A Song of Ice and Fire is a story that resembles Pirates of the Caribbean and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. As wounded foot soldiers loyal to Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) stand whirling in the mud at low tide. A grotesque figure, disguised and lumbering with long, greasy hair, approaches one of these writhing men.
Craghas Drahar (Daniel Scott-Smith) is also known as The Crabfeeder for his tendency to leave his enemies stranded to bloodstained beaches in order to die a long, agonizing death as a result of the dragon's vengeance. Daemon Targaryen comes through in a fiery blaze of glory but not before his poor, loyal swordsman is cut to a piece of driftwood and left to die.
As palace intrigue and pornographic descriptions of feast tables groaning with succulent food are as essential to A Song of Ice and Fire as legends are born. The battlefield is where legends are born, alliances are tested, and the reputations of kings and queens are made and unmade. In House of the Dragon, on the other hand, takes place in a period that is less like our own: The late days of a decaying dynasty, where those in charge are sufficiently complacent
The idea that guerrilla warfare was not used in medieval Europe is well-known. And as Viking and Mongol invasions of Europe's coastal areas, Craghas and his mercenaries are now engaged in a guerrilla assault against the Targaryen elite. They do so ostensibly for the right to levy taxes to merchant ships passing through this rocky series of islands on their way to the Free Cities beyond.
The Targaryens' vast dragon fleet has made them the most powerful force in the known world, and centuries of experience have made them arrogant. But the Crabfeeders' strategy is to retreat into the Stepstones' rocky shoreline, removing the Targaryens' ability to wipe out his entire force with one whispered Dracarys.
King Viserys (Paddy Considine) refuses to divulge information about the conflict during his sons name day celebrations, declaring that the war will never be resolved. He is so sure that the Targaryens military might (i.e. dragonfire) will never be defeated, and he dismisses the threat from the outside. But what might a larger and more organized adversary do with these same tactics?
Prince Daemon, by comparison, has much to lose. His title, his wealth, his reputation, and, perhaps most importantly, his pride are all on the line. It was Daemon's choice when Viserys married Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) rather than his 12-year-old second cousin Laena Velaryon (Nova Fouellis-Mose) that prompted him to declare victory. And, at least this time, Daemon emerges the winner,
The Crabfeeder and his guerrilla forces have weakened House Targaryen and House Velaryon in ways that have yet to be fully manifested. This is not a great strategy for retaining loyalty in the long run. Take the loyal soldier at the start of the show: 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 imagine a future where someone else might sit on the Iron Throne someday. No matter how much they crush each other from within, or when they are ambushed by enemies from outside, it does not matter.