The world of Westeros is as exciting as you remember. And maybe that’s a bit of the problem.
house of the dragonthe new prequel that returns to the world of game of Thrones, takes place approximately 172 years before the events of this series. Now we see a very different King’s Landing, ruled by the Targaryens at the height of their power. This is a game of Thrones together, soon everything will degenerate into battles and sex, betrayals and power grabs, play politics that are both petty and legitimate. But for now, everything is setting up for an epic story.
But since this show is a successor (in our timeline) to the very popular one game of Thrones series, it’s virtually impossible to approach them with a fresh mind. When one makes the decision to sign up for yet another massive chronicle of Westeros, one is faced with a great deal of burden, which is where the story inevitably leads. But if the first episode was painted with as broad a brush as possible to bring us up to date on old Westeros and its many players, then episode 2 is more of a pointillist portrait of the Targaryen family as it came to be. In The Rogue Prince, we get closer to the intricacies of what people hold dear in order to line up the better house of the dragon as his own creature entirely.
Maybe the strongest thing I can say house of the dragon is that almost every detail in the show feels worthwhile without the danger of over-pulling and untangling the rug it weaves. That might seem like a damnation on the meager side of things, but Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) is incredibly interested in details – the Dornish knight who has battle experience, or the jewelry she wears to dinner with her father, King Viserys (Paddy Considine). . That she sheds the Valyrian steel necklace for a dinner where she hopes to bond better with him is a revealing subtlety in a production stacked with them.
So far much from the family dynamics of house of the dragon was less violence and bloodshed and more the heartbreaking meta-communication where two people only appear to be talking about the same thing. Viserys caters to nostalgia, he becomes poetic to his daughter’s best friend Alicent (Emily Carey) about the glory of old Valyria and the difficulties of his duties. But in the presence of his daughter, he can’t sit and listen enough to hear what she’s really getting at. When Rhaenyra brings up the awkward moment during the Small Council meeting, he tries to spare her what he sees as further embarrassment – “You are young; you will learn” – missing an opportunity to talk to her much at all. It’s not far from here to see how Rhaenyra views the situation as less about her own rise to power and more about the chosen one to spurn Daemon. house of the dragon presents both Rhaenyra and Viserys with empathy, but it also presents them just incredibly clearly. It’s hard to blame either of them for being both trapped by convention.
That Viserys and Rhaenyra rely on the same person – Alicent – to help them through their grief is just a cruelty of fate, but it’s one the show has carefully laid emotional foundations for as well. In just two episodes a house has pleaded why they both feel seen, while also making sure Alicent and her caring for them both don’t sound fake.
This is the way house of the dragon won me over and feels like it’s worth watching again. The show is packed with powerful smaller beats, like the maester looking at the king’s hand to coax Viserys through his emotional refusal of marriage proposals, and the show’s visual composition follows suit. This does feel like old school game of Thrones, except this isn’t a sneaky compliment on the lingering aftertaste of season eight. At its peak, this show was one that could command your attention and reward it with narrative character notes and stories grounded in a million little moments. In his second episode house of the dragon proves he’s capable of it.
Sunday’s episode’s focus (and where it comes closest to the traditional sword-drawn action that audiences associate with the franchise) is in Dragonstone, where all the details come to a head in one of Rhaenyra’s earliest tests. She has come to Targaryen Castle, where Daemon (Matt Smith) has been squatting for some time, and she hopes to avoid the bloodshed that Otto Hightower’s (Rhys Ifans) efforts would surely have resulted in. She manages to properly appreciate Daemon’s bluff for what it is: the smug act of an impulse-control asshole and the mad schemes of a middle school student. But the scene is still full of suspense as the camera oscillates around the various players and their respective motivations for ending up on those Dragonstone tiers. and it is working (whether you believe the CGI background of it all or not).
Maybe she still had the words of her aunt Rhaenys (Eve Best) in her ears, reminding her that despite being a named heiress, she still wears her father’s mugs, or maybe it was her father’s picture , who dated a 12 year old. Anyhow, it paints a clearer picture of who Alcock’s Rhaenyra is and who she could become. When her father sees a threat, he thinks in general terms and only warns her to fight off “anyone who dares challenge us”. But Rhaenyra knows that threats can come from anywhere, and she’s proven she’s up to the challenge, no matter what comes her way.
Which is good, because as this episode is quick to remind us, there are threats outside of King’s Landing. In the first few moments of the episode, before we even know what we’re seeing or hearing, we know it’s gripping and terrifying. Those details might mean nothing, but here, in its second installment, house of the dragon makes them revealing: There are dangers of all kinds in this world; The Crabfeeder and its nautical horror is just the beginning. But it’s enough to wash away the memory of Season 8 and its “best stories.” For now, it’s enough just to have fun with Westeros again.
https://www.polygon.com/23321956/house-of-the-dragon-episode-2-review House of the Dragon Episode 2 Review: Everything at Game of Thrones again