House Of The Dragon Season 2, Episode 3 Review: HBO’s Prequel Gets Back To What Made Season 1 Great


House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3 is the best episode of the season so far, and advances the Targaryen civil war in some great and surprising ways. The season has been solid but unspectacular so far, which is absolutely fine: it’s gradually building to the Dance of the Dragons properly beginning, and good character work provides a solid foundation for that.

Season 2, episode 3 is nonetheless a step-up – things might not be truly aflame, but the match has been struck. It’s an outing that brings back some of the best parts of season 1, and leaves me very excited about what will happen next.

Reuniting Alicent & Rhaenyra Was Key For House Of The Dragon Season 2’s Drama

Olivia Cooke & Emma D’Arcy Are Just Brilliant Together

One of my big concerns coming into this season was the separation of Rhaenyra and Alicent, which was a necessity thanks to, well, the small matter of the civil war they’re on opposing sides of. Their relationship was really the heart of season 1. It’s the most important story in the show, and I did worry about straying too far from that, because it’s such a strong emotional and thematic core.

Once Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy are sharing the same screen again, the whole scene just comes alive.

I needn’t have worried, as episode 3 gets them back together. While I did find the method of this a tad contrived and silly – it’s a huge risk on Rhaenyra’s part, and a disguise that could have gone wrong if someone had looked at her face for more than three seconds – it was absolutely worth it as a means to an end. Once Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy are sharing the same screen again, the whole scene just comes alive.

They play off one another brilliantly, and you really get a sense of a wide range of emotions: how much they care for one another, still; their shared hurt, regret, and anger over what’s happened since they last saw one another; stubbornness and ego that gets in the way of a true resolution. The nature of Rhaenyra’s disguise does work well here, because it means the pair have to be restrained – this can’t be an explosive showdown, and we get something far more poignant and satisfying as a result.

Harrenhal & Milly Alcock Bring The Best Out Of Daemon Targaryen

The Return Of Young Rhaenyra Is A Great Twist

There’s a fair bit of strong character work going on in House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3. I continue to be very impressed by Tom Glynn-Carney’s performance as King Aegon, and Aemond’s brothel scenes add an extra layer to his character. I really like the subtlety of Ewan Mitchell’s performance here, which carries a quiet sadness, and particularly how it contrasts nicely with Glynn-Carney’s. But, outside Alicent and Rhaenyra, the best character work in the episode lies with Daemon.

Besides his barnstorming scene with Rhaenyra in episode 2, I’d felt Matt Smith’s rogue had been a little bit wasted so far, but episode 3 puts that right.


Besides his barnstorming scene with Rhaenyra in episode 2, I’d felt Matt Smith’s rogue had been a little bit wasted so far, but episode 3 puts that right. Harrenhal is such a fascinating, creepy place, and Daemon fits in perfectly. I love how director Geeta V. Patel nails the atmosphere of those scenes, which really feel unique and unlike anywhere else in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. The payoff of his walk through the castle, only to find a few men who willfully accept him and just want to eat their venison, is a great bit of juxtaposition.

Even better, though, is the return of Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra. Not just as a nice piece of fan service – though it is – but because it makes so much sense for this version of the character to return at a point when there’s conflict in their marriage and Daemon’s head is being messed with. She’s the idealized version of Rhaenyra, the one who’d look up to him, and for even her to confront him over his actions is such a delightful addition to the story.

I Do Wish The Battle Of The Burning Mill Had Happened On-Screen

Why Did The Show Decide To Skip The Action Sequence?

Although good, this is not a perfect episode. I’d certainly like a bit more Helaena Targaryen, as the fallout from Blood and Cheese continues (and because Phia Saban gives such a great performance unlike any other in the show). The scenes with Rhaena leaving are very good, but might’ve benefited from giving her a bit more screen time before then, giving a better sense of her character and how she feels about not having a dragon. But my main complaint, as it were, is about the Battle of the Burning Mill.

It’s more a wish, if anything, that we had seen an even bit of the battle (especially when the episode is called “The Burning Mill”), something the show hasn’t actually had much of. I quite like how it would’ve shown a different sort of conflict: no major characters involved, but instead showing how deep the split between the Greens and the Blacks runs in Westeros, or at least re-opens old wounds like with the Brackens and Blackwoods (who don’t need much of an excuse).

I do think the cut from the boys facing off to the dead bodies is effective, in fairness, but I would’ve liked to see what Patel would do with an action sequence, given how strong a director she’s proven to be on this show. I don’t know if the decision was budgetary or story-driven – as there will definitely be plenty of battles to come, at least – but it’s my one main gripe with House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3.

New episodes of House of the Dragon season 2 release Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO and Max.