House of the Dragon S1 Ep 2 Review
If you’ve seen Game of Thrones (or read a book on Medieval Europe), you’ll know there’s one constant. That constant being that the elites would rather have a man ruling than a woman. Not many women broke that glass ceiling in the days of old, and that number’s even fewer in Westeros. Fans remember how paranoid Daenerys became when she learned Jon Snow was a Targaryen, which helped lead to her fall. She had good reason to be paranoid, as she likely knew what her ancestor, Rhaenyra, dealt with in her time. As we see in the second episode of HOTD, that disrespect continues when King Viserys makes the biggest mistake of his life.
Where’s Rhaenyra’s Respect?
So, six months have passed since the death of the Queen and Viserys decided to name Rhaenyra his heir. In a nicer world, that would be the end of matters. Since this is Westeros, though, it’s not, as the Small Council keeps pressuing King Viserys to take a new wife. They argue (as does Viserys later to his daughter) that this is so that their bloodline isn’t in danger of extinction. However, their motives couldn’t be more obvious. They still want the King to have a son who can inherit the Iron Throne in place of Rhaenyra.
Much like most of Medieval Earth, Westeros remains stuck in this sexist mindset. They think that being a good ruler means being a man. Or, as Rhaenys tells her relative:
More than anything, the show hammers home that this mindset is a big part of the reason why things will go south for House Targaryen. Much of the Small Council ignores Rhaenyra and her sound advice. While using Dragons to intimidate the Free Cities of Essos might be a bit excessive, it’s an effective tactic, and Rhaenyra’s right to suggest it. Instead, she’s brushed off as the Small Council keeps scheming to manipulate King Viserys to take a new wife.
Marriage in Westeros Stinks!
Since child-marriage laws don’t exist in Westeros, one candidate is Laena Velaryon. Like the Targaryen’s, the Velaryon’s are one of the few survivors from Old Valyria, so the match seems perfect. Except she’s twelve in the show. Even King Viserys isn’t comfortable with that. However, who he ends up choosing ends up sealing the fates of everyone involved in this era.
Meanwhile, Daemon’s squatting on Dragonstone and refuses to move out, despite his brother’s pleas and the Small Council’s demands. Things come to a head when he flat-out steals a dragon egg and says he’s going to take a second wife himself, purely to anger the people at King’s Landing. It works, too. Otto Hightower goes to confront him and demands he leave while giving back the egg.
Rhaenyra Has More Stones Than Most Men
How did it not occur to him that would be a bad idea, since Daemon has his own dragon, Caraxes? His stupidity almost gets him killed…until Rhaenyra pulls up and gets things done.
In one move that demonstrates that she deserves the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra makes her uncle back down by calling his bluff. He doesn’t act like it, but he does love his family; or at least his niece. Thus, he goes to vacate Dragonstone, and returns the egg.
What does Daenerys get for acting decisively? No recognition beyond a reprimand from her concerned father. While King Viserys has the right to scold her, he should also praise her for defusing the mess his Hand caused. Later, it doesn’t even appear that Otto feels grateful as he continues his schemes for power.
The Sound of Doom For All
And they work. King Viserys announces that he’s going to wed Otto’s daughter and Rhaenyra’s best friend, Alicent. It’s a move no one besides the Hightower’s are happy over. Corlys Velaryon, his master of ships and relative by marriage, walks out on the Small Council and decides to team up with Daemon to head to the Stepstones and clear out the pirates there.
So, by the end of this, King Viserys has let the Game of Thrones make him make what viewers know is a terrible mistake. By remarrying, he will have to have more children. And since one of them will be a son, that will put Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne in question. He’s undermining his own family’s power.
The seeds are already sewn, though. The House of the Dragon’s going to go through its greatest crisis ever. And if you know the history of Westeros, then you know that it won’t end well for anyone. So, good going, King Viserys.
This is why I’m not trying to get attached to anyone in this show.