House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3 recap and review: Rhaenyra extends an olive branch

The third episode of House of the Dragon season 2 picks up the pace, incorporating exciting moments from Fire & Blood and adding brand-new, surprising scenes.
House of the Dragon season 2
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Since the start of House of the Dragon season 2, we were told that war would be inevitably coming. Because Aegon usurped Rhaenyra's throne and Rhaenyra would not be backing down, there'd be no way around it. And while chess pieces were placed from the blacks and from the greens — in the form of death — there'd yet to be an actual battle. Until this week's episode, that is.

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3.

This week's episode of House of the Dragon feels more like Game of Thrones than any episode of the prequel spinoff so far, taking us to new lands and introducing us to a handful of new characters, some more important than others. The episode begins with the Battle of the Burning Mill, the first battle in the Dance of the Dragons. The rivalry between the Blackwoods and the Brackens is introduced; the two houses have had conflict for years, but their clash in allegiances is what leads to this deadly battle.

The Battle of the Burning Mill

Benjicot, leading House Blackwood, picks a fight with the Brackens over land, which leads to them arguing about who has the rightful claim to the throne — Rhaenyra or Aegon. The battle is off-screen, likely for the sake of time, though we see that many men are killed. Though neither Rhaenyra nor Aegon organized this battle, because it was over their allegiances, history considers it as part of the war.

Over at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra buries Erryk and Arryk Cargyll, and Rhaenys gives Rhaenyra council. She says that in the years to come, no one will even remember what started the war, and there's still time to stop it. She mentions that Alicent Hightower doesn't seem to want this war, either, though Rhaenyra is angry with Alicent for turning her back on her. Alicent sent Rhaenyra a raven, but she doesn't want to read it. Rhaenys makes really great points here, perhaps starting to change Rhaenyra's outlook.

The greens and blacks plan their next move

Criston shows up at a Small Council meeting late and they discuss the Battle of the Burning Mill, along with what they should do next. Criston says they must go to the Riverlands, though Alicent doesn't believe they have enough men to leave yet. Aegon wants Aemond and Vhagar to go along with Criston, though the council is adamant that Vhagar needs to stay at King's Landing to protect the city. Aegon also wants to come with Sunfyre, but they shut that down, too. Criston doesn't want to draw more attention.

After nearly being killed in her own room, Rhaenyra decides she needs to send off some of her children to keep them safe. She calls in Rhaena to tell her to go with Viserys, Aegon, and Joffrey to visit Jeyne Arryn, this way they will be far away from Dragonstone. She asks Rhaena to be the mother she can't be to the boys, but Rhaena is visibly disappointed. She doesn't want to be far from her family and all the action, but Rhaenyra asks her to make a sacrifice.

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Daemon arrives at Harrenhal during a storm, but while he believes he needs to sneak around, when he finally enters a dining hall and sees Simon Strong, he's surprised to be welcomed. "I'm claiming Harrenhal," Daemon declares, to which Simon hilariously responds: "Apparently so." Daemon is surprised to learn that Simon does not consider Larys his lord, bringing up Lyonel and Harwin's suspicious deaths. Simon bends the knee and pledges to Rhaenyra, making it known where his loyalty lies.

Welcome to the show, Alys Rivers!

A woman enters the room who might not be important yet, but her name is Alys Rivers. We know because she's played by the actress Gayle Rankin. Fire & Blood fans will probably freak out at her introduction; but don't worry, non-book fans, you'll understand her part later in the show.

Simon fills Daemon in on what's going on with the houses around them and asks Daemon what his plan is. Daemon explains that once he builds up an army, they will march to King's Landing to take back the Iron Throne. This seems to surprise Simon.

We meet another big book character in this episode back at King's Landing as Criston is preparing to make his trip. Alicent introduces her brother Gwayne Hightower, who actually made a quick appearance in the season 1 premiere during the tournament, but hasn't been in the show since. Gwayne clearly has a big personality and doesn't shy away from acknowledging that his father has been replaced as the Hand by someone with no experience. Alicent tells Criston that Gwayne will join his army, and while Criston clearly doesn't want him to, he allows it.

Alicent says her goodbyes to Criston and in a surprise move, he asks her for her favor so he can have his blessing in his heart. He smirks at her, the closest thing to flirting we've seen from these two all season. Are they in love? I'll revisit this thought another time; there's too much else going on to discuss!

Rhaena could be the future for House Targaryen

Rhaenyra sends off Rhaena and the boys, and when Baela says her goodbyes, she can feel her sister's bitterness. Baela assures her that what she's doing is important, but Rhaena doesn't come around until she sees what Rhaenyra is sending her with: a basket of dragon eggs. Rhaenyra says that if everything turns to ruin here, she will be the hope for House Targayren's future.

Phoebe Campbell as Rhaena and Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Alicent and Helaena talk about Jaehaerys, and Helaena, fortunately, seems to be doing better. She tells her mother that she forgives her, something that visibly touches Alicent. Also at King's Landing, Aegon gets suited with armor as he plans to fly to meet Criston, but that plan is cut short when Larys gives him a bit of news. He says there's gossip around the city claiming Aegon has been convinced to leave the castle so Alicent and Aemond can rule in his place. This shocks Aegon, who decides to stay put.

Members of Aegon's Kingsguard tell him they have a new squire who wants to visit a pleasure house, and there's a pretty humorous moment here. Aegon reminds his men that they took an oath of chastity, and, thinking he's joking, they laugh hysterically. They quickly realize Aegon is being serious and change their tune, something Aegon simply shrugs off.

Ulf White makes an impression

In the city, we get a really awesome scene here of another Fire & Blood character who will become important later on: Ulf White. He drinks with friends at the bar and tells a man from Dorne his secret (a secret that he apparently tells anyone, that is): he is the bastard son of Baelon, meaning he is the bastard half-brother to Viserys and Daemon and is a Dragonseed. It's hard to tell if his friends actually believe him or if they think he's a joke, but in any case, it's a fun scene. Their conversation is cut short when Aegon and his posse walk in, and Aegon declares he'll be paying for drinks for everyone.

After getting properly drunk, Aegon and his men visit a pleasure house and he looks for a prostitute named Slyvie for the new squire. He opens up curtains trying to find her, and when he does, he can't help but hysterically laugh at what he discovers. Aegon is lying naked with Sylvie in bed, again in a fetal-like position. Aegon thinks this is the funniest thing in the world and makes fun of Aemond, which makes his brother very angry. Aemond gets up and walks out of the room still fully naked.

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targayren and Bethany Antonia as Baela Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Rhaenyra finally reads Alicent's letter and cries, while Criston's army gets spotted by Baela. They spot a dragon in the sky, which is, of course, Moondancer keeping a watch, and they try to ride to the trees as fast as they can. Baela gets closer and chases them but ultimately loses them when they get into the forest. Gwayne tells Criston he's in his debt.

Baela comes back to Dragonstone to report on what she saw, and Rhaenyra's council advises her to act fast. One mentions Daemon should be worried about Criston's army, to which Rhaenyra reminds him that he has Caraxes so he'll be fine. Her council believes Criston could enlist one of the greens' dragons, suggesting that they should ride their dragons there and kill Criston. Rhaenyra, of course, doesn't want to do this. She tells her council she'll consider what they're saying, a diplomatic answer that makes Rhaenys smirk.

Milly Alcock returns!

Speaking of Daemon, he starts to realize how creepy of a place Harrenhal is when he sees multiple very disturbing visions. At night, he sees someone trying to break into his room, but when he opens it, no one is there. He walks down a hallway to find a bright room and is surprised to see a young Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock!) sitting in a chair with a dead baby Jaehaerys in her lap. She sews his head back onto his body as she tells him that she always has to clean up his mess. There are tears in Daemon's eyes as the room suddenly changes and he's outside near a weirwood tree. Alys appears and tells Daemon "You will die in this place" before walking away. How ominous. Book readers will know what that means.

Earlier in the episode, Rhaenyra talks to Mysaria, acknowledging the fact that she saved her life. Mysaria wants a place at her court, something that surprises Rhaenyra. It's evident that Mysaria favors Rhaenyra for giving her her freedom, and she tells the Queen that she can be very valuable to her because she knows the secret of the Red Keep. Later, Rhaenyra finds Mysaria to ask her how she can speak to Alicent face-to-face. This sets up the final piece of the episode, something that's pretty surprising.

Rhaenyra and Alicent meet again

With Mysaria's help, Rhaenyra travels to King's Landing disguised as a septa, and she follows Alicent to the sept. As Alicent lights her candles and begins to pray, Rhaenyra kneels beside her, pulls out a knife to keep Alicent quiet, and reveals herself. Alicent is absolutely shocked and wants to know what Rhaenyra is doing there. Rhaenyra explains that she wants to prevent the war, but no, she's not there to surrender. Rhaenyra tells Alicent she's lying about Viserys changing his mind about her claim, but Alicent maintains that's what happens. Rhaenyra asks her to recall what exactly he said to her, and she's stunned to hear what Alicent says.

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Alicent explains that Viserys spoke Aegon's name, telling her that he was the Prince That Was Promised who would unite the realm. Of course, Rhaenrya knows what this means, and it's not referring to Alicent and Viserys' son Aegon. Rhaenyra quickly explains that he was talking about Aegon the Conqueror, a reveal that then shocks Alicent. Rhaenyra says there's been a mistake, but Alicent says it's too late now. She leaves before their conversation can continue, and the episode concludes.

Clearly, Alicent is surprised to hear that Viserys was talking about Aegon the Conqueror, not their son, though I wonder what exactly she's thinking. For one, she probably doesn't know if she can fully believe Rhaenyra all things considered, and secondly, she knows so much damage has already been done. She hardly holds power at court now that her father is gone, so if she tried to stop Aegon, would it even work at all? There's also her pride in all of this. She was so sure that Viserys meant to put their son on the Iron Throne, and now she could be mistaken? It's all too much for her to process.

This week's episode of House of the Dragon is a big one, and I have a feeling it's only going to get more eventful from here. Catch new episodes on HBO and Max every Sunday at 9:00 p.m., and be sure to keep reading our episodic recaps here at Show Snob!

House of the Dragon S2E3. House of the Dragon S2E3. A. House of the Dragon picks up the pace with season 2 episode 3 as we meet new characters from Fire & Blood and get a surprise ending no one saw coming..