Meet the Targaryens, the modern medieval age family
Welcome back to Rings of the Dragon, a Wonder series where we recap new episodes of “House of the Dragon” (HOTD) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (TROP), and then determine which show wins the week. Because why not?
Previously on Rings of the Dragon, Dwarves sang to rocks, Númenoreans acted like an angry mob from The Simpsons, Viserys coughed a lot and there was a shotgun wedding. And now let’s check in on the latest episodes.
SPOILERS AHEAD, as usual.
The Rings of Power Episode 5: Partings
We kick things off with Nori teaching Meteor Man words like “migration” and “peril.” He thinks he’s a peril, she says he’s not. Spoiler: he kind of is. We then get a migration montage, switching back and forth between the Harfoots facing different challenges on the road and a map animation tracking their long trek through lands perilous. It’s a charming look at the lives of these childlike nomads. +1 point for reminding us that not all who wander are lost.
Warm and fuzzy feelings get immediately thrown out the window as we find out that Meteor Man is being tracked by three weirdos in white robes. +1 point for the creepy, unique looks of these perverts.
Speaking of weirdos, Orc Daddy Adar waxes poetry about losing what little light is left within him because of what they’re about to do. He and his Orc minions are on their way to the watchtower of Ostirith where Bronwyn convinces half of her people to stay and fight. The other half go with Sauron fanboy Waldreg, who also tries to convince Theo to join him but fails. Even with half of her people walking out on her, Brownyn puts her foot down. They’re not going to swear fealty to Orc Daddy. Let’s put a pin in it.
In Númenor, Isildur begs his father, Elendil, to give him a spot on the boats that are about to escort Galadriel back to Middle-earth. He wants to skip the line after he deliberately got himself kicked out of the Sea Guard last episode. This dirtbag is asking his daddy to engage in corruption and nepotism just because of his vague sense of purpose and in spite of his horrible life choices. Elendil puts his foot down, however. He’s not going to spit in the faces of Númenoreans who worked hard to earn their spots on the boats for his jerk of a son. Let’s also put a pin in it.
Speaking of jerks, Galadriel tells Miriel that Halbrand is totally on board their plan to sail to Middle-earth and pick a fight with Sauron. The only problem is, Halbrand is totally not. He lets Galadriel know that this is not cool. Secret King puts his foot down. He’s not joining the sailing trip back to the Southlands. Pin it. -5 points for the show inadvertently making it super easy for us to make fun of its main characters.
The Harfoots encounter wolves in an intense chase scene. Before the beasts can tear the tiny people apart, Meteor Man saves them by slamming the ground really hard like he’s the Hulk or something. He injures himself in the process.
In a fun swashbuckling scene, Galadriel helps Elendil train Númenorean youngsters on how to fight Orcs. She takes on multiple men at a time and still comes out on top. Like your mom.
Númenorean Trump Pharazôn explains his diabolical plan to his doofus son, Kemen. He supports Miriel’s plan of aiding Galadriel not because he wants to help the Elf, but because he’s a damn, dirty politician with a Númenor First policy.
Miriel’s father tells her not to go because all that awaits her in Middle-earth is darkness. She is trapped between the prophecy of The Great Wave if she stays and the prophecy of encountering darkness if she goes. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.
Meteor Man heals his injured arm by icing it. He accidentally hurts a curious Nori. Maybe he is indeed a peril.
In High King Gil-galad’s crib, Elrond recounts the story of how an Elven warrior tried to protect a tree from a Balrog. The Elf channeled his light into the tree, as the Balrog channeled his hatred into it. While all of this channeling was going on, lightning struck the tree and
POOF! It became Koko Krunch! this somehow gave birth to mithril. +3 points because Balrogs are awesome.
Gil-galad reveals to Elrond that the world is ending, and their only hope is [checks notes] mithril? Because nothing diminishes its light? So they can saturate every Elf in the light of the Valar? Which somehow translates to them overcoming their impending doom, maybe? It’s all pretty sketchy. But while still pissed off that Gil-galad and Benedict Celebrimbor coerced him into becoming a spy who doesn’t know he’s a spy, Elrond still bites and accepts this Apocalyptic scenario.
Elrond comes clean to Durin III about being an unwitting spy. They take on the task of telling Durin IV about how the world is suddenly ending and their newly found precious metal is conveniently the only thing standing between them and total annihilation. Gil-galad creepily watches them from a distance. +2 points for Durin III bamboozling the Elves to get a new table for his wife.
Entitled brat Isildur, not content with asking his dad to engage in nepotism, asks his friends to bring his ass along in their upcoming Middle-earth trip. This, after he got them kicked out of the Sea Guard, and they had to work their asses off to get their spots back in the boats. They say no.
Kemen, now aware of his asshole dad’s dirty politics, gets on one of the boats to burn it. He discovers desperate Isildur hiding in there, trying to stow away. The two idiots get into a scuffle and accidentally blow up two of the boats. Everybody thinks the explosion was an expertly planned act of rebellion. Lol.
Galadriel and Halbrand talk things out. She recalls what her brother said to her at the beginning of the series. “Sometimes to find the light, we must first touch the darkness.” Halbrand dramatically contemplates on her words.
Orc Daddy is offended by Waldreg because the old fool called him “Sauron.” Theo and Elf Cop share a moment, leading to Theo finally sharing the fact that he’s been carrying around an evil sword thing for half a season. It turns out it’s a key to something in the watchtower that may save or doom them all.
Going back to our pinned items, Bronwyn lifts her foot up and decides that she now wants to bow down to Orc Daddy. This is the only way her people can survive the oncoming Orc onslaught. They must first touch the darkness to find the light.
Miriel ignores her father’s prophecy and proceeds with the Elven escort mission. Halbrand lifts his foot up and decides he’s joining Miriel and Galadriel back to the Southlands after all. He wants to stay away from his past and his people, but he also wants to find peace and light, so he must suck it up and touch the darkness.
Elendil lifts his foot up and decides to bring Isildur along for the boat ride, embracing nepotism and spitting in the collective face of hardworking Númenoreans. Isildur claims to his friends that he earned this. He forgets to mention that he did it by being a buffoon who accidentally blew up two out of five of their boats. Let’s all hope the darkness touches these bozos.
Galadriel ends the episode by boarding a boat in full armor. She looks like a badass motherfucker. She and Halbrand are now on the same page, ready to kick some Sauron ass and touch the hell out of the darkness. +1 point for the epic Bear McCreary music.
Final Score: 3
House of the Dragon Episode 6: The Princess and the Queen
We do another time jump in the series, this one a bit longer. Ten years have passed since the wild wedding banquet in the previous episode. An older Rhaenyra Targaryen, The Princess, opens the episode by giving birth to her third son. She then proceeds to spread her afterbirth juices all over the Red Keep because an older Alicent, The Queen, has asked to see her newborn. Laenor escorts his beard to the queen’s chambers.
Sparks fly immediately as Laenor calls their new baby “Joffrey,” after his late boyfriend, without consulting the baby’s mother first. Alicent lays a sick burn on Laenor by pointing out the fact that none of his three kids look like him. +1 point for the queen’s savagery.
After coughing and falling down a lot in the last episode, Viserys is still alive. Congratulations, Viserys!
Rhaenyra, Laenor and Joffrey return to their quarters where Ser Harwin Strong, Commander of the City Watch, is waiting. The show doesn’t outright say it, but Harwin is apparently Rhaenyra’s children’s baby daddy.
Rhaenyra’s and Alicent’s children (Aegon, Aemond, Jacaerys and Luke) dick around in the Dragonpit. Aemond is bullied by the other three, leading to an argument between Viserys and Alicent. King Coughs-a-lot inadvertently compares his heir and grandchildren to horses. Alicent tells Ser Criston Cole her woes before walking in on Aegon masturbating on a window ledge. +1 point for horny teenagers.
Because the time jump necessitates a soft reset of the story’s chess pieces, the first 20 minutes of the episode is spent reintroducing existing characters and introducing new ones. We now have a firm understanding of the current state of affairs among King’s Landing and its royal medieval modern family. It’s reminiscent of how Game of Thrones kicked off its story with a nice and slow introduction to the members of House Stark before blowing everything up and scattering the wolves to the four winds. +1 point for resetting the board without making it feel tedious.
And then FUCK YEAH DRAGONS! Kissing cousins Daemon and a pregnant Laena, now married with kids, do an air show with their respective dragons, Caraxes and Vhagar. The latter is the biggest big girl dragon of them all. They are guests of ass-kissing Prince Reggio of Pentos. Laena wants to go back to Driftmark, but Daemon seems to be content just reading his books and staying out of the limelight. +1 point for self-love.
Viserys relishes the good times being had by all. The good times immediately stop as Ser Criston, who called Rhaenyra a cunt earlier in the episode, continues being a piece of shit by messing with the Targaryen kids’ sword training. It looks like he has gone full toxic male after being rejected by Rhaenyra 10 fucking years ago. Ser Harwin goes, “not cool, bro.” Criston pushes Harwin’s children-shaped buttons. Harwin snaps and beats the crap out of Ser Criston Butthurt. +3 points for that cathartic moment.
With Harwin being in the hot seat after he laid the smack down on Criston, rumors about his relations with Princess Political Headache Rhaenyra Targaryen are now running wilder than ever. Rhaenyra reminds Laenor that a storm is coming. He reminds her that a wise sailor flees the storm as it gathers.
King Viserys and his small council have a meeting about trouble brewing again in the Narrow Sea. It probably should have just been an email. As Queen Alicent calls to adjourn, Princess Rhaenyra calls for peace and reconciliation between them and their whole fucked up modern family.
The princess and the queen were once the closest of friends, so the freezing cold manner of Alicent shrugging off Rhaenyra’s proposal is both heartbreaking and breathtaking. +1 point for Viserys constantly thinking that things are about to get better and consistently being let down.
Lyonel Strong tries to resign as Hand of the King because of honor, I guess. During this resignation, Alicent finds an opening to dig up some dirt on Lyonel’s son, Harwin, and Rhaenyra. Lyonel is smart enough to sidestep this inquisition to protect Harwin, himself and their strong name. He is denied the resignation, but he is allowed to take Harwin back home to Harrenhal. Too bad his other son, Larys, is scum of the earth.
Larys, seeking to gain favor with the queen, hires murderers and deviants to do wicked things. I thought he would be the show’s version of Littlefinger, but it looks like he’s more of a Ramsay Bolton. +2 points for characters we love to hate.
Laena goes into labor, but it looks like she and the baby won’t survive. She begs Vhagar several times to dracarys her away, for some reason. Biggest big girl hesitates but eventually indulges the plea for immolation. Daemon watches in heartbreak and horror. -3 points for not being clear on why Laena would commit suicide by way of dragon fire.
It’s worth noting that in contrast to his brother, Viserys, choosing to cut up his wife to save their newborn back in the first episode, Daemon doesn’t make that decision here when the male midwife (midhusband?) presented him with the dreadful option. This is far from the casual wife-murdering Daemon we saw in the previous episode. +1 point for complex characters.
Rhaenyra tells Laenor that they are fleeing the proverbial storm, and he can bring his boyfriend along. They retreat to Dragonstone.
Larys’ hired goons barbecue his father and brother alive at Harrenhal. He reveals this to the queen, who is in shock initially. But she slowly gets comfortable with the fact that the psycho in front of her smelling flowers just murdered his own family for her. Alicent has now aligned herself with shitstains Criston and Larys, and she seems okay with it. Uh-oh.
Final Score: 8
With the final scores being HOTD: 8, TROP: 3, HOTD absolutely destroys TROP this week. Even with HOTD’s time jump and resetting of the board, it still offers more complex, fully formed characters with complicated motivations and relationships than TROP. We would need more than cool sword fights and vague Sauron-based threats to make us care about your characters and your show, TROP.
We’ll see you again next week, fantasy fans!
Art Macky Arquilla