‘House of the Dragon’ recap: Peace, averted (2024)

Westeros: Where the personal is political — and then some.

The two women at the heart of this story just can’t get on the same page, so the whole book’s going to burn. The incendiary Game of Thrones universe is nothing if not consistent, and once again, the well-intentioned few can do little to stave off the bloodshed set in motion by those who let revenge and pride rule their hearts. A last-ditch effort by Rhaenyra to find a path to peace with her former best friend Alicent sputters out, setting all the characters (and the show itself) on the path to a dragon-powered, high-body-count war that will consume the kingdom — and the remaining five episodes.

After last week’s grim-as-a-pothole funeral procession and twin-on-twin death match, the third episode feels like a breather before the arrival of all-out war. A surprise last-minute stab at peace (that almost includes an actual stabbing) resolves nothing and only hardens the resolve of the warring queens.


Team Rhaenyra

The fight for the throne is spreading through Westeros, ensnaring Houses who pledge loyalty to one side or the other. The episode opens in the Riverlands, where a border dispute turns into a grudge match between Team Rhaenyra (House Blackwood) and Team Aegon (House Bracken). Threats turn into a drawn sword and we immediately cut to hundreds of dead bodies heaped next to a stream in the aftermath of what will be known as the Battle of the Burning Mill.

Meanwhile, Rhaenyra, fresh from burying Sers Erryk and Arryk side-by-side, is meeting with her hawkish war council. With Daemon absent (we’ll get to him shortly), the only person who shares the queen’s sense of restraint is Rhaenys. “There is no war so hateful to the gods than a war between kin,” she says. “And no war so bloody as a war between dragons.” She suggests that the key to averting war may be Alicent, who sent a message by raven that Rhaenyra refuses to read — the equivalent of blocking someone on your phone without even giving their text the read status.


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Rhaenyra decides, given the attempt on her life, that it would be best if she sent her younger kids, Joffrey and Aegon — yes, her toddler has the same name as the king — away. She asks Rhaena to watch over them, as well as two dragon hatchlings and three dragon eggs stashed in what appears to be a Weber grill. They plan to give a dragon to Lady Jeyne Arryn in exchange for an army and they’ll stay at Pentos. Rhaenyra asks Rhaena to guard her kids like a mother dragon guarding her eggs. And also, to please guard the actual dragon eggs, they are super expensive.

Swallowing her pride for once, Rhaenyra finally reads the raven from Alicent, which is a heartfelt commiseration. When she asks Mysaria — who has remained at Dragonstone and wants to be part of Rhaenyra’s court after helping save her life — how she might arrange a face-to-face meeting with Alicent, the former spymaster suggests that she go by rowboat and sneak in as a commoner, as Daemon did.

Team Daemon


Daemon arrives at Harrenhal — family seat of the Strong family, led by Ser Simon — and finds it has become a Harrenhellhole, long since fallen into damp, leaky disrepair. The family hates Team Aegon’s sneaky “Larys Clubfoot” and guesses rightly that he was behind the fiery murders of Lord Lyonel Strong and his son Harwin. Though exasperated by the conditions at Harrenhal, Daemon plans to repair the stronghold and garrison some 40,000 soldiers there.

Daemon’s broader plan is lacking in details: “We march on King’s Landing and take the throne,” he says. When Simon looks confused, Daemon elaborates: “It’s a big chair made of swords.” Daemon is a little testy these days, in part because he’s been plagued by eerie visions — he thinks he sees the younger version of Rhaenyra (played again by Milly Alco*ck) sewing the head of the dead boy Jaehaerys onto his body. Later, in the Godswood of Harrenhal, a witchy woman named Alys Rivers tells Daemon he’s going to die here.

Team Aegon and Alicent


Meanwhile at King’s Landing, the new council is a mess and Ser Criston Cole is still walking around in full armor, even though he’s now Hand of the King and the biggest dangers he faces are paper cuts from scrolls and sciatica from sitting in council meetings all day.

Aegon is thrilled that Houses Bracken is spilling blood in his name and wants to count the Battle of the Burning Mill as a win. As the council bickers about how to subdue the Riverlands, Cole floats the idea of riding his horse to Harrenhal with whatever army they have now and subduing the area quickly, instead of doing his new job. Aegon is itching for a fight and wants to come, but nobody thinks that’s a good idea, not even Aemond, who plans to stay and defend the city with his dragon, Vhagar.

Larys, as manipulative as ever, convinces Aegon that the council secretly wants him fight so that Alicent and Aemond can run things while he’s gone. Aegon, easily swayed and with no one to trust, decides to stay and rule instead.


Alicent checks in on her daughter Helaena, who’s still grieving the death of Jaehaerys. When Alicent says she’s been worried about Helaena, Helaena cryptically replies, “I forgive you.” She forgives Alicent for keeping Ser Cole occupied when he should have been guarding her kids? She forgives Alicent for setting Aegon on the throne and creating this mess? What could she mean? I’m guessing it won’t be long until we find out.

Opting for a change of scene, Aegon takes his squire out for a night on the town and ends up at the same brothel his brother frequents. He finds Aemond stark (but not Stark) naked with the same woman he was with in the last episode. Aegon teases his brother for his loyalty to the first woman he ever bedded, failing to guess that the courtesan is an Alicent surrogate. (And really, why would he?) Unbothered, Aemond says the squire is welcome to her and walks out fully naked — and by that I mean he’s not even wearing his eyepatch.

Things go badly for Ser Criston’s hasty war brigade when Baela, patrolling on dragonback, spots Cole and his men. Cole has the troops he’s with ride into a forest for cover; she loses them in the woods, but reports what she saw to Rhaenyra and her increasingly bloodthirsty council.


New faces

Alicent’s brother, Ser Gwayne Hightower (Freddie Fox), arrives from Oldtown and immediately joins the war party, which Cole doesn’t seem thrilled about. He teases Cole about taking his father’s place on the council: “What a giddying ascent the gods have bestowed upon you!” he says, with more shade than a beach umbrella. Later, shaking in the woods alongside Cole as Baela’s dragon flies overhead, Gwayne doesn’t seem so courageous.

Then there’s Ulf, a raconteur at the King’s Landing tavern who tells his tablemates that he’s a half brother to Daemon and Viserys and uncle to Rhaenyra, despite not having the telltale silver hair. He pledges allegiance to Rhaenyra but shouts “All hail the king!” when Aegon comes in to buy the bar a round of drinks.

An improbable meeting

Episode 3 culminates in a lengthy closing scene between Rhaenyra and Alicent. With Mysaria’s help, Rhaenyra has come to the only place where Alicent is ever alone: the Sept of So Many Candles. Dressed as a sept maiden, Rhaenyra manages to come in alone and sit next to Alicent. There’s some awkwardness when Rhaenyra pulls a knife from her sleeve, but it’s not long before Rhaenyra is trying to find a “path toward peace” and blaming the men in their lives for marching to war. “So you’ve come to surrender, then?” Alicent asks sharply.


Hoo boy, this might not work out.

The issue at heart is Viserys changing his mind on his deathbed and giving Aegon the throne, something only Alicent witnessed. She swears that it happened, but it comes out for the first time that Viserys also mentioned “the prince that was promised.” Rhaenyra instantly recognizes this as an allusion to the story of Aegon the Conqueror. They finally — finally! — both understand that Alicent misinterpreted the last wishes of Viserys. If this were a sitcom, they’d be laughing together, saying, “Oh ha-ha, so many deaths! What a wacky misunderstanding!”

But Alicent can’t get there. “There’s no mistake,” she says. As they separate, it’s clear that Rhaenyra is more determined than ever to take her rightful place on the throne. As for Alicent, she’ll have to live with the knowledge that she snuffed out the last hope for peace. Denial drives a hard bargain.

‘House of the Dragon’ recap: Peace, averted (2024)
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