TV & Showbiz

‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 3 Summary: Let’s talk

Did Alicent really believe that Viserys was talking about their son? Or was that just what she wanted to believe? (Just as importantly, should a drama hinge its central conflict on the kind of verbal confusion better suited to a sitcom? An answer to that is perhaps beyond the scope of this summary at this advanced stage.)

The daring stealth mission in which Rhaenyra sneaks back to King’s Landing (with Mysaria’s help) to force a one-on-one meeting with her frenemy or frenemies makes all this clear. Alicent truly believes Viserys wanted Aegon. Rhaenyra, in turn, really believes that Alicent really believes it. But once the Dowager Queen mentions the Conqueror’s “Song of Ice and Fire”, Rhaenyra figures out what went wrong and offers a clarification… which Alicent refuses to obey, even though she seems to know in her heart that it’s true.

So there you have it: the war will continue because the captain of Team Green can’t handle the truth. Alicent’s refusal to change course undoes not only Rhaenyra’s peacekeeping missions — and Princess Rhaenys’s before them — but her own as well. The fan discourse about this should be fun anyway, according to certain definitions of “fun”.

More than resolving the madcap confusion at the heart of it all, though, the scene’s primary value is in reuniting actors Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy. Their chemistry is as natural and compelling as any two actors on television. Their characters’ energies feel as entwined as the dueling dragons in the show’s Season 2 logo; watching them rip and tear at each other leads to similarly explosive results. If you like, you can criticize Rhaenyra’s rashness in seeking an unprotected audience with the queen in King’s Landing. But adding this scene, which isn’t in the book, made for a better show.

While Rhaenyra and Alicent try to keep the peace, the men around them fight for the opposite. Rhaenyra’s Black Council, consisting mainly of minor lords afraid of losing what little power they have, immediately launches an attack. Her estranged husband, Daemon, flies straight to the rotting ruins of Harrenhal, the key to the important Riverlands region. He is greeted by a pragmatic castellan, Sir Simon Strong (Simon Russell Beale), who hands the castle over to him without a fight, and a mysterious servant, Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin), who tells him that Harrenhal is where he will die. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, I think.

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