House of the Dragon review: Game of Thrones prequel picks up pace in episode 3 Second of His Name
House of the Dragon episode three, Second of His Name kicked things off pretty spectacularly with plenty of courtly bickering sandwiched between two brutal battles
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**Spoilers for episode 1-3 of House of the Dragon**
The second episode of Now fantasy series House of the Dragon, The Rogue Prince, was painfully slow, clunkily written, and didn’t do much to advance the plot. Sure, we saw Viserys I flirt with the idea of marrying a 12-year-old before deciding to go the Leonardo DiCaprio route and enter a relationship with someone only 20 years his junior instead, but other than that, not much happened.
Episode three makes up for the slow pacing of The Rogue Prince with interest. We are jettisoned a couple of years forward, Viserys has consummated his marriage to Alicent Hightower, the daughter of his hand, Otto, and she has had a son, Aegon II, who gives the episode its title.
There’s a war brewing in the Stepstones, an important trade route between Westeros and Essos - see the Westeros map for more information. Craghas Drahar, the Crabfeeder, previously rid the Stepstones of pirates but began charging a high toll for passage which angered members of Viserys’ court. Viserys is reluctant to get involved and has left his estranged brother Daemon to keep Drahar in line.
It’s clear from the bloody opening of the episode, in which Targaryen foot soldiers are seen nailed to spikes and fed to the crabs, that Daemon doesn’t have everything in hand. The grizzly scene has finally upped the stakes for the series, which until now had been trundling along a little too slowly for my liking. The show’s budget is also finally visible, there’s lots of fire-breathing dragon action and good practical effects on the dying soldiers.
After being dropped in at the deep end in the heat of battle on the edge of Westeros, we then move to King’s Landing where things are much calmer. Rhaenyra is miffed that her little brother Aegon looks set to usurp her position as heir to the Iron Throne - most of the men at court seem to think it’s a given that she will be passed over. Rhaenyra is fleshed out more here, she comes out of the episode as a strong character who knows her own mind, even if she is unnecessarily rude to her lute player. She is presented with a potential suitor, though she makes it clear that she won’t be sold off to the first man who comes knocking, which leads to a rather sweet moment between her and her father.
The final act of the series returns to the Stepstones, where Daemon has been informed that Viserys will send a paltry ten ships to his aid. Enraged, he decides to settle things himself and thus begins an incredible skirmish. Daemon gets his hero moment as he risks his life to bring the Crabfeeder in line.
This scene is brilliantly shot with all the energy of battle, and it doesn’t shy away from the visceral in-your face violence which characterised Game of Thrones. Daemon’s scenes are a little too ‘John Wick’ and there’s some serious suspension of disbelief required to accept the outcome, but it was excellent television nonetheless.
Hopefully, this blend of brutal, fast-paced action sequences on Westeros’s perimeter, and political dancing at the seat of power will be carried into the rest of the season. Episode three has been the show’s best so far, and if the series continues in this vein, the first season will measure up to its predecessor, Game of Thrones.
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