Daemon, and not Viserys, is the one who should be instructing Rhaenyra in the ways of war, politics, and strategy.
She responds with cautious hope rather than the appreciation and love for which Viserys clearly longs when he informs her that he not only supports her as his heir but wants her to choose her own marriage. Over the years, Viserys has destroyed himself by treating his daughter less like his daughter and more like his heir.
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As a result, she now sees him less as her father and more as the erratic monarch whose whims she cannot rely on.