House of the Dragon made its biggest Season 1 time jump yet in its sixth episode, "The Princess and The Queen." The show fast forwarded 10 years into the future where the strain between former best friends Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent (now played by Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke, respectively) reached an all-time high.
The episode opened with Rhaenyra giving birth to a third child, another son who, like his two older brothers, looked nothing like their father, Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan). To check his appearance, a suspicious Alicent summoned for the baby before they could even cut his umbilical cord, forcing Rhaenyra to stagger through the Red Keep while trailing blood.
The scene not only introduced viewers to the two older actors in the roles, but it set up a massive divide between them. As fans may recall, that divide began a decade prior after Alicent stood up for Rhaenyra, only to learn the princess had lied to her about her virginity. Viserys (Paddy Considine) fired Alicent's father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifan), as Hand of the King as a result.
In "The Princess and The Queen," Alicent was done watching her former friend bend every royal rule that she herself had been forced to follow when marrying the King. Despite the Queen's attempts to convince her husband that Rhaenyra's children were fathered by Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), Viserys refused to acknowledge the truth and thus further fueled the fire between the two most important women in his life.
"He's the king, and so he is the patriarchal emblem of the world that we live in," Cooke tells Metacritic. "It's not out of malice. It's out of, that's the way things are done, and carelessness and thoughtlessness."
D'Arcy adds how Viserys' ignorance is actually the thing that continues to divide, as both women fear for their children's lives following the King's eventual death. With the kingdom divided on his decision to name Rhaenyra — a woman — his heir, both mothers imagine assassins coming after their next of kin. In the episode, that continually pitted both families against each other.
"His inability to communicate continues," D'Arcy says. "It's almost about allyship: you can give someone this mantle of power, but then you have to know that all the systems that mantle exists within are going to be working in opposition."
"That requires ongoing support and work to genuinely enable that change. Inevitably that support doesn't happen. A world has to learn how to change as well as just wanting to," they continue.
According to Considine, Viserys may be incapable of providing that support. For six weeks now viewers have watched the character slowly transform through hair and makeup. The aged version of Viserys is a representation of all the strain the throne has put on him over the years, from the metaphorical weight of it all to the bodily Swiss-cheese punctures the actual throne has provided.
"He goes on a massive transformation both physically and personally," Considine explains. "That was one of the joys of playing him. He is a very beautiful, or very tragic figure. It's sad, because he's a good man, and the world corrupts him."
Viserys wasn't the only one corrupted in this latest episode. Rhaenyra's one-time lover, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) was previously scorned by the Princess and had grown to become Alicent's partner in bringing the heir down. Meanwhile, the episode revealed another unexpected alliance — the one between Alicent and Harwin Strong's younger brother, Larys Strong (Matthew Needham). That relationship began in Episode 5 and continued as Larys established himself as the new Littlefinger.
In the final few scenes of Episode 6, as Rhaenyra and Laenor left the Red Keep to go live in Dragonstone, Larys proved his loyalty to Alicent and her son by having men set fire to Harrenhal, where his brother and father — current Hand of The King Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes) — were burned to a crisp.
With their fiery deaths, Larys opened the door for Alicent's father to potentially return next week, putting her in his dangerous debt as the show continues.
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and also streams on HBO Max.