A different game of thrones kicked off in House of the Dragon episode 1 last week. In this week's edition, episode 2 sees various players make moves to advance their positions, but some are more successful than others.
House of the Dragon is already off to a great start, with the premiere setting viewership records and HBO giving season 2 an early green light. As we know from George R.R. Martin's Targaryen history, Fire and Blood, the forthcoming civil war called the Dance of the Dragons is still some years away.
So, buckle up for a cutthroat chess match in which the characters attempt to maneuver their way into wielding more power. Episode 2, "The Rogue Prince," is all about making alliances, while burning others.
Here are three winners and two losers from this week's game.
Warning: Extensive spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 2
Winner: Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen
Despite having been installed as the official heir to King Viserys, Rhaenyra begins the episode a bit down. She's treated like a child by her father, an unwelcome nuisance by the small council, and a naive fool by her older cousin Rhaenys. Most of all, she's worried that Viserys will heed the nobility's calls to remarry and produce more heirs, though it's been just six months since Queen Aemma's death.
The lords of Westeros may have bent the knee to her as heir, but she knows their approval is precarious — especially if Viserys has more children and any of them are male. Rhaenyra needs to cement her role, show strength and prove to her father that she isn't a little girl anymore. She does that with aplomb by riding Syrax to Dragonstone to confront her dear uncle, Prince Daemon, who has stolen a dragon egg.
The Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, is already there, but engaged in a standoff against Daemon that could turn bloody. Rhaenyra shows up and issues her uncle a dare. If he really wants to be heir again, he'll have to kill her. It works — Daemon smirks as if he's rather impressed by her gumption. He tosses her the egg and takes his soldiers back to the fortress. Otto also seems to pay her grudging respect.
When she returns to King's Landing, Viserys is angry for about five seconds, but also accepts that she's a grown woman now. He also vows again not to replace her as the heir, even if he has more children.
Winner: Otto Hightower
While Otto was shown up by a teenager in his standoff against Daemon, he is much more successful in his other machination — influencing the king to marry his daughter, Alicent.
For the past six months, Alicent has been comforting Viserys — in an innocent way, asking questions about his model of old Valyria and acting as a sympathetic ear. Most importantly, she doesn't push him in any way. That isn't the case with others in his circle, particularly Corlys Velaryon and his own cousin Rhaenys. They push Viserys to join their two houses by marrying their daughter, Laena (who is only 12 years old, by the way).
When Otto hears this idea, he handles it masterfully. After mournfully mentioning his own deceased lady wife, Otto notes he's glad he doesn't have to replace her for duty's sake. "You are the king, but I do not envy you," he sighs.
His words seem to plant a nugget of rebellion in Viserys' head. He is the king, dammit! Why should he do what everyone says he should do? For once, Viserys stands up for himself. Instead of marrying Laena, he announces he will wed Alicent. And Otto, aside from being Hand, will also be father to the queen.
Winner: Ser Criston Cole
Ser Criston Cole not only gets hand-picked by Rhaenyra to join the Kingsguard — because he has actual combat experience, not just tournament wins — he also leads the soldiers in Otto's encounter with Daemon on Dragonstone. And he even manages to zing the prince.
When Daemon pretends to only vaguely remember Criston, calling him "Ser Crispin," the knight replies, "Perhaps my prince recalls when I knocked him off his horse." Daemon chuckles. Shot fired and acknowledged.
Loser: Prince Daemon Targaryen
Unlike his niece, Daemon starts the episode on a high. He's seized Dragonstone and fortified it with his loyal gold cloaks, steals a dragon egg, and plans to make Mysaria his second wife and have babies with her. The egg is taken so that he can follow family tradition and place it within her cradle.
But when it's discovered that the egg was the same one put in (poor dead) Baelon's cradle, Viserys blows his top. He wants to fly to Dragonstone and confront his brother himself. Otto cautions him against it and offers to go in his place.
At first, Daemon seems to have the upper hand, thanks to his formidable dragon, Caraxes. But when Rhaenyra arrives on Syrax, the sides are balanced. What's more, Rhaenyra proves her strength and courage by standing up to her uncle. He is clearly fond of her, but also knows he would truly be playing with fire if he tried to harm her.
Daemon backs off, but when he returns to his chamber, Mysaria gives him another setdown. She isn't all that pleased with the idea of marrying him and having his babies. If hostilities increase, the king still likely would never put his brother's head on a pike. But she would be in grave danger and the only thing Mysaria cares about is liberation from fear.
Loser: Corlys Velaryon
Corlys cannot catch a break this week. First, the king brushes off the continuing raids in the Stepstones by the so-called Crab Feeder. Corlys is genuinely worried about the shipping lanes that make him and his family so wealthy. He also thinks it's a bad idea for Viserys not to make a display of strength, as it will embolden other enemies. Taking out the Crab Feeder would kill two, uh, crabs with one stone.
Then, his scheme for Viserys to marry Laena falls apart. His ambitions won't rest, though. If this isn't his way to get closer to the Iron Throne, Corlys will find another — by forming an alliance with Daemon. Maybe this week's losers can band together to become next week's winners.