House of the Dragon is back for it’s third week with one hummdinger of an episode, and Murphy’s Multiverse is back to tackle the best and worst moments it had to offer. Second of His Name continues to play with the series’ standing theme of succession and the royal bloodline, pitting Milly Alcock‘s Princess Rhaenyra against her infant half-brother Aegon and causing Paddy Considine‘s King Viserys to question every decision he’s ever made. Meanwhile, Matt Smith‘s ever-enigmatic Prince Daemon wages war against the vile Crabfeeder and his army in an ownership conflict over the Stepstones. Both plotlines get rather intense surprisingly fast, and together make for a memorable few days in the history of Westeros. Let’s get to dissecting.
Best – The Decline of King Viserys & Daemon’s Last Stand
Second of His Name was perhaps the most action-packed installment of House of the Dragon yet, and somehow, none of the violence managed to rank as the definitive best part of the episode. That honor belongs instead to King Viserys and his slow descent into madness, or at the very least, severe depression. Between all the steamy love scenes and insane bloodshed, viewers tend to forget that the true heart of George R.R. Martin‘s universe is mental gymnastics. Whether it be political rivalries or personal vendettas, House of the Dragon and its kin are typically at their most entertaining when the show is focused on big decision making. Second of His Name is no different, and shines the brightest when it opens the curtain on Viserys’ inner-mind.
The King is being forced to choose between duty and family, which wouldn’t normally be so hard if it wasn’t for the fact that this time his duty is his family. After everything, he has finally welcomed a son into his life, a development that directly harms his relationship with his beloved daughter. On top of that, the mother of his son is his daughter’s former best friend, and the child of his own Hand, further complicating things in both his home and his court. Now, everyone wants to know who his true successor will be, and everyone thinks the lineage should somehow involve their own offspring. All Viserys wants to do is drink wine and go on a hunt, and the sudden pressures of his job all coming down upon him at once cause the mental break that’s seemed inevitable since the beginning.
Considine‘s acting is superb as he portrays a ruler with so many emotions, he can’t decipher which is anger and which is sadness. His fireside soliloquy to Emily Carey‘s Alicent Hightower is a highlight of the season thus far, and the moment he begins to lose it in the tent – with everything fading to black around him – is peak television storytelling. Even his cathartic, disturbing kill on the hunt was able to speak a thousand words without Viserys even opening his mouth. This is exactly the kind of thing fans cling to this world for, and it was great to see it back at the forefront of the franchise.
That being said, it would be remiss not to mention all the very cool action that does take place during this episode. Desperate to win his war on his own, without the help of the Crown, Daemon plays dirty and uses a white flag as a ploy to gain the upper hand on his opponent – the Crabfeeder. His last stand, which is pretty much mostly just Daemon cleaning house all by his lonesome, is exhilarating to watch, and the visuals as the battle comes to an end are stunning. It’s also a great example of using action as a device to comment on the nature of a character. Daemon will not be outdone, and he will not be tricked, but he is fine pulling some tricks of his own.
Worst – Otto Hightower
Rhys Ifans is doing a wonderful job as Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, and maybe that’s why he’s so convincingly unlikable week in and week out. As per usual, the worst part of Second of His Name comes in the form of Hightower manipulating both his boss and his family into giving him more power. The schemer is already glib about his daughter’s betrothal to the King, yet still finds a way to suggest the horrific idea that his grandson – also the King’s son – be wed to Rheanyra. That’s right, he would like a sister to marry her much-younger brother so that his blood is tied even closer to the Crown. Very Game of Thrones, but also pretty disgusting.