House of the Dragon, season one, episode two recap: Rifts deepen

House of the Dragon, season one, episode two recap: Rifts deepen

Watch out, spoilers for House of the Dragon episodes 1 and 2 below

House of the Dragon wasted no time in ramping up the drama. Launching last week, and pulling in a record number of premiere viewing figures, audiences were catapulted back to Westeros, King’s Landing and the Red Keep in a matter of minutes.

So was the show able to keep its momentum in episode 2? Did Prince Daemon and King Viserys have another face-off? Was there another gruesome cesarean by any chance (you can breathe more easily – there wasn’t)?

In our second detailed episode breakdown, we share a blow-by-blow account of everything that went down yesterday.

Crabs, anyone?

No one likes a grisly episode opening quite like HoD director Miguel Sapochnik. Episode two opens on a beach where crabs are feasting on some poor bloke’s open wounds – he’s been tied to a post. When the camera zooms out we see that he’s not the only one to meet such an unfortunate end. It seems like a whole hoard of ill-fated sailors will leave this mortal coil as Crustaceans’ afternoon snacks.

The camera quickly zaps over to King’s Landing, the capital of the Six Kingdoms. There’s a council meeting and the now familiar board – the king, Princess Rhaenyra (pouring wine and nosing in on the conversation), Hand of the King Otto Hightower, the knight Ser Harrold Westerling, Lord Lyonel Strong, Grand Maester Mellos and Lord Lyman Beesbury – are chatting about the passing of a King’s Guard knight. They need to organise a replacement.

Lord Corlys Velaryon storms in. He’s angry about the chaos (ie the crabs) going on at the Stepstones, a chain of strategically important rocky islands that major sea lanes run next to. Known as the Sea Snake, the Corlys family wealth relies on these fishing lanes. (Important to remember: over the years he has built the world’s most powerful fleet, becoming the realm’s richest family). The king seems ambivalent about the fact that a “crab feeder” (Corlys’ words) is running this rocky spot, and Corlys is justifiably mad that this foreign power has set up shop completely unchallenged.

“I’m not prepared to start a war with the Free Cities,” says Viserys. (The Free Cities are nine powerful independent city-states that are major trading partners with the Seven Kingdoms – located across the Narrow Sea).

Lord Corlys doesn’t get it. From his point of view, the palace’s decisions are making it look weak: We find out that the king’s wayward brother Prince Daemon has been squatting at Dragonstone, the ancestral seat of House Targaryen which is located at Blackwater Bay, for over six months without challenge, plus he took an army of Gold Cloaks (the King’s Landing city guard; they of episode one’s penis-chopping infamy) with him.

As Otto bristles, the king says he isn’t being idle. He’s sent envoys to Pentos and Volantis (two of the Free Cities) and that the situation would be sorted in time – very measured, but not very Game of Thrones, we fear.

Princess Rhaenyra pipes up, saying that perhaps Dragonriders could be used – it would, after all, show force – but the comment gets her excused from the room. Annoying.

Who is that hottie?

A welcome mood change: we cut to Princess Rhaenyra choosing the new knight to replace the King’s Guard one that died. She is on a balcony and the lucky selection are standing below, holding their house banners, taking it in turns to introduce themselves. It seems that they’re really good at rounding up and bringing poachers to justice, but what about actual hand-to-hand combat? What about battles? Princess Rhaenyra is non-plussed by these lame-os.

“My father should be defended by a man who has known real combat. Should he not?” she says.

Then Ser Criston Cole (who we remember for beating Daemon in last week’s jousting competition) steps forward. He has actual battle experience. He also happens to be really hot, but there’s no way – wink wink – this plays a role in Rhaenyra’s decision-making. She chooses Cole as the replacement, and so – surely? – seeds of a romance have been planted.

Wife time?

The king is hanging out with Otto Highwater’s daughter, and Princess Rhaenyra’s best mate, Alicent Hightower. He’s grieving for his dead wife – I mean, we all are. Anyone who watched her hideous birth last episode will be thinking about it for a very long time.

What is he doing spending one-on-one time with the very young woman, we don’t really know. Does he? Does she? There’s a tenderness between them which is quite uncomfortable given their age gap. Alicent does seem to genuinely like the king, but she is also an actual child (we’re guessing she’s about 15 years old, the same age as Rhaenyra).

The king says, “You do not mention our talks to Rhaenyra do you? I fear that she wouldn’t understand them.” Ummm, yuck.

In the next scene, Alicent and Rhaenyra are in a stony crypt. It’s dark and then there’s a centre point of candles, where the girls kneel and talk about their dead mothers. It’s private and mournful – Rhaenyra gets teary.

“I know those men and how they plot in their secret councils when I am sent away,” she says. Alicent encourages her to speak more openly with her father the king, saying: “Mine own father does not know the language of girls either. When I wish to talk with him I know that I must make the effort.” The vibe is off: almost certainly because Alicent’s friendship with the king is hanging in the air like a giant floating spectre.

Then, thankfully, it’s back outside, to the fresh air. At the end of a long garden path that’s lined with Cypress trees, the king is having a chat with Lord Corlys and his wife Princess Rhaenys Velaryon aka the Queen Who Never Was. (We’ve heard this phrase so many times already that it’s getting a bit repetitive – but clearly the showrunners want to remind everyone to watch this space, ie there’s a wound that is festering).

Corlys and Rhaenys have an offer for Viserys: why doesn’t the king marry their eldest daughter, the Lady Laena? It’s a great match – joining the two most powerful and prestigious families, a showing of unity across the realm. With the Velaryon fleet and Targaryen dragons they’ll be unstoppable. Sounds great, right?

Ah, but one more thing. She’s 12. The only good matches are under 18, apparently.

He puts the question to some members of his council in the next scene, while he is having a plate full of maggots eat away at the rot that is spreading across his hand. Both Otto Highwater and Grand Maester Mellos agree that a marriage between the two houses is probably a good idea. Yes, Laena is young, but it’s a smart decision. “I do not envy you,” says Otto.

So it seems it has been decided: Lady Laena and the king go on a walk around the garden. The difference in maturity is painful. When the king asks what her mother told her about the match, Laena says, “That I wouldn’t have to bed you until I turn 14.” Oh, dear. The King looks dismayed.

Princess Rhaenyra and Princess Rhaenys Velaryon look on from the castle. Rhaenyra asks if it bothers Rhaenys. “I didn’t ask for a lesson in politics, I asked whether it bothers you,” she says. “Of course it does,” replies Rhaenys. But duty is duty, and the future of the houses is the most important factor here. Sorry Laena, gutted.

“When I’m queen I will create a new order,” says Princess Rhaenyra. But Rhaenys thinks she’s being naive. After all, the king will remarry and will have sons. The likelihood of Rhaenyra ever sitting on the Iron Throne are slim, to say the least. “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne,” she says. “And your father is no fool.”

Things hot up

Then there’s another moment where Alicent and the king are hanging out. She’s fixed a dragon model that was broken, and he’s very touched by the gesture. Otto enters – it all seems very awkward.

There’s been an emergency, he says, and the king is needed.

In the following scene, the council has assembled and the king is told that Daemon has stolen one of the dragon eggs, leaving a long letter detailing his plans. He is to marry his concubine, Lady Mysaria – in two days in fact. She is with child, and he’s having the egg. Thanks!

Everyone is furious, but the king is still unsure of what to do – should he really send his own brother to the Wall, chop off his head? But then Princess Rhaenyra asks which egg was stolen. It was the egg chosen for her dead brother Prince Baelon, says the dragon keeper, and now the king is really, seriously mad.

He gets up, ready to storm to Dragonstone, but Otto reminds him that it’s way too dangerous. He’ll go instead.

In the following sequence, Otto is with his daughter Alicent. “Will you see the king tonight?” he asks. “If you wish it,” says Alicent. Yikes: the Littlefinger comparisons that have been swirling the internet since episode one seem to be confirmed in this moment. Otto really is setting up his daughter and best friend.

A tense encounter

Smashcut to Dragonstone, where Prince Daemon is facing off against Otto and 20 of the Red Keep’s best household guards. The panoramic views around them are shrouded in mist. The energy is well and truly off: disaster looms.

Daemon is throwing the stolen dragon egg up and down like a rugby ball. Welcome to Dragonstone, Otto,” he says. Sinisterly.

Otto comes into his own in this scene. In fact, so much so that actor Rhys Ifans deserves a pat on the back for the performance. “Your occupation of this island is at an end,” he shouts across the cavernous space. “This is an abomination. With every breath you soil your name, your house and your brother’s reign.” Go Otto!

Daemon is visibly unmoved. Mysaria storms off when she finds out that Daemon says she will be having a baby soon. It turns out she isn’t expecting, after all. Swords are drawn. Then Daemon’s giant red dragon comes to back up his master, screeching into the abyss. The swords are resheathed – after all, no (sane) man will take on a dragon. It’s a power imbalance that Otto reluctantly acquiesces to.

But, then there’s a rippling in the mist, and Princess Rhaenyra soars onto the scene on the back of her own dragon. Storming through Otto’s men she walks up to Daemon. Speaking in their ancestral language of High Valyrian she says, “This is my castle you’re living in, uncle.” Then she says, “If you wish to be restored as heir, you’ll need to kill me. So do it, and be done with all this bother.”

The show of strength – another woo-hoo moment for audience members – is respected by Daemon. Or, at least, he chooses not to kill her at this moment. There’s a tense stare-off, he passes her the egg, and the confrontation has ended, for now.

Princess Rhaenyra gets back on her dragon and flies home, Daemon storms back to the castle, and Otto is left looking a little bit smaller than he did when the showdown started.

Endings

In the following sequence, Mysaria and Daemon are having an argument. She’s fuming – she wants to be protected after being sold as property for years, and Daemon’s volatile behaviour is putting her in danger. No one will care about sticking her head on a spike, after all, whereas people will treat Daemon with a bit more care.

The callous prince is not exactly known for his kind and generous disposition, so it does seem like a strange moment for Mysaria to start picking at his numerous character flaws. Did she really think she would be well-cared for by the power-hungry brother? To give her her dues, given her history, perhaps he’s the best of a bad lot.

The king and Princess Rhaenyra talk once she returns. He didn’t know she had made the trip to Dragonstone and is furious that she put her life on the line. But she brought back the goods, and he knows it too. In fact, the king seems quietly impressed by his daughter’s guts. They speak again about how much they miss Queen Aemma, and how her “absence is a wound that will never heal”.

The king says he needs to remarry, but that he doesn’t want to become estranged from Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra is sanguine about the whole thing. “Mother would have understood this, just as I do,” she says.

So, then, a marriage between Lady Laena and the king has approval from both the council and his daughter. A great match indeed.

The council meets, and the king shares his news. “I have decided to take a new wife,” he says. Rhaenyra nods. “I intend to marry the lady Alicent Hightower.”

Tumbleweed city. Everyone is shocked. Otto smiles to himself. Lord Corlys is raging and storms out. “This is an absurdity,” he cries. Princess Rhaenyra is knocked sideways and also follows him. Uh-oh. In time the king will surely pay dearly for this decision.

Cliffhanger time

Few shows do a cliffhanger better than the Game of Thrones team, and it is no different with House of the Dragon. This time the final scene shows Lord Corlys sitting by a fire talking to no other than… Prince Daemon. Gasp!

The episode ends as it opened: He is concerned about the troubles at the Stepstones. Images flash to the terrible sandy no man’s land where sailors twist and writhe as they get knawed on.

“If those shipping lanes fall, my House will be crippled,” he says. He believes that he and the prince are similar – but the Daemon doesn’t like the comparison. Lord Corlys’s brother, after all, is not the king.

“Our worth is not given,” says Corlys. “It must be made.” The music builds and then the scene changes: a twisted green face of what can only be the Stepstones’s malevolent foreign power is the last image we see on the screen.

Verdict

Episode two is a resounding success. Relationships between the different factions at court really start to sour, there are some proper cheer-worthy moments, such as when Princess Rhaenyra lands outside Dragonstone, and there are some genuine gasps too. It’s all poised for disaster, frankly, and we’re all on board to watch it unfold. Is it time for episode three yet?

House of the Dragon is streaming on NOW and Sky Atlantic

Published by anthonyhayble

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