TL;DR – This is the episode of ‘rise and fall’, and several characters get caught in the wake.
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge service that viewed this episode.
House of the Dragon Review –
Even though House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game of Thrones, with the theme song blaring at the start of every episode, there was the question of how it would work tonally compared with its predecessor. But if there were any questions as to if both shows would be walking down different roads, that was answered today.
So to set the scene, due to pirates raiding ships in the Stepstones and also a need to prove themselves in the eyes of the people Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) took their dragons and their armies to route out the threat. It was an abysmal failure. However, after receiving word that King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) was going to send his Navy to help save them, Daemon implements a dangerous plan devised by Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan) to draw the pirates out of their caves using himself as bait, and it worked. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
If there is one theme that permeates this episode, it is that of rise and fall. The best case study is Daemon, who, at the start of this episode, walks into the throne room with all the swagger in the world, which should be no surprise for those few of you who watched Morbius. He was almost defeated in Second of His Name, clawed victory from those clutches of death, made himself a hero in the Kingdom and was brought back into the inner circle. He could not wait a whole day before he destroyed that position by taking Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) to a house of ill repute, trying to lay with her, and then ditching her for some other lady of the night. Indeed, his former paramour Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), is the source of his demise.
But he is not the only character that flew too close to the Sun this week. Indeed Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) has been positioning for a while to get his grandson through his daughter Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) on the throne. By calling into question Rhaenyra’s virtue, she would likely be discredited, but a father’s anger is full of wrath. Indeed, the King himself is in the throws of a slow decline. He was probably not the best choice to begin with, and now with his health suffering, while his Kingdom slowly unravels around him, he cuts a lonely figure. The episode even warns us of this right at the start when at Storm’s End, a vein fool from House Bracken mocks a child suitor from House Blackwood only to find out the hard way that that boy was good with a sword.
However, for one character, we get the reverse with a fall but then a rise. Last week Viserys tasked Rhaenyra to find a suitable match, and things did not go well with every old Lord and even some baby ones trying to pretend they are ideal for a rider of dragons. In this frustration, Rhaenyra lets herself be taken out of the Red Keep and placed into a compromising situation. A situation that Rhaenyra and many other characters make clear that no one would care about if she was a boy caught in a pleasure house. But in the fallout of this incident, Rhaenyra finds her political fortitude with both the Queen and her Father, but it comes at a cost.
The scene where Rhaenyra and Viserys finally have the frank conversation they have been avoiding since the Queen died was probably one of the best of the show so far. Indeed, this episode shows just what a power Milly Alcock is as a performer and how much she will be a tough act to follow for Emma D’Arcy when they do the age-up, possibly next week. The locations they film in still shine, full of warmth and coldness when needed. I also like the small things, like the rehearsed routine of bringing lanterns throughout the Keep. However, they didn’t quite nail a sailing vessel in the water this week. You could feel it was on a sound stage, not out in the ocean. It also feels that we have finally been catapulted into the main storyline for this season, but I wish this had happened before the almost halfway point.
In the end, do we recommend House of the Dragon: King of the Narrow Sea? Well, I think some will be happy that this episode dialled back up the raunch in the series. That was not the case for me. However, I liked how the politics moved in, around, and sometimes under characters’ feet.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of House of the Dragon
Directed by – Claire Kilner
Written by – Ira Parker
Created by – Ryan Condal & George R. R. Martin
Based On – Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin
Production/Distribution Companies – 1:26 Pictures, HBO Max, Binge & HBO
Starring – Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Milly Alcock, Emily Carey & Rhys Ifans with Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno, Graham McTavish & Jefferson Hall and Gavin Spokes, David Horovitch, Bill Paterson, Ryan Corr, Chris David Storer, Gabriel Scott, Alfie Todd, Toby Dixson, Minnie Marx, Jonathan Jaynes, Samuel Sargeant, Clea Martin, Paul Leonard, Ben Dilloway, Philip Young & Julian Lewis Jones