‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: Let’s Talk

‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: Let’s Talk

Did Alicent truly believe that Viserys was talking about their son? Or was that merely what she wished to believe? (As important, should a drama hinge its central conflict on the kind of verbal mix-up better suited to a sitcom? Answering that is, at this advanced stage, perhaps beyond the scope of this recap.)

The daring stealth mission in which Rhaenyra sneaks back into King’s Landing (with Mysaria’s help) to force a one-on-one meeting with her frenemy of frenemies clears all this up. Alicent really believes Viserys wanted Aegon. For her part, Rhaenyra really believes Alicent really believes it. But once the dowager queen mentions the Conqueror’s “Song of Ice and Fire,” Rhaenyra figures out what went wrong and offers a clarification … which Alicent refuses to heed, although she seems to know in her heart that it is true.

So there you have it: The war will proceed because Team Green’s captain can’t handle the truth. Alicent’s refusal to change course undoes not only Rhaenyra’s peacekeeping efforts — and Princess Rhaenys’s before that — but also her own. The fan discourse about this ought to be fun, according to certain definitions of “fun,” anyway.

More than clearing up the wacky mix-up at the heart of it all, though, the scene’s primary value is in reuniting the actors Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy. Their chemistry is as natural and compelling as that of any two performers on television. Their characters’ energies feel as entangled as the dueling dragons in the show’s Season 2 logo; watching them tear and pull at each other leads to results just as combustible. Quibble if you will with Rhaenyra’s rashness in seeking an unprotected audience with the Queen in King’s Landing. But adding this scene, which isn’t in the book, made for a better show.

While Rhaenyra and Alicent strive to keep the peace, though, the men surrounding them fight for the opposite. Rhaenyra’s Black Council, made up primarily of minor lords scared to lose what little power they have, pushes for an attack right away. Her estranged husband, Daemon, flies straight for the moldering ruins of Harrenhal, key to the important Riverlands region. He is greeted by a pragmatic castellan, Sir Simon Strong (Simon Russell Beale), who hands the castle over to him without a fight, and a mysterious servant, Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin), who tells him that Harrenhal is the place where he will die. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

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