House Of The Dragon’s holds its strong momentum in its second week

House of the Dragon - Episode 2 Review This episode mostly moves pieces into new, more dangerous places -- but some of those pieces are dragons so who cares?

Warning: the below contains full spoilers for House of the Dragon's second episode, which aired on Aug. 28 on HBO. If you're not caught up, check out our spoiler-free review of last week's premiere.

At the end of the strong opening episode to this Game Of Thrones spin-off, everything seemed to be unusually hunky dory for Westeros. Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) was anointed heir to her father Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) throne, while troublemaking uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) went into exile in a huff. Alas, this second episode, taking place six months later, sets up the potentially titanic conflicts that will drive this series, and which could spell ruin for them all.
The most obvious threat bookends the episode: the Crab Feeder, aka Craghas Drahar, haunts the kingdom’s shores. A mysterious figure, he fires on Westerosi ships and stakes out his victims on the shore at low tide to be devoured by Westeros’ apparently vicious crustacean inhabitants (I suppose it makes sense that even the crabs are cursed with an insatiable bloodlust there). It’s a strikingly shot scene, the low golden sun nicely playing off the black smoke of burning ships and the horrific gore at ground level, but also grotesque. For Craghas himself, however, the series falls back on prejudiced old tropes equating disfigurement with violence, hiding his scarred face behind a Phantom Of The Opera-style metal mask.
This seaside carnage is the first sign we’ve seen of the large-scale massacre we’re accustomed to in Westeros; if last week was all about the carefully limited violence of the joust and the all-too-real dangers of childbirth, here the scope widens to whole battlefields of victims at once. And it’s still only week two. At this point in Game Of Thrones they were still on the Kingsroad, throwing stones at a puppy.
No wonder that Steven Toussaint’s Lord Corlys argues for war against this outlaw. As per usual Viserys is reluctant to act, creating a rift between them. That rift is torn wider by the episode’s main plot: the question of the king’s remarriage. Corlys and his Targaryen wife Rhaenys (Eve Best) propose their daughter Laena (young Nova Foueillis-Mosé currently). She’s the king’s first cousin once removed, so continues the Targaryen tradition of intermarriage; she is also the daughter of his oldest ally, House Velaryon, and marrying her would show that the two old Valyrian houses are as tight as ever. If she’s about 10 and he’s around 50, what of it? Gross medieval rules apply, apparently.
Ick factor aside, the proposition makes sense to the king’s entire small council, even to Rhaenyra. But all of these planners have reckoned without Viserys himself. On one hand, Considine’s character shows a commendable reluctance to marry a literal child. On the other, his growing affection for Alicent (Emily Carey) leads him to a decision that alienates Corlys, shocks the rest of the council, and could jeopardise his relationship with Rhaenyra forever.
The problem is not simply that he’s marrying Alicent – though marrying your daughter’s bestie is simply not a good look. The issue, which runs all through this episode, is that Rhaenyra’s position is still not secure. She’s the heir, but still not in the king’s confidence. She attends (some) meetings of the small council, but is still serving drinks. She senses them trying to maneuver around her but seems to have no supporter of her own to turn to. It’s an untenable position, made worse by her father’s decision not to warn anyone, even Rhaenyra, of the announcement he’s about to make. So much for working together to protect Westeros from the apocalypse foretold in the Targaryen dreams.
Daemon and Rhaenyra’s confrontation is the best moment of the series so far.
Rhys Ifans’ Otto Hightower, meanwhile, works hard to suppress his smugness that his manipulations have paid off. Ifans does a lot with very little in this episode, showing a wariness of Rhaenyra, an iron fist with Alicent, and a delicate sense of what will sway the king. Watch the early scene where he talks of the wisdom of a match between Viserys and Laena, but bemoans the “pain” of marrying for duty that the king must bear. Otto knows that Viserys has never opted for pain in his life, where there was an easier road, and sure enough he won’t here either. It’s a lovely bit of writing by Ryan J. Condal, and of acting by Ifans.
The single most significant event this week is probably this marriage, and Rhaenyra’s immediate horror. The show’s attitude to sexism is odd, so far. On one hand, this is yet another fantasy series that has freely chosen to replicate a patriarchy, unlike Wheel Of Time for example, because it’s one thing to conceive of dragons but another to conceive of sexual equality. The only good reason for it will be if it can give the female characters sufficient agency and character to actually say something about the wrongs that such discrimination creates in our world, and the needless waste of ability that it causes. It’s not entirely clear, yet, if this show will do that, or just stick with murder.
Game of Thrones: Ranking All Eight SeasonsClick through for our rankings of Game of Thrones' sinister, and often spectacular, seasons.8. SEASON 8<br><br>
We start here at the end...with the final season.<br/>Though most of the episodes had longer runtimes than normal, the tactic couldn't make up for the shorted episode count (just six) and the overall damage that caused to the storytelling. Many fans felt like it was a race to the finish as the Night King, Queen Cersei, and Queen Daenerys were, despite hugely impressive battle sequences, dispatched too quickly. Cersei wasn't given enough scenes, Daenerys' turn into the Mad Queen felt rushed, and the Night King's evil assault on Westeros seemed, to some, like it should have been the final boss stage.<br/>Season 8 wasn't devoid of special moments though, like Jaime knighting Brienne, Arya slaying the Night King, and other moments of triumph, but none of them were followed up on properly and the finale's hefty epilogue left many viewers colder than the Land of Always Winter.7: SEASON 7<br><br>
Season 7, which came in at only seven episodes, kicked off some of the tragic traits that wound up greatly undercutting Season 8. After a strong start, and the truly excellent Littlefinger's downfall, Lady Olenna's last words, Drogon incinerating legions of Lannister soldiers, and the truth behind Jon Snow's parentage were highlights in a season that started to feel, sadly, less like the Game of Thrones we knew (Bronn should not have survived "The Spoils of War", etc) and more like a conventional TV show that played by familiar rules." src="/uploads/2022/08/29/house-of-the-dragons-holds-its-strong-momentum-in-its-second-week-2.jpg" class="jsx-2920405963 progressive-image image jsx-294430442 rounded expand loading"/>6: SEASON 5<br><br>
Though Season 5 had an epic Jon Snow arc -- along with the series' best episode -- it dropped the ball in a notable manner with Dorne, and also on the Sansa Stark front by making us think she was on her way to reclaiming her own destiny and then instead victimizing her again, this time at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, for the sake of Theon Greyjoy's redemption. Still, there were plenty of great, gruesome moments outside of these unfortunate detours, including Stannis' cruel sacrifice of his daughter and Arya's revenge on Ser Meryn. Plus, Tyrion made his way all the way to Meereen to finally meet the Mother of Dragons.5: SEASON 6<br><br>
The first Game of Thrones season not tethered to a book moved fast and gave us more answers and payoffs than we ever anticipated. Jon Snow came back to life just in time to help Sansa reclaim Winterfell, Bran traveled back in time and unearthed the origins of Jon and Hodor, The Hound returned, Cersei killed, well, most everyone of importance in King's Landing, and Daenerys managed to pull the Dothraki and Dorne under her banner. It should be noted though that the King's Landing/Sparrows arc (along with Arya's time in Braavos, both in their second full season) tended to drag. Until the very end, in the excellent finale, that is.4: SEASON 1<br><br>
Game of Thrones' first season was damn fine television and, needless to say, it hooked us all. It also set the tragic stage for all the atrocities to come by killing off Sean Bean's Ned Stark after we'd all been convinced he was the central hero of the story. Well, he was, but this show wasn't going to play by normal rules. The good guys weren't going to win just because things should be just and right in the realm. In fact, in retrospect, many fans began to see Ned's honor, and attempt to do the right thing, as folly given how only the ruthless and cunning tend to be the ones who survive in Westeros. This was the amazing entryway to the show - bookended by two huge magical moments: the White Walkers and the birth of Dany's dragons. Elements that were underplayed when the show began so that they could grow into more vital aspects of the series and not turn away viewers who weren't usually fans of supernatural sagas.
But enough speculation: Daemon might die if we don’t discuss him already. After sulking on Dragonstone for half a year he’s clearly bored mindless, so he decides to claim his brother’s attention by claiming a dragon egg for his own, announcing his plans to marry his girlfriend Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) and promising the egg to the child they might one day have. Given that the wedding seems to be news to Mysaria, and that she isn’t pregnant, this is acting out on a royal scale. Otto, showing a measure of bravery that we didn’t expect from him, leads the mission to retrieve the egg despite the clear possibility that Daemon will just set the dragon on him. But it’s Rhaenyra who saves the day.
Their confrontation is the best moment of the series so far. Daemon and Otto are squaring off on the long path up to Dragonstone (recreated in studio rather than in the Spanish location, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where it was first filmed, it seems), their mutual hatred almost crystallising in the air around them. Then Daemon’s dragon, the “Red Worm” Caraxes, crawls down from the top of the cliffs and there’s a palpable sense that shit just got real. These dragons, with their sinuous long necks, are closer to Tolkien than Dragonheart, more Smaug than Toothless, and they’re deeply frightening weapons.
Just before Otto is lightly fricasseed, however, Rhaenyra arrives on her dragon Syrax, and she talks her uncle into handing over the egg. The connection between them, established even in the first episode as they flirted in front of the Iron Throne, holds good however disappointed he was that she supplanted him as heir. Rhaenyra looks particularly Daenerys-like in her riding gear, and proves similarly effective. Smith, meanwhile, is great at the sort of sudden turn that Daemon does, arguing for his rights one minute and flipping over the disputed egg the next, apparently on a whim. Sure, he’s offended his brother, his niece, and his girlfriend, but Daemon knows when to cut his losses and wait for the next chance for mischief.
That chance comes, as luck would have it, very quickly. After storming out of council when the king announces his plans to marry Alicent, Lord Corlys retreats to his home on Driftmark and invites Daemon to visit. He proposes an alliance: they’ll both go and take down the Crab Feeder, thereby increasing their standing in the Seven Kingdoms until Viserys has to take them both seriously. What could go wrong? No doubt we’ll find out next week.
Every IGN Game of Thrones ReviewCheck out every single IGN Game of Thrones review by clicking or tapping on the arrow.Reviewed by Matt Fowler -- From the opening moments of HBO's new series, Game of Thrones, involving the ill-fated Waymar Royce search party, most fans of the George Martin Reviewed by Matt Fowler -- Reviewed by Matt Fowler -- There's just something severely awesome about Jon Snow. It's hard to put one's finger on. I think, perhaps, it's because one gets the feeling that on any other show we might want to punch this character in the face; a rich kid who mopes a bit, trying to find his place in the world. But Jon is so much heartier than his logline. Reviewed by Matt Fowler -- As much as I loved Arya's Reviewed by Matt Fowler -- Sure, it's more fun paying attention to thing like horse beheadings and giant dragon skulls under the Red Keep, but it's worth noting that the Greyjoy's sigil (according to Bran's quiz) is a freakin' Kraken! Wolves and lions are pretty boss but I'd take a damn Kraken over them any day.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Helen O'Hara

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