House of the Dragon S01E02 Review: Rhaenyra Sticks It to Patriarchy
It's no secret how much the high fantasy world of HBO's Game of Thrones is often a reflection of patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes of ancient and medieval history. That's also the case in its prequel series House of the Dragon. The theme of the second episode, "The Rogue Prince," is routed in tradition as Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) is finding out how much harder she has to work as a woman and heir to the Targaryen throne to earn the respect of her peers. This is your minor spoilers warning.
To embrace her destiny as the chosen heir from Viserys (Paddy Considine), Rhaenyra is trying to get more involved in the all-male small council sitting in on their meetings but is met with passive-aggressive (and not-so-passive) scorn. The king is trying to mourn the loss of his wife, Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), who died due to complications from childbirth. But tensions are rising from within King's Landing as the pressure for him to remarry grows. Driving most of that pressure is Corlys (Steve Toussaint), head of House Velaryon, trying to get him to marry his 12-year-old daughter Laena (Nova Foueillis-Mosé). So one narrative the original Game of Thrones changed was arranged marriage involving children, which House of the Dragon dives into.
Aside from that pressing narrative, we also see how Damon (Matt Smith) is responding to Visery's spurning him of becoming his heir in favor of his niece and Visery's daughter Rhaenyra. The Targaryen prince holed himself up at Dragonstone with his loyal Gold Cloak guards and ends up stealing one of the dragon eggs. Viserys sends his Hand Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans) with his army over to Dragonstone to retrieve it to unexpected results. "The Rogue Prince" is more of a tension-building episode with several moving parts than the world-establishing one of the premiere, "The Heirs of the Dragon." Director Greg Yaitanes does an adequate job spacing the narratives out from the brutal cold opening with the Crab Feeder (Daniel Scott-Smith) to the majestic displays of the dragons during the climactic confrontation between Viserys and Damon's forces. It's far more dialog-driven than action. Credit goes to Considine, Toussaint, Alcock, Smith, Eve Best, and Emily Carey for anchoring the episode. House of the Dragon airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.