Fire & Blood

The One Original Scene in House of the Dragon Highlights the Show’s Most Frustrating Problem

Should an already shortened season have any time for a filler episode?

Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy in 'House of the Dragon' Season 2, Episode 3

Pacing has always been a bit of an issue for House of the Dragon. The HBO series' first season was riddled with time jumps that, while necessary, resulted in a few jarring instances of recasting and character deaths that threatened to emotionally and dramatically unmoor the Game of Thrones prequel altogether. Fortunately, its debut season's flaws were never severe enough to actually have that negative of an impact on the show.

Despite finally having the freedom to dive into its central conflict, however, House of the Dragon has continued to struggle to find a consistent and satisfying pace throughout its second season. The season's second episode felt a bit too overstuffed for its own good, while its third, titled "The Burning Mill," suffers from a very different problem. It's an episode that frequently feels like it is stalling and killing time, which is the one thing that a show so overflowing with material should never do.

The Scene Invented Just for the Show

Alicent has a brief, face-to-face meeting with her former best friend in House of the Dragon Season 2’s most frustrating episode to date.


In House of the Dragon's latest episode, a civil war in the Riverlands between rival houses like the Brackens and the Blackwoods is briefly introduced while Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) finally begins to mobilize the Greens' standing armies by leading a battalion of men out of King's Landing. Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), meanwhile, takes Harrenhal with disappointing (to him, at least) ease, and then spends the rest of the episode haunted — both figuratively and literally — by his treatment of Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy). The vision that's provided to him by Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin) is startlingly macabre, but it doesn't offer any insight into Daemon's mind that we didn't already have.

Outside of these threads, most of which feel disappointingly slight in their own ways, "The Burning Mill" doesn't have much of substance to offer. It spends its final 10 minutes, in fact, following Rhaenyra as she sneaks into King's Landing to try to secretly parley for peace one last time with her former childhood friend, Alicent (Olivia Cooke). This meeting, notably, doesn't happen in Fire & Blood, the book upon which House of the Dragon is based, and there's a reason for that. It's such an ill-considered plan that it's almost impossible to believe that Rhaenyra would actually do it.

Even more importantly, Rhaenyra already considered suing for peace at the end of House of the Dragon Season 1, and those considerations were understandably ended when her son, Luke, was killed by Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Rhaenyra's meeting with Alicent, therefore, doesn't just repeat a plot beat from House of the Dragon's first season, but it also makes Rhaenyra seem way less intelligent and angry than she should. It's a sequence that appears to exist solely to plant the idea in Alicent's mind that she misinterpreted Viserys' last wishes, which won't seemingly go on to have any tangible effect on House of the Dragon's story, and give D'Arcy and Cooke, the show's de facto leads, at least one scene together this season.

It Was All a Dream

Daemon doesn’t do much in “The Burning Mill” — to both his and viewers’ chagrin.


Additionally, while Daemon's taking of Harrenhal is similarly lackluster in Fire & Blood, he doesn't waste much time once he arrives in the Riverlands. His taking of Harrenhal is, in fact, all that needs to be done for Rhaenyra's supporters in the region to start working to help her gain more of a foothold there.

On its own, House of the Dragon's purposefully anticlimactic treatment of Daemon's arrival in the Riverlands could be forgivable. By putting it in an episode where very little else actually happens and Rhaenyra embarks on a mission that strains the show's own, mercenary logic, it becomes far more frustrating than it might have otherwise. Rhaenyra's trip to King's Landing, in particular, calls to mind the journey beyond the Wall that Jon Snow and co. take in Game of Thrones Season 7.

Both storylines not only do damage to their characters' established intellect, but they also feel like instances of their respective shows stalling until they’re ready to actually hit the more substantial dramatic beats that lie in wait just around the corner. That will only seem truer for last Sunday’s House of the Dragon offering if this week’s forthcoming episode really does prove to be as impactful as many Fire & Blood readers currently suspect.

New episodes of House of the Dragon Season 2 premiere Sunday nights on HBO and Max.

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