I have to admit that I didn’t expect too much from ‘The House of the Dragon’. In my mind, the new HBO Max production aimed to be a somewhat generic and listless exploitation of the gigantic phenomenon that turned out to be ‘Game of Thrones’, but nothing could be further from the truth; because making contact with her last week resulted in a gigantic surprise which already makes me look forward to Mondays like on my first visit to Westeros.
However, despite the magnificent sensations that the pilot transmitted to me, I decided to take things with caution, since had a director of the stature of Miguel Sapochnik to the front —responsible for capitulations such as ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ or ‘Austere House’—. A name that suggested the satisfying touchdown might just have been a mirage.
Nothing could be further from the truth, because with its second episode, entitled ‘The Scoundrel Prince’, the adaptation of ‘Blood and fire’ continues to show that it has nothing to envy to the DB Weiss and David Benioff show; and he does it by propping up plots, developing characters and articulating twists – more or less surprising – in a way that is as precise as it is addictive.
Of eggs and marriages
Making contact with ‘The House of the Dragon’ was little less than starting from scratch; a somewhat overwhelming experience when it comes to the barrage of names, faces and references that populated its footage. Now, with the cards already on the table and with the protagonists sufficiently defined, the series can afford to advance its narrative and anticipate the plays that will take place for domination of the iron throne.
‘The Scoundrel Prince’ shows that, as happened with its predecessor, the engine that drives the production, beyond battles and top-level audiovisual shows, is the use of dialogue; which is used as the sharpest weapon we can imagineand that makes it exciting again to see people sitting in rooms talking, hatching conspiracies and playing both sides with treason by flag.
On this occasion, after an ellipsis of several months since the death of Queen Aemma Arryn, the episode continues to explore the mourning of Viserys Targaryenleaving more evidence of the physical deterioration that was suggested last week – he is now about to lose one of his fingers – and posing a major dilemma for the king, who is invited by his advisers to weigh the idea of remarry to strengthen their power and lineage.
Under this premise, and taking advantage of the hostile situation with the mysterious Benefactor of the Crabs, Corlys Velaryon, whose house is closely tied to the Targaryens, suggests her daughter Laenajust twelve years old, as a candidate to bind ties and make Viserys’s reign virtually indestructible.
Finally, as expected, the monarch ends up choosing Alicent Hightower, daughter of the Hand of the King, as his future wife; all this after the intelligent manipulation of her father and to the anger of Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenyra Targaryen, that she leaves the room due to the betrayal of her friend —and possible lover of hers, as has been hinted very slightly so far —.
This has only intensified the other great open front of the plot at this point: an out-of-control Daemon Targaryen who has taken over Dragonstone and that he has stolen a dragon egg to provoke his brother and continue to push to become the sole heir to the throne over his niece Rhaenyra.
The incident forces the Hand of the King to gather a group of soldiers and move to Dragonstone to recover the egg and make things clear to Daemon, who does not hesitate to show off his dragon to tip the scales in his favor in a more What a likely showdown. Fortunately, Rhaenyra makes an appearance to even things uprecover the stolen property and continue to run as the great heroine of ‘The house of the dragon’.
The verbal confrontation with his uncle not only rises as the best scene of the entire chapter, but also intensifies the family conflict on which, it seems, the season will revolve —if not the series—and adds more layers to a Rhaenyra struggling with her status as a female heiress in a world of men.
With these two closed subplots —for the moment— ‘The Scoundrel Prince’ ends by uniting the two rejected characters. In his last scene, Corlys Velaryon – hurt by Viserys’ marital rudeness – and Daemon Targaryen forge an alliance to put the current king of Westeros on the ropes. It’s early to tell if it’s solid enough to succeed, but there’s no doubt we’ve got an electrifying few weeks ahead of us.