House of the Dragon: ‘The Princess and the Queen’ (Episode 6) Review
After a stellar fifth episode comeback, 'House of the Dragon's follow-up sinks to its worst lows yet, calling the entire series into question.
After a successful fifth episode that was poised to kick the story of House of the Dragon into high gear, the showrunners and writers somehow managed to steer it straight into a solid concrete wall. As such, the sixth episode feels as if someone in charge decided to hit the reset button, rather than capitalize on the momentum of last week’s events.
‘The Princess and the Queen’ is an apt name for an episode which, at this point, is little more than an overdramatic cat fight. What could have been the beginnings of some true political intrigue have instead led to petty family squabbling, with no overarching conflict or challenge to overcome. This is bad news for a show already struggling to attract and retain viewership.
The sixth episode signals the second significant time jump in the series, moving forward approximately ten years after the last episode. Some familiar faces still lurk about, while new ones make their first appearance. That’s also part of a major problem that will undoubtedly cause many viewers to feel disconnected and confused.
Princess Rhaenyra (now played by actress Emma Darcy) has just given birth to her newest child, while her ailing father King Viserys and former friend Queen Alicent maintain their rule. Rhaenyra’s pregnancies appear to be the work of Ser Harwin Strong, rather than her homosexual husband Laenor.
When Strong attacks Ser Criston Cole over the latter’s insinuation that he is the father of Rhaenyra’s children, he is banished from King’s Landing altogether. However, the damage has already been done, and Rhaenyra suspects that Queen Alicent has begun plotting her next moves.
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The standard details considered praiseworthy in previous episodes are still here, but they are diminished this time ’round. A lot of the issues stem from the jarring time jump, and the weird recasting of characters to adult versions. Sure, the performances are still good, but there’s something missing in comparison to the material that came before.
The best that could be said about ‘The Princess and the Queen’ is that it tries to shake the formula up a bit, while tossing in a new dragon, but that’s really all there is to it. The introduction of squabbling, spoiled children living vicariously through their parents’ rivalry is about as exciting as waiting around for a dragon egg to hatch, so there’s no points to be scored there, either.
House of the Dragon is a show that will live or die based on the merits of its story, and right now, those seem to be in rather short supply. However, the visual splendor, choreography and editing is still superb.
The aforementioned time jump feels wrong on so many levels, primarily because of character inconsistencies. Milly Alcock and Emily Carey played Princess Rhaenyra and Lady/Queen Alicent long enough to cement themselves as centralized characters, but seeing them swapped for Emma Darcy and Olivia Cooke feels like a bridge too far.
Part of the reason is because other characters like Daemon Targaryen, Ser Criston Cole and Larys Strong look like they haven’t aged a day from the previous episode. It’s as if several characters underwent accelerated aging, while the others spent a decade in cryofreeze. Milly Alcock, for instance, was 21 when she filmed her scenes, and could have easily been made to look 28.
Woke drivel makes a revolting return in the first few minutes of the episode, with Princess Rhaenyra effectively shutting her own husband out of any say in their baby’s future, because – according to her – she is the one who just endured the delivery. This repugnant world view has been mainstreamed into our culture by narcissistic Left-wing feminists, and here it is, injected into the veins of yet another pop culture property.
The feminism narrative came and went rather quickly in the first few episodes, but to see it rear its ugly head in the latter half of the season is truly irritating. Once again, men are denigrated and treated like throwaways, even when they wish to be fathers. This is part of a broader Left-wing narrative where men do not factor into any decision-making at all when it comes to raising children.
However, the truly galling aspect of this episode is how consequence-free it is, especially given the events of the previous one. Ser Criston Cole literally beat a man to death in the middle of Princess Rhaenyra’s pre-wedding feast, and nobody cared. Here he is, ten years later, in good standing with the King and Queen, neither of whom seem to care.
Similarly, the plot involving Daemon murdering his wife seems to have come and gone without so much as a question, and the episode debuts with him married to Laena Velaryon, only for her to kick the bucket via dragonfire suicide by the time the end credits roll. Of all the characters, Daemon seems to be the one who wanders about with no real purpose, which is opposite of how his character should be.
And finally, it’s impossible to resist pointing out the irony of Emma Darcy, a self-proclaimed “non-binary” actress who uses “they/them” pronouns, playing a female whose first on-screen depiction involves going through childbirth. It really is the stuff that punchlines are made of.
House of the Dragon is in real trouble, and that’s due in large part to adapting source material that really doesn’t play out well on screen. The show has already diverted from George R.R. Martin’s writings, and it probably will again, but all the roads lead to the Dance of the Dragons, which isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds.
However, the oddball creative decisions that spill out haphazardly in the sixth episode are mostly to blame for the ensuing mess. It feels as if House of the Dragon has gone right back to square one, especially since there’s no real set of consequences attached to the events of episode five.
It remains to be seen if the awkward recasting will have any ill effect on viewers, but that’s the least of the show’s problems. Once again, House of the Dragon falls victim to the simple fact that it isn’t Game of Thrones. The equivalent would be non-alcoholic grocery store beer, vs. a hearty pint of Guinness.
Either way, the second half of the season is upon us, and it’s doubtful House of the Dragon will ever manage to recapture anything even remotely close to the magic of Game of Thrones, during its prime.