Episode 3 finally delivered to House of the Dragon the last ingredient in the story recipe that made Game of Thrones so great. The spin-off prequel series has included dragons, political intrigue and drama, strange diseases, and lots of weirdly spelled names. Until the latest installment, only one element was missing: battles.
House of the Dragon takes place in a time of relative peace, but only officially. While King Viserys is celebrating his son’s 2nd birthday, his brother, Daemon, is fighting like hell in the Stepstones, trying to defeat the dreaded Crabfeeder. Episode 3’s last act follows Daemon as he feigns a surrender, only to ambush the triarchy’s soldiers and ultimately win the day (with a little help from Laenor Velaryon and his dragon.)
Somehow, Daemon survives, which many a viewer may have rolled their eyes at as a particularly egregious example of “plot armor.” But one Redditor suggests the narrative choice isn’t actually unrealistic. According to Redditor Slight_Giraffe628, Daemon’s survival against a horde of fighters and archers isn’t just inflated “plot armor” for the sake of keeping Daemon alive. The author of the post claims to be in the military and says that 20 archers from 300 meters away wouldn’t have a prayer of hitting a target, especially a moving one.
There’s no easy way to assess the validity of the military claim, but it does add some context to Daemon’s survival. Targaryens are a hardy people who can survive a lot (mainly fire) but a hail of arrows may be a step too far. If there was little to no chance of being hit, then it’s a bit more understandable.
Perhaps the reason the archers in House of the Dragon seem so inept is because they’re the first ones with from this fictional world to demonstrate a realistic skill level? Game of Thrones never shied away from establishing high standards for archers. In Season 1, Theon Greyjoy hit a Wildling who was holding a knife to Bran’s throat. Later, in Season 6, Ramsay Bolton famously managed to shoot Rickon Stark from a huge distance with all of four arrows.
However, this still doesn’t explain away the other “plot armor” question in the episode. The Crabfeeder’s forces appear to attack Daemon in manageable clumps, which means he is never overwhelmed. If they all attacked at once, the outcome of the episode could have been very different.
Arguing about the believability of House of the Dragon may seem pointless — after all, this battle is won with a dragon — but understanding the real-world elements of the combat is important when we look at this show as what it truly is: a fictional historical drama with a fantasy twist.
House of the Dragon is now streaming on HBO Max.