Home > Entertainment > Title – REVIEW: HBO’s House of the Dragon, “The Princess and the Queen” (S1E6)

Title – REVIEW: HBO’s House of the Dragon, “The Princess and the Queen” (S1E6)

Tom Falite

Warning: There are spoilers ahead!

On this week’s episode of HOTD, family drama is passed on to the next generation as we pick up ten years since the events of last episode.  A lot has changed in the decade since Rhaenyra and Laenor reluctantly said their vows, and the realm is a powder keg that is primed to ignite at any moment.  There are a number of new characters added to the mix, as well as alliances that have shifted, so episode 6 certainly has a lot to unpack.

We open on a matured Rhaenyra as she gives birth in an excruciating three-minute long take, focusing on her strained, emotive face.  This was a brilliant way to introduce Emma D’arcy as the new face of Rhaenyra, showing both Emma’s acting chops and the resilience and strength of the character.  Miguel Sapochnik, showrunner and director of this episode, explained that episode 6 functions almost as a second pilot; ergo, a proper and engaging introduction of the new cast members was needed.  

As soon as the baby is delivered and found to be a boy, we learn Queen Alicent wishes to see the baby at once.  Rhaenyra, clearly infuriated by the request, pulls the ultimate badass move and decides to bring the baby to Alicent herself.  We are then treated with yet another impressive long take as a matured Laenor accompanies Rhaenyra on the harrowing walk to the Queen’s chambers.  Aside from being visually pleasing, the second long take was used by Saphochnik to show off the absolutely enormous two-story set that HBO built for the interior of the Red Keep.  The massive structure allows characters to walk seamlessly into a number of rooms in the castle without having to switch sets, which is an impressive feat for a TV show.  

We see Criston for the first time at the Queen’s door, who seems as cold as the stonemen.  The years have only strengthened his contempt for Rhaenyra after his love for her was rejected.  Inside the Queen’s chambers we get our first glimpse at Olivia Cooke as Alicent.  She, too, has grown more cold and calculated in the ten years since we last saw her.  She asks if the baby has a name, and Laenor answers before Rhaenyra has a chance to weigh in: Joffrey, the name of his late lover who was brutalized at the hands of Ser Criston.  King Viserys shows his face in this scene, missing his pestilent arm, looking like death; this may be the last episode that we get to see Paddy Considine, who has been stellar in his role as the declining King.  Alicent privately digs at Laenor towards the end of the scene, saying,“Do keep trying, soon or late, you may get one who looks like you.”  This is the first implication that we get of Rhaenyra’s infidelity, which begins to unravel and spiral out of control as the episode goes on.

Next we get to see some more of that sweet, sweet HBO budget as we follow the kids training Vermax, a young dragon in the Dragonpit.  Aemond, Alicent’s younger son, is the only one that has not been bonded to a dragon yet, and he gets bullied by his older brother and Rhaenyra’s boys when they present him a pig with fake wings.  Alicent consoles him in the next scene, and here we get our first glimpse at Helaena, Alicent’s daughter.  She may come to be a very important character in the future of the series, as she exhibits some possible greenseing abilities while she examines a millipede and makes vaguely prophetic comments.  In A Song of Ice and Fire lore, Greenseers have the ability to perceive events in the past, present and future through their dreams (akin to Bran and Bloodraven in the main series).  

Alicent continually tries to get the King to accept the truth about Rhaenyra’s children being bastards, but his blissful ignorance keeps getting in the way.  All he wants is for the conflict to end and their families to unite as one, but he fails to see that Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship is far beyond saving.  After being shut down, Alicent talks with Ser Criston where he uses some very colorful language to affirm his disdain for Rhaenyra to the audience.  Alicent then visits Aegon and gives him a stern reminder that as long as he is alive, he is a threat to Rhaenyra’s bloodline.  Olivia Cooke’s intensity carries this scene, and is a good sign for what is to come from her character.

Next, we find Daemon and Laena riding their dragons around the skies of Pentos.  They are married with twin daughters, and they seem to live a relatively happy life free from the politics of the Westerosi crown.  Daemon, however, is still gripped by his family’s legacy and yearns for power.  This causes a rift between him and a pregnant Laena, which adds another layer of tragedy when she is unable to deliver her baby later in the episode.  Facing certain death, Laena breaks free to find her dragon, Vhagar; you can see the sadness in the massive beast’s eyes when Laena commands her to breathe fire and end her life.  Daemon catches up to her just as the flames engulf her body on the beach, and he is stunned.  Despite the reprehensible actions of Daemon this season, this scene was truly heartbreaking to watch.

Back in Westeros, tensions boil over in the courtyard as Ser Criston pits Alicent’s oldest son, Aegon, against Rhaenyra’s oldest son, Jacaerys (Jace), against each other in a sparring match.  Aegon is clearly the older and stronger of the two, and Ser Harwin Strong decides to step in and break it up.  Criston questions his concern for Jace, hinting that Harwin is the true father of the boy.  The instigations are enough for Harwin to attack and bring Criston to the ground.  Criston doesn’t feel the need to fight back; he proved his and everyone else’s suspicions about who Jace and Luke’s true father is. 

Lyonel Strong, Harwin’s father, feels compelled to resign from his position as Hand of the King due to his son’s transgressions, but Viserys won’t allow it.  The King allows Lyonel to take a leave of absence to escort his son back to his ancestral seat at Harrenhal, not knowing that he would never return.  Larys Strong, Lyonel’s other son, devises a plot to kill his own father and brother in a fire so Otto Hightower can return as Hand of the King.  He does this as a favor for Alicent, who is horrified to learn that she may have had a hand in their murder.  

This is a major plot twist and a big heel turn for Larys. I could see him becoming a master of whispers-type character in the last episode, but this act just brought him to an even more formidable level; if he is willing to kill his own family to secure power, who knows what else he is capable of.  There is also speculation that he may be able to warg into animals like rats, which is why we keep seeing rats following the main characters’ every move.  

All in all, I think this was an extremely strong episode.  My biggest gripe, however, would have to be the breakneck speed at which the season is moving.  I understand that they want to get right into the action of the civil war, but the show could have benefitted from more development for characters like Harwin and Laena.  If we got to spend more time with these characters and form an emotional bond, then it would be all the more impactful when they tragically die.  Other than that, I’m loving the first season, and can’t wait for episode 7.

Title – REVIEW: HBO’s House of the Dragon, “The Princess and the Queen” (S1E6)

Tom Falite

Warning: There are spoilers ahead!

On this week’s episode of HOTD, family drama is passed on to the next generation as we pick up ten years since the events of last episode.  A lot has changed in the decade since Rhaenyra and Laenor reluctantly said their vows, and the realm is a powder keg that is primed to ignite at any moment.  There are a number of new characters added to the mix, as well as alliances that have shifted, so episode 6 certainly has a lot to unpack.

We open on a matured Rhaenyra as she gives birth in an excruciating three-minute long take, focusing on her strained, emotive face.  This was a brilliant way to introduce Emma D’arcy as the new face of Rhaenyra, showing both Emma’s acting chops and the resilience and strength of the character.  Miguel Sapochnik, showrunner and director of this episode, explained that episode 6 functions almost as a second pilot; ergo, a proper and engaging introduction of the new cast members was needed.  

As soon as the baby is delivered and found to be a boy, we learn Queen Alicent wishes to see the baby at once.  Rhaenyra, clearly infuriated by the request, pulls the ultimate badass move and decides to bring the baby to Alicent herself.  We are then treated with yet another impressive long take as a matured Laenor accompanies Rhaenyra on the harrowing walk to the Queen’s chambers.  Aside from being visually pleasing, the second long take was used by Saphochnik to show off the absolutely enormous two-story set that HBO built for the interior of the Red Keep.  The massive structure allows characters to walk seamlessly into a number of rooms in the castle without having to switch sets, which is an impressive feat for a TV show.  

We see Criston for the first time at the Queen’s door, who seems as cold as the stonemen.  The years have only strengthened his contempt for Rhaenyra after his love for her was rejected.  Inside the Queen’s chambers we get our first glimpse at Olivia Cooke as Alicent.  She, too, has grown more cold and calculated in the ten years since we last saw her.  She asks if the baby has a name, and Laenor answers before Rhaenyra has a chance to weigh in: Joffrey, the name of his late lover who was brutalized at the hands of Ser Criston.  King Viserys shows his face in this scene, missing his pestilent arm, looking like death; this may be the last episode that we get to see Paddy Considine, who has been stellar in his role as the declining King.  Alicent privately digs at Laenor towards the end of the scene, saying,“Do keep trying, soon or late, you may get one who looks like you.”  This is the first implication that we get of Rhaenyra’s infidelity, which begins to unravel and spiral out of control as the episode goes on.

Next we get to see some more of that sweet, sweet HBO budget as we follow the kids training Vermax, a young dragon in the Dragonpit.  Aemond, Alicent’s younger son, is the only one that has not been bonded to a dragon yet, and he gets bullied by his older brother and Rhaenyra’s boys when they present him a pig with fake wings.  Alicent consoles him in the next scene, and here we get our first glimpse at Helaena, Alicent’s daughter.  She may come to be a very important character in the future of the series, as she exhibits some possible greenseing abilities while she examines a millipede and makes vaguely prophetic comments.  In A Song of Ice and Fire lore, Greenseers have the ability to perceive events in the past, present and future through their dreams (akin to Bran and Bloodraven in the main series).  

Alicent continually tries to get the King to accept the truth about Rhaenyra’s children being bastards, but his blissful ignorance keeps getting in the way.  All he wants is for the conflict to end and their families to unite as one, but he fails to see that Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship is far beyond saving.  After being shut down, Alicent talks with Ser Criston where he uses some very colorful language to affirm his disdain for Rhaenyra to the audience.  Alicent then visits Aegon and gives him a stern reminder that as long as he is alive, he is a threat to Rhaenyra’s bloodline.  Olivia Cooke’s intensity carries this scene, and is a good sign for what is to come from her character.

Next, we find Daemon and Laena riding their dragons around the skies of Pentos.  They are married with twin daughters, and they seem to live a relatively happy life free from the politics of the Westerosi crown.  Daemon, however, is still gripped by his family’s legacy and yearns for power.  This causes a rift between him and a pregnant Laena, which adds another layer of tragedy when she is unable to deliver her baby later in the episode.  Facing certain death, Laena breaks free to find her dragon, Vhagar; you can see the sadness in the massive beast’s eyes when Laena commands her to breathe fire and end her life.  Daemon catches up to her just as the flames engulf her body on the beach, and he is stunned.  Despite the reprehensible actions of Daemon this season, this scene was truly heartbreaking to watch.

Back in Westeros, tensions boil over in the courtyard as Ser Criston pits Alicent’s oldest son, Aegon, against Rhaenyra’s oldest son, Jacaerys (Jace), against each other in a sparring match.  Aegon is clearly the older and stronger of the two, and Ser Harwin Strong decides to step in and break it up.  Criston questions his concern for Jace, hinting that Harwin is the true father of the boy.  The instigations are enough for Harwin to attack and bring Criston to the ground.  Criston doesn’t feel the need to fight back; he proved his and everyone else’s suspicions about who Jace and Luke’s true father is. 

Lyonel Strong, Harwin’s father, feels compelled to resign from his position as Hand of the King due to his son’s transgressions, but Viserys won’t allow it.  The King allows Lyonel to take a leave of absence to escort his son back to his ancestral seat at Harrenhal, not knowing that he would never return.  Larys Strong, Lyonel’s other son, devises a plot to kill his own father and brother in a fire so Otto Hightower can return as Hand of the King.  He does this as a favor for Alicent, who is horrified to learn that she may have had a hand in their murder.  

This is a major plot twist and a big heel turn for Larys. I could see him becoming a master of whispers-type character in the last episode, but this act just brought him to an even more formidable level; if he is willing to kill his own family to secure power, who knows what else he is capable of.  There is also speculation that he may be able to warg into animals like rats, which is why we keep seeing rats following the main characters’ every move.  

All in all, I think this was an extremely strong episode.  My biggest gripe, however, would have to be the breakneck speed at which the season is moving.  I understand that they want to get right into the action of the civil war, but the show could have benefitted from more development for characters like Harwin and Laena.  If we got to spend more time with these characters and form an emotional bond, then it would be all the more impactful when they tragically die.  Other than that, I’m loving the first season, and can’t wait for episode 7.

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