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This House of the Dragon episode 6 review examines the recurring motifs that the show’s creative team uses to advance the plotline. Episode 6 uses mirroring and good dialog as primary storytelling devices. The result is a beautiful, often devastating tapestry that holds you captive for 50 minutes. We watch eerily familiar scenarios play out for the second time in the series, with different yet similar endings.
The measured feel of this masterpiece is deceptive, and the show’s writers move the story forward at breakneck speed towards the precipice of war. This brings us to the opening credits, where the disturbing rivulets of blood introduce the show’s main theme: Bloodlines.
House of the Dragon episode 6 review: Rhaenyra has a baby
The birth is relatively easy, given the fraught history of Targaryen childbirth. No sooner does Rhaenyra push the baby out than queen Alicent summons the newborn. Champ that she is, the princess pushes out the afterbirth and carries her baby through the gloomy halls of the Red Keep. Rhaenyra presents herself and her newborn son to the queen. The trail of blood she leaves in her wake is a (nice?) touch.
A dutiful father and husband
We enjoy a peek at the cordial friendship between Laenor Velaryon and Rhaenyra. Laenor says he can totally relate to Rhaenyra’s pain because he once endured a stab wound. The still-sweaty princess offers her deepest sympathies to her husband as she tracks blood through the hallways of the Red Keep.
Dutiful, caring Laenor helps his bleeding wife to navigate never-ending stairs as he pokes light fun at her plight. He manages to present his wife and infant son to Alicent.
Lingering whiffs of scandal
There’s a reason that Alicent is so eager to see Rhaenyra’s son. Our queen wants to check for a resemblance between the baby and his blonde, Velaryon father. One quick look and Alicent assures Laenor that the next child will definitely come with the Velaryon aesthetic. It is at this point that prince Laenor names his third son Joffrey, after his lover who died ten years before.
The scene cuts to Rhaenyra back at her quarters, with Laenor, the baby, her two older sons, and Ser Harwin Strong. Owen is son to the King’s Hand and brother to Larys with the club foot. At some point during this visit, Ser Harwin gets to spend tender moments alone with the princess and the newborn. You can’t help but notice how Laenor tactfully sets up this alone time by removing the two older boys.
An odd family portrait
Laenor takes his two older sons to the dragon pit for training, where they join their young step-uncles, who have signature Targaryen hair. As the four boys take a lesson on how to handle dragons, you take a look at how completely un-Targaryen Rhaenyra’s sons look.
Centuries later, the blonde heads of King Joffrey and his siblings would stand in stark contrast to the swarthy, brunette look of the Baratheons. House of the Dragons flips this contrast on its head to give us brunette Targaryen-Velaryon children. Cersei Lannister could attribute her children’s looks to her ‘dominant’ Lannister genetics. In contrast, Rhaenyra lacks the wiggle room to construct a believable explanation, so tongues wag.
The scenes at the dragon pit show us that Rhaenyra’s sons have a dominant position in the family. They use this family dynamic to bully Alicent’s younger son, who lacks (and badly wants) a dragon. Alicent’s older son often joins in to taunt his kid brother.
The queen in the green dress
Prince Aegon is the oldest son of King Viserys, and he inherits his father’s peaceable, carefree attitude. Aegon is totally fine with someone else taking the throne because he’d rather chase skirts.
Queen Alicent chafes at what she sees as the willful, stubborn blindness of her husband and firstborn child. You see her frustration as she begs her son to get ready to fight for the iron throne and his life. Thankfully Ser Criston starts a chain of events that brings Aegon to his senses.
Alicent and Rhaenyra’s sons are training together yet again. Except this time, the four princes are learning how to handle swords instead of dragons. Ser Criston Cole is the instructor, and he drills Alicent’s boys like a drill sergeant.
Prince Aegon puts minimal effort into his technique, but his younger brother has laser focus. If Aegon takes after Viserys, his younger brother Aemon seems to have the skill of his long-lost uncle Daemon. Again, HOtD episode 6 is all about mirroring as a storytelling device.
Ser Harwin Strong is watching the training session, and he rightfully calls out Criston for ignoring Rhaenyra’s sons. So Criston sets up a sparring session where he matches older brother with older brother and younger brother with younger brother. He encourages the four boys to fight dirty, and you can see a rivalry starts to take shape.
For the second time, Ser Harwin calls out Ser Criston. To which Criston asks why he cares so much. Criston implies that Ser Harwin is acting like an invested father, and fists fly. This time it’s Criston on the ground getting his face rearranged. The scene looks similar to the violent wedding banquet from episode 5, where Criston beat Laenor Velaryon’s boyfriend to death. Except that Criston survives the beatdown.
The King’s hand and the royal lineage
Ser Otto Hightower inserted his bloodline into House Targaryen with cold cunning. In the end, Otto’s scheming costs him his position as the King’s hand. Now princess Rhaenyra imitates her father by bearing the grandchildren of the current Hand of the King. The problem is that her children are illegitimate, more so in the eyes of a public that dislikes her.
Daemon Targaryen manages to cause trouble, even when he offers advice to his favorite niece. He’s the one who told Rhanyra she could do whatever she wants once she married for convenience. Now Rhaenyra’s decision to live on her own terms weakens her claim to the throne.
Lady Lena and prince Daemon
In episode 5 of House of the Dragon, our resident troublemaker killed his wife and tried to marry his niece. When Rhaenyra refused him, Daemon took Lady Lena Velaryon as his wife, and the couple seem to be in exile. Lena and Daemon live in Pentos now, along with their two daughters. The lady Lena is heavily pregnant with her third child, and her family seems fairly happy.
Another difficult Targaryen birth
Like his estranged brother, Daemon goes through the anguish of losing both wife and newborn to childbirth. Yet the two tragedies couldn’t be more different.
The medieval doctor asks Daemon if he wants to try and save the baby by doing the same deadly C-section that Viserys allowed for his first wife.
Unlike Viserys, Daemon lets his wife know she’s about to die. He lets her choose whether or not to have a fatal C-section. Dragon-rider that she is, Lena drags herself to her dragon, and she commands the beast to kill her with fire. The dragon refuses at first but reluctantly does as ordered.
There’s a time jump of ten years between Rhaenyra’s wedding and Queen Alicent’s opening salvo. During this time, Ser Criston and Ser Larys ‘Clubfoot’ Strong have become the queen’s confidants. The trio comes off as puritanical, and Rhaenyra’s indiscretions motivate them to make a moral claim to the throne.
This is where Ser Larys steps in to light the first fire in what promises to be a battle for the iron throne. Larys assembles a team of assassins from the Westerosi version of death row. He cuts off their tongues and sends them to kill his father (the King’s hand) and his brother (Ser Harwin Strong).
Alicent is horrified when Larys tells her about the assassination. Now Ser Larys has a secret that he can use as leverage over the queen.
The crown-princess moves to Dragonstone
News of Ser Harwin’s death causes Rhaenyra to move her family to Dragonstone in what looks like a retreat. Leaving King’s Landing may be a wrong move for the princess. Her absence could give Alicent the space she needs to engineer Aegon’s ascent to the throne.
Worth an hour of your time
House of the Dragon episode 6 lets you speculate on gaps in many of the characters’ storylines. This is a direct nod to the novel that serves as the source material for the series. Episode 6 is a fun-house mirror that remakes old scenes from previous episodes but with different characters and different endings.
Let’s end it here, so you can figure out how Alicent helped Ser Criston to get away with killing a man in a room full of witnesses.