‘House of the Dragon’ recap: ‘The Rogue Prince’ vs. a Rogue Princess

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Welcome to "House of the Dragon" recaps! In the second episode, we get more dragons, shifting alliances, impulsive blonde people and (gasp!) a new opening credits sequence. Here’s all the latest from Westeros. "House of the Dragon" is streaming via HBO Max; FOX Television Stations’ coverage will run weekly.

Last week was a big one for "House of the Dragon." The first episode of hotly-anticipated "Game of Thrones" prequel became the biggest series premiere in HBO’s history, attracting some 10 million viewers for its Sunday night debut. (That number reportedly doubled by Friday.) And not that it’s any great surprise, but HBO also announced it had renewed the series for a second season. In short, "Dragon" had as big and as spectacular an opening as the cable giant could have wanted. 

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But that doesn’t mean the follow-up was any less significant, at least from a storytelling perspective. Now that we’ve been introduced to our players, "House of the Dragon" peers into the marriages, betrayals and alliances that will shape the Targaryen dynasty to come.

Oh, and there are crabs.

The big news out of Westeros

Weddings are better than war.


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

It’s less than six months since the death of Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke), and King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) feels the pressure to remarry coming at him from all sides. This makes pretty much everyone we see uncomfortable and/or displeased. Viserys still grieves for his late wife. Daemon (Matt Smith) doesn’t want new heirs to push him even further down the line of succession. But Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) might have the most complicated response: she’s torn between understanding the importance of installing a new queen, sharing her father’s grief, dreading the time will her mother will be replaced and worrying about her position as heir.

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It only gets worse when Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) puts forward his 12-year-old daughter Laena (Nova Foueillis-Mosé) as a potential bride. 

On paper, it’s a "sensible" match. They’re cousins, so the whole horrible Targaryen incest thing can continue; House Velaryon is a very rich House, as ancient as the Targaryens and connected by their Valyrian blood; perhaps most importantly, it would show the rest of Westeros that Laena’s mother, the Queen Who Never Was (Rhaenys Targaryen, played by Eve Best) is still on Team King's Landing. 


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

But in reality? Let’s just underline this again: Laena Velaryon is 12. It horrifies nearly everyone, including the mother who suggested the match. (Laena’s well-spoken recitation of the script given to her by her father — which includes the age she can be bedded — was expertly handled by Foueillis-Mosé and utterly repellant.)

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The Small Counci’s ongoing discussion of this potential match is interrupted throughout the episode — there’s disruption from Daemon (who, really, doesn’t even seem to really know what he’s doing yet besides causing some chaos) as well as some quiet interludes with Alicent (Emily Carey) as she helps the King and Rhaenyra through their grief, not to mention some very important discussion of crabs (more on that later). 

But really, this whole episode is dedicated to answering a simple but hugely important question: Who will Viserys I Targaryen take as a wife?


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Strangely, for a King, he seems to have few options and little power in this situation. The members of his council seem to be confused by why it is troubling him to make such a decision when it is straightforward. The Targaryens and Velaryons both have Valyrian ancestry after all, and they possess two of the most dominant forces in Westeros (dragons and a powerful navy). We see multiple times King Viserys worrying about how his daughter will feel as he remarries; finally he announces he will take… Alicent Hightower to wife.

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Now, this may not be shocking to viewers, who could see the strings being pulled when Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) asked his daughter to visit the King for "talks" in last week’s episode. And it does seem to be just talking, for now — the two share an easy friendship. But it shocks two key players: Corlys (Laena’s father) and Rhaenyra — who, as "The Rogue Prince" takes great care to remind us, considers Alicent her dearest friend. 

In this episode, Alicent expertly navigates not only her relationship with the King but also the one she shares with his daughter, urging them to talk to one another about their closely-held grief. And really, it’s all too easy to empathize with her situation. It’s a good strategic move for Alicent — after all, what choice does she have? 

But it’s not a good look for King Viserys, who has snubbed an ally — and it doesn’t help that his relationship with Corlys (a.k.a. The Sea Snake) is the most tenuous of all on his council. He’s betrayed his daughter Rhaenyra (perhaps unwittingly) by marrying her 15-year-old best friend, and has already failed to respond properly to his brother’s treasonous maneuverings. 

At the end of last week’s episode, everything seemed to be solved so neatly. But really, Viserys is floundering — and lines are beginning to be drawn.

Also: Ships can, and will, turn the tide

This week’s episode kicks off with some seaside carnage, as mysterious figure called The Crab Feeder — real name Craghas Drahar — stalking the seas and shores of Westeros. This specifically hurts Corlys, the Master of Ships, even though the council seems to be ignore him unless they actively need said ships. And so no one pays any heed to his warnings about this Crab Feeder; after all, they’re busy deciding who will be the new Queen.

Well, perhaps they should have, because when Corlys’ anger about the death of his men is reinforced by King Viserys’ refusal to marry his young daughter, he runs straight to Daemon Targaryen. This is a powder-keg, and we smell fire.

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Oh, and there’s also the fact that the threat posed to his men by the Crab Feeder is just as much a threat to all of the realm, as the ports and ships they guard and man are key in protecting Westeros from outside invaders. So, really, the Sea Snake has a point.

Most memorable line and most interesting scene

"If you wish to be restored as heir, you’ll need to kill me." 


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

That’s what Rhaenyra tells Daemon on the walkways of Dragonstone, the palace given to the future heir of the Seven Kingdoms (that’s Rhaenyra) which Daemon has taken hostage. He’s holed up there to protect another stolen bounty: a dragon egg that was destined for King Viserys’ late baby boy. And Viserys isn’t the only member of the family contemplating marriage — during the egg-napping, Daemon leaves a note inviting his brother to his wedding with Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), the sex worker who departed King’s Landing with him at the end of episode one and who, the prince writes, is carrying his child. 

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The council, and Otto Hightower in particular, are spitting mad about this choice; they view her as unsuitable, and oh, by the way, he’s already married. (And it’s worth noting that this was news to Mysaria, who he has not, in fact, married, or even proposed to; she’s also not pregnant and is not feeling great about the target he’s placed on her back.) 


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Viserys wants to fly to Dragonstone himself, but is persuaded to send Otto Hightower to reprimand Daemon instead. But it’s clear when Daemon’s dragon Caraxes appears that there is no way to do so without bloodshed. But Rhaenyra, who suggests dragon-riders to the council earlier in the episode, ignores her father’s orders and appears on her own dragon to reprimand her uncle herself.

It’s the most interesting scene in this episode because it not only sets the stage for the inevitable dragon-back battles, but demonstrates Rhaenyra’s guts and the value of her insights while underlining Daemon’s poor planning and (possibly) his attachment to his niece. 

Rhaenyra seems to view Daemon as a baby throwing his toys, and responds accordingly.

Episode MVP


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Milly Alcock wins this episode with a performance even better than last week’s. We almost don’t want to see Rhaenyra make the age jump, but we’re sure Emma D’Arcy will do a great job.

Our critic’s take

Although there’s much to be said about those bloodthirsty crabs, this episode is packed full of other unsettling elements. There’s the icky irony of King Viserys choosing a 15-year old over a 12-year-old and the even ickier slime of Otto Hightower, who seems to act as a voice of reason while maneuvering things (and his daughter) to benefit himself behind the scenes. Then there’s the sad reality that the two women in this show who should share an empathetic understanding (Rhaenyra and Rhaenys, the "Queen Who Never Was") have to barb at each other. 

In this episode, we widen our scope to see how these key Targaryen and Targaryen-adjacent lords, ladies, princesses and Kings can and do affect the real world around them. "Game of Thrones" connoisseurs will know that ignoring reality (the crabs) for the sake of politics (a crab-less wedding) is never a good idea and the sense of foreboding that’s instilled that that final shot is potent — though we didn’t need to see the Crab Feeder’s murderous stare to feel the threat he poses.


Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Still, the family drama storylines give this episode an overall lighter tone than the premiere. Rhaenyra defying everyone to ride in on dragonback to save the day was perhaps a bolder statement than Alicent’s kindly-meant maneuverings, but no less a show of female power. It was the women who rightly stood out this week. Perhaps this episode should have been called "The Rogue Princess" instead. 

Next week

Wedding bells.

"House of the Dragon," episode two: "The Rogue Prince." New episodes arrive weekly through Oct. 23. Featuring: Milly Alcock, Paddy Considine, Emma D'Arcy, Matt Smith, Emily Carey, Olivia Cooke, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno, Rhys Ifans.

About the writer: Chloe Johnson is a freelance writer, magazine editor and longtime Sansa Stark fan. You can find her other work at The Bookseller, The Grammys, and The Independent.

Binge while you wait: "Firefly," streaming free on Tubi

Firefly (2002): Need a cult classic sci-fi series you can cross off your list in just 14 episodes? Then look no further than "Firefly," Joss Whedon’s space western follow-up to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Though "Firefly" was cancelled after just one season, its impact still looms large in the sci-fi canon. (It even got a big-screen continuation five years later.) Set aboard the spaceship Serenity, "Firefly" combines the gritty tangibility of the "Star Wars" universe with the sweet workplace family dynamics of "Star Trek," all filtered through Whedon’s unique comedic voice. So pour yourself a glass of Mudder's Milk and enjoy. Rated TV-14. One season, 14 episodes. Featuring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau.

How to watch "Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon" episode two

The first two episodes of "House of the Dragon" are currently available On Demand for HBO subscribers; they're also streaming on HBO Max.

When is the next episode of "Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon"?

Episode three of "House of the Dragon" premieres on HBO on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. New episodes air weekly through Oct. 23.

When will "Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon" be streaming?

The second episode of "House of the Dragon" is streaming on HBO Max now. New episodes will begin streaming every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT — so West Coast fans can watch along simultaneously. 

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