If a show is very good then it’s pretty easy to write a review, if it’s very bad, then it’s even easier. But if nothing much of anything happens for an entire episode, the plot inches along on its belly, and you don’t learn anything new about any of the characters, then putting a review together becomes a bit of a struggle. Well, here goes:
*Spoilers for episodes 1 & 2 of Hous
We’re back King’s Landing for episode two of House of the Dragon, entitled The Rogue Prince, and oh my are the stakes low. There’s a little bit of drama among the Targaryen clan - Daemon, AKA the Rogue Prince, has thrown a strop because Rhaenyra has been named heir, and buggered off with his favourite sex worker and a prized dragon egg.
Viserys hasn’t taken the affront well, and his Hand Otto Hightower offers to reason with Daemon and retrieve the dragon egg. Thus follows a lot of talking about plans, and scheming about action, and fretting about what to do, a little like the People’s Front of Judea in Life of Brian, except that that was funny. Eventually Viserys and Otto agree on a plan of action which promises to be as anticlimactic as it is silly. Otto is established here more clearly as the power behind the throne, and Daemon is further cemented as a villain with a consuming desire for power.
Last week, I worried that Milly Alcock, who plays Rhaenyra, was imitating Daenerys too much rather than building a new character, and hoped that she would come into her own as the series goes on. Alas, the writers are not helping on this front - with Rhaenyra’s line “When I am Queen I’ll create a new order” echoing Danaerys “I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.” It’s pretty clear now that Rhaenyra will be a Daenerys lite, on a mission to fashion a new Westeros that will match her values.
I suppose we’re meant to root for Rhaenyra, but apart from disliking the alternative, Daemon, there’s not much reason to support her so far. Yes, she’s the rightful heir, but then if you’re a republic that won’t mean much to you. What makes her a good fit for ruling the Seven Kingdoms, is she an intelligent political player, can she build powerful alliances, or does she have the ‘best story’ like Game of Thrones’ Bran Stark? So far the jury’s still out on all counts. The princess does seem to have a talent for avoiding bloodshed as evidenced in this episode, but that virtue isn’t likely to be permanent in a show about a devastating civil war.
The Rogue Prince also features an uncomfortable subplot - following the brutal death of Viserys I’s wife in episode one, the king is now pressured into remarrying. It seems that he is being set up to marry a 12 year-old girl from a family with strong ties to the Targaryens. Viserys turns her down, opting instead to marry his hand’s daughter, who is still considerably younger than him but at least post-pubescent. Olivia Cooke who plays Alicent Hightower is 20 years younger than Paddy Considine, who plays Viserys, so it’s still quite creepy. It seems like we’re supposed to appreciate Viserys not being a paedophile, but that’s a low bar.
The episode also ends in a way which is clearly intended to be a shock reveal, as the camera slowly pans to reveal the character involved in a treasonous scheme. However, it’s obvious from the opening of the scene who this mysterious villain will be. I don’t know why this annoyed me as much as it did - maybe it’s because if the episode had been written more thoughtfully the ending could have been a big pay-off, or maybe it’s just because I was bored, and like the young child in The Incredibles was waiting for something cool to happen.
After a very promising first episode, The Rogue Prince has gone some way towards dashing my hopes for the rest of the season. What seemed to be a carefully crafted buildup in the season premiere has quickly plateaued. In episode two, the storytelling wasn’t intricate or clever, and there were no exciting flurries of action either. The result - a very bland episode early doors that may put some viewers off from the series altogether.
House of the Dragon begins on HBO on Sunday 21 August. UK viewers can watch the series on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from Monday 22 August, with both a 2am simulcast and a 9pm repeat.