‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 3 Opening Massacre Explained

“House of the Dragon” proved that there are families that are messier than the Targaryens in Westeros with its haunting opening scene for Season 2, Episode 3, which put a tense spotlight on the leading clans of the riverlands.

The Blackwoods and the Brackens have been mentioned peripherally throughout the show’s run as a pair of families who are constantly having border disputes, but their hatred for each other runs a lot deeper.

The families have been feuding for thousands of years, since before the Andals arrived, before Aegon the Conqueror took over. Their dislike for one another is one of the few constants in Westeros, and the Targaryen civil war was the perfect excuse for it to boil over.

The opening scene of Season 2’s third episode represents the Battle of the Burning Mill. It’s the bloody first official clash of the Dance of the Dragon, but there’s a lot of unexplained history behind it. Here’s why the Blackwoods and Brackens hate each other so much.

Early Feud

The feud between the Brackens and the Blackwoods is one of the oldest in all of Westeros, spanning thousands of years and stretching back to the Age of Heroes — long before Aegon the Conqueror claimed the throne. Both houses were descendants of the First Men and kings in the riverlands though neither viewed the other with much legitimacy.

Both claimed for years that their houses were the rightful kings of the Red Fork and they were usurped by the others. Since the feud began before the arrival of the Andals and the written word, nobody knows which party – if either – is telling the truth.

The Andals arriving also meant the houses split on religion which drove a deeper rift into their feud. The Blackwoods continued to worship the Old Gods while the Brackens began to follow The Seven.

Tensions Before the Dance of the Dragons

Mentions of the Blackwoods and Brackens fighting are peppered throughout the first season of “House of the Dragon,” but it really came to a head in Season 1, Episode 4 “King of the Narrow Sea.” In the episode, families from across Westeros are arriving in King’s Landing vying for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage after she was named Viserys’ heir to the throne.

Willem Blackwood is among those suitors, and makes his case to the princess despite his young age. From the crowd of onlookers, a Jerrel Bracken mocks the young boy and after the Blackwood is turned down he’s called a craven by the Bracken. Despite being younger, Willem challenges Jerrel to a duel right in the throne room and kills the Bracken.

A similar moment plays out in “Fire and Blood” where a member of each family — Samwell Blackwood and Amos Bracken — duel for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage. In the book, Amos wins the duel but doesn’t marry the princess.

The Battle of the Burning Mill

Battle of the Burning Mill House of the Dragon (Credit: HBO)
Battle of the Burning Mill on “House of the Dragon.” (HBO)

“House of the Dragon” Season 2, Episode 3 is named for the titular battle we see at the start of the episode. The Blackwoods and Brackens feud has only grown stronger with Westeros being divided on whether Aegon (Team Green) or Rhaenyra (Team Black) should be on the Iron Throne. The Blackwoods are Team Black and the Brackens Team Green, and when a land border dispute devolves into shouting about which person the other family supports. The shouting and threats slam-cuts to the same field littered with bodies and a smoking mill in the background.

The Battle of the Burning Mill is considered the first official skirmish in the Dance of the Dragons civil war.

The battle plays out a bit different in the books. It’s a bit less spur of the moment and more tactical. The show makes it seems like the tensions between the two families finally hit a breaking point and they just sent their armies at each other. In “Fire and Blood,” the families clash, Amos Bracken and Samwell Blackwood – the same two who dueled for Rhaenyra’s hand – end up dead, and most notably Daemon and Caraxes are a part of the fight.

The battle signified that the Blacks had much more power and support through Westeros despite reputation damaging moments like Blood and Cheese than Aegon and the Greens thought.

Was That Really Benjicot Blackwood?

Davos Blackwood in House of the Dragon (Credit: HBO)
Davos Blackwood in House of the Dragon (Credit: HBO)

There was a lot of speculation that Kieran Burton’s character in Episode 3’s opening was a fan-favorite book character Benjicot Blackwood due to the actor’s many physical similarities and the fact that he teased the possibility on his social media.

Unfortunately, thanks to an assist from subtitles it was revealed Burton was playing a show created character named Davos Blackwood.

Benjicot Blackwood was the son of Samwell Blackwood and becomes the head of his house at 11 years old, after his father died during the Battle of the Burning Mill. He’s a staunch supporter of Rhaenyra throughout the Dance and despite being a bit physically unassuming proves time and again to be a lethal fighter in a number of battles.

His ferocity earned him the nickname Bloody Ben.

New episodes of “House of the Dragon” air Sundays on HBO and stream on Max.

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