The most surprising aspect of episode six of House of the Dragon, “The Princess and the Queen,” — an episode that jumps the story 10 years into the future from the prior episode, replete with a cast change; now Emma D’Arcy is playing Rhaenyra and Olivia Cooke is playing Alicent — is that King Viserys, who we last saw collapsing at the wedding of Rhaenyra and Laenor, is still alive! Granted, he looks like a walking corpse and is still haunted by a damn rat, and is as delusional as ever about Rhaenyra, but he is still alive, all the same. A sign of how decrepit the King has become and loosening ability to control his kingdom is that the Small Council he oversees as King basically seems as inept as ever. Not only that, but the Queen has taken more of a forward-facing position at the table, talking far more than she did 10 years ago.
Despite the time jump, old grudges die hard and Alicent and Ser Criston Cole remain quite peeved with Rhaenyra. They help spread the rumor, which is fact, that Rhaenyra’s three children are that of the Hand of the King’s son, Ser Harwin “Breakbones” Strong, played by the handsome Ryan Corr. The opening sequence is Rhaenyra giving birth to the third son and then being commanded by the Queen to bring the son to her, literally seconds after birth. It is a great table-setting of how that grudge still underscores their relationship, how bitterness seeps through Alicent’s actions and how stubborn Rhaenyra is to defy her, as she struggles and huffs and puffs her way to the Queen.
When the children of Rhaenyra and Alicent are quarreling, Alicent has to remind her aloof, masturbatory son, Aegon, that he should be the real heir to the Iron Throne. When Aegon goes to learn sword-fighting with Cole as the teacher, it ends with Cole getting his butt rightly beat-up for being both a cruel jerk to Rhaenyra’s children and for taunting Harwin. Unfortunately, Harwin would get his comeuppance later when he’s burned alive. That’s too bad, as I liked his character and defense of Rhaenyra!
Meanwhile, Daemon and Lady Laena also are together and have two daughters, with one child on the way. But the child won’t come and to bring the child forth would certainly kill the mother. Instead, Laena, played by Nanna Blondell, also bringing a lot to the table, elects to have her dragon, Vhagar burn her alive. Vhagar’s special effects looked incredible: She had this aged looked about her, but still looked like she could burn the Earth to the ground, if she so chose to. I also liked how she seemed initially hesitant to obey Laena’s order to burn her alive.
I thought both Emma and Olivia did a commendable job in their role, especially when you consider we’ve had five weeks and five episodes to fall in love with Milly Alcock (young Rhaenyra) and Emily Carey (young Alicent), and I look forward to seeing what more they can bring to the table. But it’s tough with a time jump as a storytelling devise because obviously, I want to know and see what happened over the previous 10 years! Nonetheless, as we get closer to what surely must be Viserys’ death, I’m intrigued to see what happens with the Iron Throne. Due to the rumors, Rhaenyra, Laenor and their children, are leaving King’s Landing.
Which is what Alicent seemed to be agitating for despite her protestations at the end to Larys that this isn’t what she wanted. You reap what you … rumor.