Finally! The time jump I’ve been promising you all has come. It’s been 10 years since we last saw Rhaenyra, Viserys, Alicent, and company, and they’ve been busy in the meantime. Let’s get into it.
Rhaenyra and Alicent’s Children
Another promise delivered! The opening scene is Rhaenyra giving birth to her third son, Joffrey, named after Laenor’s old boyfriend who got rendered to a pink mist last episode by Criston Cole. Her other two sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, are also shown in this episode. They look vastly different from Alicent’s children, in part that they lack the Targaryen silver-platinum hair. Instead, they have darker hair, and look quite similar to someone who has only been in the background of the first 5 episodes-Harwin Strong, who is their real father. It seems like this is a pretty open secret, as Criston Cole goads Harwin into attacking him after setting the older Aegon on Jacaerys in the practice yard, and very obviously not training Rhaenyra’s boys with nearly the same enthusiasm as he is Alicent’s. If people did not have suspicions about the Crown Prince’s lineage, there are certainly questions now. This forces Rhaenyra to send Harwin away, back to his family seat of Harrenhal with his father, who resigns as Hand. Sadly we only got one episode of Harwin being a major character, as the castle was torched and both he and his father perished in the flames, all orchestrated by the other son, Larys the Clubfoot. The Curse of Harrenhal and all of that.
Another interesting dynamic in this episode is that Aegon is relatively friendly with Jace and Luke, and even pulls a prank on Aemond (who everyone hates) with the two boys, promising Aemond that they have a dragon for him and bringing out a pig. Aemond is desperate to have a dragon, whining to Alicent that the boys are picking on him. That’s when we see Alicent’s third child, a daughter by the name of Helaena. Helaena appears to have what Targaryens call “Dragon Dreams,” which are prophetic visions. Pay attention to her words during Aemond and Alicent’s conversation. Later, Aegon was confronted by Alicent about the prank, and he’s pretty quick to throw Jace and Luke under the bus, knowing that Alicent will believe him without hesitation. Alicent warns Aegon that if Rhaenyra comes into power, Aegon would not live. He must be ready to take the crown, by force if necessary, which leads us to the surrounding drama in the King’s Court.
Drama in King’s Landing
From the opening sequence, we can see that the rivalry between Rhaenyra and Alicent has grown exponentially. Alicent demanding that Joffrey immediately be taken to her after the birth is a pure power move, and Rhaenyra deciding to take Joffrey herself is an answer back that she won’t be bullied. Alicent can’t help but make a remark to Laenor to keep trying, maybe one of these children will look like him. She’s both alerting Rhaenyra that she knows her secret, as well as she is hoping to get a reaction for the King to see. Speaking of which…
King Viserys Targaryen I, also known as the Westerosi Rickety Cricket, is in rough shape these days. His left arm is gone, hair is falling out, teeth look grotesque, and he’s getting wheeled around everywhere. Iron Throne wounds are not to be taken lightly it seems, and this decade has been hard on him. This does not stop him from being elated for a new grandchild, as well as watching his sons and grandsons practicing in the courtyard. He’s hoping that if they all grow up and play together, this will make them closer. I wish you were right, Viserys.
The most important scene in this episode was the small council meeting. There are various concerns, notably a Bracken and Blackwood conflict (remember the boy proposing to Rhaenyra and got laughed out? The boy was a Blackwood, the man he killed was a Bracken. LORE), and the Stepstones are being taken over again. Alicent brushes these off, and in turn the king does as well, but Rhaenyra raises objections, again highlighting their rift and different leadership styles. After this, Rhaenyra proposes to Alicent that Jace and Helaena be betrothed, combining the two houses. While it does seem like a very good match, it would all but eliminate Aegon’s claim. It seems like everyone but Viserys sees this, who is blissfully ignorant in his grandsons’ parentage. Even if he knows, he does not care. They are his daughter’s children, and she is a Targaryen. What’s the problem?
After the refusal, Rhaenyra decides to wash herself of King’s Landing and go back to Dragonstone, leaving her father in Alicent’s clutches.
Daemon and Laena
Everyone in this episode seems to have aged up except Daemon, who will live at this age forever it seems. Daemon and Laena Velaryon have wed, had two daughters, and another is on the way! They’re chilling in Pentos across the Narrow Sea, and Daemon is happy to play bodyguard for the host they’re staying with. It seems like Daemon has turned a page, going from a warrior to a dutiful husband and father. Sure does spend a lot of time in the library, though. Wonder what he’s trying to find about the old dragon riders of Valyria.
Unfortunately, this all came to a full stop. Laena talked about her wanting to go back to Westeros, to not die old and fat but as a dragon rider. She received her wish maybe a little earlier than expected. While in labor with her child, she was unable to push the baby out, and as both the maester and Daemon start speaking of a c-section, the same operation that killed Viserys’s first wife in the opening episode of the season, Laena escapes out and to her dragon, Vhagar, demanding that it burn her alive to end her suffering. Metal as hell.
Thoughts Moving Forward – Spoilers
I wouldn’t expect any more time jumps this season, though I would expect that Viserys will die in the next couple of episodes, acting as the catalyst for the Dance of Dragons. Helaena having dragon dreams is an awesome addition, specifically muttering that “He’ll have to close an eye”, and “The last ring has no legs at all. He has eyes, but cannot see.” The first quote can apply to multiple characters in the full Westeros timeline, but the second is a little more specific. Who is the last king in Westeros? He wouldn’t happen to not be able to use his legs, right?
Alicent presentation as an outright villain is problematic. She has very real concerns about Rhaenyra, and about her ability to be a monarch, and she’s been fed lies from her father to fear for her children’s safety. One of the best parts of this story is that there are no good sides, and each will do horrific things to the other. I really, really hope that they don’t try to influence the audience to choose Rhaenyra OR Alicent’s side.
One last fun fact. Every single Targaryen that has been named king or queen and sat the Iron Throne (Until Robert Baratheon. LORE) had silver-platinum hair. Something to ponder.