This House of the Dragon review contains spoilers.
House of the Dragon Episode 3
Game of Thrones took nearly two full seasons (and a lot of gold dragon currency) before it became comfortable enough to tackle a major action sequence. For most of its early run, Game of Thrones went out of its way to avoid major conflicts, even when the situation required it. Second season, when newly-minted King Robb Stark goes to war against the Lannisters, we never get to see any of his victories.
House of the Dragon has proven itself to be well ahead of the Game of Thrones schedule by introducing its first major battle sequence now, just three episodes into its first season. And the readership is pretty good.
There is a nerd somewhere deep within me who is dissatisfied with when and how House of the Dragon will hold its first epic battle. As evidenced by King Viseryss (Paddy Considine) nearly three-year-long refusal to involve the crown in the Stepstones war, the Stepstones war isnt a threat to the Seven Kingdoms. If anything, it's a vanity play from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) and Lord Corlys (Steve
House of the Dragon's tactic of enticing itself into a conflict makes it appear more important than it really is. The gambit to entice the Crabfeeder out may seem too selfless and heroic when in reality its just the latest in a long line of temper tantrums. However, for the time being, let's put that inner nerd further back into the locker where he belongs and appreciate the battle at the Stepstones for the incredible spectacle that it is.
Everything about Daemon and Corlyss' battle against Craghas Crabfeeder Drahar and his Triarch forces is proof that House of the Dragons writers and producers truly care about the finished product. The costumes are stunning. The scenery is lush. The violence is flawless and satisfyingly ironic. Daemons dragonmount Caraxes (whose long neck appears increasingly like a fleshy churro to me) is as likely to accidentally crush or immolate an adversary as an enemy.
Craghas and his crabs are a truly terrifying threat to the Triarchy itself, which is a complex political entity made up of several Free Cities with equally complex political objectives. How fortunate is he then that Daemon and Caraxes oblige him of that?
House of the Dragon has a little more depth than it deserves, but it does have one important character (re)introduction. It would be one thing for Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and the rest of the realm to see Laenor Velaryon's (Theo Nate) as a dragonrider, but it would be entirely different for us to actually see it.
If Second of His Name was to be considered a successful episode of television, it would be a waste of time and effort. Fortunately, the show writers (led here by Gabe Fonseca and Ryan Condal) understand this and wisely nest a whole second episode within it.
The story of King Viserys and his party going to the Kingswood for a hunting expedition for the tiny baby Aegon II's name day is simply superb. Although the dialogue sometimes lags behind George R.R. Martin Medieval standards, it's still dripping with subtext when it's not right out screaming with context. Many of the worthwhile action on Game of Thrones and now House of the Dragon occurs within its charactersheads as they try to figure out what they should say to prolong their schemes or just
The fortunes of The Rogue Prince and King Viserys have dramatically changed. Aegon is the second of his names after the Conqueror. But a promise Viserys has already made to Rhaenyra causes problems.
The Stepstones will get all of the attention, but the increased scope of a royal hunting party here is where the House of the Dragons' excessive budget is really put to the best use. In Game of Thrones, the King Roberts hunting party consisted of the drunken king himself, his brother Renly, and a handful of other dudes roaming around the woods until a boar stabbed the Usurper King to death (offscreen), in keeping with Thrones' early monetary modesty.
The Aegon IIs name day? Perhaps the viewer can't help but get caught up in all of the baby Aegon excitement. The Hightowers want one heir, the Velaryons want another. The Lannisters (now represented by Viseryss new Master of Ships Tyland and his twin brother Jason): Surely the best of these competing desires will strike.
Second of His Name introduces another influx of new characters to the House of the Dragon, notably when they continue the House's unusual tendency of bringing twins. Meanwhile, Larys Strong aka. The Clubfoot (Matthew Needham) and Aemond Velaryon (Will Johnson) are intriguing additions to the cast.
Im surprised at the pace in which Viserys has acted as a lead character in House of the Dragon so far. Martins writings tend to shy away from kings as true POV characters but Viserys here operates in a similar capacity as Ned Stark in the early episodes of Game of Thrones. Thankfully Paddy Considine is up to the task.
As more and more well-wishers approach him, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) assured his king that the gods would never create a man who lacked the patience for absolute power.
The pain is read clearly across Viserys' face even before he emerges drunkenly declaring his tortured state of mind about the fate of Targaryen's succession. The Iron Throne is like a prison of contradicting duties on the House of the Dragon. Why do celestial freaks want it anyway? Perhaps the answer is beneath the wine chalice.
Second of His Name suggests that you spend time with Rhaenyra while she heals her wounds over her father's marriage and the creation of an heir who might take House Cole's honor forever (and for my money: the moment where Ser Criston takes Rhaenyra down on horseback features more impressive stunt work than anything in the Stepstones). It serves as a useful reminder of how powerful absolute rules are and how profound they can be in any one persons existence.
The encounters with a boar and the mythical white hart stag are also infused with wonder. It's possible or perhaps even likely that Otto Hightower had that white hart brought into the Kingswood himself so Viserys would be convinced that the gods wanted Aegon II as their earthly representative, but how can Rhaenyra deny the powerful symbolism of being the one to see the white hart when it was intended for someone else?
It's a simple animal, roaming the woods looking for berries to eat and weird little spherical turds to leave behind. To Rhaenyra, however, it's a testament to the Conquerors' true heir, which all goes to demonstrate how fragile the political equilibrium is when human beings are involved. Perhaps that unwitting stag may have plunged Westeros into one of the most bloody and destructive conflicts ever waged on its soil
The finale of the Kingswood episode might as well be over when Rhaenyra and Ser Criston emerge, covered in blood, and carrying fresh boar meat behind them. Of course, Second of His Name goes into Viseryss morning-after conversation with Rhaenyra and the thrilling conclusion of the war against the Crabfeeder. It's hard to argue with getting more House of the Dragon when it's already so fun.
Second of His Name is the most convincing evidence yet that the show is capable of doing what it does. Episode one was a worthwhile endeavor but it was largely due to the amount of original Martin content it was able to adapt. Episode two was unable to subsequently fall back on the show's narrative and intrigue because it was almost purely an original creation of the shows' writers. None of the show's most memorable scenes can be found on any page from a different viewpoint.