Three years pass since the previous episode. Alicent has given King Viserys what he has always wanted. There is another on the way. Lords from all over the realm salivate at a chance to raise their station by linking their families with the Targaryen bloodline.
They all assume that Viserys will change his heir once again. All the while, Daemon and the Sea Snake are locked in an unpopular struggle against the Crabfeeder, who makes war on behalf of the Free States.
The pacing of this show moves at a perfect breakneck speed, offering the audience more Fire and Blood. In Game of Thrones, the Game was the point. It is still played but there is little simmer—mostly boil.
The writers use a great deal of symbolism this episode to illustrate growth. A lot can happen in three years. But the writers usher viewers in towards the end of the growing pains. The audience sees a few characters graduate.
Rhaenyra is both blessed and chosen by the gods. The prize that everyone else seeks sniffs her out. Most everyone else in the show is a feeble-minded follower. They are so bound by tradition that they never bother to think about why they do certain things.
But Rhaenyra is a rebel. She recognizes the blessing of the gods when she sees it and treats it as such. Rhaeynra has always been able to think for herself. But surely such a prize has to offer her an incredible temptation, especially because she feels that her father’s loyalties don't belong to her anymore.
But she is rewarded for her fortitude and self-discipline. When summoned by her father, Rhaenyra sits at his right hand without rebuke. This is a seat ordinarily reserved for the Hand of the king. That is the very seat where Otto Hightower usually plots to weaken her position. Instead, she sits there and strengthens it.
Rhaenyra though headstrong and sometimes brash has the wisdom to pick her moments. In her case, the symbolism points to who is truly worthy to sit upon the iron throne. But in the end, will the politicking and the armies decide, or will the gods have the last word?
Daemon, the wayward brother, is the second character to graduate. He becomes a living legend in this episode. Daemon finally gets his chance to step outside of his brother’s shadow. And the only motivation he needs to take on the suicidal mission of a madman is his brother’s offer of assistance.
Daemon has always wanted to be recognized by his brother for his competence and his trustworthiness. His brother's offer can be seen by Daemon as nothing other than an insult to a man who wishes to prove himself in this savage world. A second son can only carve out a name for himself with his own two hands. Daemon knows it. And he itches to prove it, even if he must bathe in the blood of his adversaries to be reborn as Viserys' heir. Only a legend can accomplish such a feat.
A legend is difficult to defeat. They do not die easily. This viewer suspects that Daemon won't either.
Rhaenyra has a constant champion in her father. And though he has shown himself to be weak occasionally, his support for Rhaenyra, after choosing her, has always been strong. This viewer finally understands that for Viserys family is even more important than the Iron Throne. He sees it as only a means to an end: protect his family to the bitter end. He chooses to play the game in his own way and for his own purpose. Maybe he's not Ned Stark. A man trying to protect his family can be quite lethal. Perhaps the old dragon has teeth after all.
It should be said that Viserys and Rhaenyra have fantastic chemistry. Despite all the trappings, the pageantry and the blood, at the end of the day, they are just father and daughter. No matter how many times the audience sees them at each other's throats, there can be no doubt that they love one another. It's refreshing yet insane in a series like this.
House of the Dragon Episode 3 takes it up a notch. Characters come of age swiftly in the school of Fire and Blood. They have no choice. They are tested. And the stakes are high.