The Rogue Prince
Episode 2 of House of the Dragon begins just under half a year since the events that transpired last week – and there’s drama in the small council. Four ships have been lost and Corlys Velaryon is not happy. It turns out this is part of a series of attacks at shipping lanes from the Stepstones; a series of islands populated by sellswords, and led by Crabfeeder, the guy who feeds his enemies to crabs and whom we learned a little bit about last week.
Otto is offered compensation for one of his own ships being lost but he’s not interested in that, he wants the King to take action. Rhaenyra overhears all of this and suggests they send the dragon riders out to make swift work of them. Instead, she’s hastily taken out the throne room and given a task to oversee a replacement for one of the King’s Guard.
After listening to several different candidates, each with a lack of combat experience, Rhaenyra choses Ser Criston Cole, the guy who bested Daemon in the tournament last episode. This young princess wants to be more than this, and although she’s been picked as Viserys’ heir, the suggestion of Viserys remarrying hints that there could be a male heir in the future ready to usurp her.
Viserys explains his position to Corlys later that afternoon. With the Queen dead and a girl picked to be the succession, Corlys is convinced that the enemy’s eye has moved to the Red Keep. The crown is vulnerable right now and Corlys believes they need to act swiftly to make sure there’s not an uprising. In order to do that, Corlys suggests joining their two families together. With the dragons and Valeryon fleet, together they’d be a force to be reckoned with.
That night, Viserys tells Otto about this and asks for his advice. The Grand Maester believes it’s a solid idea, and that it would be good for the region to prevent open war or rebellion. Viserys though is worried what Rhaenyra will think.
Meanwhile, Rhaenyra is optimistic that she’ll someday be queen but Rhaenys is much more pessimistic. She talks about the established order and ends by saying: “men would rather put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.” The irony here, if course, will not be lost on anyone who knows that women were actually the reason for the downfall of Westeros (Cersei and Daenarys).
Visereys is called to an emergency meeting with the small council. A dragon’s egg has been stolen while Daemon has seized Dragonstone and is held up with his Gold Cloaks. Daemon has also left a taunting note, inviting Viserys to his wedding to Mysaria. Viserys wants to go personally but Otto interjects, pointing out it’s too dangerous and suggesting he should go instead.
Otto and the King’s Guard show up and confront Daemon, calling him an abomination. Daemon is cool as a cucumber though, pointing out this is a family right to take an egg on the eve of a wedding – even if that egg happens to be Dreamfyre, the one for Prince Baelon. Both Otto and Daemon draw swords but when a dragon appears atop the castle, Otto realizes the futility of fighting and puts away his weapon.
However, Rhaenyra suddenly shows up riding a dragon. She approaches Daemon and points out that Dragonstone is technically hers. The only way out is for Daemon to kill his niece and seize the position of heir himself. It’s tense but Daemon eventually turns and leaves without a drop of blood shed. He also tosses over the egg before he goes back inside the castle too.
When Viserys finds out where the princess has gone, he confronts her in her chamber. He’s not happy about Rhaenyra acting independently, pointing out she could have been killed.
In the morning, Viserys decides to take a new wife but after speaking to Rhaenyra, he’s had a change of heart… he intends to marry Lady Alicent Hightower, Otto’s daughter. Corlys is not happy and calls it an absurdity. It’s a foolhardy decision, given what this could mean for the realm, and it fractures the small council completely. It also disappoints Rhaenyra too, given her close ties with Alicent.
Corlys is so furious that he seeks out Daemon, claiming they’ve been made from the same cloth and believes they should work together. After all, if Viserys won’t do anything, maybe Daemon and his bloodthirsty Gold Cloaks will. Crabfeeder is backed by powerful allies from the Free Cities and they want to see Westeros weakened. If the shipping lanes should fall, it would seriously weaken Corlys’ family reign. Not only would ridding the world of Crabfeeder be good for him, it would also give Daemon an excellent opportunity to prove his worth. The thing is, if Daemon succeeds then that would leave Viserys with even fewer allies.
The Episode Review
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader and if this episode proves anything, it’s that Viserys really isn’t. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions in order to prove your worth and keep the realm in check. When it comes to Viserys, it’s immediately clear that he’s making all the wrong choices.
The marriage with Corlys’ daughter Laena isn’t exactly a comfortable one, given the age difference, but in many ways it’s the “right” choice in order to solidify the two houses together. With Viserys choosing his heart instead, which is of course being manipulated by Otto, he may well have plunged the realm into utter chaos.
In terms of court intrigue, House of the Dragon certainly has that aspect but at the same time, Game of Thrones’ success bred from a more urgent underlying plot (the White Walkers) whilst showing several different areas across Westeros to keep things fresh. The underlying tension here was always around exactly how everyone would work together to stop this greater threat… before seasons 7 and 8 obliterated that idea harder than Cersei blowing up the sept.
House of the Dragon doesn’t have any of that urgency and as a result, this is essentially a politically charged drama, fleshing out the Targaryen downfall. This is going to feel boring for a good swathe of people jumping into this expecting magic, dragon fire and big, epic battles. Of course, the irony here is that Game of Thrones’ battles were only a tiny part of a much larger world of politics and backstabbing.
This is one of those shows that really needed more than one episode releasing a week to try and inject some pacing into this. Although HBO has shattered records for the opening episode, I’m far more interested to see how many people will be sticking around for the finale and season 2. I think that will be a far more telling statistic.