‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 3 recap: Now we’re talking

WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Episode 3 of House of the Dragon Season 2.


Keeping up with the world of Game of Thrones can be tough, especially when it comes to understanding the roots of conflicts and deciding which side to root for. “The Burning Mill,” the second episode of House of the Dragon Season 2, acknowledges this complexity.

Reflecting on the aftermath of a deadly battle between the feuding Brackens and Blackwoods, Rhaenys remarks to Rhaenyra, “The young men have taken the bit in their teeth. They wish to punish, to avenge. Soon they will not even remember what it was that began the war in the first place.”

Rhaenyra responds sharply, “That is easy enough. They usurped my throne.”

Rhaenys retorts, “That is one answer. Or was it when the child was beheaded? Or when Aemond killed Luke, or when Luke took Aemond’s eye? We teeter now at the point where none of it will matter.”

These sentiments from Rhaenys echo through Alicent’s poignant words to Rhaenyra in the episode’s provocative final moments. But we’ll delve deeper into that shortly.

As the war escalates, Rhaenys suggests to Rhaenyra that perhaps, Alicent can still be reasoned with to prevent further bloodshed. “There is no war so hateful to the gods as a war between kin. And no war so bloody as a war between dragons. I do not believe [Alicent] wants it.”

Daemon casually snatches Harrenhal

Ser Criston, newly appointed as Hand of the King, seizes the opportunity to depart King’s Landing immediately. His mission: to secure the strategically crucial Harrenhal before their rivals can claim it. Accompanying him is Alicent’s younger brother, Gwayne Hightower. However, Daemon beats them to the castle, where Ser Simon Strong swiftly pledges his loyalty to him.

Daemon’s sleep that night was disturbed by a haunting vision: a young Rhaenyra, with grim determination, sewing Jaehaerys’ severed head onto his body. As he startled awake, an unfamiliar woman appeared, her words carrying an unsettling prophecy of Daemon’s impending demise.

Easter eggs and bold choices

Rhaenyra, acting swiftly to safeguard the Targaryen legacy, dispatches Rhaena, her younger children, and the precious dragon eggs to the Arryns for safekeeping. Interestingly, these dragon eggs are the very same ones prominently featured in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones, gifted to Daenerys by Illyrio Mopatis following her marriage to Khal Drogo. Geeta Vasant Patel, director of “The Burning Mill,” confirmed this delightful connection in an interview with Mashable and highlighted their team’s excitement in intertwining the rich history of House Targaryen across both series.

Meanwhile, Mysaria assumes a pivotal role as Rhaenyra’s advisor, while Aegon entrusts Larys with the crucial position of Master of Whispers.

At a bustling brothel, a man brashly asserts his lineage as King Viserys’ supposed illegitimate half-brother. Just then, Aegon and his squires burst in, catching Aemond in a compromising situation with Sylvi. Aegon, seizing the moment with a mix of mockery and cruelty, directs his taunts at his disconcerted brother.

This scene marks a notable shift in how the Game of Thrones world portrays nudity, now featuring more explicit scenes of male anatomy alongside the usual display of female breasts in the TV franchise — a portrayal frequently criticized for its emphasis on the male gaze.

The Prince That Was Promised

After Baela spots Criston’s squad en route to Harrenhal Hall, Rhaenyra’s councilors advocate for war with dragons. However, Rhaenyra rejects their advice and instead sneaks into King’s Landing disguised as a Septa, aiming to persuade Alicent towards a peaceful resolution — a strategy earlier suggested by Rhaenys.

Despite her efforts, Rhaenyra’s negotiations with Alicent fail. The latter says, “My father is gone from court. Cole is on the march. Aemond… You know what Aemond is. It’s too late, Rhaenyra.”

This declaration by Alicent follows a pivotal moment in the latest episode where a crucial revelation harks back to a key scene in the first season. In that earlier episode, King Viserys, weakened and nearing death, mistakes Alicent for Rhaenyra. In his delirium, he speaks of Aegon’s vision and the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised.

Viewers had long anticipated the moment when Alicent’s misunderstanding of Viserys’ final words would be revealed, and it finally unfolded in the latest episode. I eagerly awaited this revelation, curious about how the show would handle it, and I wasn’t disappointed. The heartfelt exchange between Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke conveyed such emotional depth that I deeply felt the shock and weight their characters experienced in those crucial moments.

Episode 3 has completely dispelled any doubts I had about the future of the series. It’s easily my favorite episode of the season. It reminds me of everything I loved about Game of Thrones — the well-paced storytelling, the subtle shots that build into shocking yet oddly satisfying moments, and the believable interactions among its cast. The show subtly implies that the lingering fondness between Rhaenyra and Alicent is still alive, and while it complicates the choice between Team Green and Team Black, I find it intriguingly positive.

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