House of the Dragon episode 2 review: “An electric confrontation winds the tension to breaking point”

Warning: The following contains major spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 2! Turn back now if you haven’t seen the new episode! 

If the House of the Dragon premiere deftly laid the foundations for an epic, bloody civil war, then the follow-up winds the tension to breaking point. In fact, by the end of ‘The Rogue Prince’, it’s amazing the Seven Kingdoms hasn’t erupted in battle already. 

Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen continues to be a troublemaker, and he’s shaping up to be the show’s most fascinating character, helped by Smith’s enigmatic performance. What Daemon truly wants beyond his brother’s attention is hard to predict. In this episode, it’s revealed Daemon has stolen a dragon egg – the one intended for the late “Heir for a Day” Prince Baelon’s cradle – and taken over Dragonstone, and intends on making Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) his second wife. Viserys sends his Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), to deal with it, which proves an unwise decision but makes for an electric confrontation as Otto’s savage remarks are met by the formidable dragon Caraxes, who makes a snarling appearance. 

A tense stalemate is reached on the stony heights of Dragonstone, until Daemon notices something on the horizon: Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) astride her dragon, backed by a haunting score. She looks every inch a future queen as she soars through the clouds, and her arrival gives an already thrilling scene an extra jolt of sizzling energy. Rhaenyra’s no-nonsense approach to retrieving the egg and putting Daemon back in his place is utterly effective, and she cuts through the posturing of her uncle and Otto with straightforward ease. 

Despite this, though, Rhaenyra’s position as Viserys’ heir is still unstable due to Westeros’ misogyny problem: Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), AKA the Queen Who Never Was, engages in some particularly mean-spirited verbal sparring with Rhaenyra, insisting the realm will never allow a woman to sit on the Iron Throne. Rhaenyra’s declaration, “When I am queen, I will make a new order,” might have echoes of Daenerys Targaryen, as does the sight of Rhaenyra in her black dress on dragonback, but it goes no further than symmetry – Alcock makes Rhaenyra entirely her own, proving the realm is big enough for two silver-haired, dragon-riding queens-in-waiting. 

‘The Rogue Prince’ also solidifies what was only hinted at in the premiere: Viserys is not the king Westeros needs. The previous episode saw him cut himself on the Iron Throne and simply brush off Daemon’s night of madcap butchery with the City Watch, and now, once more, the king underestimates the threat of the Crabfeeder, which could seriously weaken Westeros. And then, just when you think things couldn’t get worse, Viserys makes an all timer of a ruinous decision. 

“I imagine even dragons get lonely,” he tells Rhaenyra, and while they’re talking about the literal fire-breathers, the same goes for the king himself. Since his wife died six months ago, Viserys has been secretly meeting with Otto’s daughter Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) in his chambers – she’s there at the urging of her quietly conniving father, Otto. It’s more innocent than it sounds, really: they’ve just been talking, and Alicent even gives the grieving king advice on connecting with Rhaenyra. Could this unlikely friendship actually do some good? Absolutely not: by the end, the relationship has transfigured into something devastating. 

House of the Dragon episode 2

(Image credit: HBO)

Viserys is under pressure to remarry and secure the Targaryen line, but he’s reluctant. Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and his wife Rhaenys put forward their own daughter as a candidate to unite the Targaryen and Velaryon houses: the catch is their child is 12 years old. It’s particularly disturbing to see the young girl and the king walk side by side, discussing their potential marriage, and – as you would hope – Viserys just can’t get over his potential bride being a literal child. He seeks some honest advice on the matter, and realizes he must put his duty to the realm above his personal feelings. So, he announces in front of the entire small council and his heir Rhaenyra that he’ll be wedded once more. The reveal that Alicent is his intended bride is poignantly centered on Rhaenyra’s dawning realization and Alicent’s terrified reaction, then Alicent nervously picking at her nails while Rhaenyra struggles to hold back tears. There are still three episodes left of the duo as youngsters before Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke take over the roles, and seeing how their sweet friendship shifts now that Alicent is Rhaenyra’s stepmother is bound to be morbidly fascinating. 

Rhaenyra isn’t the only one who takes the news badly, either. Corlys is furious – and that drives him right to Daemon. The two “second sons” scheming by firelight is delicious, especially with Toussaint bringing out Corlys’ palpable, righteous anger, while seeing Daemon warn Corlys over his harsh words about Viserys is equally intriguing. The relationship between Daemon and Viserys is as tangled as ever, building on their dramatic showdown in the throne room an episode prior. Corlys finally gets someone to listen to him about the Crabfeeder, too, and there’s a tantalizing tease of some long-awaited fiery action to come as Daemon looks menacingly thoughtful, intercut with a pirate looking into the distance. Is Caraxes looming? Here’s hoping. The show has so far done an excellent job at withholding on the dragons for dragons’ sake, but the lure of one of the creatures unleashed in all its ferocious glory is irresistible. 

With so much going on, it’s hard to believe we’re still only on the second episode when there are eight more to go. If House of the Dragon can sustain this momentum, it will easily secure a spot in the TV hall of fame. For now, though, ‘The Rogue Prince’ has helped blow away any fear that House of the Dragon won’t be able to stack up to Game of Thrones: fire, blood, and heartbreak are all lurking on the horizon. 

If you’re all caught up on House of the Dragon, check out our deep dive into that familiar prophecy introduced in episode 1 – and see our roundup of the best Netflix shows streaming now to fill out your watchlist. 

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