House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 2 The Rogue Prince | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 4th, 2023  

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 2 (“The Rogue Prince”)

HBO, August 28,2022

Aug 29, 2022 Photography by Ollie Upton / HBO Web Exclusive
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Although the second episode of House of the Dragon is titled “The Rogue Prince,” the titular Daemon Targaryen doesn’t appear until the final third of its runtime. While his presence looms large over the rest of the episode, however, which picks up six months after the premiere. Daemon is squatting on the Targaryens’ ancestral island citadel of Dragonstone, much to the dismay of the Small Council. But, the majority of this episode is devoted to the ways in which the women of House Targaryen are excluded from hard power and must employ soft power to achieve their own ends.

First and foremost is Princess Rhaenyra, the ostensible heir to the Iron Throne who is nonetheless in a precarious position, both as the first female heir and the target of her uncle Daemon’s ire. Piping up during the opening Small Council meeting, she advises her father to unleash their dragons and dragon-riders against the various challenges facing the realm. Her presumptuousness gets her kindly demoted to the lesser task of appointing a new member of the Kingsguard. Rhaenyra makes the most of the opportunity though, appointing the young Ser Criston Cole–who defeated Daemon in the tourney in the last episode–over more prestigious knights who had less combat experience. Readers of Fire & Blood will know that this intelligent, but seemingly minor decision will have major consequences over the coming decades and episodes.

As Rhaenyra slowly but surely struggles to build her own base of power, other women threaten her position. In an effort to secure his position against a possible war in the Narrow Sea, Corlys Velaryon has offered the hand of his 12-year-old daughter Laena to the recently widowed King Viserys, in an effort to bind the two Valyrian houses of Targaryen and Velaryon. The “date” between Viserys and Laena, an awkward walk about the Red Keep’s gardens, is an intentional bit of slightly cringe comedy. Keep in mind that Laena shows more interest in Vhagar, the oldest of the Targaryen dragons, than she does in her potential marriage. Observing this is Rhaenyra and her older cousin, who is also Laena’s mother, Princess Rhaenys. Rhaenys tells her cousin that the realm had the chance to crown a ruling queen once–her–and refused, but Rhaenyra is unlikely to be so easily cowed.

Rhaenyra’s lessons in politics come to a head during a climactic scene on Dragonstone, looking far more fantasy-ish than it did under Stannis or Daenerys’s occupations in the original series, mostly thanks to the sickly yellow cinematography and heavy fog. Led by Otto Hightower, the royal forces arrive to bring Daemon to heel after hearing that he stole a dragon egg and intends to wed his whore, Mysaria, Matt Smith makes a meal of the scene, taunting Otto and Criston Cole before threatening them with his dragon, Caraxes. In what is surely to be the first of many dramatic entrances on dragonback, Rhaenyra arrives on Syrax, equalizing the standoff and convincing Daemon to return the dragon egg.

Unfortunately for Rhaenyra, even the most astute political player can find themselves on the wrong side of fate and chance. Thanks to the subtle scheming of Otto Hightower, King Viserys announces that he will forgo marrying Laena Velaryon–a decision that leads to an ominous alliance between Prince Daemon and Corlys–and will instead marry Alicent Hightower, Rhaenyra’s closest friend. Emily Carey’s big brown eyes and nervous hands (her cuticle-picking habit is a lovely, humanizing touch) communicate Alicent’s shock and dread; not the most natural feelings for someone who is about to become the most powerful woman in the realm. Most painful of all is the look she shares with Rhaenyra. Thus begins a rivalry neither woman wanted, but neither could avoid.

With the exception of the standoff on Dragonstone, this episode mostly consists of conversations and politicking with little emphasis on action. But the aforementioned alliance between Daemon and Corlys, and the gruesome, terrifying glimpses of their future foe Craghas “The Crabfeeder” Drahar, shown staking his enemies to posts on a crab-infested beach indicates that the next episode will feature the beginnings of the War in the Stepstones, as well as the birth of the next generation of Targaryens.

Author rating: 7/10

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