House of the Dragon Episode 3 Review: A taste of the old Game of Thrones madness, courtesy Matt Smith’s Daemon

House of the Dragon is not breathing fire quite yet, but at least there’s some wisps of smoke, despite the endless talking and conversations (really, it could almost be a seminar at points). Matt Smith’s Daemon shows that he deserves the screentime he gets and has finally added some spark to his snark at last. There’s a hint of the old Game of Thrones riveting madness — it’s a flash, not much, but at this point, I’ll take it.

It’s Episode 3, and King Viserys I continues to prove that he’s an inept king, a terrible father and a horrible person. We’ve jumped ahead a couple of years and now the King is married to his daughter Rhaenyra’s best friend Alicient, and has finally got the dimpled heir that he craved. Alicient is pregnant again, and everyone’s sure it’s going to be another boy. Rhaenyra — as expected from any horrified daughter — is keeping her distance from everyone and has resigned herself to reading under a tree, or giving stony glares and snarky replies to her father and former best friend. Alicient remains inscrutable as ever — do we see some signs of guilt? It’s hard to tell.

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She wears her bitterness like a shroud — and its props to Milly Alcock for finally giving this character some fire. For most of the episode, a moping Viserys is contemplating her marriage as he now has a male heir, and a very familiar name from the original Game Of Thrones turns up — a Lannister. The Lannisters have come to give their regards, but it is not quite so graciously accepted. Obviously, this isn’t the last we’re going to see of the Lannisters and one hopes that they might have the same power, biting, magnetic sadism of the original characters from GoT — Cersei, Jamie, Tyrion and Tywin — characters that will remain with us forever, because of their sheer power and magnetic screen presence. Currently, the new Lannister just seems rather smarmy and unappealing.

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There’s a lot of conversation in this episode and more morose wallowing in self-pity on Viserys I’s part, as he acknowledges that his desperation for an heir led him to practically murder his wife (how else do you describe that scene), and now he’s lost Rhaenyra too, in his obsession for an heir. I understand the show is trying to squeeze out some pity for this rather gormless king, but not successfully at all. However, Paddy Considine does a fair job of making you dislike the character entirely.

The interesting bits of the episode come right at the end, as Daemon shows cold fury that once again, his brother thinks he is incapable of handling a war, leading him to bludgeon a messenger. There is finally some complexity and nuance here and is far more intriguing than watching men take terrible decisions and forcing their daughters to marry. He almost turns rather suicidal and goes to hunt out the Crabfeeder—though once again, in a rather incredulous battle that gave me uneasy memories of The Night King debacle in Season 8, where almost everyone survived. Daemon dodges arrows deftly and it almost seems like the stakes are not high, at all.

House of the Dragon is slowly stepping up its game, with the Daemon storyline at least, the rest of the scenes still fade in and out of dreariness, and some very contrived dialogues. Visuals, and the background music were particularly stunning in this episode. We’re still a long way off from Game of Thrones level of storytelling, characters and dialogue, but there seems to be a chance that we might get there eventually.

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