House of the Dragon: “The Rogue Prince” Episode Review

Join Joe Brosnan as he reviews the second episode of HBO's House of the Dragon, "The Rogue Prince." Spoilers ahead!

With two episodes of House of the Dragon officially in the books, it looks safe to say that this show is doubling down on the politicking and power struggles that made early Game of Thrones so enjoyable. As Thrones grew in size and scope, there were simply too many characters to check in with, leaving the writers with no choice but to speed through each scene. But that wasn’t always the case! In Season One of Thrones, we spent an entire episode with the Starks as they traveled south to King’s Landing, giving us valuable time to observe the different ways Ned treated Sansa and Arya. We also got to spend more time learning to hate Joffrey after he baited Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, into attacking him, thus causing Ned to behead the pup. Compare that to the final few seasons where entire groups of people would travel to and from the North offscreen and seemingly in a matter of minutes. Somewhere along the way Thrones lost the art of subtlety, and it never truly recovered. So here’s hoping that House of the Dragon continues to take its time setting up these storylines, and let’s also pray to the old gods and the new that these new showrunners know how to juggle, because as “The Rogue Prince” proved, we’re about to have a lot of storylines to manage.

This week, we’ll talk about the manipulative genius of Otto Hightower, the short-sightedness of King Viserys, and the utterly enjoyable chaos sowed by Prince Daemon.

 

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower “The Rogue Prince.” © HBO

Riser of the Week: Otto Hightower

These last two episodes have been a masterclass in how to play the game of thrones from Otto Hightower. In fact, I could argue he’s the only one playing a winning game at the moment. While King Viserys, Prince Daemon, and Lord Corlys Velaryon all suffered setbacks this week, Otto won big. His instruction to his daughter, Alicent, to comfort the king after his wife passed proved successful, as the episode ended with King Viserys announcing his plans to wed Alicent immediately. We know Alicent is guaranteed to pop out a couple of babies, and should any of them be male, a Hightower (in blood, not name) will have a strong claim to sit on the Iron Throne. Furthermore, Otto is also currently the Hand of the King, and as Viserys has shown, he’s the man the King trusts most. My favorite scene from Otto this week was when he’s conferring with Viserys during that disgusting maggot scene. This was shortly after Viserys met the young Laena Velaryon for a very creepy walk around the gardens. During their chat, Otto subtly takes a dig at the predicament Viserys is in. Otto identifies the king’s hesitation at wedding someone so young, and he admits that he couldn’t do what’s being asked of Viserys. It was a subtle bout of mental warfare, and a move so calculated that I couldn’t help but applaud. Thus far, Otto seems to be steps ahead of every other player. Littlefinger would be proud.

Honorable Mention: Criston Cole, yet again moving up in the world. I have a sneaking suspicion he has a few more rungs to climb.

 

Paddy Considine as Viserys Targaryen and Nova Foueillis-Mose as Laena Velaryon in “The Rogue Prince.” © HBO

Faller of the Week: Viserys Targaryen

At the very least, I hope that when Viserys goes to bed after his small council meeting, he lays awake and realizes how royally he screwed that one up. I can forgive him for not choosing to wed into the Velaryon family–in fact, avoiding a marriage to a 12-year-old girl should be a plus in all of our books. And I can’t fault him for choosing Alicent. But what I can shake my fist at is how he went about it. First, tell your daughter privately that you’re about to relentlessly try to impregnate her best friend with the hopes of producing a male heir that will muddy her path to the throne. It won’t be an easy conversation, but it’s better than surprising her on the spot. And the same goes for how he spurned Corlys Velaryon. Talk privately to the man. I honestly don’t think there was a worse way to handle this. And the icing on the cake is that he’s also now damaged his new wife’s relationship with her best friend, so you know that resentment is going to begin bubbling.

I want to be clear: I think Viserys is a good man. But good men do not make good rulers. Just ask Ned Stark.

Honorable Mention: Corlys Velaryon, for losing ships, men, and his family’s path to the Iron Throne. Will the Daemon audible pay off?

 

Object of Power: Alicent’s Stone Dragon

You gotta hand it to her, Alicent knows how to court a king. Perhaps she learned some of the subtlety from her dad, because as soon as she presented the King with the newly repaired dragon ornament, I knew she was going to be Queen. As Queen Aemma so aptly said in the first episode, for women, their war is childbirth, their royal wombs their weapons. And with the snap of a delicate, picked-raw finger, Alicent is officially royal. I can’t wait to see how her relationship with Rhaenyra unfolds. It’s not going to be pretty.

 

Backstory of the Week: Vhagar, the Hidden Dragon

In what is shaping up to be Chekhov’s Dragon, we learned about Vhagar, an absolutely massive dragon that has no current rider and is out in the wilderness somewhere. Not only is Vhagar huge—Tyrion Lannister would one day joke that you could ride an entire horse down her gullet—she’s also old, as she was originally ridden by Queen Visenya Targaryen, the wife of Aegon the Conqueror. You can bet on Vhagar appearing at some point. There’s just one question: who is going to ride her?

 

Maester’s Musings:

  • How about those opening credits! I was hoping we’d be treated to something akin to Thrones, and I was not disappointed. The coursing blood and the title music was perfect, and it gives credence to the Targaryen house words: Fire and Blood.
  • Those crab scenes were brutal! Watching them crawl and nest in the open flesh of the victims was a bold way to open the episode, and I can’t wait to watch Daemon and Corlys confront these overstepping pirates.
  • Kudos to the sound mixers because the sounds that the dragons make are incredible. It’s unlike any other animal sound that I can think of, and at the same time, it’s exactly how I imagined dragons always sounding.
  • It was also wild to see how much bigger Daemon’s dragon, Caraxes, is compared to Rhaenyra’s dragon, Syrax.
  • Daemon can call Viserys weak as much as he wants, but that man showed no emotion at all when sticking his hand into the tub of maggots.
  • But for real, that injury doesn’t look good. It kind of reminds me of greyscale, and I’m curious to see how soon his health starts worsening.

And we’re going to try something new this week. Below you’ll find my favorite shot, favorite scene, and favorite line.

Favorite Shot: Watching Rhaenyra soar out of the clouds at Dragonstone while riding Syrax. She knows how to make an entrance!

Favorite Scene: When Rhaenyra and her aunt, Rhaenys, were volleying jabs at one another. I really hope we start to get more of Rhaenys because I think she’s such a complex character. The Queen Who Never Was being forced to watch her niece take power is dynamic just begging to be explored, and I am excited to watch it unfold. Also, credit to Rhaenyra for holding serve and getting a few good licks too. She’s proving to be sharp and smart.

Favorite Line: “I will speak of my brother as I wish. You will not.” I absolutely loved when Daemon said this to Corlys. It adds further proof that despite Daemon’s chaotic nature, he still not only loves his brother, but his Targaryen heritage as well. As loyalties shift, it’s going to be fun seeing which way Daemon goes.

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen in “The Rogue Prince.” © HBO

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