HOUSE OF THE DRAGON 1×06 “THE PRINCESS AND THE QUEEN” is basically a reboot of the entire House of the Dragon series, which is an odd thing to happen in the fifth episode of the season. Here, we have a massive decade-long time skip, a change of a substantial portion of the cast’s actors, and a focus on setting up the new status quo. It feels like they could have made an entire season out of the first five episodes or skipped them entirely.
I’ve complained earlier about the show’s issues with time and it’s not something that has gotten any better but something I hope we’re at least past the worst of. There’s too many important character beats and events that need to be followed up on. Just last week, we had Ser Criston Cole beat to death a guest at the royal wedding and it’s not even mentioned in this episode. That’s because it took place ten years earlier but it still is something that should have been mentioned or, better yet, had a whole episode of follow up.
Anyway, the premise is that Rhaenyra has just given birth to another child that is suspiciously neither black nor white-haired. Their father is obviously not Laenor but Ser Harwin Strong, the city guard captain. As such, Alicent takes no small amount of pleasure in rubbing this fact in Rhaenyra’s face. She truly believes her father’s insane statement that Rhaenyra would murder her children so she’s planning to murder hers first.
Fans of Fire and Blood will appreciate Alicent is no longer being treated as a sweet and kind girl done dirty. No, she’s taken several levels in jerkass and is now someone who spends all of her time spitting Rhaenyra, Rhaenyra’s children, and underming their position at court. It’s much more similar to the character in the books but it will come as a great shock to those used to the show’s portrayal of her.
Speaking of awful characters, we also see Ser Criston Cole has turned from a charming knight in shining armor to a vengeful bully that not only displays misogynist behavior toward Rhaenyra but also behaves as an absolute scumbag toward young children. I suspect he will rapidly become the anti-Jaime Lannister among fans and be someone the audience actively roots for dying.
Rhaenyra is a great deal more mature despite her questionable choice of making a paramour of a man with no resemblance to her husband. She has evolved into a person who could be a capable queen and effective leader but has already made dire enemies of both her stepmother plus a Kingsguardsman. Worse, she’s still not overly fond of her husband and hasn’t been making the kind of alliances she needs to with Alicent plotting to put her son on the throne.
I like the depiction of Aegon in the story as he’s clearly an unhinged wild child who has no limits on his behavior. He’s also a bully who enjoys tormenting his relations and should never be entrusted with power. The fact Alicent keeps trying to to turn him against his relatives (and it’s working) shows how much of a duplicitous and awful person she’s become. Also, the fact she has no interest in the greater good of the realm but only her own family’s advancement.
The big villain of the piece seems to be Lord Larys Strong and his turn on his family is genuinely shocking. Unfortunately it lacks dramatic impact because we haven’t gotten to know Lord Strong or their father very well. This is another element that shows how much the show has suffered for underdeveloping its characters outside the Targaryens. Also, I don’t get Lord Larys’ motives that go from 0-100 for evil in an instant.
In conclusion, the acting is strong in this one but so disconnected from the rest of the stories that we’ve experienced that it might as well be a new show. As such, I am really hoping we’re done with the time skips as they’ve effectively killed a lot of my interest in the show. It’s still fascinating and well-written but I feel like I’m on a roller coaster.