SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the second episode of “House of the Dragon,” titled “The Rogue Prince,” now streaming on HBO Max.
In the dating world of Westeros, age is just a number. After losing his wife Queen Aemma last episode —which took place six months ago in the “House of the Dragon” timeline” — King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) felt the pressure to find a new wife and start making royal heirs. Any Westeros king would do the same thing, but the disturbing part is that Viserys’ cousin Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) was playing matchmaker with her own daughter, the way-underage Lady Laena Velaryon (Nova Foueillis-Mose). Incest isn’t new to the world of “Game of Thrones” or the Targaryens, but the age difference between Viserys and Laena was almost as stomach-churning as last week’s medieval C-section performed on the queen.
After the series premiere, this episode was quieter in terms of violence and raunchiness, but it set up some major alliances. Starting off, we learned a bit more about Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) and the troubles facing his house. Pirates from the Free Cities of Essos, led by a man called the Crab Feeder, are attacking Corlys’ ships and feeding his sailors to a consortium of killer crabs, but Viserys and his council refuse to take action. On top of that, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) has overtaken Dragonstone since being banished from King’s Landing. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) suggests sending a team of dragonriders as a show of force, but her father Viserys dismisses her.
Instead of plotting with the council, Rhaenyra sizes up the new knights being chosen for the Kingsguard. The only one with actual combat experience is Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), who’s the Dornish jouster from last episode’s tournament. He gets the job.
Meanwhile, Viserys and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) are still spending time together, and he shows her his impressive scale-model of Old Valyria. He also confides in her that he and Rhaenyra haven’t spoken much since Queen Aemma’s horrific death. Alicent then meets up with Rhaenyra, and they pray in the sept for their dead mothers and for Viserys to see Rhaenyra as “more than his little girl.”
Speaking of little girls, Rhaenys and Corlys have the perfect match for Viserys. To further unite the Targaryen and Velaryon houses, they want Viserys to marry the young Lady Laena. The king isn’t sure what to do. After an awkward dinner with Rhaenyra and a gross maggot treatment for his rotting pinky, Viserys goes on a walk with Laena. He learns that Rhaenys and Corlys put Laena up to the arrangement, telling her she wouldn’t have to bed the king until she turned 14.
During this cringey first date, Rhaenyra and Rhaenys (who have the closest “Game of Thrones” names since Bran, Bronn and Brienne) watch from afar and get into a tense discussion about the line of succession. Rhaenys admits she’s bothered by the Viserys-Laena situation, but that’s how you play the game of thrones in Westeros. Still maybe a little jealous she was passed over for the Iron Throne years ago, Rhaenys, the “queen who never was,” says Viserys will eventually remarry and have a male heir, who will rule instead of Rhaenyra.
Residing in Dragonstone, Daemon sends a letter to King’s Landing proclaiming himself as the rightful heir and announcing that his lover Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuna) is pregnant. The king’s council realizes he’s stolen a dragon egg, so they send Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), Ser Criston and a batch of the Kingsguard to put a stop to Daemon’s treason. When they meet him on the bridge in Dragonstone, they’re met with a squad of Daemon’s City Watch followers, and tensions rise immediately.
Otto accuses Daemon of declaring war on the king, and the two sides draw their swords. Suddenly, Daemon’s massive red dragon, Caraxes, flies up, and the tide shifts in his favor. But before he can walk away with the dragon egg, Rhaenyra swoops in on her dragon unannounced, and calms things down. Daemon returns the egg, but stays in Dragonstone — and it’s revealed that he was lying about Mysaria’s pregnancy all along.
Back in King’s Landing, Viserys is upset with Rhaenyra for disobeying him, but she says results are results, and points out that she retrieved the dragon egg without bloodshed. The time has also come for him to choose a new wife, and he chooses Alicent Hightower, as the series premiere had foreshadowed when her father sent her to comfort Viserys. Their age difference, by the way, is still shocking, but less so than Viserys and Laena — and this marriage also presages an eventual rivalry between Alicent and Rhaenyra. Everyone on the council is stunned, but none more so than Corlys, who’d been ‘shipping his daughter and the king.
In a classic “Game of Thrones” backdoor meeting, it’s then revealed that Corlys turns to none other than Daemon to join forces and get back at the king. Corlys says he and Daemon have a lot in common: They both take what they want, they have older brothers in power, not to mention they have great hair. So begins the new Daemon-Corlys alliance to take on the Crab Feeder and kick off the War for the Stepstones.