Time flies quickly in Westeros, or at least in House of the Dragon. It has been six months since the events of last week’s premiere, and the tendrils of fresh stories introduced at the start of the Game of Thrones prequel will take root on Sunday, when the HBO drama begins its second episode, The Rogue Prince “ returns. The stage is now set for all manner of royal treachery, underdog exploits, and full-scale slaughter of characters we’ve come to love.
The first season of House of the Dragon has the luxury of moving a lot quicker than previous episodes of Game of Thrones simply because it’s not burdened with introducing strange new empires, charting complicated family trees, and using bizarre slang translate. Anyone who’s watched the original series is at least temporarily familiar with the bad blood between the houses – and where the bodies are eventually buried, cremated, mutilated, and so on. Connecting the dots between the two series is half the fun, but House of the Dragon doesn’t rely on that the Game to make the drama fly. The men’s ruthless power grabs, the women’s resourceful machinations, and the near-lack of diplomacy will drive this narrative forward.
Episode 2 captures early signs of unrest in Westeros: pirate ships are threatening trade routes, drawing the Targaryens closer to a major war than they have been in decades. Bitterness between the gentle King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) threatens to overtake his boisterous brother Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) as Daemon is denied his place as next in line to the throne and banished from King’s Landing by his brother. The prince flew away on his dragon and secretly claimed the family’s ancestral castle, Drachenstein, as his own. He also stole a precious dragon egg from House Targaryen, claiming he was entitled to the treasure because his soon-to-be second wife, the prostitute Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), is pregnant (she isn’t) and it’s customary to give a dragon egg lay in the cot.
The newly appointed heir to the throne, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), has little power. She is a girl, after all, and is still relegated to pouring wine for the men of the Council of Elders instead of sitting at the table with them and making decisions about the future of the realm. She knows of her uncle’s transgression and the king has forbidden her to engage in it.
She does anyway – and her confrontation with Daemon on the bridge to Dragonstone is both a stunning cinematic achievement and a nuanced scene between rival family members that draws inspiration from the more indelible moments of Game of Thrones. The Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), is already there with a small army and demands that the prince hand over the egg and evacuate the castle. But Daemon is a fearless warrior and – with the support of the former king’s guardsmen and a dragon perched on the cliff – Hightower & company are instantly outmaneuvered.
That is, until Rhaenyra emerges through the cloud cover on her kite. After landing on the bridge, the petite teenage girl confidently pushes her way through rows of armored grown men until she’s right in front of her uncle. Give me the egg, she demands. He says he’s keeping it for his new wife. She reminds him that he is already married. But he protested that he couldn’t choose his first wife. She clicks her tongue, ignores his complaint like she’s dealing with a toddler, and then gets to the point: she’s taken his place in the queue for the Iron Throne. he’s crazy So go ahead, kill her. That will end this charade forever. Caught in his own pose and hubris, he gives in. She walks away, egg in hand.
It’s a silent reversal of power, a sign that she will be a formidable queen and proof that she is already more cunning and fearless than her father.
Where is the king? Back at King’s Landing, where he mourns the deaths of his queen and newborn son while facing the pressure of choosing a new wife. Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), The head of House Velaryon and bearer of the name “The Sea Snake” due to his history as the foremost seafarer in Westeros, wants the king to marry his daughter. It doesn’t matter that she’s only 12. They go well together, at least on parchment. Lord Corlys is the richest man in the kingdom and one of the most powerful next to the king. He’s a direct descendant of ancient House Velaryon, and that means something.
For 5,000 years, Valyria was the capital of the greatest civilization ever known in the land of Essos. (Westeros was an uncharted frontier by comparison.) Much of Valyria’s power came from taming dragons and using them to conquer surrounding houses and realms. But a volcanic eruption decimated Valyria centuries ago, wiping out its people and nearly all 1,000 of their winged beasts. Far away House Targaryen and their handful of dragons survived the cataclysmic event and rose to power after the fall of the Valyrians. A century later, they conquered Westeros and established the dynasty we see in House of the Dragon.
Although we’re only just getting to know the King, he seems to be a guy prone to making bad decisions, and his choice of a wife in Episode 2 seems like another bad move, starting a new political rivalry. There’s also the mystery of what’s literally eating him. The king’s body is covered with oozing wounds, perhaps from the throne’s sharp edges. The cure for the disease on his finger? He soaked his hand in a bowl of maggots. (Did I mention that it’s best not to snack while watching House of the Dragon?)
The Rogue Prince advances the story exponentially, delivering the drama, grandeur, and intelligent discourse that Game of Thrones fans have come to expect. And the girl who should be king is now a big part of this intrigue.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-08-28/house-of-the-dragon-episode-2-the-rogue-prince ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 2: What Dragonstone showdown means