House of the Dragon 1×2 Review: The Rogue Prince
‘The Rogue Prince’ was just as good as the first episode. I have high hopes that House of the Dragon will remain consistently good through the end of the season. You can hold me to that if things go south at some point. I am prepared to eat my words if it comes to it.
First of all, let’s start with some good news! Before ‘The Rogue Prince’ even aired, House of the Dragon was renewed for a second season! They wisely seemed to wait until they had an accurate read on how the audience liked the first episode. And I get it. I really do. The last season of Game of Thrones really left a bitter taste in the fandom’s mouth and we all knew it was going to be a struggle to earn back our loyalty. But somehow they managed to pull it off!
I’ve been stating ad nauseum that I was going into this show cautiously and I wasn’t sure if it’d bring me back into the fandom or not. But I’m absolutely obsessed with this show now. I’m back in the fandom full force and am officially calling the show ‘fantastic.’ Please bring on the second season!
The Intro is Incredible
The second episode brought us the official opening of House of the Dragon. They reused the song from Game of Thrones, but I think that it works. It ties us back to something from the original series that was nearly universally loved, but updates it with relevant information for the new show.
The introduction takes us through Old Valyria, which is the origin of both House Targaryen and House Velaryon. Side note, I hope we get an Old Valyria spin-off someday. Valyria is by far my favorite part of the lore. The fact that it’s the setting for the intro is incredibly awesome.
While the original series shows us the map of Westeros and Essos, highlighting important locations for each season, this one shows us the Targaryen family tree. The tree starts with Aegon the Conqueror and his sisterwives. The blood flows through each symbol as it moves through the family tree, sometimes branching off into people offscreen, and sometimes joining with non-Targaryen household members.
The family tree currently ends with Rhaenyra before it travels under a dragon stone carving and into the opening title. I assume this will be updated as new Targaryens are born, which, based on the sneak peek of the next episode (spoiler warning if you don’t want the next episode previews), should be next week. It’s possible they’ll wait until the family tree has expanded a bit more, though. I guess we’ll have to see!
Rhaenyra and Alicent: A Doomed Ship
As I’ve read the book, I knew that shipping Rhaenyra and Alicent was going to be heartbreaking. I knew Alicent would become Viserys’ wife and would fracture their friendship. And yet I shipped the heck out of it anyway. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Sapphic pairings.
In the first episode, I felt like their love was very one-sided. Alicent seemed to shy away from Rhaenyra’s affection and physical touch. It almost felt like Alicent was just Rhaenyra’s friend out of duty. This week, however, I feel like there is some level of care from Alicent as well. I don’t think it’s as deep as Rhaenyra’s love towards her, nor do I think it’s entirely altruistic, but there was some level of kindness in the Sept prayer scene that felt genuine.
I truly feel that Rhaenyra loved Alicent romantically and that the betrothal broke her heart. There are a lot of complexities to the issue, the most obvious of which is the immediate threat to her succession. When whoever her father marries has a male heir, her position will be threatened regardless of who he chooses. But the fact that it’s someone Rhaenyra loves is an extra bit of salt in the wound. It seems like she’d have been able to make peace with Laena had she been chosen, even though her inheritance would have been threatened with her as well.
Can I also say I’m really glad he didn’t marry the 12-year-old? Sure, Alicent is not much older, but she looks much older and will be infinitely easier to watch play out on screen. I know young wives and marrying relatives is kind of the Targaryen thing, but any chance to dodge that tradition is a bit of a relief.
Is Alicent Scheming, or a Victim?
Whatever care Alicent has for Rhaenyra seems to come in second to her duty. She accepts ‘the order of things,’ as Rhaenys calls it, and knows her primary duty in this misogynistic world is to marry into a great family and have sons. If that marriage just happens to be to her best friend’s father, she’ll still prioritize it and let the friendship fall apart.
What I can’t tell is whether Alicent truly wants to follow this path or not. Her reluctance to accept Rhaenyra’s affections made me think she doesn’t like her very much from the outset. But she doesn’t seem thrilled with her father’s plan either. Her nervous skin picking (a trait she and I share) seems to reveal she’s not entirely comfortable with this. She also seems somewhat concerned about Rhaenyra’s reaction to the betrothal announcement, while her father is sitting there looking quite smug about it all.
At the end of the day, she does as her father wishes. She pursues the King and accepts the marriage. Did she have much of a choice? No. She didn’t. But did she want to make this choice? At this point, I’m not so sure.
King Viserys: King of Bad Decisions
King Viserys, who is quite literally being rejected by the throne through numerous cuts and festering wounds, should really be called the “King of Bad Decisions.” I hate this man. Passionately. He lacks both critical thinking skills and a backbone. Sure, he’s not the worst King in the Targaryen line (that’s probably a tie between Aegon IV and Aerys II, The Mad King). But he’s definitely not a good one by any means.
Last week his terrible decision came in the form of a surprise C-section that killed his wife. Not only did he decide to kill her to save his son, but he didn’t bother telling her about it first. This week’s terrible decision came with his choice of marriage. And look, I get it. Alicent is older than Laena and far less icky (not that I really think they care much about that in this universe), but he didn’t bother to tell either Rhaenyra or Lord Corlys that he was choosing her. In fact, she wasn’t even publicly in the running. It was a complete surprise!
These are clearly the two biggest mistakes so far, but every choice he makes is terrible. Viserys lets himself be manipulated by those around him, especially Otto Hightower. He was going to confront his brother directly at Dragonstone, but stopped because of Otto’s interjection. He also dismisses Rhaenyra from the Small Council at Otto’s urging. Otto has him twisted around his finger.
Why do I love Daemon Targaryen?
After rambling for paragraphs about how much I hate King Viserys, I’m now ashamed to admit I have absolutely no justification for why I love Daemon Targaryen. He cheats on his wife and calls her terrible names. He killed a ton of people he deemed criminals without any sort of trial or verification of their criminality. And he’s just, like, kinda rude. But he looks good doing it.
Daemon only seems to respect other Targaryens. Though his confrontation on Dragonstone ostensibly ended because Rhaenyra met his power with another dragon. I also feel he relented out of genuine care for her specifically. She’s a Targaryen, but also a very specific Targaryen that he dotes upon with gifts.
Additionally, when Corlys is going off about the King at the end of the episode, he very firmly tells him he has no right to insult the King. He feuds with his brother, but he feels he’s allowed to do it. They are both Targaryens and royal blood. It’s his right. I have no doubt he’d cut the tongue out of anyone else who speaks ill of him. He probably only spared Corlys because his proposal will, at the end of the day, strengthen House Targaryen.
Daemon is protective of the Targaryen line and places that above all else. Yes, he wants to be King. Of course, he does. But he seems willing to put effort into defending his brother and niece if he can’t be King himself.
Perhaps that’s why I love him. I, too, just really love the Targaryens.
Heck yeah, DRAGONS!
Setting aside my analysis for a second, can I just say those dragons are really damn cool! Rhaenyra’s dragon is called Syrax, and was hatched from an egg that was placed in her crib as a child. Daemon’s dragon is Caraxes, whose previous rider was one of their ancestors, Aemon Targaryen. Sometimes Caraxes is called “Blood Wyrm.”
While dragons can live for an incredibly long time, the last one from Old Valyria was Balerion. King Viserys had previously claimed Balerion, but he, unfortunately, died shortly after. This took the last living thing from their homeland away from the Targaryens. Balerion’s gigantic skull was then put on display, and can even be seen in Game of Thrones.
There are other dragon riders on the show, but their dragons haven’t been shown yet. If you include the wild dragons that haven’t been claimed by any Targaryens, there should be about 17 dragons currently in existence in the world. Or, at the very least, there are 17 dragons that we know about.
I’d like to think there are others that have never been known by Westeros. Perhaps there are some far far east on Essos beyond the known world. Not much is known beyond Asshai and that seems to be where a lot of magic comes from. We may never see that, though. Not on HBO, nor in the books. We can theorize, though, and that’s almost as fun. Almost.
The Trouble in the Stepstones
The B-Plot of the episode is the trouble in the Stepstones. The Stepstones are a small set of rocky islands in the southern part of the Narrow Sea between Westeros and Essos. Anything that needs to travel from the east coast of Westeros to any southern ports in Essos needs to travel by these islands. Now a particularly nasty pirate with a penchant for crab-themed torture has set up shop there.
Corlys Velaryon, as the Master of Ships, is particularly impacted by this. Velaryon already comes from a long line of seafarers and would have a financial stake in this regardless, but it’s also quite literally his job on the Small Council to look after these things. Despite this, King Viserys continues to be passive and not care about these losses.
Yes, Viserys is once again making terrible choices. What else is new? But this particular terrible decision, on top of his terrible choice of marriage, is quite clearly causing a major rift. It’s sparking the Dance of the Dragons.
The Dance of the Dragons Has Begun
The most important thing to take note of is all the alliances being formed. That was important in Game of Thrones too. That damn Throne just leads to drama. If the scheming and fighting over power was important to you, you’re gonna absolutely love this.
I don’t think it’ll be a surprise to anyone that I’m on Team Rhaenyra. It’s basically Team F*$k The Patriarchy. Rhaenys was passed over, and now Rhaenyra’s position is threatened. These women were dismissed because of their gender. The men on Team Rhaenyra have also faced challenges to their power, just as Corlys describes to Daemon at the end of the episode.
I’m not sure how far the first season is going to go with this story, but we’re going to have some time jumps. There are actors playing older versions of Rhaenyra, Alicent, Laenar, and Laena, so we’re going to shoot ahead quite a bit at some point. And (spoiler for the preview) there’s going to be a new baby next episode, so we’re going to jump ahead by at least a year or so. I am terrible at judging the ages of babies so I don’t know how old that kid is, but he’s certainly not a newborn.
Next week can’t come soon enough. I am now basically counting down the minutes for each new episode. That means that, yep, I’m part of the reason the HBO Max app crashes every week. And I’m not even sorry.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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