Prince Daemon steals a dragon egg, Princess Rhaenyra continues to be awesome, and King Viserys goes from okay to the worst in another strong episode of House of the Dragon.
I have long hesitated about writing anything Game of Thrones-related because, though I read the A Song of Ice and Fire books and watched most of the episodes of the series up until its controversial final season, my attention to and recollection of the details of George R.R. Martin's world and the HBO series are not even close to that of other fans. I am very much a casual fan. But, I miss this blog and I have been thoroughly enjoying House of the Dragon, I thought perhaps this would be a good time to return and write a short recap, for myself and fellow casual fans. So, here goes.
The Rogue Prince is set six months after the events of the first episode. Prince Daemon Targaryen has now claimed Dragonstone as his own seat. Lord Corlys Velaryon was increasingly worried about the Crabfeeder's control of the Stepstones affecting shipping lanes that were integral to the wealth of his own House. Quietly, patiently, Otto Hightower continued to use his daughter Alicent to shape the future of the realm.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen was declared Princess of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne in the first episode. Just because the King willed it, however, did not mean that the high lords of Westeros accepted it. The King must marry again, and for a time, it seemed as though the perfect match was found in Lady Laena Velaryon, the daughter of Lord Corlys and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.
The Targaryens and the Velaryons were the only Valyrian Houses** left following the Doom of Valyria. Unlike the Targaryens, the Velaryons were not dragon lords; they wrested their living from the sea, and were enormously successful. At the time of House of the Dragon, the Velaryons were the wealthiest House in the realm. Imagine being wealthier than the Lannisters! Lord Corlys himself was a celebrated mariner renowned for his nine great voyages to Essos. He controlled half the kingdom's ships and was married to Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the Queen Who Never Was. In terms of wealth, power, and bloodline, there would not have been any objection to Laena Velaryon as the King's new wife. She was very young, of course, even in the A Song of Ice and Fire world, but as Lord Lyonel Strong pointed out, she would mature.
Since the death of his wife Queen Aemma, however, there had been one person who had been a great comfort to King Viserys, Alicent Hightower, the Hand's daughter and Princess Rhaenyra's closest friend. Alicent nervously picked at her cuticles and nails, a sign of stress, it seemed, but her calm intelligence was on display through the episode. She knew what to say both to Viserys and Rhaenyra to comfort them, even to bring them together. She tapped into grief that she understood, the loss of her mother; Ser Otto did this too, when he mentioned the loss of his wife. She even supported Viserys' hobby, a reconstruction of Valyria of old. The scenes with Viserys and Alicent were icky, of course, but the writing and performances were top notch.
Did Otto send Alicent to the king's bed to ensure he would marry her instead of Laena? I don't know, but it is certainly a possibility. What made this whole story even more tragic was what I thought was genuine love between Rhaenyra and Alicent. House of the Dragon is going to shatter our hearts in the next episodes and seasons.
Throughout The Rogue Prince, Rhaenyra kept demonstrating that she was a strong heir to the throne. Her immediately dismissed suggestion that her father send his dragon riders to the Stepstones was sound, though dangerous. Her assessment that her father's new Kingsguard must have combat experience was logical, the events Fire and Blood readers know would happen notwithstanding. When she flew Syrax to Dragonstone to deal with Daemon Targaryen herself, every moment of that scene showed Rhaenyra a Queen. Ser Otto looked worried afterwards, because this was a Targaryen who would not be so easy to manipulate.
The titular rogue prince was Daemon, who stole a dragon egg (one of Dreamfyre's, the very one Rhaenyra chose for her brother Baelon) and declared that he would marry his paramour Mysaria, and that she was already with child (she was not). Viserys had largely ignored Daemon's occupation of Dragonstone for months, but when Daemon stole a dragon egg, he was forced to act. After all, a dragon was a dangerous weapon to have. Viserys initially wanted to go get his errant brother himself, but Otto stopped him; Otto claimed it was too dangerous, but I thought it was because the Hand did not want the King spending any time at all with his brother. Viserys, after all, had long shown his love for Daemon, and Daemon, for all his faults and resentments, loved his brother too. A Viserys estranged from his family was a Viserys who was easier to control.
Did Otto really think that his complement of 20 household guards and two Kingsguards were enough against Daemon armed with the Valyrian sword Dark Sister, surrounded by Gold Cloaks and defended by Caraxes? It felt like a mission that was set up to fail from the beginning. It was Rhaenyra's arrival on Syrax that changed the game. The shift in Daemon's whole attitude was evident when he no longer faced the Hand he despised, but his own niece, his blood. 'I'm right here, Uncle. The object of your ire. The reason that you were disinherited. If you wish to be restored as heir, you'll need to kill me. So do it. And be done with all this bother.' I cannot say enough about the work Milly Alcock, Matt Smith, and the writers did with this scene. Incredible. And there were two dragons! And the backdrop was the imposing Dragonstone! As an A Song of Ice and Fire fan, I felt spoiled with all these goodness.
Viserys was not happy that his daughter risked her life and left the capital without his leave, but Rhaenyra got the job done. Daemon gave (tossed) her the dragon egg. Rhaenyra supported Viserys's decision to marry again; she, as did most people, thought he would marry Laena Velaryon. It was foolish and cruel of Viserys to announce his intent to marry Alicent without a private word to Corlys Velaryon and his own daughter and heir. This marriage pretty much sealed the Dance of the Dragons that is to come.
An energetic man, Corlys Velaryon was not one to just sit at High Tide and sulk. He asked Prince Daemon to come to him, and persuaded him to join in the very war King Viserys had been trying to avoid.
♛ Is someone poisoning King Viserys? Are the Maesters truly treating his wounds?
♛ The conversation between Princess Rhaenyra and Princess Rhaenys is one of the high points of this very good episode.
♛ The way Rhaenyra was repeatedly dismissed throughout this episode because she was a girl broke my heart.
♛ The mention of Westerosi families and their sigils made the ASOIAF fan in me happy.
♛ King Viserys was the last rider of Balerion the Black Dread, who was also the last living creature to see Valyria before its doom. It felt fitting for him to be the one Targaryen shown to have this particular attachment to the memory of Valyria.
♛ From my notes: There's manipulation on Alicent but also true warmth -- incredible writing and performance.
♛ I chuckled when Viserys called Rhaenys his favourite cousin. What about Aemma? Quick Targaryen family history: King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and his sister-wife (yes, his actual sister) Queen Alysanne Targaryen had several children, among them, Prince Baelon Targaryen (husband to his sister Princess Alyssa Targaryen and father of Prince and later King Viserys I Targaryen) and Princess Daella Targaryen (wife of Lord Rodrik Arryn and mother of Aemma Arryn). So, Viserys married his cousin Aemma.
♛ The scene with Viserys and Laena Velaryon was icky icky icky, but it was nice to hear Laena mention Vhagar. #iykyk
♛ Rhaenys: 'Men would sooner put the realm to torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne.' Word.
♛ Could it be that the dragonpit worker speaking Valyrian was a descendant of the slaves Aenar Targaryen brought with him from Valyria?
♛ Ser Crispin, lol. Why do I feel like more people will use this name in later episodes/ seasons?
♛ Rhaenyra, when Ser Otto tried to tell Ser Criston Cole to escort her out of their standoff with Daemon: 'Take care not to startle Syrax, my lords. She's rather protective of me.' That was a casual threat of burning.
♛ Episode MVP: This is a tough one, because House of the Dragon's casting is on point, and the actors are working off solid scripts, but I'm giving it to Milly Alcock as Young Rhaenyra. The way she sat atop Syrax as the dragon landed on Dragonstone, calm and poised, despite being shoved aside and ignored all through the episode, was just pure Queen.
♛ A preview of the next episode can be viewed via the Game of Thrones YouTube channel.
♛ ** House Celtigar has Valyrian blood, but I am not at all certain where they placed in the Valyrian hierarchy. Lord Quenton Qoherys was master at arms at Dragonstone and did not seem to possess land until he was given Harrenhal.