Episode 5 of House of the Dragon ended on one hell of a cliffhanger. Rhaenyra ended up marrying Laenor Velaryon, and both houses were finally joined into a royal family. However, the wedding was a disaster, and Rhaenyra might have ended up creating her worst enemies thanks to her lies and bad judgment when making decisions. Episode 6 starts 10 years after the end of Episode 5 and things have changed for the worse for our Princess Rhaenyra. Let’s review Episode 6 of House of the Dragon, the episode that opens the second half of the show on HBO.
The first and most intriguing element of this episode, and the thing that people will talk about the most, is, of course, the changes in the cast. Milly Alcock, and Emily Carey have said goodbye to the show and so we get the older versions of the characters of Rhaenyra and Alicent, played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively. The episode begins with the face of D’Arcy as the new Rhaenyra. For an actor, this is a very scary position because for five weeks, audiences have gotten used to other actors playing these characters.
D’Arcy should have no fear, though. Not only does she look the part, looking very much like the older version of Rhaenyra, but she definitely has the acting chops to become Rhaenyra and give the character a new depth. Her powerful, raspy voice also gives the character a sense that many things have happened in these 10 years, and not all of them are good. Changing actors in the middle of a season is not something many series often do, but House of the Dragon manages to do it perfectly.
The same can be said for Olivia Cooke, now taking the role of Queen Alicent. Game of Thrones always did a fantastic job of casting the right actors for the right roles. I’m sure people will love D’Arcy as the new Rhaenyra, but I’m a bit doubtful about Alicent. Not because Cooke does a bad job; all the opposite. She has always been incredible, and she keeps being astounding. However, the character has changed a lot within the story and people might find her less likable than before.
We also get introduced to a ton of new characters that will become essential and pivotal as the story moves on. It is really impressive how much story, and how much setup and payoff, House of the Dragon can deliver in a single episode. In comparison, the other big fantasy show, The Rings of Power, seems to take an eternity to make something happen. The shows are each other’s opposites when it comes to delivering good or bad storytelling. The team behind House of the Dragon should really be proud. They have saved the franchise.
The episode mostly focuses on Rhaenyra and Alicent and how their relationship has changed in the past 10 years. But we also get a glimpse of what is happening with Daemon, who in the last episode we saw flirting with the beautiful Lady Laena. Daemon, just like Rhaenyra and Alicent is very much different. Life has changed him, and he is a bit more mellow. It is a strange place to find a character that was so filled with fire. However, he seems happy for the first time in the show. He has a beautiful wife, and it seems he finally overcame his bed issues, having two daughters now.
The episode also gives us a bit more of a glimpse into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. For the first five episodes, we were mostly trapped inside the walls of the Red Keep, but here, we finally go to Essos, and the city of Pentos. The place that Daenerys will also visit in the future. There is even a very subtle reference to the future Queen in Daemon’s scenes. We also visit the cursed castle of Harrenhal. It is really cool to see familiar places from the original show. This only means that the story is expanding, and soon the entire realm will be involved in future events.
Episode 6 is titled “The Princess and the Queen” in reference to a novella written by series creator George R.R. Martin. And there is no better way to name this episode, because it is really a story about the war between these two women, once friends, now enemies. It is a sad story, and we can only imagine what will happen in the next episode. Unless you have already read “Fire & Blood” of course.
Episode 6 of House of the Dragon opens up the latter half of the season to new developments, and more problems, and takes the stakes to even higher heights. Just like its predecessor, House of the Dragon is preparing itself to deliver one of the best seasons of television ever. It is quite an accomplishment. The series keeps pushing its own production values, and it has managed to create every week a new universe to get lost in. Let’s hope the last four episodes are as good as this one.