‘House of the Dragon’ Episode Three: All of You Guys Need Therapy (2024)

It’s official: the first battle in what promises to be a long war has now occurred. Though we never see The Battle of the Burning Mill take place, the aftermath more than adequately conveys the senseless destruction that happens when two opposing sides, fueled more by acrimony than duty, strike out against one another.

Boy, if only there was a lesson to be taken from this.

Cooler heads(?) are trying to prevail because as awful as combat is, adding dragons would only make it a thousand times worse. Some people have wondered what happened to the fearsome Rhaenyra that last season’s finale promised us, but multiple deaths, including those of children, along with the potential death of literal thousands, makes for a compelling reason to try a last-ditch effort to wage peace. It was a mission doomed to fail because, as Alicent points out, the choice is now outside of their hands, no thanks to the monumental egos that are relying on battle to deal with the issues each of them suffer from.

Even if Alicent and Rhaenyra did manage to rally their respective counsels behind a truce of some sort, Aegon’s raging insecurities would never allow peace to prevail. Storywise, Aegon’s growth has been rather spectacular to witness; he’s gone from a drunken, debaucherous layabout to …a drunken, debaucherous king. Be that as it may, seeing him go from a teen who wants nothing less than to wear the crown to a young man who wants little more than to keep said crown, but who’s gripping with the fact that he doesn’t deserve it makes for a hell of an arc (Tom Glynn-Carney had been doing genuinely excellent work on this front). What better way to further himself from his peacetime father than to evoke his conquering namesake? But even as he insists that he’s “as fearsome” as any of Rhaenyra’s camp, neither he or anyone within his circle can find it in themselves to believe it for a moment. The murder of his son may have set the war machine into motion, but his insecurity will keep it rolling forward.

Criston Cole is doing a much better job at faking his way through his new position. He may be a terrible decision-maker, but he’s doing it with confidence, dammit. The way his loyalty has shifted over the years is fascinating in its own right, seeing as how it wasn’t that long ago that his allegiance to Alicent appeared to be unshakeable. Gosh, it’s almost as though a woman’s standing in his eyes changes after he sleeps with them. Whether it’s evidence of a pattern or possibly the royal sons’ disregard for their mother having grown contagious, Alicent’s words no longer have much sway over Criston. He’s now more concerned with impressing Aegon than coming up with a reasonable strategy even after Alicent pointedly reminds him of his most recent screw up with Ser Arryk, and he successfully proposes leading a host to Harrenhal.

Of course, there’s a very large unforeseen snag in his (unwise) plan, the close call with Baela and Moondancer notwithstanding: Daemon has single-handedly taken Harrenhal in Rhaenyra’s name. Mm, or perhaps his name, considering his insistence that Simon Strong (Simon Russell Beale) refer to him as “Your Grace.” It wasn’t mere paranoia on Rhaenyra’s part when she accused him of wanting the crown for himself. He took the castle with ease, but it looks as though he’ll pay for it with a bit of his sanity, when his first night brings an unsettling vision of a young Rhaenyra (a welcomed guest appearance by Milly Alco*ck) sewing young Jaehaerys’ head back on. This is the first time we’ve seen evidence of any sort of guilt on Daemon’s part, as we’re treated to one of the rare occasions where he displays an emotion that isn’t anger or co*cky self-assurance. There may be an even higher price to pay, as one of the other castle’s occupants, played by Gayle Rankin (GLOW fans will recognize her as Sheila the She-Wolf), creepily intones, “You will die in this place.” I have no way of knowing when or if Daemon will die, but prophecies have a way of coming true in Westeros so I say that the Daemon Death Clock begins now.

How it will happen, I truly don’t know—I’ve never read the source material, so you can be assured this is all speculation on my part, reader—though I envision Daemon’s potential end coming at the hand of Aemond. Aemond, however, has replaced his time steadfastly training in the yard with being at the brothel instead, a fact that’s unfortunately discovered by his jackass of an older brother. I have little love for Aemond but him being exposed (no pun intended, though more on that in a moment) at his most vulnerable made me feel sympathy for him, probably for the first time in the entire series. Despite whatever client/dealer dynamic underpins their relationship, we’ve established that Sylvi’s (Michelle Bonnard) bed is the only place he feels safe enough to open up, so much so that he has no desire to seek the services of anyone else. Aegon mocking that for the entertainment of his White Cloaks, men that he held next to no respect for only a few hours earlier, is difficult to watch. Much is being made over Ewan Mitchell’s willingness to go full-frontal, but Aemond’s need to demonstrate the depth with which he doesn’t care (a lie through and through) saps the moment of any sexuality or salaciousness, leaving only a man literally laid bare. It’s simply a different tact from his brother putting on his ancestor’s armor for the sake of putting on a show, the only difference being that Aemond’s act is more convincing.

Nothing good is possible with these men at the helm, but the women at the center of this drama don’t have much more clarity either. Rhaenyra, understandable as her position may be, could have chosen to let her claim go. As for Alicent, her newfound discovery over her dying husband’s last words may be tilting her world on its axis, but much of that shock is concealing the fact that, deep down inside, part of her has always known her son was never intended to rule. As Rhaenys wisely points out, pinpointing how this war has begun will eventually prove to be an impossible task. The real culprit will ultimately come down to a fatal mix of stubbornness and lies.

Kaleena Rivera is the TV Editor for Pajiba. She can be found on Bluesky here.

‘House of the Dragon’ Episode Three: All of You Guys Need Therapy (2024)
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