“I’m not going to fight them, I’m going to f**k them,” monologued Petyr Baelish AKA Littlefinger way back in Season 1 of Game of Thrones — only for another cunning upstart to continue his legacy in HBO’s House of the Dragon.
The new show, which has made heatwaves amongst GOT fans since launching back in August, made an early E2 introduction for a character likely to influence events far into the future of Westeros — none other than Larys the Clubfoot of House Strong.
Neatly crossing over into the second half of the series’ first season, Episode 6 also introduces the biggest timeskip yet, pushing forward the storyline by a significant ten years. Most importantly, it also results in a few major casting changes, including Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent, who are now played by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, after a fantastic run by Milly Alcock and Emily Carey.
Things have certainly changed since Episode 5. In the time since, Rhaenyra has given birth to three sons — one of whom pops out in a scene reminiscent of the terrifying scene from Episode 1, where her mother Aemma Arryn dies in childbirth.
Rhaenyra, however, powers through with resolve — directly fuelled by her disdain for Alicent, who sends summons for the child immediately after it was born. This was likely due to the fact that none of Rhaenyra’s children seem legitimate, a result of the arrangement found between her husband Laenor, who names the newborn after his deceased lover, Joffrey.
Along with the actors, the dynamic between both sides of the court has evolved immensely — Rhaenyra now seems to have tempered her earlier naivete with tenacity and a certain softness, perhaps encouraged by her lover Harwin Strong. We get to see Rhaenyra’s ex Ser Cristan Cole get on his wrong side during the episode, instigating Harwin to embarrass himself publicly when accused of fathering Rhaenyra’s bastards.
Sure, Cole gets a well-deserved beating — but Harwin finds himself the subject of gossip within King’s Landing, and is excommunicated to his hometown of Harrenhal, accompanied by his father Lyonel Strong, Hand of the King.
It’s here, of course, where the depth of Larys’ scheming comes to light.
We saw the hints of Larys’ potential as this series’ Littlefinger back during his Episode 3 appearance, where he shies away from the men and finds company with the ladies of the court — actor Matthew Needham doing a fantastic job of depicting a mild-mannered, polite nobleman, with dark agendas behind his gaze.
It’s here that we first see Larys’ cunning, although subtly. While his father Lyonel Strong offers loyalty to King Viserys, his younger son uses the hunt to get closer to Alicent, who is left disaffected and lonely after being spurned by her then-best friend Rhaenyra.
In the years that follow, Larys continues to shuffle around the court, seeking an opportune moment to strike a wedge between the two women, creating a power vacuum for himself. This occurs in Episode 5, where he informs Alicent of the tea that was brought to Rhaenyra on the night she was with Daemon. This shows Alicent that Rhaenyra was likely lying, which sets in motion the events that lock each other in conflict for good. Some fans even think that the tea — a Westerosi morning-after pill of sorts — was sent by Larys himself.
Either way, the man got what he wanted. Larys’ father was now Hand of the King with Alicent’s father Otto out of the way, and the King’s wife and daughter were now positioned as enemies… which brings us to the present day and Harwin Strong’s retreat from King’s Landing.
Now, Lyonel does the honorable and smart thing, by resigning his position as Hand and deciding to establish Harwin as his next-in-line at Harrenhal. While Viserys refuses to accept the resignation, he understands his Hand’s predicament and offers him leave. Too bad that Rhaenyra has to say goodbye to her lover, but no big deal, right?
Sure — but here’s where Larys plays his deadliest hand yet. The second Harrenhal heir decides to mute and enlist a group of condemned criminals from the Red Keep, and uses them to — no joke — burn his entire family alive, reducing Harrenhal to ashes.
That’s a long way from eating biscuits with the ladies, to put it mildly.
Alicent, despite finding Harwin and his relationship with Rhaynera inappropriate, is mortified. Not only does she now have a murderous psychopath as her main confidant (and potential blackmailer), but she also will soon face a truly furious Targaryen Princess looking for revenge.
It’s interesting to note that Larys compares Alicent to a flower — while his personal insignia is that of the bee, which seeks the flowers’ pollen. Poetic… and deeply ominous for Alicent, we’re sure.
Larys’ arson is also compounded by the other fire-related mishap of the episode — Lady Laena’s self- euthanasia by Dragonfire. Spurred by the guilt of not taking Laena’s ambitions seriously, Daemon may now return to Dragonstone, where Laena’s brother Laenor may be taken out of the picture if you know what I mean.
Larys, meanwhile, is now set to become Lord of Harrenhal. With an open Hand of the King position for the taking, the sky’s the limit for the Clubfoot — and we can’t wait to see what insanity he’ll brew up next.
Lead Image: HBO