House of the Dragon season 2's Dark Souls-like third episode is a spooky trip down memory lane for Game of Thrones fans

A close up of an armored Daemon looking at something off camera in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3
House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3 is a hauntingly good entry. (Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

Full spoilers follow for House of the Dragon season 2.

We're three episodes deep into House of the Dragon season 2, and after some slow-burning chapters (in some people's minds, anyway), the Targaryen civil war is about to fully erupt.

Before it does, though, fans of the hit Max series have found themselves captivated by one of House of the Dragon's newest subplots. Indeed, season 3's third episode, titled 'The Burning Mill', reunites us with Prince Daemon, who was last seen leaving Dragonstone after a huge falling out with his niece – and, this being Game of Thrones (GoT), his wife – Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen.

Now, we know where he was heading to: Harrenhal, the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms that's located in the heart of the riverlands. Despite being a key GoT location, much of Harrenhal's history is shrouded in mystery (and rain and storms and... you get the gist) to viewers, but 'The Burning Mill' finally starts to pull the veil back on one of Westeros' most enigmatic locations with the aid of a big video-game comparison, the introduction of a mysterious character, and the unexpected return of an actor from season 1.

'Serious Dark Soul vibes'

Daemon Targaryen slowly walks through Harrenhal's ruins in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3

'Daemon the Tarnished' has a nice ring to it. (Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

With its ominous, rain-soaked atmosphere and haunted past, Harrenhal is a place that few men fear to tread. And yet, considering the ruined castle's towering position in the riverlands, plus its seemingly impregnable walls (well, to anyone who doesn't have a dragon), it's still considered to be a vital stronghold, and a location of immense value to those who rule over it. That's why Daemon flew to Harrenhal, with Team Black, aka House Targaryen, needing to strategically claim it so Team Green (House Hightower) can't, thereby bolstering the former's position in the riverlands.

Expecting a fight upon his arrival, an armored, sword-wielding Daemon slowly makes his way through Harrenhal's labyrinthine (and dilapidated) maze of corridors and rooms as the never-ending thunderstorm rains down on him. And yet, save for one soldier, he doesn't encounter a single soul – well, until much later, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Comment from r/HouseOfTheDragon

It's this gloomy, suspense-filled, and creepily silent prowl through the seemingly deserted Harrenhal that has plenty of viewers comparing Daemon's episode 3 side story to FromSoftware's beloved Dark Souls game franchise. Numerous Reddit users, including Helplessly_hoping, SerDire, and TheSmokedSalmon420, commented on how 'The Burning Mill' mirrored the foreboding tone of the Dark Souls games.

The same was true over on ResetEra. User Jag drolly said "Daemon walking around Harrenhal like me in Dark Souls", while Punished Goku and Cosmo Kramer also suggested those Harrenhal scenes were tonally similar to other FromSoftware games, including Demon's Souls and Elden Ring. Let's just hope Daemon doesn't come up against any of the ridiculously difficult foes who appear in those action role-playing games, eh?

Harrenhal's curse – and a surprise cameo

Episode 3 doesn't only feel like an non-interactive Dark Souls game – indeed, it actively leans into some lesser explored Thrones history concerning Harrenhal, too, especially the rumored curse that lingers over the run-down castle.

For those unaware of what said curse is: essentially, every House and/or individual who have held the castle has eventually met a horrible end. That doesn't bode well for House Strong, who are currently in control of Harrenhal.

But I digress. The malediction that inhabits Harrenhal seems to affect people who arrive and/or stay at the castle, Daemon included. Indeed, Dragonstone's King Consort starts having eldritch-style dreams – one of which sees him, well, 'see' the younger version of Rhaenyra, who was played by Milly Alcock (who'll play Supergirl in the DC Cinematic Universe (DCU), starting with Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow) in the first half of season 1.

Alcock's return didn't leak ahead of episode 3's launch, so see her reprising her role as a young Rhaenyra was a pleasing surprise for those who tuned in. Reddit and ResetEra users, including ParkingInTheGarage, iLikeEmMashed, Punished Goku, and Lotus were just four audience members who expressed delight at seeing Alcock once more. Will we see Alcock again next episode? You'll have to wait and see.

Who is Alys Rivers, Gayle Rankin's character in House of the Dragon?

A shot of Gayle Rankin's Alys Rivers in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 3

The enigmatic Alys River makes her live-action debut in 'The Burning Mill' (Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

Alcock's cameo notwithstanding, 'The Burning Mill' also introduces one of GoT's most mysterious characters: Alys Rivers, who's played by Gayle Rankin. She's the one who eerily tells Daemon that "he'll die there" (whatever that means) after his first hallucination.

So, who is Alys Rivers? I'm not going to spoil too much, because Alys will likely show up in future episodes, and I don't want to ruin anything significant for anyone who hasn't read Fire and Blood, the book that House of the Dragon is based on. What I can say is that she's a Harrenhal wet nurse who, according to some accounts in George R.R. Martin's source material, has the ability to see into the future. In essence, she has the same ability that Halaena Targaryen (nee Hightower) has. Expect Alys to have a key role to play in the rest of season 2, plus future installments of one of the best Max shows.

While we wait for episode 4 to arrive, get some spoiler-free hints at what lies in store in my review of House of the Dragon season 2, which is airing on Max (US), Sky/Now TV (UK), and Foxtel/Binge (Australia).

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