Welcome to House of the Dragon MVP, our series highlighting each episode’s Most Valuable Player in the game before the Game of Thrones.
The multi-year time jump between episodes two and three of House of the Dragon sees great changes come to the main players of House Targaryen — except for one. While King Viserys grew more useless, Queen Alicent colder, and Princess Rhaenyra more bitter, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) remained the exact same petty, morally bankrupt, violent rogue he’s always been. And it’s those exact traits that earn him this week’s House of the Dragon MVP.
Episode Three, titled “Second of His Name,” is split between two narratives. The first takes place in the familiar locations of King’s Landing and the Kingswood, as the nobles of Westeros celebrate the second birthday of Queen Alicent’s son Aegon. Otto Hightower’s desperation for King Viserys to crown Aegon the heir to the throne is increasingly obvious and Rhaenyra’s dissatisfaction with being allegedly passed over for her baby half-brother is palpable, but the kingly politics don’t offer much in the way of huge wins or losses. Not an MVP in sight.
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The second narrative is Prince Daemon and Corlys Velaryon’s war in the Stepstones, which at the beginning of the episode is not looking great. Despite rocking up on a dragon in the early days of the war, Daemon looks like a chump when the Crabfeeder prince hides his men away in a cave to avoid the dragonfire… and stays in there for literal years.
This stalemate makes Daemon and Corlys look weak and drains their resources to the point of surrender. That surrender is not an option. The entire point of this war was to prove that Daemon and Corlys don’t need King Viserys to wield power and carve out a kingdom for themselves. Failing to do so is acknowledging that all these rogue lords have they owe to the king.
Ergo, when Viserys sends word that he’s going to help Daemon finish up his cute little baby war (this is paraphrased), Daemon loses his mind. Against all aphoristic wisdom he beats up the messenger of Viserys’ kindly intended but totally condescending missive and launches into what looks a lot like a suicide mission to take down the Crabfeeder once and for all.
Enter the final battle for the Stepstones, aka Prince Daemon lying his ass off to set up a dragon-sized trap for an entire army. It’s a masterpiece of boneheaded ideas that add up to a massive battle which somehow, somehow winds up in Daemon’s favor.
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It’s worth it to note that up until this point, Prince Daemon’s legendary prowess with a sword has been more often talked about than shown. His only melee combat shown in House of the Dragon this far was his losing duel with Criston Cole, which didn’t look amazing for him (but says a lot about how dang good Ser Criston is). Any arguments that Daemon’s bark is worse than his bite should be put to rest after this battle, wherein he kicks things off with a false surrender, drops the act, and takes on an entire army complete with archers on the high ground with nothing but his Valyrian steel balls — uh, sword. His Valyrian steel sword.
Earlier in the episode, this plan was described by Corlys’ brother Vaemond as only possible if led by a madman. Daemon is that madman. Once he’s lured the entire army out onto the beach, Corlys shows up with the rest of his army and an unexpected assist comes from the sky from Corlys’ son Laenor on his dragon Seasmoke.
After that it is, as the maesters say, over for you hoes. Daemon takes out the Crabfeeder offscreen and the war is officially won without one iota of help from King Viserys. His slightly vacant, thousand-yard stare that ends the episode speaks volumes for what the moment means to his character. He has proven himself worthy, sure, but he’s also unleashed something horrifying, desperate, and hungry from within himself. Is it madness or pride? Confidence or cruelty? One thing is for certain — Prince Daemon is a Targaryen who doesn’t need a dragon to go scorched earth.
New House of the Dragon episodes are available every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.(opens in a new tab)