The second episode of House of Dragon might have already surpassed the premiere episode in my dragon-tinted glasses perspective. In this episode, “The Rogue Prince,” Rhaenyra comes into her own, King Viserys continues to look pathetic, and the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower maintains his position as somehow having a more punchable face than even the King’s brother, Daemon.
Set six months after the Queen died in childbirth from a C-section, and the resulting son, the would-be heir to the King, also died, the King must follow his duty to wed again and maintain his royal lineage. He is counseled by Otto and Grand Maester Mellos (played by David Horovitch) to wed Lord Corlys Velaryon’s daughter, Laena. His 12-year-old daughter. His 12-year-old daughter, whose mother, The Queen Who Never Was, Rhaenys Velaryon, advised her that she wouldn’t have to “bed” the king until she turned … 14-years-old. The reason for this is political: It would placate Lord Corlys of House Velaryon, who not only feels spurned by Rhaenys not becoming Queen, but also wants to establish his great house against Triarchy Admiral Craghas Crabfeeder, who is literally feeding pirates to the crabs and endangering Velaryon’s ships and shipping lanes — House Velaryon has the strongest naval fleet in the Seven Kingdoms. Joining their two Houses through marriage would show that the King’s reign is on the upswing rather than a downward spiral, or so that is how Corlys pitches it, and he thinks the King is all in.
Instead, much to Otto’s scheming delight, the King picks as his bride, Alicent Hightower, Otto’s daughter and his own daughter’s best friend. So, not only did he tick off Corlys Velaryon, sending him into the hands of Daemon to be natural allies against a weak King, but he ticked off his own daughter, who he had just started mending fences with over the grief of their wife/mother. I don’t understand, though. Online, Alicent is already getting Cersei comparisons and expectations. At least so far, I don’t see it! She’s trying to please her dad and is not exactly someone who has a choice here.
Rhaenyra also doesn’t have much choice, still refilling the Small Council’s cups, and as she tells Daemon later, she wasn’t chosen to be heir to the King; rather, she was a way of spurning Daemon. Along this same vein, when discussing her 12-year-old daughter wedding the King, Rhaenys tells Rhaenyra that this is just the order of things. But Rhaenyra, who has a number of good lines in this episode, responds, “When I am Queen, I will create a new order.”
And Daemon, for his part, is acting a fool, too. He steals his dead nephew’s dragon egg — Targaryen children grow up with a dragon egg in their bed — and concocts this story that his prostitute, Mysaria (played by Sonoya Mizuno), is not only going to be his bride (his second wife), but is also pregnant. Again, this makes the King look weak, but Otto and the King’s men go to retrieve the egg at Dragonstone, where Daemon has been living, even though it’s not his rightful place.
Just when it looks like we are going to get a bloody sword fight between Daemon’s Gold Cloaks and the King’s men, Daemon’s dragon, Blood Wyrm comes over the rise to intimidate Otto’s men, who quickly sheathe their effing steel (to paraphrase Otto). That is when we get the best shot/moment from the series thus far, which gave me goosebumps: Rhaenyra swoops up out of the clouds riding Syrax. Dragon showdown! But it wasn’t only that Rhaenyra came with the dragon and let the dragon speak for her. She confronted Daemon, and challenged him to kill her, if that is what it would come to. But Daemon backs down and haphazardly tosses the dragon egg to Rhaenyra. She gives us this lookback as he sulks away:
That wasn’t the only way Rhaenyra asserted herself in this episode, just the most dramatic. Earlier, she was tasked with choosing a knight to fill a vacancy in the Kingsguard. She demurred on choosing those who had never seen battle, spurned Otto’s advice, and then chose Ser Criston (played by Fabien Frankle), the one who bested Daemon in jousting in the prior episode, and who has seen battle.
Overall, what a phenomenal episode, bookended by great, disturbing cinematographic scenes of the crabs eating the pirates, a potential dragon showdown in the middle, the return of the epic Game of Thrones opening credits music, but with new a visual treat of blood running through King’s Landing, and all interspersed with the political gamesmanship and backstabbing we loved from Game of Thrones. This is already can’t-miss, appointment-viewing television.