DISCLAIMER: This recap of the House of the Dragon episode “Second of His Name” has spoilers. Prepare for fire and blood, and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, dragonriders! House of the Dragon’s third outing, “Second of His Name,” is mostly a slower-paced fare, honing in on Viserys and Rhaenyra’s turbulent relationship after a three-year jump. However, the remaining minutes catapult the narrative into heart-pounding, white-knuckled high gear as Daemon and Corlys seek to defeat Craghas Drahar and the Triarchy.
Once again, Paddy Considine, Milly Alcock and Matt Smith are the reigning acting champs. Alcock continues to impress as a rising actress to watch. She has such a commanding presence and an ease with which she makes character choices that most young performers don’t have at her age. I’ll be sad to see her go but also excited about what the future holds for her.
Ready to dive into “Second of His Name”? Let’s get to it.
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We open with the fiery, gory battle in the Stepstones, with Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith), a Myrish prince admiral leading the Triarchy, torturing some poor unfortunate soul on the opposition. Suddenly, Daemon (Smith) swoops in to save the day on Caraxes as the mighty Blood Wyrm drenches the battlefield with fire.
Later, we’re in the Red Keep, peeping in on a celebration for Prince Aegon, Viserys (Considine) and Alicent’s (Emily Carey) son. It’s his second name day, y’all! Unfortunately, one seeks to ruin the fun by discussing the Stepstones war with the king. Viserys won’t have it, as it’s not the crown’s fight but Daemon and Lord Corlys’s.
Meanwhile, Viserys is preoccupied with tracking down Rhaenyra because it’s time to go a-hunting for her stepbrother’s birthday shindig. Queen Alicent, who’s very pregnant, finds Princess Rhaenyra (Alcock) sitting in the godswood while reading a book. A singer belts out her favorite tune in, seemingly, perpetuity. Alicent informs her stepdaughter (weird) regarding the hunting party’s upcoming departure for the kingswood. You can cut the tension between Rhaenyra and Alicent with a rusty butter knife.
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Rhaenyra joins the departing party, riding along with Viserys, Alicent and Aegon. Viserys reminds Rhaenyra that one day she’ll marry, much to her annoyance. Once the gang from King’s Landing arrives at the kingswood, we see a host of Lannisters greet them. Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall), whose brother Tyland serves the king at King’s Landing, brazenly asks for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage. He claims she’ll want for nothing — he’ll even construct a dragon pit for Syrax! Those prideful Lannisters are, well, prideful. Rhaenyra rejects him.
I’d like to note that here we finally meet Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), who plays a pivotal role in the Dance of the Dragons, and Ser Harwin “Breakbones” Strong (Ryan Corr), who also plays a part in the story to come. They’re the sons of Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), Viserys’s master of laws.
Next, Rhaenyra confronts her father for sicking Jason Lannister on her. Their arguing escalates into a screaming match, at least on Viserys’s end. The king reminds his tempestuous daughter that she must abide by tradition and duty. As much as Viserys didn’t want to remarry after Aemma’s death, he did so anyway. Hey, I’m Team Rhaenyra here. It’s time to buck tradition and create a new world order.
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Then, Rhaenyra flees, frustrated with her father’s lack of understanding. Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) chases after her on his horse. Criston believes they should return to the encampment, but Rhaenyra wishes to explore the kingswood more.
Meanwhile, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) informs Viserys about the spotting of a white hart, a portent for the prince’s name day. Perhaps Viserys can kill the poor creature whose land the humans are invading. Jason Lannister gifts Aegon with a spear, hoping Viserys will use it to deliver the killing blow on the white hart. He asks about Rhaenyra, asserting that he’d provide for her. Much like a large portion of the realm, Jason was under the impression that Viserys would choose his son to succeed him on the Iron Throne.
Viserys tells Jason that he’s sorely mistaken — he has no intention of supplanting his daughter. Well, that’s comforting!
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Later, we see Viserys taking a liking to the wine at the party. Perhaps a bit too much. Otto presents another marital option for Rhaenyra. Since it’s Targaryen tradition to wed brothers and sisters, why not pair her with her stepbrother, Aegon? Her two-year-old stepbrother, mind you. Viserys laughs off this suggestion and orders Otto to knock it off with the politicking.
Then, Lyonel Strong offers yet another choice for Rhaenyra. Sure, his proposed match with Lady Laena Velaryon was a bust, but this one is much better. How about Prince Corlys and Princess Rhaenys’s son, Laenor Velaryon? Viserys appears to consider it genuinely.
Meanwhile, Rhaenyra and Criston set up camp for the night in the kingswood. Rhaenyra asks Criston if he feels the realm will respect her as queen. He wholeheartedly believes they will. We also learn that Criston fooled around a bit while his father served at Blackhaven. However, since joining the kingsguard, he has taken his vows of chastity seriously. Sorry, Rhaenyra. Make all the googly eyes you want, but Ser Criston keeps it chaste.
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Suddenly, the pair spot a wild boar. You know, the creature responsible for killing Robert Baratheon. The beast bowls over Criston, making a beeline for Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra tries to defend herself, kicking at the boar with all her might. Criston stabs it. However, when the duo thinks the creature is dead, it tries to turn over, at which point Rhaenyra stabs the beast repeatedly in a bout of emotional fury.
Then, Alicent joins Viserys outside as the latter stares into a fire pit. He confesses his fears regarding the succession, wondering if it was right to name Rhaenyra as his heir. Considine kills it in this scene, injecting the king with tenderness, fragility and nuance.
The following morning, Viserys, hungover, tries to stab a hart with the spear from Jason Lannister. Sure, it’s not the white hart, but it’ll do. Side note: this scene made me sad. Hearing that poor animal’s cries made me wish I was there to stop it.
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Later, we see Rhaenyra and Criston staring out over a gorgeous expanse. The rare white hart approaches Rhaenyra. Criston draws his sword, but his princess orders him to stand down. She allows the hart to run free. I love the symbolism here. Whereas Viserys would’ve killed it, Rhaenyra would rather a free creature continue to live without constraints and restrictions. It’s a physical manifestation of what she desires for herself.
Criston and Rhaenyra arrive at the encampment with the dead boar in tow. We see Harwin Breakbones leer at her while Viserys and Alicent stare in shock at the blood-soaked Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra saunters down that grassy runway like the badass dragonrider she is.
Then, the group returns to King’s Landing. Otto meets with Alicent to discuss Aegon’s place in the realm. He believes Viserys will listen to Alicent if she proposes the prospect of Aegon becoming the king’s successor. Oh, Otto — always scheming, that one.
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So, Alicent sits with her husband, and the pair chat about Rhaenyra’s insolence. Alicent vouches for Rhaenyra, saying that she’ll marry at some point. However, she must believe the match is her idea. Alicent finds a letter from Vaemond Velaryon, Lord Corlys’s brother (fun fact: Vaemond is Corlys’s nephew in Fire & Blood). Vaemond asks for the crown to send reinforcements on Daemon’s behalf. The queen believes they should provide aid, even if Viserys doesn’t feel he should get involved. After all, the Triarchy could become the king’s problem if left unchecked.
Next, Viserys asks a knight to send a reply to Daemon. Rhaenyra pops in for a chat with her dad. It’s fraught with emotion, bubbling with serrated-edge anger and stinging pain. The past three years have unraveled Rhaenyra and Viserys’s bond. He claims he only wants to see her happy and would never replace her as his heir. Rhaenyra dances around the genuine reason for her unhappiness — that her father married her best friend. If Viserys wanted to wed out of duty, he would’ve accepted Laena as his wife.
However, like him, Rhaenyra must marry somebody to protect herself while she rules Westeros and to secure the bloodline. Rhaenyra departs, and while there’s significantly more healing to be done, it appears they’re on the right track.
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Meanwhile, in the Stepstones, Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint), Vaemond (Wil Johnson) and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) strategize their next move. The Crabfeeder and his legions are kicking their collective ass. Vaemond feels Daemon is a liability, sullying their efforts at triumph. Daemon arrives on Caraxes with his usual fiery flair. Yes, he’s that person — fashionably late. The knight hands Daemon Viserys’s letter, which the latter reads silently.
Then, Daemon proceeds to beat the snot out of the poor messenger. Thankfully, the Velaryons present step in before it gets deadly. As Daemon departs on a sailboat, we hear a voiceover from Viserys, reading aloud what his letter said. Viserys vows to send Daemon some support, but it seems meager compared to the forces they’re facing from the Triarchy (an alliance between Lys, Myr and Tyrosh) and Dorne.
So, Daemon pulls into enemy territory, brandishing a white flag of surrender. We see Craghas Drahar emerge from a cave, along with a bevy of his soldiers lining the outskirts of the encampment. Daemon procures Dark Sister and offers it as a sign of defeat. One of the Crabfeeder’s men approaches to take Dark Sister from Daemon. Suddenly, Daemon stabs the man in one fluid motion.
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What transpires next is a bloody beeline for the Crabfeeder as Daemon slashes every man standing in his way. Lord Corlys leads his troops into battle as archers rain down a flurry of arrows on Daemon. Daemon takes at least three arrows — one in his leg and two burrowed in his side. However, that doesn’t stop our rogue prince from accomplishing his mission.
Then, Laenor swoops down on his dragon, Sea Smoke, yelling “Dracarys!” as his beast incinerates the opposition beneath. Daemon spots the Crabfeeder standing in his cave, so he makes a break for it.
Daemon emerges from the cave, dragging what’s left of Craghas Draghar behind him. We look closer at his corpse, which is mostly all entrails now. Daemon deposits the Crabfeeder in the water. Corlys and Daemon make eye contact, and the latter is caked in blood.
RIP, Crabfeeder. You were kinda icky.
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“Second of His Name” methodically lays bare these characters’ fears, flaws and deep-seated vulnerabilities. I love that House of the Dragon wants us to know them and doesn’t forsake character development in favor of plot stuffing. It’s easier for us to root for (or against) these characters if we know who they are. Plus, it’s always a treat to watch consummate performers like Considine really dig into a scene.
That said, the final moments of this episode are a treat. We watched Daemon kick ass and got a taste of the pulsating, propulsive, high-octane action sequences for which the Game of Thrones universe is known. It also showcases Daemon’s ruthlessness, which we’ll see more of later as long as the show adheres to the book.
On a book-related note, the mention of Johanna Swann is interesting. She becomes known as “The Black Swan,” a celebrated courtesan, “the eventual ruler of Lys in all but name.” I wonder if we’ll get some of her story this season or next.
House of the Dragon drops new episodes every Sunday at 9 pm EST on HBO and HBO Max.
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