WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon season 1, episode 6!House of the Dragon season 1, episode 6’s chaotic ending sets up the many brutalities to come in the Dance of the Dragons. “The Princess and the Queen” picks up 10 years after House of the Dragon episode 5, leading to several major characters being recast and introduced. Emma D’Arcy takes over from Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Olivia Cooke replaces Emily Carey as Queen Alicent Hightower, with House of the Dragon revealing a far more detrimental feud has grown between the two characters and their children over the past decade.
House of the Dragon episode 6 begins with Rhaenyra giving birth to her third son Joffrey, who – alongside his older brothers Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon – lacks the Valyrian traits of his parents. Alicent and the rest of King’s Landing are aware that Rhaenyra’s three sons are actually fathered by Ser Harwin Strong, but the ill King Viserys rejects the accusation and forbids that it be discussed. House of the Dragon episode 6 also introduces the young versions of Viserys and Alicent’s children Aegon, Helaena, and Aemond Targaryen. Alicent continues preparing Aegon to rule on the Iron Throne one day, but he’s more preoccupied with teenage explorations and bullying his younger brother. Meanwhile, Daemon Targaryen has been living in Pentos with his wife Laena Velaryon and their two daughters Baela and Rhaena to avoid such political strife.
By the end of House of the Dragon episode 6, Ser Harwin and his father Lyonel Strong are killed in a fire at Harrenhal, which was organized by Harwin’s brother Larys. Following this event, Rhaenyra gathers her children and husband Laenor to leave for Dragonstone, realizing the tensions in King’s Landing have become far too perilous for her family. In yet another fiery tragedy, House of the Dragon episode 6 sees Laena Velaryon suffer fatal complications during childbirth, leading her to command the dragon Vhagar to burn her alive. While the Targaryen civil war has yet to officially begin, the murderous betrayals and dangerous controversies in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 6’s ending set the stage for the more devastating conflicts to come.
One of the most shocking deaths in House of the Dragon episode 6 was that of Lady Laena Velaryon, the dragon-riding wife of Prince Daemon Targaryen. After spending years far away in Pentos, Laena was desperate to return home to Driftmark with her family. However, there are no happy endings in the world of Game of Thrones, with Laena Velaryon’s dream being destroyed when her complicated childbirth turned fatal. Instead of dying on the birthing bed, Laena ran out of the compound and laid in front of her ancient dragon Vhagar, where she screamed the High Valyrian command “Dracarys” over and over again. At first refusing to obey the rider, Vhagar eventually relented and burned Laena and her unborn child alive as Daemon looked on. The reason why Laena wanted Vhagar to kill her was laid out earlier in House of the Dragon episode 6, as Laena declared she wanted a “dragon-rider’s death, not that of a fat country lord.” Rather than dying of childbirth in bed at a wealthy manse, Laena sought a death fitting of the blood of Old Valyria, so she decided to go out in flames.
Laena’s death now has massive consequences for the upcoming Dance of the Dragons, particularly in terms of her family and dragon’s future. Just as Laena had wanted, Daemon, Baela, and Rhaena will be heading back to Westeros following her death. Soon after, Rhaenyra’s husband Laenor Velaryon will die in a duel, meaning both Daemon and Rhaenyra will be free to marry again. Controversially, Rhaenyra and Daemon will quickly marry and combine their families as they prepare for the Princess to ascend the Iron Throne. However, Laena’s death gives the blacks a major disadvantage due to her dragon, Vhagar. After House of the Dragon episode 6, Vhagar will be without a rider, leading the dragonless Prince Aemond Targaryen to successfully bond with the fire-breathing creature. Since Aemond will be a fierce supporter of the greens, Laena’s death means Rhaenyra and Daemon will be opposing the largest dragon in the realm during the Dance of the Dragons.
The biggest twist in House of the Dragon episode 6’s ending is the deaths of Harwin and Lyonel Strong. Because Lyonel’s son Harwin was Rhaenyra’s lover and the father of her three sons, he felt compromised in his ability to be an unbiased Hand of the King. As such, Lyonel escorted Harwin back to Harrenhal where he would finally take his seat, but after the pair reached the castle, a group of tongueless prisoners set it on fire. Harwin and Lyonel both died in the flames, with House of the Dragon soon revealing that it was Lyonel’s son Larys Strong who coordinated their murders. Larys got the idea to kill his family after listening to how upset Queen Alicent Hightower was over her father being fired as Hand of the King, and that Viserys was blind to Rhaenyra’s affair with Harwin. Alicent wanted her father to become Hand of the King again in order to have more partiality toward her, with Larys granting her this wish.
Similar to how Daemon and Corlys are the “second sons” of the realm who must make their own way in life, Larys is the second son of House Strong who needed to be far more cunning in his rise to power. Larys isn’t physically imposing, so has spent much of his life listening, learning, and acting in the shadows. Larys desired the power of his father and brother, but couldn’t simply kill them without an assurance of protection. As such, Larys made it seem like Alicent had requested that he kill them for her, stating that he knows she’ll “reward him” properly. To ensure that he wouldn’t be found guilty, Larys cut out the assassins’ tongues and blamed his family’s deaths on the Curse of Harrenhal. With Lyonel dead, King Viserys will require a new Hand, indicating the conniving Otto Hightower will be reinstated after House of the Dragon episode 6’s ending.
Despite Alicent being prepared to go to war when the time comes to crown King Viserys’ successor, she doesn’t quite have a propensity for unjustified murder. When Larys reveals that he killed Harwin and Lyonel Strong for her, Alicent is mortified and explains that was not her intention whatsoever. Once again, Alicent is somewhat of a pawn in House of the Dragon’s political game, as she’s being manipulated for the power that she now holds in King’s Landing. While she has certainly become much more of a player during House of the Dragon’s 10-year time jump, she still has very few allies in King’s Landing, with those who support her also taking drastic measures to ensure their own positions. Alicent’s reaction to Larys’ crimes suggests that much of the brutality in House of the Dragon’s war will not entirely be at her hands or command, but will still be done by others in her name. Even if Alicent didn’t sanction Harwin and Lyonel’s murders, this action proves that the green party will stop at nothing to see Aegon ascend the Iron Throne over Rhaenyra.
House of the Dragon episode 6 suggests that everyone in King’s Landing knows that Harwin Strong is the real father of Rhaenyra’s sons, but nobody is allowed to repeat such claims. Since Laenor is gay and the couple agreed to take their own lovers, House of the Dragon had already set up the notion that Rhaenyra’s children would not be fathered by Laenor. As such, when Rhaenyra’s three sons all ended up having the physical features of House Strong rather than the Valyrian traits of the Targaryens or Velaryons, it became clear who their father truly was. Since Lyonel Strong nearly quit his position due to the shame of his son’s actions, it seems everyone except for King Viserys himself was able to see the truth of Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey’s parentage. Harwin being their father is later made all the more clear in House of the Dragon episode 6’s ending, as he bids a tearful goodbye to the three boys and Rhaenyra. After Harwin walks away, Jacaerys runs into the hallway and asks Rhaenyra if Harwin is truly his father, but Rhaenyra only responds by saying what matters is that he’s a Targaryen.
While House of the Dragon episode 6 confirms that Harwin is the father of Rhaenyra’s children, the specific man who sires them ultimately bears little weight on the story. Just as Rhaenyra says, the only thing that matters is that Jace and the boys are Targaryens. Since Jacaerys is Rhaenyra’s heir, he’ll end up taking the name Targaryen once he ascends the Iron Throne anyway, meaning his father’s name doesn’t truly matter. However, Lucerys and Joffrey will still be Velaryons and have claims to Driftmark, so it’s only important that Laenor continues to dutifully claim them as his own. Ultimately, the identity of their father doesn’t matter in House of the Dragon; the only thing that matters is that they be declared Rhaenyra’s trueborn sons, otherwise they’ll lose their titles and claims.
The willful blindness of a father to his children’s sins is a common theme in House of the Dragon episode 6, particularly for King Viserys. Anyone with eyes can see that Harwin fathered Rhaenyra’s sons, not Laenor. King Viserys’ disease may have taken his fingers, hair, and a hand, but he still has his sight, so denying the truth about Rhaenyra’s children is purposeful. If Viserys were to admit that Harwin fathered Rhaenyra’s sons, Rhaenyra’s reputation would be destroyed and the King would have to strip the boys of their titles. Viserys swore on Aemma Arryn’s memory that he would maintain Rhaenyra as his heir and ensure that she ascends the Iron Throne, with this being his penance for pushing Aemma to her death. Rhaenyra is all that Viserys has left of Aemma, who he truly loved, so he’ll do whatever he can to protect their daughter and give her a legacy as the rightful Queen of Westeros. Admitting that Rhaenyra and Harwin’s affair produced her three sons would severely compromise Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne, so Viserys must turn a blind eye and keep others from repeating the damaging truth
After Harwin leaves for Harrenhal, Rhaenyra brings her family to Dragonstone, where they’ll leave the gossip and green-filled politics of King’s Landing behind. On Dragonstone, Rhaenyra’s isolation will lead her to raise her children in preparation for the Iron Throne without interjections from Alicent and her children, but the reverse is now true for Alicent back in King’s Landing. Without Rhaenyra and her sons in King’s Landing, Alicent can involve her own children more in the operations of the crown and prepare them to usurp the Iron Throne. Since Rhaenyra now has very few supporters left in King’s Landing, Queen Alicent Hightower’s allies are able to control the realm’s politics and conspire to make Aegon the king immediately upon Viserys’ death in House of the Dragon season 1.
New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO/HBO Max.