HOUSE OF THE DRAGON roars ahead in second week of intrigue and mythology

by Charles Gerian

“You are the king, but I do not envy you.”

Sunday night saw the second episode of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” release, and even brought us our long-awaited look at the series’ opening title sequence which was a grotesque representation of bloodlines and the importance of ‘blood’ in this saga of, well, Fire and Blood.

The opening was set to the iconic “Game of Thrones” theme by Ramin Djawdi, on which feedback has been controversial if not positive. The argument online seems to feel the usage of the theme is cheap, but as many others have argued the “Game of Thrones” theme is as iconic, in a sense, as the music from Star Wars or James Bond, and you don’t see either of those missing a chance to include their traditional scores alongside new pieces, so why would “House of the Dragon” be any different?

The second episode, titled “The Rogue Prince” revels in the fallout of our first episode’s controlled chaos. Picking up six months later, this episode sees King Viserys facing the realization that he will have to remarry, as is custom and tradition for a king.

The conflict, of course, is not just a matter of who he will marry, but what will happen when his new wife eventually gives him a son which will directly challenge his named heir Rhaenyra, his only living child.

Meanwhile we have a war brewing in The Stepstones ( a series of coastal islands) which are a main trade route for Westeros. A mad pirate king, The Crab Feeder, is causing chaos and the seafaring Lord Corlys Velaryon, believes that Viserys should be focused on the Crab Feeder.

Daemon Targaryen, the titular “Rogue Prince” of the episode, is holed away in Dragonstone just across the Blackwater Bay. This ancestral Targaryen home, which will later house Stannis Baratheon in the “Game of Thrones” some hundred years later. Episode 2 does a lot of heavy lifting to continue moving the pieces of the upcoming “Dance of the Dragons” Targaryen civil war into place, and gives the audiences a look at how devastating Viserys’ planned marriage to Allicent Hightower is to Rhaenyra.

A change from the source material is welcome here, having Allicent and Rhaenyra be childhood friends. It makes her father’s marriage to her best friend seem all the more impactful. We also get to see the promise of more naval combat and pirate mischief, which is a large part of the expanded lore of the universe established in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels and “Fire & Blood”, the latter being the basis for the current series.

One of the best scenes from the episode comes with Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen speaking with Corlys Velaryon. Corlys is preturbed that Viserys overlooked an arranged marriage to Velaryon’s own daughter (who was at most 10 years old) in favor of Allicent, seeing it as a slight to Velaryon’s mighty house and blood.

Daemon snaps at Corlys, telling him simply that Daemon is allowed to badmouth the king, but Corlys has no right, as he is still under Viserys’ rule and should respect him as such. It is a small line in a very good interaction, but it goes to show that the forthcoming civil war and Daemon’s position and actions are not entirely as one-sided and spiteful as he would like people to think.

“House of the Dragon” is a fascinating watch because it actually enhances, rather than detracts from, the source material “Fire & Blood”. The novel, published in 2019, is told as an inuniverse textbook of the Targaryen dynasty written by the Maesters, the shadowy and power-hungry guild in Oldtown (of which Otto Hightower is a member of).

Therefore the text is a starkly black and white version of events.

It feels like two sides of a coin, here, to get the “real” story rather than the propaganda text of Martin’s carefully constructed “Fire & Blood”.

Episode 2 did not have any bloody battles or grand action pieces but instead recalled audiences to a time before when “Game of Thrones” did politically wheeling and dealing and scheming with as much ferocity as it did sword fighting and violence. It was a very welcome return to form, and was a fantastic stepping stone towards wherever this season seems to be heading.