With the recent prequel series, House of the Dragon, now hitting our screens, the revival of interest in Game of Thrones is huge. Episode 2 of the much-anticipated series sees us jump ahead of Episode 1 chronologically by about six months. What’s happening? Let’s take a look.
The rise of the Rogue Prince
Four ships are lost, and Corlys Velaryon is not happy about it. A mercenary island chain is preying on the shipping lanes. Of course, Crabfeeder – briefly introduced to us in the last episode – raises his head again. And no one is interested in mere compensation – they want action from the king. Rhaenyra goes as far as to suggest deploying the dragon riders. However, she is hastily removed from the throne room and given a task to distract her – assigning a new guard.
All the candidates fail to impress, lacking combat experience, but she settles on Ser Criston Cole, the tournament winner we saw in the last episode. She’s bitterly discontent with her low-key role and feels insecure as the possibility of a male heir raises its head. The Targaryen family tree, as we know, is tangled indeed.
Corlys is troubled by his female heir and lack of a queen, fearing their enemies will move on the Red Keep. He wants a union between the Targaryens and the Valeryon fleet. But tensions rise as a dragon egg is stolen and Daemon seizes Dragonstone, leaving a taunting note inviting Viserys to the wedding.
Confronted by Otto, Daemon keeps his cool, feeling nothing for having stolen Prince Baelon’s egg and claiming historical precedence. They almost come to blows, but after a dragon appears, tempers cool. But not for long. Rhaenyra, on dragon back, challenges Daemon for the Dragonstone, which is technically hers. He’d have to kill her or surrender the egg. It’s a dangerous stunt, and Viserys is quick to chastise her, but it ends with recovering the egg.
All is not well for long – Viserys’ decision to change his choice of a new wife to Otto’s daughter splits the council entirely. Even Rhaenyra is disappointed at this exploitation of her ties with the woman.
Corlys, furious beyond words, hunts down Daemon and offers an alliance with the Gold Cloaks. Crabfeeder and the Free Cities plot to see Westeros and Corlys’ family brought to its knees by losing the shipping lanes. If the pact can stop this, it would give Daemon a chance to prove himself and strip Viserys of what allies he has left.
And – cue cliffhanger!
What we thought
Ah, Viserys. You just are not a strong leader, aren’t you? He’s making all the wrong choices and doesn’t even seem to care – or realize. While the marriage to Corlys’ daughter Laena would have had a profound age gap, it would have solidified the houses. Going with his heart may be noble (if we didn’t see Otto’s manipulation), but it’s also foolish and could destroy the realm entirely.
All in all, the show has a nice dose of court intrigue, and fans of the Tudors will be thrilled. Fans of Game of Thrones, we’re not so sure. We were used to the fast-paced action, with a very pressing threat (namely, the White Walkers) and many different settings throughout Westeros to add vibrancy and freshness. We really wanted to see how people would work together against this looming threat. Well, until the Seasons of Which We Do Not Speak, at least.
There was quite a lot to digest here, and it managed to keep a solid pace, but we still couldn’t help but feel a little info-bombed by everything coming at us. Hopefully, this will slow down as we get deeper into the series.
We already know that the Targaryen downfall is coming. So making a high drama out of it is a tough call from the start. The House of the Dragon is taking shape as a period-drama-like tangle of political intrigue instead. Great if you like that, but if you wanted sweeping battles, magic, and dragons, it might disappoint. Fans of the books (the Song of Ice and Fire) may feel more at home, as the epic on-screen destruction was only a tiny part of the wider backstabbing and political messes in the books themselves.
So right now, it’s a little difficult to place this series. It’s doing what it has to do well. But it may not meet all the benchmarks for fans who want to return to the Westeros they fondly remember from the award-winning Seasons 1-6 of Game of Thrones. This series feels like it needs a Netflix-like binge release model to really carry some power and pacing, rather than this slow-drip once-weekly release format that HBO is favoring.
Of course, the opening episode shattered records for HBO. And it would appear from early statistics that this week may have managed to top that viewership! So it’s off to a good start. But the actual test of concept for this series may lie in who sticks around until the finale. Will the drama and intrigue manage to make a successful and compelling series of its own, with its own fanbase? In its day, the Tudors certainly did – but we got served precisely what we expected from it. Game of Thrones may have created a precedent that House of the Dragon can’t live up to. Or maybe not. It’s far too early to tell, really. But we’re still a little torn on this one, which may have been a better stand-alone fantasy than a sequel to the Song of Ice and Fire saga.
All the same, it was a solid episode, and managed to analyze this complicated family and its intrigues in some good detail. Overall, we’ll give episode 3 a try.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Did it tick the boxes for you, or is it veering too far into the new-found territory? Do you see it getting a season 2 renewal? What were your favorite moments? Be sure to share your thoughts on this new fantasy drama below!