'House of the Dragon' Episode 6 Recap and Review: "The Princess and The Queen"

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For its entire run, audiences have known that, at some point, House of the Dragon would make a significant leap in time, forcing the show to bring in new actors to play the older versions of certain characters. While the show has jumped forward multiple times already, those have been smaller intervals, with the largest only being a few years.

Now, however, ten years have passed since episode five of House of the Dragon, and we now see that Queen Alicent Hightower and Princess Rhaenrya, who had been played by Emily Carey and Milly Alcock, respectively, are now being portrayed by new cast members. Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy have taken up the roles and will play Alicent and Rhaenyra going forward.

With Carey and Alcock being so well received in their performances and many fans becoming immediate fans, Cooke and D'Arcy have big shoes to fill. However, if episode six is any indication, they are certainly up to the task.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon ahead.

Same Old Feuds

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As mentioned above, ten years have passed in Westeros, and this episode opens with Rhaenyra giving birth to her third child. It's not an easy birth, but a young, healthy baby boy is born after much struggle.

Not five minutes pass and a midwife enters the room and tells Rhaenyra that the Queen wants to see the baby. Despite protests from the other midwives, Rhaenyra insists she will take the baby to Alicent herself. As she leaves, Laenor arrives to see "his" son and helps Rhaenyra slowly walk to the Queen's chambers.

Rhaenyra struggles to make it up a set of stairs, and Laenor wants her to turn back, but she tells him no and continues onward. As they enter the Queen's chambers, they pass by Ser Criston Cole.

Alicent feigns ignorance over her insistence to meet the child, saying that Rhaenyra should still be resting. Viserys arrives to meet his grandson, with Laenor telling them that the baby will be named Joffrey, the name of his deceased lover from last week's episode. Viserys says that the baby has Laenor's nose, to which Laenor and Rhaenyra exchange glances of uneasiness.

Rhaenyra and Laenor leave the room, and Alicent tells Laenor that they should keep trying and "soon or late, you may get one who looks like you." They head back to Rhaenyra's chambers, and she calls him out for not consulting about the name and says that he has not been involved with the affairs of their family lately. Before the scene ends, we see that Rhaenyra has been bleeding the entire time, leaving a trail of blood as she walks away.

In her chambers, her sons, Jacaerys and Lucerys, are there with Ser Harwin Strong watching over them. They picked out a new dragon egg for the baby, and before Harwin leaves, he holds baby Joffrey and the boys are sent back to the Dragonpit for training by Laenor.

At the Dragonpit, Jacaerys and Lucerys, along with the princes Aegon and Aemond, the sons of Alicent and Viserys, watch Jacerys (Jace) learn how to control his Dragon, Vermax. Jace struggles to control Vermax, something he should be able to do considering he's a Targaryen (or is he?) He manages to control the Dragon and has it go all "Dracarys" on a poor, nearby goat.

As kids do, Aegon, Jace, and Lucerys play a prank on Aemond, who does not yet have a dragon, and gift him one. However, it is just a pig with fake wings strapped onto it. Aemond is not enthusiastic about the joke, and as they leave, he ventures deeper into the Dragonpit. He comes across a Dragon, who knocks him down as it breathes fire.

Meanwhile, Alicent listens to her daughter Helaena wax poetic about some bugs. Aemond is brought before Alicent due to the pit incident and tells her about the prank. Aemond is the frequent target of bullying, and Alicent tells Viserys about what happened. Alicent questions how the eggs of Jace and Lucerys could have hatched given the (all but confirmed) rumor that Ser Harwin Strong is the boys' birth father, something Viserys refuses to believe.

Viserys doesn't wish to talk about it, not because he doesn't want to face facts but because it would prove to be a disaster for the Realm. A bastard child on the Iron Throne would almost certainly bring about a Civil War.

In the decade since episode five, Ser Criston and Alicent have become quite close since she stopped him from committing suicide. Alicent holds onto the belief that honor and decency may prevail and says that she and Ser Criston must stay close to one another.

Back in his chambers, Aegon experiences every teenage boy's worst nightmare: His mother walking in on him masturbating.

She tells him off for the prank on his brother and yells at him for not taking his situation seriously. He never thought he might be King, but Alicent tells him what Otto once told her: By simply existing, he is a threat to Rhaenyra. If it came down to it, she could have him killed.

A New Life in Pentos, Perhaps?

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Daemon has been living across the Narrow Sea in Pentos along with his new family, the lady Laena and their daughters, Baela and Rhaena. Laena has become a Dragonrider since we last saw her, and she pilots the elderly Vhagar, the biggest dragon in the Realm. Vhagar was one of the original three dragons used to conquer Westeros over 100 years ago, so Laena being its Dragonrider, is a big deal.

At dinner, the Prince of Pentos, Reggio, toasts Aegon the Conqueror and describes the fruitful partnership that the Targaryen family has always had with Pentos. He offers them a permanent residence in Pentos and to make him a new Lord of the Region, with the goal of bringing Lys back to its former glory. Reggio wants to protect Pentos from the Triarchy, which has gathered strength again thanks to an alliance with Dorne.

Laena does not want to stay, but Daemon wishes to consider the offer. He has grown sick of the scheming and politics of Westeros and believes that their life in Pentos is good. Laena wants their children to be raised in their homeland, with their next child born on Driftmark. She wants to die a Dragonrider's death, not one of a "fat, country lord."

In Westeros, Aegon, Aemon, Jace, and Luke train in sword-fighting. Viserys and Lyonel Strong observe them in the courtyard as Ser Criston coaches them. He practices a fight with Aegon and Aemon, easily dispatching them both. Ser Harwin is also present and tells Criston that Jace and Luke could use some proper attention. Criston is less than thrilled with the idea of training two boys who he doesn't care about.

He pits Aegon against Jace, and with Aegon being much older than Jace, it's hardly a fair fight. However, Jace gets back on his feet and knocks Aegon off balance which leads to Aegon pushing a dummy onto Jace, a foul play. Criston screams at Aegon and tells him not to let Jace get back to his feet and allows it to continue until Harwin steps in to stop him, criticizing Criston for letting it get that far.

After Criston calls Harwin out for being overprotective of Jace and implying that Harwin is the boy's father, he beats Criston to a pulp leaving the knight bloodied and laughing on the ground, knowing that his mission was accomplished.

Rhaenyra overhears Lyonel and Harwin arguing over his affair with her. Lyonel screams at him, telling Harwin that they could be exiled or possibly executed if the affair was discovered. Harwin denies the accusations and maintains that his "honor is intact."

Still recovering from giving birth, Rhaenyra returns to her room, and Laenor drunkenly stumbles in and talks about a new war in the Stepstones. The Triarchy is attacking ships again, and that fighting has begun there. Laenor plans to go back there and fight, but Rhaenyra says that him leaving King's Landing would be the worst possible thing for him to do. They must fight back against the rumors, and Rhaenyra says that the children are his, even if they aren't his biological children. He still plans to leave, but Rhaenyra commands him to stay, as is her right.

A Dragonrider's Death

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Laena comforts her daughter Rhaena who is attempting to hatch her dragon egg in a fire. She is afraid it'll never hatch, and Laena reminds her that some never do, but that doesn't mean she'll never ride one. While Laena didn't bond with Vhagar initially, they clicked, later on, something that may happen with Rhaena. Laena is more involved with their daughters, and we get a brief look at her relationship with Daemon, which isn't all that strong. They have different ideas about what the future holds for their family.

At a meeting of the Small Council, they discuss a dispute between two lords over land. Rhaenyra and Alicent find themselves on opposite sides of the discussion, with Lyonel agreeing with Rhaenyra, something Alicent scoffs at.

They argue over how to defend the Stepstones. Alicent argues that the cost of protecting the area might be too great, and Rhaenyra says that a war would be even costlier. To heal the rift between them, Rhaenyra proposes a marriage between Jace and Alicent's daughter, Helaena. In addition, if Syrax gives birth to more eggs, then her son, Aemond, will have his pick.

Alicent informs Rhaenyra that she is accidentally lactating, bringing the meeting to a halt, and Alicent says they will consider the offer. As Alicent and Viserys walk back to their chambers, she tells him they can go forward with that proposal when she is dead.
It seems pretty clear that she doesn't want to accept Rhaenyra's offer.

Lyonel meets with Viserys and Alicent and tells them that he believes he should resign his position as Hand of the King due to Harwin's alleged transgressions. Viserys doesn't accept his resignation, saying he is perhaps the best Hand he has ever had.
He asks for time away from the Court to take Harwin back to Harrenhall, as Harwin has been expelled from the City Watch for the incident with Criston. Viserys accepts, and a frustrated Alicent leaves and has dinner with Larys Strong.

For the past few years, Larys has been Alicent's eyes and ears around King's Landing. She tells him that Lyonel is escorting Harwin back to Harrenhall, and Alicent wishes her father were still in Court to help her in these affairs. Despite having a slimy guy like Larys in her corner, she claims to have no one on her side.
Larys visits the King's Landing dungeons and recruits some of the worst prisoners there (a murderer, a deviant, a traitor, you get the idea) for a mission. To ensure their silence, he has their tongues ripped out.

In Pentos, Laena is struggling to give birth, much like Queen Aemma did in the first episode. The doctor tells Daemon that there's no more he can do, and the baby will not come out. He's given the same choice that Viserys was, but before he answers, Laena rises from her bed and goes to Vhagar.

To die a Dragonrider's death, she commands Vhagar to breathe fire, which the dragon reluctantly does and kills her. Daemon rushed to stop her but arrived too late and was forced to watch her be engulfed in flames.

Before leaving King's Landing, Harwin says goodbye to his sons. Jayce realizes that he is his birth father as Harwin departs. He asks if he is a bastard, and Rhaenyra says that he is a Targaryen and that is all that matters.

Rhaenyra, fed up with the scheming and politics, wants to leave King's Landing and move the family to Dragonstone.

The Strongs arrive at Harrenhall, as the men that Larys recruited watch on from a distance. As Lyonel sleeps, smoke begins creeping into his room, and Harwin tries to get out of it as it is engulfed in flames before the roof collapses and kills them both.

As Rhaenyra and the family get to Dragonstone, we get a voiceover from Larys, describing how children may be the end of everyone seeking power. Saying that people surrender what they shouldn't to protect their kids, love stays the hand.

We see that the voiceover from Larys was him telling Alicent what had transpired and that he was responsible for the deaths of his father and brother. Alicent expresses disdain for this, saying she didn't want them to die. However, now that the Hand of the King position is open again, her father may return to the post. She is now involved, and he will be rewarded by her when the time is right.

Final Thoughts

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House of the Dragon's first episode put forth the notion that, for women, "the childbed is their battlefield." Whereas Game of Thrones prided itself on big-scale battles, House of the Dragon's combat has centered itself on this other battlefield. The focus on women's agony during childbirth borders on excessive and cruel at points but also hammers home the lack of autonomy women had during this period, fictional or not.

House of the Dragon has its Littlefinger now, with Larys Strong proving himself to be the show's number one schemer. He combines the smarts of Littlefinger or Varys with the penchant for the violence of Ramsey Bolton. His plots will undoubtedly be a driving force through the season's final four episodes.

Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke made their debuts in this week's House of the Dragon, and both have already left strong impressions. They're both going to be giving a much different take on their characters than Milly Alcock, and Emily Carey did, with an almost role reversal of sorts. Alicent is now a much stronger and more confident Queen, while Rhaenyra is more reserved. It plays well given the circumstances, and it'll be interesting to see how their portrayals continue to evolve as the House of the Dragon progresses.

The first season of House of the Dragon continued its hot run with "The Princess and the Queen," but I'd be lying if I said that the massive time jump wasn't a tiny bit jarring. Now that we're caught up, and it doesn't appear like there will be another one as large, things will settle down. However, one can argue that the show may have been better off using an entire first season to set up what was to come rather than condensing it into ten episodes.

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