December 1, 2022

“Ten years may have passed but the game is finally balanced on a knife’s edge. And someone is going to get cut. But it won’t be the blood of the dragon that gets spilled.” We review the sixth episode of House Of The Dragon.

The sixth episode of the terrific prequel show ‘House Of The Dragon’ may have moved on by ten years, but the dramatic tension hasn’t diminished. We may have a new Rhaenyra and Alicent in Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke respectively but we are still witnessing the uneasiness between the two characters. Again, this week isn’t a full-on blood and Dragonfire fest. But what it does is lay a brand new foundation for the steps of King’s Landing. And the game’s pieces have moved significantly. Ten years may have passed but the game is finally balanced on a knife’s edge. And someone is going to get cut. But it won’t be the blood of the dragon that gets spilled.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON 1×06: THE PRINCESS AND THE QUEEN

The episode opens ten years later. Rhaenyra has just given birth to her third child. Ser Laenor, her husband, names him Joffrey without consulting Rhaenyra. Queen Alicent remarks the infant’s hair, like his brothers Jacaerys and Lucerys, is brown rather than Targaryen silver. She even passes a devious comment to Ser Laenor in a whisper. Prince Daemon and Lady Laena are in Essos with their daughters Baela and Rhaena. It is here where the Prince of Pentos offers them a lordship in exchange for an alliance against the Triarchy. The Triarchy has regained the Stepstone during the ten-year time jump.

Ser Criston, now loyal to Alicent, trains the king’s children and grandchildren in swordsmanship. But an ill-advised remark to Ser Lyonel Strong, the real father of Rhaenyra’s children leads to an altercation between the pair. Alicent scolds son Aegon for pranking younger brother Aemon, who has yet to choose a dragon of his own, in the dragon pit. She also informs him he must ready himself to fight for the throne when Rhaenyra becomes queen.

In an attempt to make peace, Rhaenyra offers a marriage between her son Jacaerys and Princess Helaena, Alicent’s daughter. The Queen is none too pleased with this. King Viserys is growing progressively weaker, needing help from his wife at every turn. But when Ser Lyonel Strong offers his resignation as Hand of the King over the rumors that his son fathered Rhaenyra’s children, Viserys refuses. He does however allow Ser Lyonel to briefly return to Harrenhal with Harwin. Ser Harwin’s emotional farewell to Rhaenyra confirms he is indeed the father of her children.

THOUGHTS

There is a lot more going on in this episode than I have revealed above. And the entire episode moves the story forward a long way. Things have changed for many of the main characters involved, and not all in a good way. No spoilers but things will certainly get even more intriguing from the next episode onwards. It will be interesting to see how certain characters react to certain events seen this week. And some may even take the law into their own hands to deal with the fallout.

The cast once again all play their parts well. It is Paddy Considine’s turn to take a step back from leading proceedings this week. Viserys does feature in the episode but not a great deal. The same has to be said for Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole. His appearances are fleeting but vital to moving the story forward. John Macmillan does get a fair look in as Ser Laenor Velaryon but is sadly at times relegated to being part of the background, despite being a vital cog in the wheel. But it is Ryan Corr who comes to the fore this week as Ser Harwin Strong. It is his performance that holds the main plot threads together. And he accomplishes it with ease.

MATT SMITH

Thankfully, Matt Smith gets to play a much larger part in this episode than he has in previous weeks. And as soon as he appears on the screen, we are on tenterhooks. What is Daemon going to do this week? What is he scheming and planning now? It will come as a surprise to learn that Smith has an emotional part to play this week. Ok, so we can never fully feel for him. But by the climax, we do see Daemon’s softer side. And that makes our hearts go out to him. It won’t last though but for this week at least, Matt Smith gives an understated and genuinely warm performance as Daemon.

EMMA D’ARCY AND OLIVIA COOKE

But of course, our eyes are mainly focused on Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke in their debut appearances as Rhaenyra and Alicent. While we still feel the shadows of Milly Alcock and Emily Carey standing over the characters, the pair are equally as good as their younger counterparts. Emma D’Arcy makes us warm slightly to Rhaenyra after her misdeeds over the past few weeks. Here, she is now a mother and a wife and appears to be quite suited (as best she can be) as both. We can still see the scheming in her eyes. We can still feel her hidden rage and hurt against her former friend. But she is more of a sympathetic character than we have seen before. Emma D’Arcy easily slips into Rhaenyra’s dresses and gives a wonderful performance.

Olivia Cooke though is the one to watch. From where we left Alicent at the climax of last week’s episode to how she is in this week’s is like the difference between night and day. Alicent seems as friendly as ever when we first see her but we are almost immediately introduced to a side of her we haven’t really witnessed before. Here, Alicent comes across as a nasty, vile, scheming woman who seriously has it in for Rhaenyra and her children. With the warning of what Rhaenyra may be capable of if her accession is threatened, Alicent is almost like a lioness with her cubs. Protective, yes but with a fierce desire to see her enemy dead. And Olivia Cooke brings this version of Alicent to life in such a way, we actually fear for Rhaenyra at times. And that is a great start to playing the character.

PREVIEW OF EPISODE 7

As usual, a preview of the next episode has been released, which you can find below. And it really looks good:

FINAL THOUGHTS

We are starting to get into the meat of the pie now with this sixth episode. We have seen the pieces move into position over the past six weeks. Now, we are about to witness the game being played fully. Over the coming weeks, we will see death, destruction, tragedy, heartbreak, and betrayal at every turn. And it has been coming. The foundations of the game have now been firmly laid and set in stone. The groundwork has been done. Now, we sit back and watch as the pieces try and tear each other apart, removing them from the great game. We have four episodes left of this first season to go. And this sixth episode, despite not featuring full-on death and destruction still does enough to warrant our attention. And can prepare us no more for what is to come.

‘House Of The Dragon’ is available now on HBO Max in the United States and on other platforms around the world.

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