House of the Dragon’s Crabfeeder brought Game of Thrones power struggles

The third episode of House of the Dragon actually places the “fire” in A Song of Ice and Fire. The episode begins with a tableau that’s equal components Pirates of the Caribbean and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, as injured foot troopers loyal to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) lie howling in the mud at low tide. A grotesque determine, masked and lumbering with a hunched gait and lengthy, greasy tufts of skinny hair, approaches one of these writhing males.

That masked man’s identify is Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith), often known as “The Crabfeeder” for his propensity to depart his enemies staked to bloodstained shores to allow them to undergo an extended, painful demise being eaten alive by sea creatures. The fallen soldier defies this monstrous form, telling him to only wait till his prince arrives with a dragon to burn all of them to ashes. And Daemon Targaryen does certainly come by in a flaming blaze of glory — however not earlier than his poor, loyal swordsman will get nailed to a chunk of driftwood and left to die.

At the danger of stating the apparent, battle and army technique are as important to A Song of Ice and Fire as palace intrigue and pornographic descriptions of feast tables groaning with scrumptious meals. The battlefield is the place legends are born, alliances are examined, and the reputations of kings and queens are made and unmade. Game of Thrones passed off throughout an period of violent upheaval, the place everybody was all the time watching their backs and the power dynamics might be upended at any time. House of the Dragon, on the different hand, takes place in a local weather that’s extra like our personal: The late days of a decaying dynasty, the place these in cost have develop into complacent sufficient that they really feel they will merely ignore any threats to their power, irrespective of how violent, till they go away.

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

There’s a preferred notion that guerrilla warfare was not practiced in medieval Europe, the foundation for Westeros and A Song of Ice And Fire. And Game of Thrones, most of the time, defaulted to formal clashes with lengthy lead occasions. But simply as nomadic bands of Vikings and Mongols used disorganized techniques and the aspect of shock to raid fortress cities all through Europe, Craghas and his military of mercenaries are combating a guerrilla battle towards the Targaryen institution. They accomplish that ostensibly for the proper to cost tolls to service provider ships passing by this rocky sequence of islands on their approach to the Free Cities past. But they combat with a ferocity and sadism that means that there’s extra happening right here than easy greed.

The Targaryens’ fleet of dragons make them the strongest power in the identified world, and centuries of power have made them conceited. But regardless of possessing this final trump card — to not point out extra ships, weapons, and troopers than their opponents — the battle in the Stepstones has dragged on for 3 years. The key to the Crabfeeder’s technique is to neutralize the Targaryen forces’ Most worthy weapon by retreating into the caves that dot the rocky shoreline of the Stepstones, eliminating the Targaryens’ capability to wipe out his whole power with one whispered “Dracarys.”

And but, King Viserys (Paddy Considine) refuses to interact with information about the battle throughout his son’s identify day celebration, telling involved envoys that “it’s been three years. Surely this can wait three days.” He’s so positive that the Targaryens’ army may (i.e. dragonfire) can by no means actually be challenged, he dismisses the seriousness of this risk from with out. And, to be truthful, the Targaryens are fairly good at tearing themselves aside from the inside, too — there’s lots to maintain a king, notably a soft-hearted one who tries to please everybody, busy at court docket. But if a handful of sellswords and a self-proclaimed prince with a crudely usual masks and nothing to lose might preserve two of the nice homes of Westeros (to not point out a number of dragons) at bay for years, what might a much bigger and higher organized enemy do with those self same techniques?

Daemon in armor gesturing at someone out of frame with a scroll, with Corlys and his son behind him looking at him

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

By comparability, the proud Prince Daemon has a lot to lose. His title, his wealth, his popularity, and maybe most significantly, his delight are all on the line. This whole battle was spurred on by Targaryen delight, the outcome of an alliance made out of spite (one other Targaryen character flaw) when Viserys married Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) fairly than his 12-year-old second cousin Laena Velaryon (Nova Fouellis-Mosé). And it’s spite that pushed Daemon to finish the battle himself earlier than his brother’s forces might arrive, leading to the chaotic impromptu skirmish that closes the episode. And, at the very least this time, Daemon emerges the winner, propelled to victory by Valyrian metal and his fiery Targaryen blood.

But though his intestines are being dragged by the mud, the Crabfeeder and his guerrilla forces have weakened House Targaryen and House Velaryon in ways in which have but to completely manifest themselves. They’ve exacerbated current tensions inside the ruling homes, and demonstrated a way for combating what in any other case seems to be an undefeatable power. And the ruling homes of Old Valyria are too busy combating amongst themselves to spare a thought for the people who find themselves dying on their behalf — not an ideal technique for successful loyalty in the long run. Take the loyal soldier at the starting of the present: Cackling with aid, he cheers on Daemon as the prince swoops over the battlefield incinerating Craghas Drahar’s allies and ships. “Save me, my prince!” he cries — solely to be crushed beneath the mighty foot of the prince’s dragon.

Blinded by their very own conceitedness and complacency, the Targaryens have handled this battle, the males who fought and died in it, and far of the wider world as disposable. Their solely loyalty is to their very own petty grievances and wounded delight, and so they lack the creativeness to image a world the place sometime, another person may sit on the Iron Throne. Whether they tear one another aside from inside, or are ambushed by enemies from with out, it doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that the Crabfeeder may be very a lot no extra. The Targaryens themselves have sown the seeds of their final downfall on the shores of the Stepstones.

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