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

The third episode of house of the dragon certainly brings the “fire” in A Song of Ice and Fire. The episode begins with a tableau made up of equal parts Pirates of the Caribbean and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as injured foot soldiers loyal to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) lie howling in the mud at low tide. A grotesque figure, masked and lumbering with a stooped gait and long, greasy tufts of thin hair, approaches one of these squirming men.

This masked man’s name is Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith), also known as “The Crab Eater” because of his propensity to impale his enemies on bloodstained shores to suffer a long, painful death and be eaten alive by sea creatures . The fallen soldier defies this monstrous figure and tells him to just wait until his prince arrives with a dragon to burn them all to ashes. And Daemon Targaryen does come through in a blazing glow of glory – but not before his poor, loyal swordsman is nailed to a piece of driftwood and left to die.

At the risk of stating the obvious, war and military strategy are as essential in A Song of Ice and Fire as palace intrigue and pornographic descriptions of banquet tables groaning with delicious food. On the battlefield, legends are born, alliances are tested, and the reputations of kings and queens are built and destroyed. game of Thrones took place in a time of violent upheaval, when everyone was always on their backs and the balance of power could be turned upside down at any time. House of Dragon, on the other hand, is set in a climate more akin to ours: the late days of a crumbling dynasty in which those in charge have grown so complacent that they feel they can simply ignore any threat to their power, no matter how fierce, until they walk away.

Viserys speaks to Otto Hightower on chairs

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

There is a common notion that guerrilla warfare was not practiced in medieval Europe, the basis of Westeros A Song of Ice and Fire. and game of Thrones, more often than not, formal disputes ensued with long lead times. But just as nomadic bands of Vikings and Mongols used disorganized tactics and surprise to raid castle towns across Europe, so Craghas and his mercenary army wage guerrilla warfare against the Targaryen establishment. They do so ostensibly for the right to levy tolls on merchant ships passing through this rocky chain of islands on their way to the Free Cities beyond. But they fight with a ferocity and sadism that suggests there’s more at play here than mere greed.

The Targaryens’ dragon fleet makes them the most powerful force in the known world, and centuries of power have made them arrogant. But despite possessing that ultimate trump card – not to mention more ships, weapons, and soldiers than their opponents – the war in the Stepstones has dragged on for three years. The key to the Crab Eater’s strategy is to neutralize the Targaryen forces’ most prized weapon by retreating into the caves that line the rocky shores of the Stepstones, preventing the Targaryens from attacking his entire force with a whispered “Dracarys.” ‘ to wipe out.

And yet, during his son’s name day celebrations, King Viserys (Paddy Considine) refuses to grapple with news of the war, telling worried envoys that “it’s been three years. Surely that can wait three days.” He is so sure that the military power of the Targaryens (ie dragon fire) never can Yes, really be challenged, he rejects the seriousness of this threat from the outside. And, to be fair, the Targaryens are pretty good at tearing themselves apart from the inside too – there’s a lot to keep a king, especially a soft-hearted one, trying to please everyone, busy at court . But if a handful of mercenaries and a self-proclaimed prince with a crudely crafted mask and nothing to lose could keep two of Westeros’ great houses (not to mention several dragons) at bay for years, what could be a bigger and more organized enemy? do with the same tactics?

Armored demon gesturing with a scroll at someone off-screen while Corlys and his son look at him from behind

Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

On the other hand, the proud Prince Daemon has a lot to lose. His title, wealth, reputation and perhaps most importantly his pride are at stake. This whole war was spurred on by Targaryen pride, the result of an alliance formed out of spite (another Targaryen character flaw) when Viserys married Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) rather than his 12-year-old second cousin Laena Velaryon (Nova Fouellis-Moses). And it’s malice that urged Daemon to end the war himself before his brother’s forces could arrive, leading to the chaotic spontaneous skirmish that ends the episode. And this time at least, Daemon emerges victorious, fueled by Valyrian steel and his fiery Targaryen blood.

But though his guts are being dragged through the mud, the crab eater and his guerrilla forces have weakened House Targaryen and House Velaryon in ways that haven’t fully manifested yet. They have exacerbated existing tensions within the ruling houses and demonstrated a method to combat a seemingly invincible power. And the ruling houses of Old Valyria are too busy fighting among themselves to care about the people dying for them – not a good strategy for gaining long-term loyalty. Take the trusty soldier at the start of the show: cackling with relief, he cheers on Daemon as the prince dashes across the battlefield, burning Cragha’s Drahar’s allies and ships. “Save me, my prince!” he cries – only to be crushed under the mighty foot of the prince’s dragon.

Blinded by their own arrogance and complacency, the Targaryens treated this war, the men who fought and died in it, and much of the world as expendable. Their only allegiance is to their own minor grievances and hurt pride, and they lack the imagination to imagine a world where someone else might one day sit on the Iron Throne. Whether they tear each other apart from the inside or are ambushed by enemies from the outside doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter that the Crabfeeder is no more. The Targaryens themselves have sown the seeds of their ultimate downfall on the shores of the Stepstones. House of the Dragon’s Crabfeeder brought Game of Thrones power struggles

Curtis Crabtree

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