House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3 recap: The Burning Mill

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy)
Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) (Image credit: HBO)

This House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3 recap contains spoilers. While Prince Daemon tries to shore up the Black's forces in Harrenhal, Rhaenyra's council urge her to strike the first blow in the Targaryen Civil War. At King's Landing, Alicent is trying to restrain a battle-hungry Aegon, while her stolen meeting with Rhaenyra offers a defining moment that could finally begin the march to war.... 

US viewers wanting to keep up with the epic fantasy series need to be signed up for either HBO or its streaming service Max. HBO can be added to traditional TV packages or live TV streaming services as a premium add-on channel, including YouTube TV. Or you can sign up for Max as a standalone streaming service (though also available as an add-on channel on some platforms).

In the UK, with the show airing on Sky Atlantic, a Sky TV subscription is necessary to watch House of the Dragon. Episodes are also going to be available to stream on-demand on Sky Go and NOW TV.

'The Riverlands are the key to the war'

After smouldering for a few episodes, the first skirmish of the Targaryen Civil War takes place in the Riverlands, with Black and Green sub-factions using the succession dispute as an excuse to settle some festering disagreement. We can expect plenty more of that in the weeks ahead.

In King’s Landing the council gathers to discuss the battle between House Bracken and the Blackwoods, who declared for Rhaenyra. When others doubt whether this counts as the outbreak of war, King Aegon slams his very familiar catspaw dagger on the table, insisting the conflict has begun. With Ser Otto Hightower gone, it’s clear there’s no one left to restrain the King’s base instincts.

However after attracting opprobrium for his rash plan to have Ser Arryk kill Rhaenyra, Ser Cristan Cole is keen to move and says he’ll set off for Harrenhal to secure the loyalty of the Riverlands. Alicent - the only person along with Primnce Aemond, who still has the capacity and courage to disagree with the King — urges him to wait and find more men, but he refuses. 

'Hotter blood has prevailed...' 

At Dragonstone, Princess Rhaenys suggests the attempt on Rhaenyra’s life means that Ser Otto Hightower has lost his grip in King’s Landing and that “hotter blood has prevailed. Young men who wish to punish and avenge, soon they will not even remember what began the war.” Rhaenys has much wisdom, yet her plan to reach out to Alicent is ambitious. Although she would argue that any chance to prevent the war is worth gambling on..

Rhaenyra considers it worth a punt and consults Mysaria, who knows the goings on the Red Keep very well. That knowledge and her hatred of the Hightowers could make her a useful asset for the Greens, and she in turn seems to see the value of having a ruler capable of mercy. Later on Rhaenyra sends her youngest children away to Pentos with Daemon’s youngest daughter, Lady Rhaena. “You have seen what may befall them here,” she tells her niece. “I need you to be a mother to them.”

It’s a hard but necessary thing for Rhaenyra to send her youngest away, but a tougher ask for Rhaena, who must leave her sister behind and travel to the place where her mother, Laena Velaryon, was killed. She will take some dragon eggs with her though as a final insurance policy for the future if the Blacks’ cause is lost. She leaves at sunset, because that’s when everything seems to happen on Dragonstone.  

Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) and Rhaena Targaryen (Phoebe Campbell)

Queen Rhaenyra sends Rhaena to Pentos (Image credit: HBO)

'Sin begets sin, begets sin, begets sin...' 

Meanwhile Prince Daemon arrives at Harrenhal and finds they’ve done little to repair Westeros’ biggest castle since King Aegon the Conqueror and his dragon Balerion burned the place to ashes. Ser Simon Strong quickly submits and pledges himself to Queen Rhaenyra, however Daemon is suspicious, not least because Ser Simon’s Lord, Larys Strong, is now one of King Aegon’s most trusted advisors.

“Larys Clubfoot is no Lord of mine..” says Ser Simon, correctly suggesting he organised the death of his father, Lord Lionel. He’s right when he says a fire in such a damp place seems unlikely to have happened by accident. Yet when we hear there are 40,000 swords in the Riverlands - the largest undeclared force in Westeros - we understand why Daemon is willing to be dripped on, literally and metaphorically.

However with the Brackens and the Blackwoods already fighting and Lord Grover Tully unable to instil discipline in the Riverlands fighting men, it seems many of those 40,000 swords are rather loose. Daemon hopes the presence of a dragon might remind them where their loyalties should lie.

Later on, Daemon dreams of a young Rhaenyra and a decapitated Prince Jaehaerys, suggesting that even the most egotistical among us suffer the ghosts of our conscience. “You will die in this place,” another mysterious figure from his past tells him.

Alicent might be struggling to hold back the dogs of war, but at Dragonstone, Queen Rhaenyra is having the opposite problem. Her council urges her to take decisive action and even go as far as suggesting to head for safety, while they conduct the war in her absence. “It would be treason,” she says, firmly putting them back in their box. Later on Lady Rhaenys discusses succession with her husband Lord Corlys. Will he choose Rhaena or the six year-old Joffrey as heir to Driftmark? 

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Ser Gwayne Hightower (Freddie Fox)

Alicent and Ser Gwayne Hightower meet Ser Cristan Cole (Image credit: HBO)

'Master of Whisperers...' 

At King’s Landing, Ser Cristan prepares to set off for Harrenhal with Alicent’s brother, Ser Gwayne Hightower. The newcomer is greatly displeased by his father’s unseating as Hand of the King, especially by a knight from such ‘modest beginnings’. It’s great to see Freddie Fox, who’s played posh people in everything from Agatha Christie to The Gentlemen, bringing his talents as an entitled aristocrat into the fantasy world.

Gwayne’s feud with Ser Cristan is one to keep an eye on, while the brooding resentment between Alicent and Cristan continues to grow. They’ve not reached the ick stage yet, but it might only be a matter of time. So much of Alicent’s bottled up fury with Cristan comes from the night young Jaehaerys died. However in a powerful scene, Helaena looks deep in her mother’s eyes and forgives her. If that doesn't assuage the pain in Alicent’s heart, then nothing will.

Meanwhile, King Aegon is preparing to ride Sunfyre in support of Ser Cristan, when Ser Larys Strong enters and persuades him of his folly. “I’m as fierce as any of them!” he told the council at the start of the episode. Yet with the pain of his son’s death still fresh in his mind, his already questionable judgement is further impaired. He’s not the only man yearning for decisive action though. Larys explains that tales of Aegon’s pliability are spreading and is appointed Master of Whisperers. It’s a good appointment, we think.

Instead of flying to war, Aegon heads to a brothel, where he stumbles in on his little brother Aemond curled up in bed with the woman who took his virginity. Aegon mocks his little brother, which could be a dangerous move, as Aemond seems like a terrifying and deadly enemy who’s capable of anything. His stare sends shivers down the spine.

Across the bar, we meet Ulf White, who claims to be the grandson of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator, Viserys’ predecessor. That’s the second time Jaehaerys (who's had the longest rule of any Targaryen King so far) has been mentioned in this episode. Anyway, Ulf is the son of Baelon the Brave, bastard brother of Daemon and Viserys, and uncle to Rhaenyra. In King’s Landing, that makes him quite vulnerable. 

'The Prince that was promised...'

On the way to Harrenhal, Ser Gwayne Hightower makes an ill-advised detour to the pub and is spotted by Lady Baela and Moondancer. Ser Cristan saves the day by leading them into the woods, which might take Ser Gwayne down a peg or two. “I am in your debt,” he tells The Hand.

At Dragonstone, more pressure comes upon Rhaenyra to loose her dragons against Ser Cristan, yet after finally reading the letter Alicent sent her, expressing remorse for Lucerys’ death, she decides to reach out to her childhood friend.

Mysaria helps Rhaenyra sneak into King’s Landing on a fishing vessel, where she meets Alicent while she is alone at prayer. At their stolen meeting, Rhaenyra pleads with Alicent to help her uncover a path towards peace, yet it seems the Dowager Queen is unwilling. We’re not sure she could stop the wheels of war turning even if she did want to.

“Your father changed his mind,” says Alicent of the night Viserys died, yet when she explains what Viserys said about “Aegon being the Prince that was promised”, Rhaenyra reveals that he was discussing The Song of Ice and Fire, a prophecy passed down since Aegon the Conqueror about the coming of the White Walkers. It’s the defining moment of the episode and maybe the series, as realisation finally dawns upon Alicent that she was mistaken about Viserys naming her son and that thousands of people will now die because of that error.

Knowing there’s nothing she can do about it, she maintains there was no mistake, but this revelation will surely light a fire of righteous validation underneath Rhaenyra. Her father did want her to be Queen. 

House of the Dragon season 2 continues on HBO on Sunday, July 7 in the US and on Sky Atlantic and NOW on Monday, July 8 in the UK. Each new episode will air at the same time weekly. You may already have HBO as part of your cable plan but if not, several live TV streaming services offer it as add-on packages. Sling TV, DirecTV and YouTube TV offer it, if you pay a little more each month.

If you don't need to watch House of the Dragon season 2 live, then you can catch it on demand using the streaming service Max, which costs $9.99 per month for its basic tier or $16.99 per month for its ad-free one.

Each episode of the new season of House of the Dragon will hit Max after it airs on HBO. The first season of the show is also all on Max for you to watch.

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.