Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen is determined to solve the problem on the Stepstones without his brother's help.

It's been three years since King Viserys (Paddy Considine) chose Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) as his bride, effectively alienating both Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), an ally he desperately needs, and his own daughter, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), whose best friend is now her step-mother. 

But Rhaenyra could lose more than just a friend. Viserys named her his heir to the Throne after losing his wife and newborn son. It's a decision he made in a cloud of grief so thick he couldn't see the possibility of another wife or child. Furthermore, his decision also served to distance his dangerous brother, Daemon (Matt Smith). It's safe to say his belief in Rhaenyra as the next ruler of the Seven Kingdoms is built on a flimsy foundation, especially now that Alicent has given him a son, Prince Aegon. 

It doesn't help that the kingdom is positively frothing over the possibility of a male heir, what with the realm's rooted interest in patriarchal notions of tradition. Viserys and the men on his court care more about marrying Rhaenyra off to the most valuable ally, whether it's the cocky Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall), whose twin brother Tyland is Viserys' master of ships, or Laenor Velaryon (Matthew Sharp), the older brother of Corlys' daughter, Laena, who Corlys and Rhaenys tried to pair off with Viserys last week. Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who has a vested interest in Aegon's ascension to the Throne, even suggests Rhaenyra be betrothed to her half-brother. (Privately, he says "the realm would tear itself apart" if Rhaenyra came into power.)

All it takes is an unsubtle attempt at courtship from Jason for Rhaenyra to pick up on the machinations unfolding around her. She and Viserys have several tense conversations in which they argue over the necessities of a strategic marriage. Viserys tells her she must marry with politics in mind in order to "strengthen your own claim" and "shore up your succession," but she's quick to point out that if he truly believed that he'd have married Laena, not Alicent. What's at the heart of their argument, obviously, is Rhaenyra's lingering fear that Viserys will revoke her status as heir and bestow it on Aegon. He promises her he doesn't intend to "replace" her, swearing on her "mother's memory" that she will not be supplanted. 

House of The Dragon
Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

It's hard to believe him. He drunkenly expresses his doubts to Alicent, telling her of a vision he had in which his male heir wore the crown. He let the vision go once he realized his obsession with manifesting it killed Rhaenyra's mother. He goes on to draw a distinction among "dragon riders" and "dreamers," the latter characterized by prophetic dreams. Now, foggy with wine, he wonders if perhaps he is a dreamer, after all, and that his vision will still come to pass. After all, he's certainly no dragon rider, nor is he a warrior or conqueror. The hunt that's prepared for Aegon's second name day is a sham; after much talk about the king slaying a white hart — the king of the kingswood — his soldiers are unable to find the beast. Viserys can't even manage to slay the normal stag they rounded up for him efficiently. His strikes are sloppy and the animal dies in horrible pain. Being a dreamer might be all he has. 

That desire for control and identity (not to mention the whispers of his council) could very well outweigh the insecurity that's at least partly guiding his decision to keep Rhaenyra as his heir. He knows he's seen as weak. When Jason mentions that "many have assumed" Aegon will supplant Rhaenyra as heir, his paranoia emerges and he threatens punishment for those who question his choices. It's a meager show of strength, which is all he's capable of. Rhaenyra, on the other hand, returns to camp after her friendly overnight with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) with a dead boar in tow, one she killed without anyone's help. Later, the elusive white hart reveals itself to Rhaenyra and Cole — but she refuses to kill it. There are other ways to show strength that don't adhere to the old traditions, which mean nothing to her. Heck, they don't seem to mean all that much to Viserys, either. 

Meanwhile, Corlys and Daemon's war against the Triarchy, a.k.a. the Crabfeeder (Daniel Scott-Smith) and his pirate goons, is a disaster. The episode begins with Daemon and Caraxes spewing fire on the Crabfeeder's men (and stomping on some of Corlys'), but the dragon can only do so much damage. Since Corlys' strengths are on sea and Daemon's in the air, Crabfeeder takes up refuge in a cave system, meaning the Velaryan forces will need more foot soldiers to push through the choke point he's created offshore.

House of The Dragon
Credit: Gary Moyes/HBO

That leads Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), Corlys' brother, to ask Viserys for help. Viserys initially refuses, saying the war was started by "two malcontents, unhappy with decisions I made." It's Alicent who convinces him that it's in his best interest for Crabfeeder to be vanquished. He sends word to the Velaryon army that men are on the way. 

When Daemon learns of this, he violently rages against the messenger. He doesn't want Viserys' help, no matter how badly they're losing. This urges him to situate himself at the center of Corlys and Vaemond's last-ditch plan to draw the Triarchy out of the caves, a plan that will surely kill whoever sets themselves up as bait. Daemon, determined to overcome the Triarchy without his brother's help, strolls through the beach of crab-eaten corpses and to the center of Crabfeeder's choke point. There, he waves a white flag in surrender. 

House of The Dragon
Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

This draws out Crabfeeder and several of his soldiers, one of whom approaches Daemon to take his sword. That's when Daemon strikes, sprinting to the cave's entrance as arrows fall around him. Crabfeeder summons more soldiers into the open and Daemon is felled by a pair of arrows. The encroaching hordes surround him on all sides. There's no escape. 

Suddenly, a jet of flame falls from the sky, incinerating the Triarchy soldiers. Laenor and his dragon Seasmoke pivot to the archers in the surrounding dunes as Corlys, Vaemond, and their remaining soldiers march into the choke point. 

Daemon, meanwhile, chases Crabfeeder into his lair, emerging some time later caked in gore and dragging Crabfeeder's severed torso. 

Victory, and without Viserys' help.

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House of the Dragon

A Game of Thrones prequel focusing on the dragon-riding Targaryens.

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