The first five episodes of House of the Dragon incrementally pushed the story into the future, but as of the sixth and most recent outing, “The Princess and the Queen,” we’re done tip-toeing down the halls of time. Now, we’re fully sprinting into the future, moving ten years deeper into the lives of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower, now played by new series regulars Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke.
Indeed, so much has changed between the events of “We Light the Way” and “The Princess and the Queen,” it’s worth bullet-pointing the headlines quickly so we can all speak the same language. Ready for the nuts and bolts? Here we go:
• Despite a cliffhanger ending in which he collapsed to the ground, King Viseryes (Paddy Considine) somehow survived the ending of last week’s episode, albeit looking worse for wear than ever. Ten years and nonstop leech treatments haven’t done much for the poor king, who is fully down one arm. On the bright side, he seems to have the same cognitive power as ever before… which is to say, not nearly enough of it.
• Princess Rhaenyra (D’Arcy) and Queen Alicent (Cooke) are older, too, leaving actors Milly Alcock and Emily Carey behind as the characters push into their 30s. Are they wiser in their older years? Perhaps not. They certainly aren’t kinder. The enmity between these two old friends has only deepened, evidenced by Alicent’s cruel command dela to see Rhaenyra’s newborn son immediately after the princess has given birth to him. Unable to give an inch to her opponent, Rhaenyra walks all the way to the queen’s chamber with her son in hand, mere moments after bringing him into this world.
• The baby joins the growing cast at the heart of the royal family, as Rhaenyra and Alicent both have kids of their own, now full-fledged characters. On Alicent’s side: Aegon (played by Ty Tennantson of Davidyet another Doctor Who connection here in House of the Dragon), Helaena (Evie Allen), and Aemond (Leo Ashton). On Rhaenyra’s side of the family tree, her sons dela are named Jaecarys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler), the former of whom is next in line for the Iron Throne once Rhaenyra takes her seat. Her new baby dela, birthed into the world at the top of the episode, is Joffrey, taking his name from his father’s late lover.
• Even across the Narrow Sea, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) has a new family of his own alongside Laena Velaryon, daughter of the Sea Snake (Steve Toussaint, absent in this episode but assuredly still in the mix). Currently taking residence in Pentos with his wife and twin daughters, Daemon’s days of fighting and lusting for the throne appear to be behind him—with the word “appear” doing a lot of heavy lifting.
• In addition to all the new kids on the block, we have a ton of new dragons in the mix as well. Hopeful future king Jace claims the dragon Vyrmax at one point, while his cousin Aemond is left to bond with a creature called “The Pink Dread” … just a pig with wings, nothing more. (You don’t need to be an eagle-eyed viewer to notice Aemond is less than amused by that particular prank.) Back in Daemon’s world, the biggest dragon of them all soars high overhead: Vhaegar, the oldest living dragon, now serving Laena (Nanna Blondell, the third actress to take the mantle). Indeed, Vhaegar and Laena are so thoroughly bonded, the dragon would even burn her own rider to death if—and when—she asked for it.
That’s the rough terrain narrative when we hop back into the story 10 years down the road. Emotionally, much is as we left it, just intensified. Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) is still a member of the Kingsguard, now faithfully at Queen Alicent’s side. Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) remains Hand of the King, though not for long. Tensions between the princess Rhaenyra and Alicent are so high, they can’t possibly rise higher—until they do exactly that.
Rhaenyra’s new child is the Valyrian straw that breaks the dragon’s back. Baby Joffrey marks her third son who looks nothing like her husband Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan), the fact that it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the princess’ adversaries—namely, Queen Alicent. Rhaenyra’s ex-best friend of her is n’t wrong in her suspicions of her, either: Jace, Luke and Joffrey are all the biological sounds of Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), better known as the Breakbones, who has become the princess’s lover at some point in the past decade. Yet another major off-screen development that fuels the latest on-screen drama.
For what it’s worth, Rhaenyra and Harwin’s relationship is the worst-kept secret in King’s Landing, with only the king himself refusing to see it. But even Viserys gets a front-row look at the rumor in action, when Criston Cole calls Breakbones out about his true relationship with Jace and Luke, leading to the two knights slugging it out in public. As a result, Harwin loses his job, and his father Lyonel attempts to surrender his role as Hand, only for Viserys to deny his resignation from him. Even now, Viserys refuses to see the truth.