Courtesy of HBO

September 7, 2022

“Second of His Name” Recap

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“Second of His Name,” the third episode of the HBO series House of the Dragon, revolves around the second name day of the son of King Viserys and Alicent Hightower, Prince Aegon. Yes — Alicent Hightower’s son has already been born. Despite the leisurely pace of House of the Dragon, significant time jumps transpire between episodes.

Since Alicent’s betrothal to the King, Rhaenyra and Alicent’s relationship has, um, deteriorated. Rhaenyra resists deferring to her ex-bestie, the now Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and Alicent tries, and fails, to reconcile things between them. I guess marrying your best friend’s Dad can really put a dampener on your sweet, sororal friendship. The skeleton of a future power struggle between these two strong figures emerges in “Second of His Name.”

 But what I thought sort of heart-warming were Alicent’s continued efforts to defend Rhaenyra and her claim to the throne. Alicent’s position is surprising considering it evidently works against her own interests, as having Prince Aegon be heir would surely elevate her position. I guess Alicent may still be loyal to Rhaenyra after all and/or feel an immense amount of guilt.

In “Second of His Name,” Viserys calls for the royal family’s presence on a hunt in the Kingswood in celebration of the name day of Prince Aegon. Rhaenyra begrudgingly attends, as she is unsurprisingly not particularly fond of her young half brother, suspecting that his claim to the throne will inevitably supersede hers. I appreciated how the scenes at the hunt of the great houses in their opulent tents and their sumptuous feasts were drawn out. In Game of Thrones such moments — and minute details like tables overflowing with grapes and gourds and pomegranates — felt kind of glazed over. In House of the Dragon, these details can take center stage.

Rhaenyra really has had a tough time of it since we last saw her all those years ago. She lost her bestie, and she harbors resentment toward her father for taking Alicent as wife. Moreover, Rhaenyra deeply sees herself a disappointment to Viserys, as she isn’t, and can never be, the male heir she suspects he always dreamed of having.

Interestingly, Viserys comes to Rhaenyra’s defense many times throughout the episode. When Jason Lannister implies that Rhaenyra’s station will be lowered when Prince Aegon is named the rightful heir, Viserys becomes rather belligerent, asserting that he chose Rhaenyra as his heir for a reason, not on a “whim,” and does not intend to name anyone else as heir. I appreciate the apparent mild progressiveness of the period that preceded the Game of Thrones era. While a woman has yet to sit atop the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra’s claim is defended by both Alicent and Viserys. It is nice to see a woman be (half-heartedly) championed in Westeros for once — even if only two people are supporting her.

Viserys really isn’t doing too hot this episode, and viewers get the sense that he may not be long for the throne. His sentences come out convoluted and his hands waver as he pours himself flagon after flagon of wine. It becomes obvious that Viserys lacks the strength requisite for rule, as it takes him multiple tries to bring down the White Hart that is the subject of the hunt. Viserys appears drained of wits and robustness.

Rhaenyra, on the other hand, is the picture of strength. In classic rebellious Rhaenyra fashion, she steals off into the Kingswood solo amidst the hunt. The handsome Ser Criston Cole follows close behind her into the Kingswood, where the two engage in rather wholesome conversation. When Rhaenyra reveals that she as Princess feels utterly “toothless,” Ser Criston assures her that she is anything but. He points out that Rhaenyra had the power to appoint him to the royal Kingsguard, thereby completely elevating his status. Moments like this between men and women were kind of a rarity in Game of Thrones, where innocent exchanges were often stained with sex or corruption. It is nice to see that men and women in Westeros can actually converse with each other on an equal playing field.

This meaningful exchange takes a violent turn. A colossal boar rams into Ser Criston Cole and is about to end Rhaenyra when Cole slashes into the creature. In classic Game of Thrones fashion the boar revives itself, so Rhaenyra skewers the beast with her blade, leaving her skin and silver hair blood-splattered. Rhaenyra seems to have the strength and resolve that has long departed Viserys. Before their bonding experience ends Cole and Rhaenyra spot the mythical White Hart (the one that Viserys killed was merely a muddied con). Cole unleashes his blade to slaughter the Hart and earn them the honor of the hunt, but Rhaenyra, in a show of mercy, commands him not to. Merciful ruling seems to come naturally to Rhaenyra. I saw this as a departure from the often needless violence of the Game of Thrones days.

Daemon also displays some strength in “Second of His Name.” While Viserys had been faltering and avoiding war against the Crabfeeder for years, Daemon has been on the front lines fighting in the Stepstones alongside the Seasnake’s army. The war, for a while, looked like a losing battle, with Daemon not quite wielding his dragon Caraxes with much savvy.

In the final scenes of “Second of His Name,” however, Daemon earned my admiration. Daemon foolishly approaches the Crabfeeder alone wielding a white flag of surrender (à la Jon Snow). When I saw the Crabfeeder’s army begin to slowly creep in on him, I thought Daemon may be done for. But in a turn of events, Daemon cuts through nearly 10 men in one fell swoop. I guess Daemon is a seasoned warrior after all. In another well choreographed motion the Seasnake’s army emerges from the rocks and haze to encircle the Crabfeeder and his men. An anonymous dragon ridden by a member of House Velaryon adds fire power to the moment. Maybe dragons aren’t exclusive to the Targaryeans in House of the Dragon, or perhaps the Targaryeans are simply lax about loaning them out. Daemon’s solo foolish moment was in actuality part of a well thought out battle ploy. The whole scene felt extremely “Battle of the Bastards”-esque and I loved it.

Daemon emerges victorious (dragging the Crabfeeder’s severed body through the wet sand) and covered in blood — a mirror image of Rhaenyra. This parallel between Rhaenyra and Daemon seemed like an intentional move by the directors. In this final moment, and with feeble Viserys in mind, the two obvious heirs to the throne come into focus. It seems that Daemon, and not just Rhaenyra, may have the temperament for strong rule after all.

Lena Thakor is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].