House of the Dragon episode 3 review: Battle of the Stepstones, Crab Feeder unleashed and the Lannisters arrive – 5 burning questions

A party for Aegon, a hunt for Viserys and a violent battle with the Crab Feeder: we recap House of the Dragon episode 3, Second of His Name.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 5 September 2022 - 9.12pm
Milly Alcock portrays young Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon episode 3

Stream House of the Dragon weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW on Mondays.

*Warning - Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon episode 3*

"Must everything be a battle," sighs an increasingly boozed-up and weary King Viserys towards the end of episode 3 of House of the Dragon.

Paddy Considine’s ruler still has a lot to learn about Westeros. As Game of Thrones fans know, in the Seven Kingdoms, everything ends in a battle.

It only took us three weeks and an incredibly creepy bad guy with a fondness for crustaceans to deliver House of the Dragon's first bloody battle. However, as always, it was the gossiping, backstabbing and plotting where the real action took place as the cracks in the House Targaryen got ever deeper.

Here are five big talking points from House of the Dragon episode 3, Second of His Name.

1.  The Battle of Stepstones

House Velaryon in the Battle of Stepstones

Creepy crab bad guy – check. Man being squashed by dragon’s foot – check. Crazy battle strategy – check.

The Battle of Stepstones may have been brief and our time with Craghas Drahar aka The Crab Feeder was sadly short-lived, but it was a reminder of how brutal and brilliant the battle sequences can be in the Game of Thrones universe.

The battle itself was frenetic and stunning. It also gave us an introduction to more members of House Velaryon, including Coryls' brother Vaemond (Wil Johnson) and his son Laenor (John Macmillan). Earlier in the episode, Laenor was  proposed as a possible suitor for Princess Rhaenyra – so expect to see more of him soon.

But this battle wasn’t really about Coryls and House Valaryon, it was all about Prince Daemon.

Still sulking about his big brother banishing him, Matt Smith perfectly captures a balance of menace and stroppiness that makes Daemon one of the show’s best drawn characters.

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon

We saw every side of Daemon in this battle. The sinister dark edge as he violently battered Viserys’ messenger. The wild and chaotic as he used himself as bait for the Crab Feeder. And the lost and lonely as he longs for a purpose and role in the kingdom – or maybe just a cuddle from his big bro.

His final charge and victory over Craghas – a rare moment of violence left off camera – showed that despite his dwindling authority in the Targaryen empire, Daemon is still a figure who will strike fear because he has none.

2. Princess Rhaenyra gets bloody

As the episode jumped forward two years in time, it was fascinating to see how Rhaenyra and Alicent had changed and how their relationship had altered. Having your dad marry your best mate will do that.

Alicent is sliding nicely into the robes and role of Queen, managing to play the politics her father Otto desires, while also giving Viserys the children and support he needs. She’s growing rapidly in confidence from the nail scratcher we saw in episode 2.

Rhaenyra, on the other hand, is growing more restless, more rebellious and gets her first splatters and streaks of blood in her white locks when she wrestles and stabs a wild boar which attacks her in the woods. Gone are the splendid dresses of her youth, instead she now wears gloves and practical attire - she's already dressing for war.

Milly Alcock portrays young Rhaenyra Targaryen with Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole

Milly Alcock has been brilliant as the increasingly independent and fierce princess, who would rather go on adventures with a dashing Dornish knight by her side than do what tradition demands and be married off to any sleazebag with a big enough castle.

The parallels between Rhaenyra and Daemon were quite glaring in this episode and both demanded attention and action from Viserys, but even when it was forthcoming, it wasn’t enough to calm their inner turmoil and angst.

3. The Lannisters are here

One of the assets of a Game of Thrones prequel is that you can introduce distant relatives of families and characters we already know and viewers can all collectively rub their hands and grin.

The arrival of twin Lannister brothers this week – both played by Jefferson Hall – was a brilliantly executed example. One brother, Tyland, is a crafty politician in the ear of Viserys; the other, Lord Jason, is a creepy sleaze trying to make some moves on Rhaenyra.

Despite his offer to build a dragon keep at Casterly Rock, Rhaenyra raged at her father’s suggestion that she should consider the offer of marrying into the Lannisters.

Tyland and Jason may not have the power and authority of Cersei, Tywin and Jaime just yet, but they’re definitely cut from the same cloth.

4. King Viserys dithers

Paddy Considine as King Viserys in House of the Dragon episode 3

He’s got a son, another on the way and his biggest critics Coryls and Daemon are busy being battered and bruised on the Stepstones. But King Viserys cut a truly tragic figure this week.

Despite the efforts of everyone trying to persuade him to make Prince Aegon his heir and others who are trying to weasel into a marriage with Rhaenyra, Viserys has taken to boozing and dithering.

His own illness, his guilt over his first wife’s death, his indecision over how to rule and his succession, are weighing heavily on his mind.

Paddy Considine captured Viserys' weakness and anguish perfectly as he got dragged on a hunt and he feebly killed a squealing deer that was being held captive for him. Viserys had been told that he would be a hunting a magnificent and rare white hart, but the underwhelming reality of a much more ordinary and defenceless animal was a fitting metaphor for this struggling ruler.

5. Littlefinger would have loved Otto Hightower

Game of Thrones had plenty of sneaky plotters, but Otto Hightower already looks like he could be up at the top of the class with the prince of schemers, Littlefinger.

He had some stomach-churning proposals for how Viserys could resolve the heir-to-the-throne problem – Rhaenyra marrying baby Aegon! And Otto’s strength is his ability to keep his desire for power low key.

Only his daughter Alicent has any real inkling that Otto is manipulating her and King Viserys and playing political games behind the scenes. And for the time being, Alicent appears happy to be a pawn in Otto’s strategic games.

Stream House of the Dragon weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW on Mondays.

Image copyright: © 2022 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.