Daemon’s Harrenhal vision in ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, episode 3, explained


Daemon Targaryen stands beneath a weirwood tree at night.

As of House of the Dragon Season 2, episode 3, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) officially holds Harrenhal. That can mean only one thing: The show is about to get a whole lot spookier.

Harrenhal isn’t just the largest castle in Westeros — it’s also the most cursed. Long before the events of House of the Dragon, Harren Hoare, King of the Islands and the Riverlands, oversaw Harrenhal’s 40-year-long construction. Thousands of laborers died during the process, and Harren’s armies even cut down swaths of sacred weirwood trees to furnish the castle. Yet Harren’s massive monument to himself (and his own greed) proved no match for the fiery breath of Aegon the Conqueror’s dragon Balerion, which snuffed out House Hoare for good.

Since then, Harrenhal is said to be cursed, as every House that has held it since has gone extinct or suffered great misfortune. Now that Daemon’s in charge of the castle, he’s about to witness the effects of that curse firsthand.

We get teases of Harrenhal’s creepiness throughout Daemon’s first night in the castle in episode 3. As if Harrenhal’s leaking, craggy ruins weren’t enough, Daemon also has to contend with an unknown force rattling at his bedroom door, and with Alys Rivers’ (Gayle Rankin) mysterious assertion that he’s going to die in this place. Most memorable, however, is a vision Daemon has of young Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock, reprising her role from the first half of Season 1) sewing Prince Jaehaerys’s decapitated head back onto his body.

“Always coming and going, aren’t you?” Rhaenyra reprimands him. “And I have to clean up afterwards.”

What does Daemon’s vision of young Rhaenyra mean?

Daemon Targaryen descends a flight of stairs in the darkened ruins of Harrenhal, holding a sword aloft.

Matt Smith in “House of the Dragon.”
Credit: Ollie Upton / HBO

For episode 3 director Geeta Vasant Patel, this vision and adolescent Rhaenyra’s role in it presented a rich opportunity for Daemon to reckon with the events of the past two episodes, starting with his falling-out with Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) in episode 2.

“The most important thing about Rhaenyra in this scene was that she knows him,” Patel told Mashable. “He just got rejected by older Rhaenyra, who he feels he doesn’t know any more. The Rhaenyra he really knows is the young Rhaenyra, who he fell in love with and who worshiped him. So when he goes into that room and young Rhaenyra looks at him with judgment and with critique, that is a sword through his trust. That’s where his fear lies, that the one person he’s let down his guard with actually doesn’t believe in him and thinks he’s a monster.”

There’s also the Blood and Cheese of it all, as Daemon is confronted with a physical reminder of his role in orchestrating Jaehaerys’s murder. “When Rhaenyra tells him, ‘you just killed a kid,’ that’s the first time he’s processing,” Patel explained. “A lot of times none of us change, unless we care about someone and they make us change. And to me, that’s what that scene was about.”

Patel continued: “When Matt did the scene over and over again, and we kept going deeper and deeper into it, there was one moment where I saw his entire face shake with pain, because he was realizing what he did. He was that connected to Daemon. We all had tears in our eyes in that moment.”

This is just the start of Daemon’s Harrenhal visions.

Daemon Targaryen sits in a green field in armor.

Matt Smith in “House of the Dragon.”
Credit: Theo Whitman / HBO

With Daemon remaining at Harrenhal as he raises an army for Rhaenyra, you can bet we’ll see more visions. And given that episode 3 kicks off the presence of these dreams, Patel, showrunner Ryan Condal, and the rest of the show’s team had many conversations about what these visions should look like.

“Many fantasy shows have visions that are processed in so many ways. They have a lot of sound, maybe different lenses. There’s different levels you can go,” Patel said. Style-wise, Patel pushed for the visions to reflect everyday life.

“When it comes to House of the Dragon, in my opinion, the vision is a dream,” she explained. “When we dream, it’s so real. That’s what’s frightening about a dream. You don’t know if you’re dreaming.”

Because of this, Smith and the actors he interacts with in various visions were encouraged to keep their performances grounded in reality. But as we see in episode 3, that boosts the uncanniness of the dreams. The image of Rhaenyra humming while sewing Jaehaerys’ head in place is especially chilling, an introduction to Harrenhal as a haunted house that has only just begun to sink its claws into Daemon.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max.

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