A Song of Ice and Fire is set to a halt as injured foot soldiers loyal to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) lie howling in the mud at low tide. A grotesque figure, masked and lumbering with a stout gait and long, greasy hair, approaches one of these writhing men.
Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith) is a masked man who is well-known for his ability to deceive his enemies to bloodstained beaches in order to avoid being eaten alive by sea creatures. The fallen soldier refuses to accept his reward until his prince arrives with a dragon to burn them all to ashes, but his poor, determined swordsman is caught on a piece of driftwood and left to die.
As a result of palace intrigue and pornographic descriptions of feast tables groaning with succulent food, Game of Thrones was set during a time of turmoil, in which everyone was always watching their backs, and power dynamics could be altered at any time.House of the Dragon is set during a time when those in charge are so adamant that they can ignore threats to their power, no matter how violent, until they die.
The idea that guerrilla warfare was not used in medieval Europe is prevalent, as both Westeros and A Song of Ice And Fire have resorted to short-lived battles. Just as nomadic bands of Vikings and Mongols raided castle towns throughout Europe, Craghas and his mercenaries are wagering a guerrilla war against the Targaryen establishment. They do so ostensibly for the right to charge tolls to merchant ships passing through this barren island
The Targaryens' dragon fleet has made them the most powerful force in the known world, and centuries of experience have made them arrogant. However, the Crabfeeders' strategy has lasted three years, destroying the Targaryens' most valuable weapon by retreating into the caves that line the Stepstones' shoreline.
King Viserys (Paddy Considine) refuses to provide updates on the war during his son's name day celebration, telling concerned envoys that the war has gone three years. He is so confident that the Targaryens' military might (i.e. dragonfire) will never be fully defeated, and he dismisses the threat from the outside. But what might a larger and better organized adversary do with those same tactics?
Prince Daemon, by comparison, has a lot to lose. His title, his wealth, his reputation, and, most importantly, his pride, are all on the line. It was this hatred that pushed Daemon to put an end to his conflict before his brothers' forces could arrive, which resulted in the chaotic impromptu skirmish that concludes the episode.
The Crabfeeder and his guerrilla forces have weakened House Targaryen and House Velaryon in ways that have yet to be fully manifested. It is a terrible strategy for retaining loyalty in the long run, as the prince swoops over the battlefield incinerated Craghas Drahar's allies and ships. Save me, my prince! he cries only to be crushed by the princes dragon.
The Targaryens have treated this conflict, the men who fought and died in it, and much of the rest of the world as disposable. They have no imagination to envision a world where someday someone else might sit on the Iron Throne. Nor does it matter that the Crabfeeder is no longer a threat to the Stepstones.