I’m thinking it is best to not bring crabs to a dragon fight, but what do I know? In the third episode of House of the Dragon, “Second of His Name,” we’ve time jumped again, this time three-ish years from the events of the prior episode, to where Daemon and Lord Corlys of House Velaryon, aka Sea Snake, have been warring with the Crabfeeder of the Triarchy at the Stepstones all that time. Weirdly, even though Daemon has a dragon, Caraxes, the Crabfeeder has the advantage of the caves to hide his people, and to shoot arrows at the dragon.
The opening shot of Daemon riding Caraxes as he sets fire to the Crabfeeder’s army was beautiful and gives you that, “Oh crap, everything changes when the dragon comes,” feeling (even if caves apparently trump dragons). In a comical moment, but also a display of how powerful and uncontrollable dragons really are, one of Daemon’s men is chained and being fed to a crab, awaiting to be freed. He sees the dragon as salvation. Then Caraxes lands … right on him with his big foot. Whoops.
This war of attrition, despite the involvement of Caraxes, obviously, is brought to the attention of King Viserys, who now has a two-year-son, Aegon. Alicent Hightower is also pregnant with another child. The beautiful juxtaposition about all of this is that the King is doing his weird king rituals, like going on a hunt, instead of giving any heed to the war. Politically, some think him helping his brother would be seen as benevolence and a show of force, while others think the King getting involved would show the weakness of his reign. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra is rightly peeved at Alicent and her dad, and thinks she will be replaced as the heir to the throne. She is also being pressured by her dad to take a man as a husband to fortify her power and begin “multiplying.” Her dad said she is of that age now, but she is resistant. In fact, in a scene that somehow surpasses last week’s episode where the King momentarily considered marrying 12-year-old Laena (daughter to Lord Corlys), Otto Hightower suggests a way to squelch any concern about the heir to throne and solve this marriage issue, being the genius Hand of the King he is: What if Rhaenyra married her step-brother, Aegon? You know, the boy who just turned two-years-old? Thankfully, the King rightly shuts that down as preposterous.
That is the gist of the episode until I get to the ending sequence. But I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the King actually showed some mettle for once. Ser Jason Lannister offers the King a gift (a spear to kill the animal they are “hunting” later and I put hunting in scare quotes because the King’s men wrangle the stag in place so the King can leisurely step up to it and kill it gruesomely) and talks about his desire to marry Rhaenyra and bring their powerful houses together. Lannister even teases that he could give the King more dragons. The King shuts him down, though, on the basis of Lannister’s assumption that Aegon would be the heir to the throne and Rhaenyra pushed aside, and even threatens him that if he knows of treasonous gossip against the King’s wishes, he is to report it. Good for the King.
What I am curious about is Alicent. I defended her last week, but I’m curious what is motivating her at this point. Because she is married to the King, thanks to cajoling by her father, Otto, so, she is now Queen, and gave him a son (with another on the way). She has power then. Yet, in this episode, she listens to her father yet again when he tells her to convince the King to name Aegon as the heir to the throne. Why is she still doing her father’s bidding when she clearly cares for Rhaenyra? What is motivating her? The same lust for power her dad possesses? I’m not quite sure yet, and that’s a good thing.
Anyhow, back to the ending sequence: the King relents and sends help to Daemon and Corlys, both of whom are too prideful to ask for it, even if it means an intractable, unwinnable war with the Crabfeeder. At the news of the King’s help, Daemon assaults the royal messenger, feigns waving the white flag to the Crabfeeder, and goes on an absolute tear fighting his way through the men. Then the dragons come, including a new one, Seasmoke, Laenor Velaryon’s dragon (son of Corlys) of course, and the rest of Daemon’s men once the Crabfeeder’s army is drawn out of the caves. Then Daemon, who somehow survives every arrow ever fired coming at him, goes into the cave, defeats the Crabfeeder (we don’t see the fight), and comes out of the cave carrying the upper half of the Crabfeeder’s body in a helluva closing shot.
Overall, I thought this was yet another powerful episode in the series juxtaposing well the politicking, which the King is damn sick of!, and the war raging just beyond King’s Landing, all the while showing the King’s weaknesses and Rhaenyra’s budding strength (she even viciously killed a boar — more viciously than her dad’s half-hearted spearing of the stag, mind you).
If you want one metric for how much I see this show as appointment viewing, if you haven’t yet gotten to that point: A wrestling pay-per-view began at 8 p.m. and would conflict with the 9 p.m. airing of this third episode. I declined the wrestling and went with the dragon. I can’t miss it live.