House of the Dragon: “Second of His Name” Episode Review

From medieval hunts to unexpected pugs, join Joe Brosnan as he breaks down the third episode of HBO's House of the Dragon, "Second of His Name."

George R.R. Martin’s stories have always been described as medieval fantasy, but never has an episode of Thrones or House of the Dragon felt as medieval as “Second of His Name” did. Unlike the boar hunt in Season One of Thrones, this time we were treated to a proper spectacle in the Kingswood complete with feasts and parties and kingly hangovers.

Martin has been on the record in the past in expressing disappointment at the way King Robert Baratheon’s hunt was portrayed in Thrones, lamenting that it seemed like it was just four dudes out there hunting boars. In medieval reality, they were much larger productions, as seen in “Second of His Name”.

Also, I couldn’t help but feel like Robert Baratheon received some long-awaited redemption in this episode. After seeing the way that the wild boar casually knocked Criston Cole backward, it’s easier to understand how a very drunk Robert was killed.

I loved the dichotomy of Viserys and Rhaenyra’s experiences with the hunt. Viserys was presented with an already-caught animal, chained and presented for execution. Even still, it took two thrusts to kill the beast. For Rhaenyra, it was the opposite, as she was forced to defend her own life in killing the boar, and her relentless stabbing seemed to prove cathartic in the exact opposite way that Viserys’s seemed troubling.

In the rest of this article, we’ll take a look at Prince Daemon’s god-mode, the Lannisters’ less-than-golden introduction, and take a look at the Velaryon family and shed some light on who they are and where they’re coming from.

 

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in “Second of His Name.” © HBO.

Riser of the Week: Daemon Targaryen

This episode will go down as the one where Daemon Targaryen’s history was changed—where he rises to the mythical figure in Targaryen lore. And I absolutely love how he was driven there not by heroic duty, but rather by stubbornness. For three years, he was content to endure a spitting match with the crab people. But the second his brother offers to send help, he decides he needs to step up and win this thing. He can’t have his brother, or even worse, Otto Hightower, take credit for his war. I have no doubt in my mind that Daemon was prepared to die on the sand of the Stepstones. Instead, he emerged not only with his life, but with a legacy. I can’t wait to watch him seize this opportunity and continue his rise.

Also, kudos to Matt Smith. He is the perfect amount of showy and badass to make Daemon a truly great character.

Honorable Mention: Alicent Hightower, for not only proving to be a good queen, but also great council.

 

Jefferson Hall as Jason Lannister and Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra Targaryen in “Second of His Name.”© HBO.

Faller of the Week: Jason Lannister

Man, isn’t it fun watching Lannisters take an L? With all of the arrogance of Jaime Lannister and none of the bite, Jason Lannister was the embodiment of entitlement. It’s easy to see how in just a couple hundred years, the Tywins and Jaimes and Cersies of Casterly Rock would be just as, if not more smug.

Also, fun fact: Jefferson Hall, the actor who portrays Jason Lannister (and his twin, Tyland) also appeared in Season 1 of Game of Thrones as Ser Hugh of the Vale. Ser Hugh was the squire for the late Hand of the King, Jon Arryn, and it is suspected that Ser Hugh had a hand in poisoning Jon Arryn on behalf of the Lannisters. Shortly after Jon Arryn’s death, Hugh was knighted. Then, in the tourney that celebrated Ned Stark’s appointment as Hand of the King, Ser Hugh is killed in a jousting “accident” when the Mountain aims his lance at the weak part of Ser Hugh’s shiny new armor: the neck. The Lannisters might always pay their debts, but they also never leave witnesses.

Honorable Mention: Viserys Targaryen, for his embarrassing showing while hunting. Failing to cleanly kill a trapped animal doesn’t exactly rally the people in support, does it?

 

Wil Johnson as Ser Vaemond Velaryon (left), Theo Nate as Young Laenor Velaryon (center, left), Solly McLeod as Joffrey Lonmouth (center, right), and Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon (right) in “Second of His Name.” © HBO.

Backstory of the Week: The Velaryons

We’ve seen a lot of Corlys Velaryon and his family in these first three episodes, but we haven’t been given that much backstory on them, so I figured this would be a good time to add some additional context. House Velaryon rules the island of Driftmark, which is the largest island in Blackwater Bay (the same location for the wildfire battle in Season Two of Thrones where Stannis attacked Kings Landing). The Velaryon castles include Driftmark and High Tide, and the head of the house—currently Corlys—is titled the Lord of the Tides and the Master of Driftmark. Their house words are “The Old, the True, the Brave.”

We’ve met Corlys Velaryon quite a bit already, as he’s proven to be a vocal opponent to many of King Viserys’s decisions thus far. Corlys is married to Rhaenys Targaryen, aka the Queen Who Never Was, and together, they have two kids: a son, Laenor, and a daughter, Laena.

Laena Velaryon was the young girl in Episode Two who Viserys was considering marrying. And Laenor hadn’t been seen much until this episode, where we saw him not only providing war council at the Stepstones, but also riding a dragon to help save Daemon’s life. Being that Laenor is half-Targaryen, seeing him or his sister riding dragons shouldn’t surprise you. If I were you, I’d pay attention to this family, as we’re about to see a whole lot more of them moving forward.

Also, one of the other rumored Game of Thrones spin-off series is titled The Sea Snake and will follow Corlys Velaryon when he was younger as he completes his famous nine voyages as captain of the ship Sea Snake.

 

Maester’s Musings:

  • Did anyone else find it jarring to see a pug sitting on the lap of one of those royal ladies? Originally, I was not a fan, as I felt like it was out of place, similar to the Ed Sheeran fiasco in Thrones. But then I did some research on pugs, and apparently, they can be traced back all the way to 400 B.C., making them one of the oldest dog breeds. They were bred to be lap dogs for Chinese Emperors, and their wrinkled faces were by design, as they resembled the Chinese character for “prince.” So I officially rescind my complaint. Pugs are canon.
  •  This entire episode was giving me Renaissance Fair meets Downton Abbey vibes, and I was here for it. From friendly tilts and elaborately staged hunts to Rhaenrya doing her best Mary Crawley impression and refusing to marry, the signs were everywhere. And I wasn’t complaining.
  • I really enjoyed drunk Viserys. Between his existential crises and his slurred speech, he reminded me of many a nights where my friends and I would argue over Thrones theories. And below, you’ll find my favorite new line to describe my future hangovers.
  • Viserys continues to prove that if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.
  • I am really enjoying the limited scenes we get with Lyonel Strong. That’s twice now that he’s offered steady, practical advice to Viserys. Keep an eye on him.

Favorite Shot: When Rhaenyra returns to camp bloody with the boar being dragged in by the horse. What a badass moment, and it shines in stark contrast to the pathetic impression left by Viserys on his hunt.

Favorite Scene: The conversation between Viserys and Alicent at the end of the episode. Viserys was heartbreaking as he admitted his guilt and shame for the way he handled the death of his first wife, and Alicent was not only understanding, but firm in how she challenged him. She’s the reason Viserys finally agreed to send ships to the Stepstones, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he listens to more of her council in the future. She seems to be a worthy queen.

Emily Carey as Alicent Hightower in “Second of His Name.” © HBO.

Favorite Line: “The gods have punished me for my indulgences.” From henceforth, that is the only way I will ever describe my hangovers again.

Read More: Series reviews of HBO’s House of the Dragon

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