TV Review: ‘House of the Dragon’ Season One Episode Two: ‘The Rogue Prince’
Series Plot: Set approximately 200 years before the event of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon chronicles the events of The Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war that nearly tore the entire Seven Kingdoms apart.
Episode Plot: Six months have passed and raids from the Crab Eater in the Stepstones continue to intensify while, King Viserys contemplates remarriage. Events reach a boiling point when Daemon steals an egg from the Dragonpit and fortifies himself at Dragonstone forcing the Hand to intervene. An unexpected marriage choice causes tension in the Small Council and an unlikely alliance forms between Lord Corlys and Prince Daemon. Meanwhile Princess Rhaenyra struggles to reconnect with her father in the wake of her mother’s death and exert in skills with affairs of court.
Review: Whereas episode one of House of the Dragon set the table, “The Rogue Prince” presents viewers with a succulent appetizer.
And man is it spicy.
One of the great joys of Game of Thrones was its spectacular cinematography and House of the Dragon continues that trend with a particularly harrowing opening scene showing Westerosi sailors being essentially crucified and fed to the crabs. Tip of the cap to cinematographers Fabian Wagner and Pepe Avila del Pino. It’s brutal and sets the stage for the rest of the episode. Things are getting worse not better in the Stepstones and King Viserys is reluctant to do anything about it.
Clearly, Lord Corlys is outraged by the lack of action as he stalks into the Small Council and brings it to their attention in a most aggressive manner, something Otto Hightower reproaches him about. Rhaenyra attempts to insert herself into the dealings of the Small Council suggesting they send dragonriders (including her) as a show of force. Otto quickly belittles her and suggests she help pick out the new Kingsguard member as the old Lord Commander has died. In a surprise move it ends up setting up another confrontation between Otto and Rhaenyra as she chooses Ser Criston Cole, the only knight with battle experience. The tension between Otto and Rhaenyra just continues to simmer and you know it is going to reach a boiling point sooner rather than later. Credit to both Rhys Ifans and Milly Alcock as their chemistry stands out.
Alicent and Viserys have continued to grow closer in the last six months. Even though Otto clearly wants Alicent to be Viserys’ second wife, Alicent and Viserys relationship feels very chaste. It comes off as a true friendship where the pair are bonding over grief, among other things. Alicent’s sentiments come off sincere and earnest. Alicent also bonds with Rhaenyra in the same manner. It’s clear Rhaenyra isn’t dealing with the loss of her mother. It’s clear the two are the best of friends and in a court where everyone seems to resent that Rhaenyra is the heir to the Iron Throne, Alicent may be her only friend.
In the wake of a tense Small Council meeting, Lord Corlys and his wife Princess Rhaenys approach King Viserys and propose a marriage between Viserys and their twelve-year-old daughter Laena. (I know ewww.) On the surface the reason is to strengthen the bond between the two oldest Valyrian houses and mend old wounds since Rhaenys was passed over. Corlys believes House Targaryen is vulnerable based on the actions of Daemon, the lack of action in the Stepstones, and Rhaenyra being named heir. Of course, the real reason is that the pair want to see one of their grandchildren on the Iron Throne. Both I believe see Viserys as weak and Lord Corlys is clearly envious of the favor Viserys shows Otto his Hand. What I liked about this scene was that Viserys commented that his duty as a King is to avoid war until war becomes unavoidable. What a refreshing thing for a King to say, especially a Targaryen.
Not surprisingly, Viserys brings up the marriage proposal to both Otto and Grand Maester Mellos. While the latter encourages the proposal because of the advantages it will bring to the Crown, Otto appears to dissuade Viserys, bringing up his own late wife and how he would hate to be compelled to marry again for duty’s sake.
Viserys reluctantly meets with Laena to at least consider the proposal. I’m not going to lie; this scene is extremely gross as any type of child bride situation would be. However, it is important to note that this is coming from a 2022 perspective. House of the Dragon’s world clearly mimics that of medieval Europe where such gaps in age were commonplace. Men and women died more often and earlier back then, and it was important to propagate the line, especially for royal houses. It doesn’t make what’s happening right, but context is everything. It’s clear Laena really doesn’t want to do this but she’s making the attempt for the sake of her house. Viserys doesn’t seem particularly interested either and you can tell that the fact she is twelve makes him uncomfortable –as it should.
If tensions are high between Otto and Rhaenyra, it’s just as bad if not worse between Rhaenys and Rhaenyra. The two bandy barbs between them with Rhaenys stating that men will not accept her as the heir to the Iron Throne because she is a woman and Rhaenyra retorting that the realm rejected Rhaenys, whereas they swore allegiance to her. Nonetheless, Rhaenys believes men will put the realm to the torch first before accepting a woman on the Iron Throne. Eve Best’s Rhaenys is excellent and gives off some strong Cersei vibes – if not as mendacious and vicious. I’m intrigued to see how this relationship develops.
An emergency session of the Small Council is called by Otto which demonstrates that Prince Daemon is also the Prince of Giving Zero Fucks. He steals a dragon egg directly from the Dragonpit and leaves a missive stating that he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, the Prince of Dragonstone, that he will be taking a second wife in Mysaria who is also pregnant with his child. Viserys initially resists the Council’s urgings to act believing that Daemon is just trying to provoke him…. that is until he finds out what egg it was, he stole. Rhaenyra chimes in and finds out the egg is in fact Baelon’s, the one she chose for her brother before he died. This enrages Viserys (talk about waking the dragon) who proposes to go to Dragonstone himself and bring Daemon to justice. Instead, Otto Hightower stops him and insists on going himself with a contingent of men.
Otto sails to Dragonstone and what transpires next is easily one of the best scenes we’ve seen since Game of Thrones began in 2011. Otto and his forces meet Daemon and his forces on the bridge at Dragonstone. You can tell just from the way that Daemon speaks to Otto how far below him he thinks Otto is. Daemon and Criston Cole also throw some nice barbs at each other as well. Things seem to spiral out of control and both sides draw swords as Otto threatens Mysaria directly…and then Ceraxes, the Blood Wyrm shows up. It momentarily appears that Daemon is going to win this day when in a baller, Queen-like move Rhaenyra shows up on Syrax.
Rhaenyra then proceeds to completely emasculate both Otto and Daemon. She dismisses Otto outright, walking by him and directly confronting Daemon. Rhaenyra cuts right through his bullshit and Daemon reveals that he hasn’t married Mysaria and that she isn’t pregnant. Completely without fear, Rhaenyra says – TO HIS FACE – if you want to be heir again you need to kill me and I’m right here. And just like that Daemon blinks, backs down, and gives back the egg. This is a tremendous scene because not only does Rhaenyra show up two of the most powerful men in the realm, but she also establishes what we already know, namely that she knows what the Hell she’s doing. Rhaenyra is now an absolute force to be reckoned with.
While the events of Dragonstone are taking place, Viserys asks the opion of Lord Lyman Beesbury what he should do regarding Lord Corlys’ marriage proposal. Beesbury encourages him to accept and has one of the great lines of the episode stating, “Proud men don’t like having to look up.” Obviously, this is in reference to Lord Corlys but the same could be said for Rhaenys. Nothing short of a direct line to throne is going to please either one of them.
When Rhaenyra returns Viserys is visibly upset. However, even though he states its because she is his only heir and could have been killed, I believe the concern of a father for his daughter was more prominent in his mind. Yet even though she acted without the Crown’s leave, he can’t help but be proud of her because she resolved the conflict without bloodshed. The two are finally able to talk about the death of Aemma and how he must once again marry.
Before the Small Council King Viserys declares he will marry Alicent Hightower. Watching Lord Corlys’s face turn from triumphant to outrage and disgust and watching the knowing smile Otto gives Corlys is a sight to behold. This is an irrevocable action that’s sure to cause conflict. However, just as powerful is the look of absolute betrayal on Rhaenyra’s face when she learns Alicent is to be her stepmother. You can almost hear the friendship breaking in two.
In the final scene Lord Corlys brings Prince Daemon to his seat on Driftmark. They discuss how they are both forgotten sons and they’ve had to scratch and scrape for everything. Corlys suggests an alliance and implores Daemon to take up arms against the Crab Eater in the Stepstones. While Daemon doesn’t fully commit, it’s clear that the Daemlys Bromance is in full effect.
Wow this was one Hell of an episode! Even if you were uncertain after last week’s episode, I don’t see how you can’t be fully onboard with House of Dragon after episode two. We are in for a ride that’s undeniably going to end if fire and blood.
House of the Dragon Episode Two ‘The Rogue Prince’ rates: 9/10 Balerions