After the explosive events of the ‘Green Wedding’ in Episode Five of House of the Dragon, the narrative now takes a jump forward in time and the political intrigue, double crossings and personal vendettas get far more vindictive and bloody in an all-new timeframe of House of the Dragon beginning with Episode Six, ‘The Princess and the Queen’.
Ten years later. Rhaenyra navigates Alicent’s continued speculation about her children, while Daemon and Laena weigh an offer in Pentos.
Ten years have passed since the events of the ‘Green Wedding’, and the violence that plagued it, and time has not healed the pains of House Targaryen, and they are now an even more bitter and unhappier family. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), the heir to the Iron Throne is locked into a loveless marriage with her husband in name only, Ser Laenor Valeryon (John Macmillan). Having born three children who do not in the slightest take after their father, Princess Rhaenyra is trapped in the closed-off world of the Red Keep and her relationship with her former friend and step-mother Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) is now more strained than ever. And in the decade that has passed, Queen Alicent has become a dangerous and calculating politician. House Targaryen may hold claim to the entirety of Westeros but they are not in the least a solid family unit, and new threats and dangers encircle them in a time of great political strife for Westeros.
Stepping into the role of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, who was masterfully portrayed by the young Milly Alcock in the previous five episodes, is Emma D’Arcy, and her first appearance is a shocking revelation for audiences. Bleeding from birth, she is marched before the Queen to show off her new child, and D’Arcy is incredibly convincing in her post-birth pain. This shocking first appearance of the heir to the Iron Throne establishes that times have only gotten harder for the Princess and that in the 10-year period that has followed the events of ‘We Light the Way’ she has lost many friends and allies at court. But in her isolation, D’Arcy’s Princess Rhaenyra appears to have gotten tougher and more demanding and sensing the growing threats around her calls her power into herself and charts a new path forward for herself and her family.
Playing opposite D’Arcy’s Princess Rhaenyra is Olivia Cooke as Queen Alicent Hightower, a role she has taken over from the young Emily Carey, and like D’Arcy Cooke is a great reflection of Carey’s performance. Now a calculating and fierce politician who is determined to see her children ascend the Iron Throne, Cooke’s Queen Alicent is an incredibly dangerous individual who in the waining power of her husband, King King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) has taken on even further power, and her reach is long and fierce. Her feud with her former friend and stepdaughter has only intensified in the years to come and there’s an incredible viciousness and malice to Cooke’s performance as Queen Alicent that will take audiences by surprise, and provides the set-up for some intriguing actions to follow.
Along with the now-grown Rhaenyra and Alicent, audiences are also introduced to their bountiful brood of royal children. And they’re utterly repellent brats at that. Alicent’s young son, Prince Aegon (Ty Tennant) is an utter snot of a young prince, whose courtly life has left him as a ne’er-do-well and blowhard who is more than happy to torment his younger brother, the shy, reserved and utterly bitter Prince Aemond (Leo Ashton). Then there are Rhaenyra’s children, who take after their actual father, the Lord Commander of the City Watch, Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). Strong’s rather open attraction to Princess Rhaenyra invites a jest from her former lover, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), who in the years that have followed has become a rather contemptuous and cynical knight and all hell breaks loose fairly quickly, with major repercussions to follow.
Dragons and fire swell in ‘The Princess and the Queen’, and fans who wanted to see more of this epic scope will not be disappointed with what they get to witness in this episode. New feuds and insults are beckoned, and showrunner/director Miguel Sapochnik uses these to his advantage when plotting out the twisting narrative of this new series. Sapochnik also showcases how the series lead antihero Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) has aged in the last decade, and it’s not well I’m afraid. Having left Westeros for Pentos this dark knight is now a shadow of his former self and life without risk or adventure has not done him any good. But fear not for I think Smith may be up to his old tricks as Prince Daemon, and I’m certain he’ll take a leading role in the events to come.
It wouldn’t be House of the Dragon without a good dose of violence and mayhem and fans of George R.R. Martin’s work will be very happy as to how Sapochnik and his team can bring out the fire and blood in this episode. Drawing back to the lore of the ancient fortress of Harrenhal and its cursed lineage leads to some very nasty moments for the screen, and the fire rages. The drama appears to be taking a step up in this next phase of House of the Dragon, and the danger cuts close to home for Princess Rhaenyra. ‘The Princess and the Queen’ is a taste of what is to come for this series, and it’s about to get intense.
We’re in a brand new phase of House of the Dragon and new performers and narratives pair well with old dramas, jealousies and dangers. Stay close and keep watching, for the fires are about to burn.
House of the Dragon is available to watch on SKY SOHO and NEON.
Image: SKY TV