“House of the Dragon” (Episode 4: “King of the Narrow Sea”)

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Episode 4 of House of the Dragon.

Rhaenyra continues her search for a suitable match, Daemon returns to Kings Landing and stirs more trouble for the King. Rhaenyra learns a valuable lesson. -Synopsis from HBO

Are y’all ready for a new dating/reality show- The Bachelorette: Westerosi Edition? Warning: It will get bloody! Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) is on her “tour” (to find the husband of her choice, as her father decided in E3) w/ her loyal Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) by her side. We meet her at a castle, Storm’s End, the home of Lord Boremund Baratheon (an ancestor of King Robert from GoT). In the throne room, there is a long line of suitors (noblemen from ALL over the region) waiting to speak to the princess, as well as some onlookers. Rhaenyra looks bored/slightly annoyed; she fiddles w/ her Valyrian steel necklace (a gift from her uncle). An elderly man (Lord Dondarrion of Blackhaven) talks of his lands, home, and being honored by a visit from her grandmother/the queen (MANY yrs ago). FYI: Ser Criston is the son of the steward of Blackhaven.

Jerrel Bracken [to Lord Blackwood]: Protection? The Princess has a dragon, you dumb c*nt.

Rhaenyra [quietly w/ amusement]: I could learn to like that one.

Next, we see a young man (Jerrel Bracken) taunt a teen boy (Willem Blackwood), as the boy presents his case to Rhaenyra. At first, the princess looks amused. which makes the onlookers laugh. Then, the mood turns tense/ugly and swords come out. Rhaenyra decides to cut the interviews short; she and her entourage of royal guards start to walk out. Behind their shoulders, Willem and Jarrel fight, until (surprisingly) the older/stronger Bracken lies sputtering blood from a wound to the belly! WTH is the meaning to this, you may wonder!? Well, as Princess Rhaenys told us (E1), the young men of this society haven’t had a real war to fight in yrs. They’ve mostly fought in tourneys; of course, those could turn deadly. As one astute YT commentator noted, this also reveals Rhaenyra’s character/potential as a queen; she encourages the insults and doesn’t call off the fighting (Boremund does so).

On the trip back to King’s Landing, the boat Rhaenyra is on gets a bump from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) atop his dragon (Caraxes). Luckily, the princess is NOT hurt, though Ser Criston is V concerned. One critic said this is was Daemon’s way of flirting- LOL! At court, Prince Daemon struts in wearing a handmade crown (made of bones); Ser Harold Westerling (Graham McTavish) keeps him from coming too close to the throne. Daemon offers King Viserys (Paddy Considine) the Crabfeeder’s hammer, saying to “add it to the pile.” After defeating the Triarchy, Daemon (now w/ short hair) was dubbed “King of the Narrow Sea.” Then, he humbly declares that there is ONLY one true king and kneels before his older brother. The tension is the court is eased when the king and prince embrace! Rhaenyra has been watching w/ interest from the back of the room.

Daemon [to Rhaenyra]: You cannot live your life in fear, or you will forsake the best parts of it.

Viserys is quick to welcome Daemon into the family’s fold; he jokes/laughs at the small garden party they have in the prince’s honor. Look carefully and you’ll see lemon cakes (Sansa’s fave food on GoT) on a table! When Rhaenyra is left out, Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) goes over to her; they have a talk about how their lives have turned out. Alicent is already a mother of 2; she feels lonely/restricted in her role as queen. Rhaenyra regrets the fact that she must marry and have children; after all, her mother died in childbirth.

Rhaenyra: Their wants are of no consequences.

Daemon: They’re of great consequence if you expect to rule then one day.

Afterwards, Daemon tells Rhaenyra she has “matured” these past 4 yrs. They last saw each other when she retrieved the stolen dragon’s egg from Dragonstone. It also confirms a short amount of time (about a year) passed btwn E3 and E4. Notice how he relaxes around her, then offers her his cup of wine to drink (treating her as an equal- as some viewers commented). Rhaenyra says that she wants to live a life of “solitude.” Daemon explains that she can marry, BUT find pleasure outside of that relationship. Their (long) dialogue is spoken in High Valyrian; I thought the actors had great tension/chemistry here!

Later that night, Rhaenyra covers her hair w/ a cap, dresses in rags, and leaves her room (via a hidden passage). The princess experiences the sights/sounds of Fleabottom; her uncle is the guide (of course). There is a fire breather, sellers w/ a variety of goods, and couples kissing in dark corners. One man walks on a tightrope above the crowd; the director (Claire Kilner) commented that “this perhaps best reflects the precarious life of girls.” They stop to watch a “mummer’s farce” (street theater); the actors wear gawdy costumes/wigs and make fun of the royals. Rhaenyra is surprised to learn that these common folk aren’t happy re: her being heir. When she retorts “I don’t care,” Daemon replies that she’ll have to care about these people IF she hopes to rule one day! Some viewers thought that Daemon was trying to make Rhaenyra feel “insecure,” so she’d “depend on his judgement.” I thought that this was also a clever way to get the (sheltered) princess to see how she is viewed outside court.

Next, we have several scenes that the internet was abuzz about! I liked the way that the tense/moody/romantic scenes were directed; we get to see two young women’s POV. Ser Criston takes a long look at his white cloak (representing the chaste life of a Kingsguard), some viewers noted. Scenes of Rhaenyra enjoying her night of freedom were intercut w/ (less than exciting) scenes w/ Alicent. Why do you think Daemon stopped himself in the pleasure house? Did you like the (playful/light-hearted) scenes btwn Rhaenyra and Ser Criston, or did you think their brief romance was a bad idea?

Viserys: Daemon and Rhaenyra share the blood of the dragon, They are restless and chaotic.

It turns out that spies (or “little birds” as Lord Varys used to saw on GoT) are everywhere to get dirt on the royals! The little peasant boy who saw Rhaenyra out on the street comes w/ a note for Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). In the early morning, he goes to see the king w/ the reports of Daemon and Rhaenyra “coupling” (and wow- is it awkward)! The king is (obviously) angered by this; he doesn’t want to believe that his brother could put his daughter in such a precarious position. Alicent overhears what her father said; she also doesn’t want to think badly of her former best friend. When she summons Rhaenyra to the garden for a talk, the princess lies (w/ conviction) to Alicent! Well, teens can rebel, cause their elders headaches/heartaches, and NOT realize the consequences of their actions.

Later, in the throne room, Viserys berates and kicks Daemon, as he lies dirty/tired/hungover on the floor. The king wonders who’ll marry Rhaenyra, now that there are rumors she’s NOT a virgin. Daemon (showing his audacity- yet again), asks for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage! The king throws him out of the castle- yet again. This was my fave scene in this ep! Smith and Considine are a great acting pair; they’re V good at portraying the conflict btwn brothers. We learned that Daemon’s former mistress, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) AKA The White Worm, is no longer a “common whore.” She has been working for 2 yrs (since their break-up, we assume) as a spy; that little boy was working for her. Some asture viewers said maybe Daemon wanted to get caught in a compromising position.

That night, the king and his daughter have a serious talk; she has been his “political headache” for some time. When Rhaenyra holds the Valyrian steel dagger (part of her legacy) in fire, inscribed words are revealed: “From my blood come the Prince That Was Promised, and his will be the song of ice and fire.” Rhaenyra points out the hypocrisy of this society; a nobleman can sleep w/ whoever he choses. Viserys tells her that she’s NOT man, so she’s held to different standards. He also tells her the importance of being his heir; she can’t just seek out pleasure whenever she wants! Rhaenyra MUST marry a nobleman and birth her own heirs (which will strengthen her claim to the Iron Throne). She agrees to do what her father wants, BUT he needs to get rid of The Hand- Otto!

Later that same night, Otto and Viserys meet in the Small Council room; there is tension and a sense of foreboding. This is one of the (rare) times where the camera is positioned above/to the side of Otto’s head, putting him in a subservient position. Viserys confronts his friend/associate re: (alleged) wrongs he has done. Though he handles himself w/ dignity, Otto looks hurt and (slightly) shaken by being fired. This is also a fine scene w/ two veteran character actors who know their stuff!

There is a BIT of mystery in the final scene of the ep; we don’t see Rhaenyra drinking the “moon tea” (or Plan B: Westeros version) brought in by Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitz). The tea was prepared carefully by himself; it was ordered by her father. So, Viserys didn’t believe that Rhaenyra was a virgin after all! Don’t forget to watch the Inside the Episode; you’ll learn a LOT more re: this story! Did you agree w/ the analysis of the cast/crew?

“House of the Dragon” (Episode 3: “Second of His Name”)

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Episode 3 of House of the Dragon.

Daemon and the Sea Snake battle the Crabfeeder. The realm celebrates Aegon’s second nameday. Rhaenyra faces the prospect of marriage.

There is a time jump of about 3 yrs from E2. We start w/ dark humor from the war in the Stepstones; a soldier captured by the Crabfeeder, hoping for salvation from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), is crushed under the foot of his big/red/long-necked dragon, Caraxes. This fight isn’t about the “common-born,” it’s ALL about Daemon (who seeks glory for himself). He was exiled from court in E2; he and soldiers loyal to him have been trying to get control of these islands for 3 yrs. The Small Council debates sending some men to back-up the prince.

Princess Rhaenyra [to her father when they arrive at the camp site]: No one’s here for me.

Then it’s time to have a (hunting) party, thanks to your host- Lord Jason Lannister (Jefferson Hall- note that his name is in the opening credits). Hall also plays Ser Tyland Lannister (Jason’s twin w/ shorter hair), who is the Master of Ships, after Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) quit by storming out of the Small Council meeting in E2. Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) aren’t close friends anymore, as we see in the garden scene. (When Rhaenyra told the minstrel, Samwell, to repeat his song, I was reminded of the “play it again, Sam” line from Casablanca.) The nobles are excited to celebrate the 2nd b-day of Prince Aegon; he’s the blonde/healthy son born to King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his young wife. Alicent is now (heavily) pregnant w/ their 2nd child.

Lord Hobert Hightower: Hail, hail Aegon the Conqueror-Babe, Second of His Name! Here’s to His Grace on his second name day!

George R.R. Martin regretted that there wasn’t enough money to have a royal hunt in S1 of GoT; he is V happy w/ this ep. We see the grandeur of the nobles, there are MANY extras present, and (of course) there is the beauty of nature. Rhaenyra is feeling left out and perhaps acting like a typical teen girl, which frustrates her father (who wants some pleasant/outdoors/family time). Rhaenyra can’t even keep from sniping at the noble ladies when she comes into their circle. Here w/ the ladies, we also have Larys Strong (Matthew Needham- also listed in the opening credits); he’s the 2nd son of Lord Harwin Strong (Gavin Spokes) and has a clubfoot. As he can’t go out sporting w/ the men, Larys can soak up ALL the hot gossip from the ladies.

Lord Jason Lannister: I’d do anything for my queen… or lady wife.

Lord Jason tries to run his game on Rhaenyra, offering her “honey wine” (from Lannisport), then declaring that Casterly Rock (his home) is large enough for a dragon pit. His style of speech/prideful manner MAY remind some viewers of the wealthy/entitled men in Austen’s books (who feel that every single lady should find them a catch). For a moment, Rhaenyra is confused, BUT then realizes that he’s talking marriage! Ser Otto stops her and her father from having a shouting match inside the royal tent, in full view of MANY guests/servants. The princess is pissed off and rides off on her horse, w/ her loyal protector Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) following close behind.

King Viserys Targaryen [to Otto]: I came here to hunt. Not to be suffocated by all this f*****g politicking!

It’s obvious that MOST of the nobles expect the king to name Aegon as his heir, surpassing his daughter. Viserys thinks it’s high time that Rhaenyra was married; he has been “besieged” w/ proposals from ALL over Westeros recently. In the past, she’d shown no interest in marrying or having children, BUT (as heir to the Iron Throne) she’ll have responsibilities. As he stands by a huge bonfire, Viserys (who had been drinking heavily ALL day) wonders IF he made the right decision; Alicent gently tells him it’s late (so he should rest).

Out in the woods, Rhaenyra and Criston get some time to walk and chat; she asks him re: his life (before he became a knight). Later that evening, she still doesn’t want to go back to the camp, so they relax (he w/o armor on) around a fire; a boar suddenly attacks and knocks out Criston! The boar then runs toward Rhaenyra, who fights him off, before Criston stabs it. Then, Rhaenyra rises up and unleashes her rage/resentment upon the animal MANY times w/ her knife.

The king takes his new/decorative spear (a gift from Lord Jason) and kills a large/brown stag, which was captured/held by few nobles. It takes him 2 tries, as Viserys is hungover and weak; this is yet another (pathetic) scene where we see that he’s NOT cut out for his role. Now, this animal isn’t the “white hart” that Otto explained was a good omen to see on one’s b-day. That white stag comes along Rhaenyra’s path, BUT she stops Criston from killing it (showing her mercy/character). When she struts back to camp (messy/bloodied) w/ the boar dragging behind her, there is at one man- Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr)- who gives her a wicked smile/looks impressed. Back at home in King’s Landing, the king tells Rhaenyra that she MUST marry, BUT the man can be her choice!

The last 10 mins. of the ep is an (incredible) fight on a beach btwn Daemon and a slew of Triarchy warriors lead by the Crabfeeder. Daemon pretends that he is ready to surrender, waving a white flag, and offering up his sword. (I was surprised/confused for a few moments.) Of course, this is the type of man (Targaryen) who will NOT give up easily! Daemon fights w/ and kills MANY men, then (finally) defeats the Crabfeeder himself (who didn’t have any dialogue/was killed offscreen in the cave). A LOT of viewers loved this segment, BUT a few thought that it was unrealistic. The prince emerges w/ the torso of his dead enemy, hair a mess of tangles, and covered head-to-toe in blood- wow!

“House of the Dragon” (Episode 2: “The Rogue Prince”)

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this post if you haven’t seen, or don’t want to know, details from Episode 2 of House of the Dragon.

Rhaenyra oversteps at the Small Council. Viserys is urged to secure the succession through marriage. Daemon announces his intentions. -Synopsis from HBO

The events of this ep (which involves diplomacy and matchmaking) take place 6 mos. after the pilot ep. Surprisingly, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), is still the royal cupbearer (though she was officially made the heir to the king). Wow, can y’all believe it- a death in this world from old age!? The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Ryam Redwyne, recently passed away peacefully in his sleep. Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) bursts into the Small Council w/ news of his recent losses at the hands of the Triarchy. This is a group under the leadership of the Crabfeeder, who lets crabs feed upon the flesh of his victims (yikes)! When Rhaenyra offers her opinion on the matter, she’s quickly shut down by the Hand, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans).

Rhaenyra is sent off to help choose a new member of the Kingsguard; this knight will be protecting her also. Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) starts presenting the handful of candidates to her. Rhaenyra learns that ONLY one of these knights has experience in battle- Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). When she chooses him, Otto pulls her aside and explains that the other knights come from important houses (so it’d be politically advantageous to pick one of them). Rhaenyra sticks to her decision, as she wants the best fighter to protect her father. I never considered that choosing a bodyguard could be political; I don’t think I’d last a day in King’s Landing- LOL!

In the sept, we have a touching/emotional scene btwn Alicent (Emily Carey), who seems to be more religious, and Rhaenyra (unsure of how to pray). Rhaenyra and her father have NOT been communicating much lately. Both girls are missing their mothers; Rhaenyra even cries a BIT. They kneel before a statue and light votive candles. This statue is The Mother, who represents one aspect of in the Faith of the Seven. Of course, Rhaenyra has NO idea that Alicent and her father have been meeting and growing closer.

Corlys: To elude a storm, you can either sail into it or around it. But you must never await its coming.

King Viserys (Paddy Considine) meets w/ Corlys and Rhaenys (Eve Best) in the royal garden; they propose that the he marry their daughter, Laena. Toussaint and Best have great chemistry; you can believe that these characters been married a long time. When the king discusses this w/ Ser Otto and Maester Mellos, they exchange some (scheming) looks. Otto’s comments reveal that the king should take more time to grieve. Notice that one of Viserys’ pinky fingers is infected; he puts his hand into a bowl filled w/ maggots- yuck! Later that night, Viserys meets w/ Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), in the Small Council chamber re: his remarriage. Strong thinks that his marrying Laena (though she is V young) is a good idea.

Rhaenys: Here is the hard truth, which no one else has the heart to tell you. Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.

We have perhaps the MOST cringe-worthy scene (of this show) when Viserys takes a walk w/ Laena (12 y.o.) in the garden. He’s NOT comfortable w/ this at all. Being a kid, Laena’s interested in dragons. FYI: Viserys was a dragon rider; he was the last Targaryen to ride Balerion (AKA The Black Dread). Balerion (who died of old age after living 200 yrs) was ridden by Aegon The Conqueror during the Targaryen conquest of Westeros. In a balcony high above the garden, Rhaenyra and Rhaenys have a serious convo re: women and leadership. Y’all, it’s TOO real (though this is fantasy show)!

Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) sends a letter to the king, saying that he’s getting married and going to have a child. We also learn from one of the keepers that Daemon snuck into the dragon pits and stole an egg- wow! Now, this was the same dragon egg that lay in the cradle of Viserys’ dead baby son. Viserys declares that he will face Daemon and get that egg back, BUT Otto stops him (saying it’s TOO dangerous). Daemon was banished by Viserys from court in the 1st ep; he has taken over Dragonstone (protected by 2,000 men formerly of the City Watch). Instead of going back to his wife, he’s living w/ his foreign-born mistress, Mysaria (Sonoyo Mizuno).

Otto (wearing armor), Ser Criston, and a group of soldiers travel by ship to Dragonstone; they face Daemon and his Gold Cloaks on a high bridge near the castle. Suddenly, Rhaenyra flies up on her dragon (Syrax), and gracefully lands on the bridge behind her father’s men! Otto is stunned for a moment, then tells Ser Criston to take her to safety. Rhaenyra is NOT deterred; she talks to Daemon (in High Valerian). She dares him to kill her now, BUT (of course) he wouldn’t hurt his niece. Daemon tosses the dragon egg back to Rhaenyra, like it’s NO big deal- LOL! Rhaenyra can get stuff done, though she is young/impulsive!

Inside the castle, in the same room where Stannis and Melisandre plotted on GoT, we get a look into Daemon’s relationship w/ Mysaria. I’m NOT a fan of the (odd) accent chosen for Mysaria; it sounds like a mix of Chinese and French (to my ears). Some other viewers said it sounded Jamaican and French. Mysaria has a sense of mystery about her; I loved her dress/cape here. The wedding and baby were made-up by Daemon; he wants his brother’s attention and love! Mysaria is (obviously) angry, as his lies could put her life in danger. She doesn’t come from privilege like him; she was taken from her homeland and bought/sold many times. Also, Mysaria made sure that she can’t get pregnant (as Daemon assumed would eventually happen).

Back in King’s Landing, Viserys gathers his Small Council and takes a few moments to ready himself for his big decision. Aside from the usual men and Rhaenyra, we see that Alicent is also present. The king announces that he will marry… Alicent! Otto looks pleased beyond words; he’d urged his daughter to spend time w/ the king. Corlys is shocked/angry; he protests and then storms out of the room. Rhaenyra has a V hurt expression on her face, while Alicent looks apologetic. Before Viserys can say anything to her, Rhaenyra nearly runs out of the room, too.

Corlys: If those shipping lanes fall, my house will be crippled. And I will not have Driftmark beggared while our King idles himself with feasts, and balls, and tourneys.

Daemon: I will speak of my brother as I wish. You will not.

I liked how the tension/mystery was built up in the scene btwn Corlys and Daemon. They meet in Corlys’ castle (Driftmark) and discuss going to fight in the Stepstones; by going around the king, this would be called treasonous! When Corlys insults Viserys, Daemon shuts him down (as he’s the ONLY one who can cut down his brother). Yeah, he’s a fascinating guy!

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Episodes 1 & 2)

Epic drama set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

Episode 1: A Shadow of the Past

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is disturbed by signs of an ancient evil’s return. Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) makes an unsettling discovery. Elrond (Robert Aramayo) is presented with an intriguing new venture. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) breaks a deeply held community rule. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

This show (which started streaming on SEPT 1st on Amazon Prime) is the MOST expensive ever made! Much money was spent on getting the rights to some appendices written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The showrunners (J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay) are relative newcomers to Hollywood; they’re long-time friends (and fans of Tolkien) who grew up in religious households in the DC suburbs. J.A. Bayona is a Spanish film director who made the films: The Orphanage (2007), The Impossible (2012), A Monster Calls (2016), and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He directed the 1st 2 eps of this show. There will be other directors also at the helm of future eps. I’m a BIT of a “late bloomer” when it comes to the fantasy genre. I loved the LOTR movies (which I was re-watched recently) and think The Hobbit trilogy had some good parts, too.

The story starts out w/ a narration of past events, NOT unlike what was heard in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In Middle-Earth, an evil being, Morgoth, was defeated before the current time period (the Second Age). Sauron (briefly seen in that spiky helmet/imposing armor, as in Peter Jackson’s trilogy) is somewhere out there. As most creatures don’t live as long as elves, they’ve come to forget Sauron/his dark magic. As a child, Galadriel looks up to her older brother, Finrod (Will Fletcher). Years later, she is a “commander” leading a group of elves as they hunt for Sauron (after a long war which left MANY elves dead). Galadriel explains that she has searched for hundreds of yrs; those under her command are almost ready to give up. The High King, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), calls Galadriel back from the North; he declares that it’s time for peace. Galadriel tells Elrond (now in role of a “herald”) that she is NOT ready to stop fighting. Elrond cares for Galadriel; they have friendly banter.

We meet several original characters (OCs) who are NOT in Tolkien’s works. The Harfoots (meaning “hard of foot”) are ancient Hobbits; they’re migratory creatures who believe in community and staying out of the concerns of others. Eleanor “Nori” Brandyfoot and her friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) come upon a Stranger (Daniel Weyman). The characters seen in the Southlands are also OCs. A Sylvan elf, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova), and his company of elves have been in this region for MANY yrs. There are several types of elves (as some of you may’ve recalled from LOTR). Legolas is a Sindarin Elf from the Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood. His father, Thranduil, is the King of the Silvan Elves living in that realm, making Legolas the Prince of Mirkwood. Haldir is guard of the borders of Lothlórien and guides the Fellowship while they are in his forest. We also meet a single mom/healer, Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and her teen son, Theo (Tyro Muhafidin). The people of this community are NOT friendly to elves; we will learn why that is so.

This ep was quite slow, which will put off those viewers who were expecting the show to start out w/ a bang. There is one action scene, BUT it happens quickly (and some viewers thought it was unrealistic). I thought that the scenery (S1 was shot in New Zealand), CGI, music, and costumes were interesting. I wasn’t blown away w/ any aspect, BUT will continue to watch. I really hope the dialogue gets a LOT better! Some viewers (active on Twitter, YT, or on podcasts) are discussing who the Stranger could be.

Episode 2: Adrift

Galadriel finds a new ally. Elrond faces a cold reception from an old friend. Nori endeavors to help a Stranger. Arondir searches for answers while Bronwyn warns her people of a threat. -Synopsis from Amazon Prime

Elrond travels to another region (Eregion) and meets w/ Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), a master smith among the High Elves. In the near future, Celebrimbor plans to “create something great,” BUT needs help to build a giant forge. Elrond goes to Khazad-Dun and meets w/ an old friend, Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), thinking that perhaps dwarves can contribute. The music used for the dwarves is really cool! We get to see the kingdom of the dwarves at its height (unlike the ruin that it was in LOTR). We see how the relationship is between elves and dwarves. We learn that Durin’s wife, Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvette), has a bubbly personality. King Durin III (Peter Mullan- a Scottish veteran character actor) appears briefly; I’m curious to know more about him.

The Southlands could be facing a great threat; Arondir goes to check out a nearby town (and Bronwyn joins him). Theo had found a broken weapon under his house, from which comes whispers (maybe Black Speech); he keeps it hidden from his mom. There MAY be other dangers lurking! This ep raises the action; there are 2 action-oriented scenes which MAY be scary for younger audiences.

Galadriel ends up in the middle of the ocean; she had decided NOT to go to Valinor (Heaven for the elves). She comes upon a rickety raft w/ a small group of humans who are dirty, tired, and angry. They’d recently been attacked- we soon see from what exactly. After facing more threats on the water, Galadriel and one man, Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), come out as survivors. They will have to trust and rely on each other now; they face a violent storm! Some viewers think that Halbrand will turn out to be Sauron (in disguise); others think he’ll be like Aragorn (a reluctant hero and future king). Hmmm… keep on watching to find out more!

Spoiler-Free Review: “House of the Dragon” (Episode 1: “The Heirs of the Dragon”)

Lords, ladies, knights, high-born, or common-born- MANY of us were hotly anticipating this (prequel) show to Game of Thrones (GoT)! As many critics/fans/casual viewers commented, GoT was the last “water cooler” show in recent yrs. With almost 10M viewers, this ep was the MOST watched series premiere in HBO’s history; the HBO Max app crashed that SUN night (so I had to wait to see it on the following MON). The ep’s title is taken from the chapter’s name in the book Fire & Blood (by George R. R. Martin) on which the show is based. Are any of y’all book readers (as I’d like to know your opinions also)? This time, David Benioff and Dan Weiss are NOT involved (take a long sigh of relief, if you need)! The showrunners here are an American- Ryan J. Condal (who met w/ Martin 8+ yrs ago; they became pals and collaborators)- and British director Miguel Sapochnik (who worked on some of the highest-rated/most action-packed eps of GoT). There was some breaking news tonight: Sapochnik will NOT return as co-showrunner for S2. Alan Taylor will be taking over; he also worked on GoT.

As w/ GoT, you’ll meet MANY characters, BUT the main conflict arises from the (platinum blonde) individuals who are part of the same (Targaryen) family who lived nearly 200 yrs before Daenerys. Before King Jaeharys died, he held a High Council meeting where a 1,000 lords decided on who should be his successor on the Iron Throne. It came down to one woman, Rhaenys (Eve Best), and her (male) cousin, Viserys. Unsurprisingly, the lords chose Viserys; a woman has never sat on the Iron Throne. Will he be a good (effective) king to his people? Now, in the 9th yr of his reign, King Viserys (Paddy Considine- a British character actor), still doesn’t have a direct male heir (son). He has ONLY one child w/ his loving wife/cousin, Aemma (Sian Brooke), a 14 y.o. daughter named Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock- a newcomer from Australia). She is observant, intelligent, w/ a rebellious streak; some viewers thought of her as a mix of Arya and Daenerys from GoT. She has a dragon that she loves to ride; dragons are a part of this world (much more than in GoT). Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish- a Scottish character actor from The Hobbit and Outlander) is the bodyguard (one of the 7 in the Kingsguard) to Rhaenyra. Lately, the girl is concerned for her mother, as she is close to giving birth.

Rhaenyra’s best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey- the young Diana in Wonder Woman), is red-headed, reserved, and lady-like. Some were reminded of Sansa (in early seasons of GoT) when they watched Alicent. Her father, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans- a Welsh character actor), is the Hand of the King; he keeps things close to the vest. Rhaenyra also has an affinity w/ her uncle/Viserys’ younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith- star of Doctor Who and The Crown). They speak together in High Valyrian (which adds to their closeness); he gives her a necklace made of Valyrian steel (as we saw in one of the promo pics). Daemon (an unabashed rebel of the family) seems to be popular w/ commoners; they call him “The Prince of the City.” He is commander of the City Watch (AKA Gold Cloaks) and the (unofficial) heir to the Iron Throne. (FYI: The throne has a different/more intimidating look than in GoT). We also get to meet the members of the king’s Small Council, which incl. Otto, Daemon (who never attends), Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch), Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Patterson- veteran Scottish character actor recently in Fleabag), and Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) AKA the Sea Snake/Rhaenys’ husband. The Velaryons are an even older family than the Targaryens in Westeros, BUT they don’t ride dragons (they’re known for sailing expertise). Lord Corlys (a Black man in this adaptation) is the richest man in Westeros; he and Rhaenys have the (rare) love marriage.

King Viserys is happy and confident, feeling that Aemma will give birth to a boy V soon! Instead of worrying about potential threats to the kingdom (as Lord Corlys describes), he turns his attention to a grand tourney to celebrate his heir. Lords and ladies from ALL over the realm come to watch knights from various houses/backgrounds joust, conduct business, and share gossip. We see colorful/decorative heraldry (which is something Martin noted was missing from GoT). It looks like each of these knights has a slightly different design to his armor. One of the knights, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel- an actor of French, British, and Indian heritage), wears slightly tarnished armor; he is common-born, BUT a strong fighter. Daemon (also a great fighter) has the MOST fancy/decorative armor (incl. a helmet w/ dragon-shaped wings). Some reviewers (YT; podcasts) compared the fighting to that of Ridley Scott’s recent medieval drama- The Last Duel. I thought the same, through I think this show is more bloody! There probably isn’t much that’ll shock those who followed GoT.

I was V impressed w/ Smith, Daemon already is a compelling presence! I haven’t seen him in many shows/movies yet, BUT plan to check out Doctor Who (he starts out in S5). I loved David Tennant in that role, so have high expectations. Alcock (who is just 22 y.o. now) looks to be a promising actress; I thought she had a good handle on Rhaenyra. I’m curious to see what Ifans will do w/ his role; I’ve seen him in a few movies MANY yrs ago. I loved the music (from Ramin Djawadi) and the general look of the show, esp. the costumes. Now, I’m NOT an expert on visual/special effects, BUT they looked impressive. Do check out this ep for yourself, and let me know your thoughts (in comments below or Twitter- where I’ve been sharing some content)! There are many “Easter eggs” for fans of the previous show, too.