Members of Houses Blackwood and Brackens squaring off in the third episode of the second season of House of the Dragon

‘House of the Dragon’s Latest Episode Title Is Deeper Than You’d Think

"There is no war so hateful to the gods as a war between kin."

We’re already nearing the midpoint of HBO’s House of the Dragon season 2, and things are really starting to heat up (literally) as the Targaryen Civil War inches closer. But to fully understand what’s about to happen, it’s worth looking back on last week’s episode—and the importance of its title.

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Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon season 2.

So far, this season of House of the Dragon has detailed the build-up to the Dance of the Dragons—a.k.a. the war between Team Black, loyal to Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), and Team Green, who believes royal man-child King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) is deserving of the crown. Compared to its predecessor, season 2 is far slower and more methodical in its storytelling, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its Game of Thrones-levels of violence (ahem, episode 1’s “Blood and Cheese” scene).

Child beheadings aside, one of the goriest moments in House of the Dragon season 2 thus far occurs in the opening moments of episode 3, titled “The Burning Mill.” In it, we see the feuding Houses Blackwood and Bracken squabbling over their allegiances to Rhaenyra and Aegon, respectively, resulting in all-out warfare. Within the first ten minutes, hundreds, if not thousands of men are dead. It’s the first commoner blood spilled in the Dance of the Dragons, marking an important turning point in the war. And like most of the show’s highlights, it’s a scene torn directly from the pages of the source material: George RR Martin’s 2018 novel, Fire & Blood.

The real meaning behind “The Burning Mill” in House of the Dragon, explained

As we saw in House of the Dragon, the Battle of the Burning Mill is, well, exactly that—a battle that pits Blackwood against Bracken, resulting in the destruction of a nearby mill. In the episode, the camera pans over Ser Davos Blackwood’s (Kieran Burton) corpse and the surrounding dead bodies, before pulling out to show the eponymous mill burning to the ground—the visual representation of a once-mighty society’s downfall. No one wins. So yeah, the meaning behind the episode’s title isn’t exactly rocket science.

The aftermath of the bloody Battle of the Burning Mill in House of the Dragon, season two

This battle illustrates the harm the Targaryen Civil War is already having on the realm—and it hasn’t even started yet. Well, officially, that is. While House of the Dragon isn’t afraid to diverge from Fire & Blood, which depicts the ongoing rivalry between Lord Samwell Blackwood and Ser Amos Bracken instead of Davos Blackwood and Aeron Bracken (Ryan Kopel), the events play out much the same: a fight breaks out, a mill is put to torch—boom, thousands of men dead. However, in the book, Samwell actually lives to tell the tale and goes on to become a crucial ally to Rhaenyra and the Blacks.

Metaphorically speaking, mills are symbolic of technology, wealth, and prosperity, meaning its destruction in episode 3 is just further proof of the savagery of war. Decency and common sense take a backseat in the (extremely petty) squabble for the Iron Throne, because let’s be real: Rhaenyra is the rightful heir, even if Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) isn’t ready to accept that she’s in the wrong. Sadly, the blood spilled in the Battle of the Burning Mill won’t be enough to prevent all-out war, and it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the Riverlands as House of the Dragon season 2 continues its run on HBO and Max.

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Amanda Landwehr
Amanda is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer who lives and breathes Star Wars, Marvel, and all things pop culture. She has worked in digital media since 2021, covering the latest movie/TV releases, casting updates, fan theories, and so, so much more. When she's not rotting away behind her laptop screen, you can typically catch Amanda maxing out her AMC Stubs membership.