House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 6 “The Princess and the Queen” Recap

King's Landing Red Keep, Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy), Laenor (John MacMillan), 1x06 (2)

This week I sit the Recap Throne as we leap forward a decade in time to reconnect with our cast of maladjusted, well-dressed royals, some of whom have been aged up via recasting, some via prosthetics, and some of whom haven’t aged at all.

Spoiler note: This recap and the comments section may contain mild spoilers from George R.R. Martin’s novels and Westeros histories, whether or not that material has appeared on the show yet. If you have not read the books and wish to remain completely Unsullied, we encourage you to check out our non-book-reader recap by Oz of Thrones!

We open on Rhaenyra, now played by Emma D’Arcy, lying in the birthing bed as her mother once did, bringing yet another Joffrey into the world amidst lots of squishy sound effects. Rhaenyra is told that the queen wishes to see the newborn post haste and so, in one long take, she shuffles laboriously to Alicent’s chambers where we see that her former BFF, now played by Olivia Cooke, has upgraded from anxiety-ridden teenager to full on Evil Stepmother.

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The issue is obvious: the brown-haired, snow white (see what I did there?) baby Joffrey looks nothing like Rhaenyra’s husband, Ser Laenor, now played by John MacMillan, but bears a striking resemblance to Ser Harwin Strong. King Viserys, who we might as well call King Crypt Keeper at this point, doesn’t see it, of course, but Alicent has made it her life’s mission to expose Rhaenyra’s sons’ bastardy.

Speaking of sons, Aegon and Aemond Targaryen and Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon attend a class in the dragonpit on dragon management and we get a sense of what the dynamic is between the boys. Surprisingly, their mothers’ rivalry hasn’t entirely trickled down to them, as Aegon, Jacaerys and Lucerys have teamed up to pick on Aemond, the only dragonless one among them, by presenting him with pig they call the Pink Dread. Oh, those crazy kids. It’s all fun and games until … well, you know.

Aemond briefly attempts to claim a dragon before wisely high-tailing it out of there and being delivered, ashen-faced (in every sense of the phrase) to his mother. I should mention that just before this we get a sweet scene between Alicent and her daughter, Helaena, who’s absorbed in her insect collection. The implication, I think, is that Helaena is on the spectrum, though, of course, Alicent has no way of knowing this or of making sense of her daughter’s behavior. When Alicent asks Helaena why a centipede/millipede has eyes if it can’t see, Helaena explains that, “it is beyond our understanding.” “I suppose you’re right,” Alicent says, “Some things just are.”

King's Landing Red Keep, Alicent (Olivia Cooke), Young Helaena (Evie Allen), 1x06 (1)

Anyway, Alicent reprimands Aemond but assures him that he will have a dragon one day to which Helaena replies, seemingly to her centipede/millipede, “he’ll have to close an eye.” Oh, the foreshadowing is on point this episode, isn’t it?

Alicent attempts to make Viserys look at the Punnett square she’s drawn for him, but he refuses, so she vents her frustrations to Ser Criston Cole (who has not aged a day in ten years) and to her eldest son, whom she finds masturbating on a windowsill. We see that Otto’s parting words to her last episode have left a huge impression. She takes it as a given, now, that Rhaenyra will kill her children once she ascends the throne, and that it doesn’t matter if Aegon chooses not to challenge her succession (as he proposes before she grabs his face) because he threatens her legitimacy as queen merely by living and breathing.

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Meanwhile, in Pentos, Daemon and a heavily pregnant Laena are living in a state of relative domestic bliss. Their host, Prince Reggio, offers them a permanent residence in Pentos in exchange for protection from the Triarchy, and, oddly enough, it’s Laena who’s biting at the bit to return to Westeros and Daemon who would prefer to stay far away from “the political scheming, the endless shifting of loyalties and succession” in Westeros. The best way I can make sense of this is to liken Daemon to a recovering addict who wants to avoid the stimulant that brings out his worst self. Meanwhile, Laena, understandably, wants their daughters to grow up in Westeros because, of course, what could be sadder than a Targaryen girl growing up in Essos?

Back in the Red Keep, tensions boil over in the training yard as Criston Cole and Harwin Strong play out their rivalry through Aegon and Jacaerys. In fairness to Harwin, he does speak out against the sparring match but, still, his preference for the “Velaryon” boys is obvious. When Criston implies that he cares for Jacaerys like a son, Harwin ostensibly confirms this insinuation by punching Criston bloody.

King's Landing Red Keep Courtyard, Young Aegon II (Ty Tennant), Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), 1x06 (2)

This act winds up having greater consequences than anything else said or done this episode. Lyonel attempts to resign as Hand as a result and, when Viserys does not accept his resignation, he settles for escorting Harwin back to Harrenhal. Larys, who also doesn’t appear to have aged, relays this information to Alicent who wishes out loud for her father to be the Hand once again, unknowingly clutching a monkey paw as she does so.

Rhaenyra finally seems to understand that her unconventional marital arrangement with Laenor is putting their lives in danger and berates her husband when he expresses a desire to go off to war in the Stepstones again. Sensing herself backed into a corner, she attempts to mend the decade-long rift with Alicent by offering to marry her eldest son to Alicent’s daughter. Though the strength of her proposal is offset by her breastmilk leaking through her dress, the real reason that Alicent refuses her offer is because she can’t very well stage a coup if her daughter has married into the line she plans to oust.

Things aren’t going so well across the Narrow Sea either, as Laena’s labor has become obstructed. The Maester or obstetrician or whoever delivers babies in Pentos offers Daemon a similar choice to the one Mellos gave Viserys: cut open the mother in the hope of saving the baby. Daemon refuses, objectively proving himself a better husband than Viserys. Who would have ever thought? Laena wants to die a dragonrider’s death, as she told Daemon earlier this episode, and waddles out to Vhagar (presumably after parkouring down the castle walls to evade detection) and commands her dragon to end her misery. In the most moving scene of the episode, in my opinion, Vhagar hesitates to kill her rider. It’s not until Daemon emerges from the castle, calling after his wife that Vhagar seems to understand the situation, and engulfs Laena Velaryon in flames.

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The episode wraps up with Rhaenyra moving her household to Dragonstone and Lyonel and Harwin Strong dying in a fire started by some mute convicts who took Larlys up on a deal. The newly minted kinslayer monologues about the futility of love to Alicent who is horrified to learn that her desire to have her father back at court resulted in the death of two men.

Larys sniffs a malvales, the very same flower he used to ingratiate himself to the queen last episode. Cut to black. Roll credits.

Stray thoughts

  • The plight of dragonless children was an interesting point of emphasis this episode. Poor Aemond and Rhaena.
  • I think this was the first time a character noticed the literal yet highly symbolic rats gnawing away at the the might of the Red Keep.
  • As the strongest man in the realm, Harwin should really have rendered Criston comatose after getting so many punches in, right?
  • Laenor’s line, “The wise sailor flees the storm as it gathers” feels like a more passive variation of his father’s saying from episode 2, “To elude a storm you can either sail into it or around it. But you must never await its coming.” Make of that what you will.

28 Comments

  1. I hadn’t even considered that I’d miss Harwin, but after his fireman-carry rescue last episode, and the looks between he and Rhaenyra, I have a fondness settled in. I thought he was a creep at the boar hunt. Lyonel didn’t deserve that either, but needs must make Laryngitis big mean.

    Laenor is a good dude. Slightly clueless but a decent dude. 😬

    The moment between Viserys and Rhaenyra (“I think I called the midwife a c*nt”) made me smile. He’s entrenched in his obliviousness now (aside from noticing that rat!!!), and quite frankly it’s not the worst thing he could do, as his wife is now the entire population of Crazytown. She’s a fair number of bricks short of a load too.

    Laena was lovely, and though I’m not sure I would have made her choice, she got to make it. Poor Vhagar. *sad dragon sounds*

  2. I really really liked that Episode. Episode 4 is still my favourite, but it felt like GOT for the first time. The children really helped move things along, I don’t know their names yet lol, but they are great additions. I do have an issue with the deaths, I just don’t think they were set up well enough. 6 Episodes in and we barely knew them, a real failing of the first 5 Episodes imo. That extended prologue is harder to justify when they fumbled something so basic. They did a fairly good job with Harwin, before this episode, I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup. I’m not remotely bothered by his death though. I liked everything else.

    Am I crazy, or did the score completely change? Up until now, it felt like GOT’s greatest hits, but it really came into it’s own last night. I noticed entirely new themes

  3. I really really liked that Episode. Episode 4 is still my favourite, but it felt like GOT for the first time. The children really helped move things along, I don’t know their names yet lol, but they are great additions. I do have an issue with the deaths, I just don’t think they were set up well enough. 6 Episodes in and we barely knew them, a real failing of the first 5 Episodes imo. That extended prologue is harder to justify when they fumbled something so basic. They did a fairly good job with Harwin, before this episode, I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup. I’m not remotely bothered by his death though. I liked everything else.

    Am I crazy, or did the score completely change? Up until now, it felt like GOT’s greatest hits, but it really came into its own last night. I noticed entirely new themes

  4. Good recap! Love to read these things to know what I have missed.

    There is a typo here: Aemon briefly attempts to claim a dragon… Must be AemonD.

    I see a lot of people online who think Aemond is Maester Aemon. I think House of the Dragon should have posted a family tree in their intro with names of all The Targaryens who have appeared or have been mentioned on HOTD & GOT. I know the present intro represents something like that, but it’s not very clear.

    I would have liked a bit more scenes with Harwin & Rhaenyra, but I guess the omitted that because he himself is not important in the endgame, it’s about the children.

    Not everyone changes in 10 years, I’m the best example of that. When I was 40, they asked if I was already 16 to be permitted to buy whine. And I have had several of those encounters. Even my nephew asked what I was studying while I was already over 30 and working a long time. And 2 of my best friends have the same problem, so it’s not only me.

  5. My only gripe is that Daemon’s reaction to his loss in the book seems… sweeter? I was imagining we’d see him carry her to their bed, grief-stricken. But I get that they wanted to give her a grander agency over her death.

    In the show, he essentially reacts, then we see him show no compassion to his twins. I think that would have been a nice touch to demonstrate he has that capacity.

  6. “Daemon refuses, objectively proving himself a better husband than Viserys.”

    I mean… if you ignore the whole “murdered his wife” thing from the last episode, sure…

  7. Anyone noticed the RED LADY aka Melisandre lookalike interrupting the first talk between Alicent and Larys at around 50 Mins?

  8. Malcolm Ferguson:
    “Daemon refuses, objectively proving himself a better husband than Viserys.”

    I mean… if you ignore the whole “murdered his wife” thing from the last episode, sure…

    Yea, that was a bizarre statement

  9. Damn … always gets me when good people die in GoT. 🙁 Didn’t rly get who was trying to save who in the end. Lyonel Harwin, or the other way around.

  10. I thought this episode did a fantastic job of introducing all the kids. Each scene with them was done so well and gave insight into each of them.

    Now with my three favorite characters dead in one episode, I’m excited to stan Helaena Targaryen because that girl is cool as hell.

    Also: loved how they introduced Lord Caswell in this episode, greeting Rhaenyra on the stairs and offering his service, the bowing of his head, her response; everything about it was very smart.

  11. Alicent truly took a turn for the worst. And Cole still acts like this, 10 years later? Can’t wait for him to die a horrible death.

    Hopefully one day I’ll understand why the king allows his sons to wear green.

    I was sad to see Harwin go so soon, and for his son to recognize him as his father. Tragic. I was shocked that Layrs had his dad killed, too, what a little c***!

  12. Here’s a quick guide to each of the kids:

    Rhaenyra & “Laenor’s” (actually Harwin’s) children (light-skinned, dark-haired):
    -Jacaerys (“Jace”) – The one who was training against Aegon, and who figured out Harwin was his father
    -Lucerys – The curly-haired one (he didn’t really do anything of note this ep)
    -Joffrey – The newborn

    Daemon & Laena’s children (dark-skinned, white-haired):
    -Baela – The one with a dragon
    -Rhaena – The one without a dragon

    Alicent & Viserys’ children (light-skinned, white-haired):
    -Aegon – The heir
    -Helaena – The bug-obsessed girl
    -Aemond – The one who was getting bullied, and given the “Pink Dread”

  13. I found it interesting that the boys don’t speak high valyrian. Probably a way to show the Targs losing their roots. Keeping the dragons locked, losing the link to their mother tongue, and the family conflict that’s brewing… great way to show a family that’s obviously in decline.

    I enjoyed the episode. Cole can eat rocks.

  14. I just watched the episode and I liked it quite a bit. It might be my favorite episode so far.

    I think that Larys adds another flavor of intrigue that the show sorely needed.

    I thought both of the new actors were great. Alicent looks more like her younger version, but both are great.

  15. Well, Alicent turned stereotypical evil stepmother.
    Rhaenyra didn’t learn her lesson.
    Cole is stuck.

    The Strongs seemed like a great family, each having different qualities, being “strong” together. Oh how wrong I have been in Larys…

    Daemon switched out his chaotic self for apathy and an elusive dream of “making Targaryens great again”.

    So, Laena seemed like the best adjusted character… so of course she dies right away…

    HotD really does seem like it has a problem of not enough likable characters. Not characters without flaws, mind you, just characters who aren’t terrible. One can hope for the kids, I guess…

  16. One thing. Why is there no more link to go straight to the bottom.

    Two. Watching now. Why are they older? Wtf happened? They just time warped like Littlefinger ten years or so?
    This show blows.

  17. Watched the episode yesterday and did enjoy it but felt like a premiere of a new season rather than a continuation within the same season. The actress who now plays Alicent is a doppelganger of Emily Carey! Aegon really is as annoying as he looks but it’s easy to sympathise with his younger brother, some clear Joffrey and Tommen vibes there. Alicent and Criston Cole are much less likeable than they were in earlier episodes but Rhaneyra isn’t likeable either, I feel like I am edging from team green to team black.

    Daemon’s wife really went out like a badass (to qoute a Cobra Kai phrase)!

  18. Jon Snowed,

    I don’t know if I get Joffrey from Aegon. He doesn’t strike me as sadistic, just immature and entitled. I get more “early Theon” vibes from him.

  19. GeekFurious: True. I’m 50 & no I don’t color my hair. 😉

    I saw later they were trying to give Milly and Emma the same hairstyle, but Emma seemed almost 20 years older to me. I was distracted by how much different she looked. By this episode, I felt attached to Milly. The toll of childbirth was one of the themes of the episode, and it was definitely all over Emma’s face. Her white hair almost looked grey to me. When I remember Milly, she had a more golden look to her. It may have partly been the color of her costumes and the perfectly braided hair. Perhaps Milly would have had a similar look if they showed her in the sweats of childbirth. It’s hard to say. The gutsy walk up to see the queen was a sequence that I will remember for years to come. Both Olivia and Emma had a great start. Emma’s character didn’t seem spoiled anymore. I think her take on the character is tougher and more practicle.

  20. I love the nice twist of making the Velaryons black underlining the fact that the Strong boys are not Laenor’s kids!!! While we get a nice contrast with Laena and Daemons girls no one in universe seems to notice – they’re all obsessing over the hair colour!!!! It’s making wonder though was Rhaenys rejected by the council of 101 because the rich white men of Westeros didn’t want a woman on the throne or because it would put her mixed race kids next in line? The show continues to have little interest in its secondary characters compared to Game of Throne’s huge cast – farewell Laena and Harwin, we barely knew you. I’m still hoping though that as we get closer to the Dance itself it will slow down and broaden out its cast and locations.

  21. Since Helaena says the creature she holds has two pairs of legs on each segment it is a millipede and not a centipede 🙂

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