The banners of House Targaryen may be flying, but the game of thrones is still at play, and political intrigue and threats of violence swell in the latest episode of House of the Dragon, ‘The Rogue Prince’.
Bereaved and in a state of mourning following the death of his queen and male heir, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) locks himself away from court politics and finds solace in the company of Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). But while King Viserys I busies himself with his grief and the line of succession, war beckons in the east thanks to the rise of a pirate lord calling himself ‘The Crab Feeder’. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) finds herself drawn into a personal squabble with her roguish uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), who has incurred the King’s wrath and has now claimed the ancient island fort of Dragonstone as his own.
In ‘The Heirs of the Dragon’ audiences were brought back into the world of Westeros and saw the reign of House Targaryen. This is a world filled with dragon kings and mighty castles, we have a dynasty that is at the height of its power, but the game of thrones is still at play and after much tragedy, House Targaryen is beginning to fray as the seeds of dissent are sown. The focus of ‘The Rogue Prince’ takes a two-pronged approach to the narrative in this episode. Director Greg Yaitanes focuses on the grief of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), alongside the threat of his roguish brother Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and stuck right in the middle of all of it is the new heir to the Iron Throne, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), and there’s much tension and drama present in Episode Two.
While he may be King and wield the power of the realm, Paddy Considine’s King Viserys I is not a man who inspires force or loyalty in his subjects. A jestful, bountiful monarch who is more given with his amusements and personal matters, King Viserys I now finds himself struck by grief and turns his back away from the matters of the realm. Irish actor Paddy Considine plays his performance with a subtleness to the part, and he inspires equal parts sympathy and scorn from the audience. Introduced to his company is the young and beautiful Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), the most comely lady at court. Lady Alicent also happens to be a pawn in her father, Lord Otto Hightower’s (Rhys Ifans), quest for greater power and is forced into an intriguing position. While it’s clear she has genuine feelings for the King, the succession and the King’s new search for a Queen is on everyone’s mind, and this leads to a shocking ultimatum.
As Lady Alicent, Emily Carey finds herself also comforting Milly Alcock’s Princess Rhaenyra after the death of her mother. This interaction between them in the Great Sept brings a considerable sense of meaning to the episode and the characters, but also shows how neither of them can go back to the girls they once were. With the toying of Alicient for political gain, and Princess Rhaenyra now anointed as heir to the Seven Kingdoms, everything has changed for these two women, and the stakes could not be higher. Episode Two, ‘The Rogue Prince’ helps to bring in many more of the background characters into view, particularly the handsome young knight, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), who is appointed to the King’s Guard courtesy of Rhaenyra’s favour. And the young Princess takes an interest in this romantic knight.
But while Princess Rhaenyra may be taking to her new duties as heir, the politics of the ‘game of thrones’ continue to swirl, and there are others at court who have their own ambitions. Chief among them are the noble, proud and grudge-filled Velaryon’s. Both Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), and his wife Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), or ‘The Queen Who Never Was’ have their plans for securing the Iron Throne and the power they believed is deserved to them. One of the episode’s most poignant scenes comes from the interaction between Rhaenys and Rhaenyra and concerns the machinations of power and the order that Princess Rhaenyra will have to go against if she wishes to control the Seven Kingdoms.
The crux of Episode Two, ‘The Rogue Prince’ falls on Matt Smith’s Prince Daemon Targaryen who now commands Dragonstone as his own with an army of Gold Cloaks. While Lord Otto Hightower seeks to confront him, instead Princess Rhaenyra calls her uncle’s bluff and demands the return of a stolen dragon egg. There’s a terrific give and take between Smith and Milly Alcock, and this pacing and confrontation in the presence of dragons give the episode considerable tension. But Smith’s Daemon is strategic with his antagonism and forms a new alliance with the likes of Lord Corlys Velaryon to show his worth as a ruler, and the fires of war begin to burn in his eyes. While a Targaryen King may rule all of Westeros, power lies with those with the force to wield it, and Daemon Targaryen is ready to make his move.
‘The Rogue Prince’ is filled with shocking moments, and some bold narrative choices make their way to the screen in this latest episode of House of the Dragon. With war brewing, and fires burning, the peace of Westeros is beginning to die, and only the strong will rule.
House of the Dragon is available to watch on SKY SOHO and NEON.
Image: SKY TV