House of the Dragon made its boldest move yet on Sunday night by catapulting the story ten years into the future. Gone are Milly Alcock and Emily Carey as Rhaenyra and Alicent. In their places: Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, the actors set to play the roles for the rest of the run, for however long their respective characters have a place in this tale.
While the recasting is the biggest on-screen change-up, it comes hand in hand with more than a few other huge developments from the decade in Westeros that played out off-screen. Old power players are on the decline, while new figures are rising like dragons. Jarring as it may be for some, it’s all very much by the book, quite literally, taking cues directly from George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood.
Here are some of the most notable ways in which episode six, “The Princess and the Queen,” intersects with the source material.
The Seed is Strong
One of the more disorienting moments in the latest House of the Dragon episode came our way early on, when viewers learned about the secret relationship between Rhaenyra and Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). It may have come as a blindside for show-only viewers, but the book-reading crowd has been keeping close tabs on the man known as Breakbones for quite some time.
If you have a friend who read the book (or, say, you happen to know of a podcast hosted by someone who read the book), they almost certainly pointed out Harwin’s goofy grin when Rhaenyra returned to camp covered in boar gore back in episode three. That same friend probably DiCaprio-pointed at the screen when Rhaenyra and Harwin passed each other on the streets of King’s Landing back in episode four, and did the same last week when Harwin stepped in to rescue Rhaenyra during the fight at the wedding. Were those scenes memorable enough to make Rhaenyra and Harwin’s one-episode-only relationship satisfying for viewers? Probably not for some, and maybe not even for this particular book reader, who would have loved more time spent with Breakbones on the show. Alas, we’ll take what we can get.
In any case, obviously Ser Harwin’s relationship with Rhaenyra is a huge deal to the story, as he’s the biological father of her children. Indeed, some of the dialogue surrounding this controversy was lifted straight out of the book for the sake of the show, including when Alicent tells Laenor (John Macmillan): “Do keep trying … soon or late, you may get one that looks just like you.” Though Harwin doesn’t survive the episode (more on that in a bit), his legacy will very much fuel some crucial components of the story as we venture deeper and deeper into the House of the Dragon.
Here Be Dragons
We met a few additional dragons in this week’s episode, very much worth stopping down on. First up: Vermax, the dragon we see Jace Velaryon (Leo Hart) tame early on in the episode. While many in the show are questioning the truth behind Jace’s parentage, the book uses Vermax as a way to dispel some of those rumors. As is custom with Targaryens, Jace and his siblings were presented with dragon eggs while they were still babies in the cradle, as a means of strengthening the children’s bonds with their eventual dragons. (In the show, we see Jace and Luke prepare an egg for their infant son Joffrey, for this exact reason.) Those who believed Jace to be bastard-born also believed the eggs would never hatch. Those people were wrong, as Vermax (along with as-yet-seen dragons Arrax and Tyraxes) hatches, curbing some of the rumors, if only for a time.
There are a couple of dragons we don’t see in the episode, but are referenced in one case and worth mentioning in the other. One such dragon is Sunfyre, who belongs to Prince Aegon (Ty Tennant). Martin describes Sunfyre as “the most beautiful dragon ever seen upon the earth.” Meanwhile, Princess Helaena (Evie Allen) is bonded with a dragon called Dreamfyre, responsible for producing the eggs of many subsequent dragons—including three eggs that were stolen from Dragonstone and brought out east. Several fan theories persist these eggs would one day hatch and become Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, the same three dragons belonging to Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen. Additionally, as we saw, Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) does not have a dragon — at least, not yet. But something one character says in the episode provides a huge hint as to Aemond’s dragon-riding future, juxtaposed so subtly you could easily miss it.