The second episode of House of the Dragon kicks off with a gnarly image of crabs crawling out of a dead man’s skull. Did we just walk back into the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise?It’s very reminiscent of Davy Jones’s undead crew. Corlys “The Sea Snake” Velaryon, head of the largest fleet in Westeros, is attacked by Myrish pirates, led by a man known as Craghas Crabfeeder. What a name. Corlys talks in boat metaphors. All he really cares about is his ships. The king’s council doesn’t seem to care, but Corlys’s men are fed alive to hundreds of crabs. It’s as fitting a beginning to Thrones-verse episode as any.
Now, the Game of Thrones prequel broke records last week, becoming the most-watched premiere in HBO’s history. Corlys reportedly tested very well for a potential spinoff, which is certainly interesting. Milly Alcock, by the way, is absolutely killing her role as the young Princess Rhaenyra. So much so, that it’s sad to think that House of the Dragon will Soon age her character, replacing her with Emma D’Arcy. Alcock is easily the most entertaining character in House of the Dragon so far, by a long shot.
The men on this show, meanwhile, are bumbling fools with sillier wigs. They look like George Washington and John Adams went to Burning Man. And their names? Do I even have to repeat them? The Master of Coin is Lord Lyman Beesbury of Honeyholt and the Master of Laws is Lord Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal. Once important houses, it doesn’t bode well that neither Beesbury nor Strong are familiar names come Game of Thrones. Relegated to pouring their wine, Rhaenyra has clearly had it with their dull cabinet meetings. Every little scoff and rebuttal toward them is perfectly executed by Alcock.
Along with ignoring Corlys’s warnings about the crab man, King Viserys is also skeptical about the Sea Snake’s suggestion that they join their houses together. He wants Viserys to marry his 12-year-old daughter, Laena, which is disgusting! Princess Rhaenyra is obviously disturbed by the idea of her father marrying a literal child. Should he have a son with his second wife, it could challenge her claim to the throne. Corlys’s wife, Rhaenys Targaryen, warns the princess that “men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend to the Iron Throne.” She would know better than anyone. As the “Queen Who Never Was,” she was passed over for the Iron Throne for her cousin, King Viserys, not too long ago.
Sexism in Westeros politics was once a hot-button issue in Game of Thrones. Cersei and Daenerys vied for the throne for eight seasons, yet the HBO series still ended with the two most powerful women getting murdered. House of the Dragon is in a unique position in that it has the opportunity to treat its female characters with more respect than its predecessor’s controversial ending. But it occurs 200 years prior to Thrones—when, historically, the kingdom would be even less progressive than in Thrones.
Meanwhile, Hand of the King Otto Hightower appears to be the most responsible member of the council. His position also makes him an easy foil for the reckless prince, Daemon Targaryen. When Otto spoke out against naming Daemon as the heir in Episode One, the prince challenged and defeated his son Ser Gwayne in the jousting tournament. These were simple, political jabs, but now Daemon has taken hold of the castle at Dragonstone and openly challenged the king. He steals the dragon egg that belongs to his late nephew, a note where he proclaims himself leaving the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Odd! This man seemingly has no plan other than to cause chaos.
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Otto Hightower escalates the feud, traveling to Dragonstone so he can attempt to bring Daemon to justice. At the castle, Daemon threatens him with his massive red dragon, Caraxes. “To choose violence here would mean war against your King,” Otto warns. Daemon coldly replies, “Wonderful.” Before things can get really bad, Princess Rhaenyra arrives on her smaller, golden dragon. She’s able to convince her uncle to return the dragon egg and spare any bloodshed. For now. As it currently stands, Daemon would need to kill Princess Rhaenyra if he wanted to ascend the Iron Throne. Daemon also makes sure to point out the presence of Ser Criston Cole—a Dornish knight who put up a good fight against him in Episode One’s jousting tournament. Do I smell a rivalry? He hasn’t had much screen time so far, but this guy is definitely one to keep an eye on. Princess Rhaenyra also chose Ser Criston to have a place on the king’s guard, seemingly taking a liking to him right off the bat.
With the standoff at Dragonstone out of the way, we return to King’s Landing, where everyone is trying to wed their youngest daughter to the King. Back in the first episode, Otto Hightower sent his 15-year-old daughter, Alicent, to “offer the King comfort.” Yuck! Nothing presumably indecent occurs during these late-night chats yet, but Otto and Alicent are well aware of the strategic move they’re pulling right under the King’s nose. Later, Rhaenyra is shocked when Viserys chooses Alicent Hightower—her best friend—to be her father’s second wife. Alicent is shown nervously picking at her fingernails until they bleed, which certainly can’t mean that she’s excited to have this man’s children, either.
Corlys calls the decision to pass up his 12-year-old daughter “an absurdity,” striking up a deal with Daemon at the end of the episode. If Daemon will defeat Craghas Crabfeeder and the Myrish pirates threatening House Velaryon, Corlys will consider offering him his full support. Uh-oh! Clear lines are being drawn. Also, we finally got a little bit of actual dragon action this episode, though this story is only just heating up.
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; His work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.
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