House of the Dragon – Episode 2 Review


Warning: The following contains: full spoilers for the second episode of House of the Dragon, which aired on HBO on August 28. If you weren’t caught up, check out our spoiler-free review of last week’s premiere.

At the end of the strong opening episode of this Game Of Thrones spin-off, everything seemed to be unusually tasty for Westeros. Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) was anointed heir to the throne by her father Viserys (Paddy Considine), while troubled Uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) went into exile. Unfortunately, this second episode, set six months later, creates the potentially titanic conflicts that will drive this series and could spell doom for them all.

The most obvious threat books the episode: the Crab Feeder, also known as Craghas Drahar, haunts the shores of the kingdom. A mysterious figure, he fires at Westerosi ships and deploys his victims on the shore at low tide to be devoured by Westeros’ seemingly vicious crustacean inhabitants (I suppose it makes sense that even the crabs there are cursed with an insatiable bloodlust). It is a strikingly shot scene, the low golden sun beautifully reflecting the black smoke of burning ships and the horrific blood on the ground, but also grotesque. For Craghas himself, however, the series falls back on biased old tropes that equate disfigurement with violence, hiding his battered face behind a Phantom Of The Opera-esque metal mask.

This seaside massacre is the first sign we’ve seen of the large-scale carnage we’re used to in Westeros; Whereas last week was dominated by the carefully limited violence of jousting and the all-too-real dangers of childbirth, the scope here is extended to entire battlefields of victims at once. And it’s only week two. At this point in Game Of Thrones, they were still on the Kingsroad, throwing rocks at a puppy.

No wonder Steven Toussaint’s Lord Corlys is advocating war against this outlaw. As usual, Viserys is reluctant to act, causing a rift between them. That rift is widened by the episode’s main plot: the issue of the king’s remarriage. Corlys and his Targaryen wife Rhaenys (Eve Best) propose to their daughter Laena (currently the young Nova Foueillis-Mosé). She is the king’s first niece after being removed, so continues the Targaryen tradition of intermarriage; she is also the daughter of his eldest ally, House Velaryon, and marrying her would prove that the two old Valyrian houses are as austere as ever. If she’s about 10 and he’s about 50, then what? Rough medieval rules apparently apply.

Factor aside, the proposal makes sense to the king’s very small council, even Rhaenyra. But all these planners have calculated without Viserys himself. On the one hand, Considine’s character shows a commendable reluctance to marry a literal child. On the other hand, his growing affection for Alicent (Emily Carey) leads him to a decision that alienates Corlys, shocks the rest of the board, and could forever jeopardize his relationship with Rhaenyra.

The problem isn’t just that he’s marrying Alicent, although marrying your daughter’s bestie just doesn’t look right. The problem, running through the entire episode, is that Rhaenyra’s position is still not secure. She is the heiress, but still not in the king’s trust. She attends (some) meetings of the small council, but still pours drinks. She feels they are trying to maneuver around her, but it seems like she has no supporter herself to turn to. It’s an untenable position, made worse by her father’s decision not to warn anyone, not even Rhaenyra, of the announcement he’s about to make. So much for working together to protect Westeros from the apocalypse prophesied in the Targaryen dreams.

The confrontation of Daemon and Rhaenyra is the best moment of the series so far.

Otto Hightower of Rhys Ifans, meanwhile, works hard to suppress his complacency that his manipulations have rewarded. Ifans does a lot with very little in this episode, showing a wary of Rhaenyra, an iron fist with Alicent, and a delicate sense of what will affect the king. Watch the early scene where he talks about the wisdom of a match between Viserys and Laena, but laments the “pain” of marrying for duty that the king must bear. Otto knows that Viserys has never in his life chosen pain where there was an easier way, and he certainly won’t do so here. It is beautifully written by Ryan J. Condal and acting by Ifans.

The most important event this week is probably this marriage and Rhaenyra’s immediate disgust. The show’s stance on sexism has been odd so far. On the one hand, this is yet another fantasy series that has freely chosen to emulate a patriarchy as opposed to Wheel of Time for example, because it is one thing to imagine dragons, but another to imagine sexual equality. The only good reason for that will be if it can give the female characters enough agency and character to actually say something about the injustice that such discrimination causes in our world, and the unnecessary waste of skill it causes. It’s not entirely clear yet if this show will do that, or just stick with murder.

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But enough speculation: Daemon could die if we don’t discuss him already. After spending half a year sulking on Dragonstone, he’s clearly bored mindlessly, so he decides to grab his brother’s attention by claiming a dragon egg for his own, announcing his plans to hang out with his girlfriend Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno ) and promise the egg to the child she might have one day. Given that the wedding appears to be news to Mysaria, and that she is not pregnant, this is acting on a royal scale. Otto, showing a measure of bravery we didn’t expect from him, leads the mission to retrieve the egg, despite the obvious possibility that Daemon just put the dragon on him. But it is Rhaenyra who saves the day.

Their confrontation is the best moment of the series so far. Daemon and Otto go together on the long path to Dragonstone (created in the studio instead of the Spanish location, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where it was first filmed, it seems), their mutual hatred almost crystallizes in the air around them. Then Daemon’s dragon, the “Red Worm” Caraxes, crawls down from the top of the cliffs and you feel that shit just got real. These dragons, with their sinuous long necks, are closer to Tolkien than Dragonheart, more Smaug than Toothless, and they are very fearsome weapons.

Just before Otto is slightly fricasse, however, Rhaenyra arrives on her dragon Syrax, and she persuades her uncle to hand over the egg. The connection between them, which started in the first episode when they flirted for the Iron Throne, lasts no matter how disappointed he was that she replaced him as heir. Rhaenyra looks particularly Daenerys-esque in her riding gear and proves to be equally effective. Smith, meanwhile, is great at the kind of sudden turn that Daemon does, arguing for his rights one minute and flipping the disputed egg the next, apparently on a whim. Sure, he’s offended his brother, niece, and girlfriend, but Daemon knows when to cut his losses and wait for the next chance of mischief.

That opportunity comes, as luck would have it, very soon. Stormed from the council when the king announces his plans to marry Alicent, Lord Corlys retreats to his home on Driftmark and invites Daemon for a visit. He proposes an alliance: they are both going to take down the Crab Feeder, increasing their position in the Seven Kingdoms to Viserys has to take them both seriously. What could go wrong? We will no doubt find out next week.

Every IGN Game of Thrones review

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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