In, The Heirs of the Dragon, King Viserys declared his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, his heir. That flies in the face of tradition, which would have Viserys' younger brother Daemon Targaryen next in line to wear the crown. We're beginning to see why House of the Dragon's showrunner called the Game of Thrones prequel " ."
For those playing catchup,the events seen in Game of Thrones. Based on George R.R. Martin's 2018 book Fire and Blood, it's all about the Targaryens. In episode 1, we meet not only to King Viserys, Prince Daemon and Princess Rhaenyra, but also Hand of the King Otto Hightower, his daughter Alicent and the "Sea Snake" Lord Corlys Velaryon.
The premiere episode set the stage. Now let the show begin. Warning: House of the Dragon episode 2 spoilers below.
Rebellions across the land
Corlys Velaryon has been complaining loudly to the Small Council about the "Triarchy," an alliance between the Free Cities of Myrs, Lys and Tyrosh. You can understand his anxiety: Lord Corlys is the king's Master of Ships, and the Triarchy threatens the king's shipping lanes in Essos. In House of the Dragon's premiere, he also mentioned that an odd fellow aligned with the Triarchy calls himself "the Crabfeeder" because of the way he tortures pirates.
(With crabs. He tortures them with crabs.)
We begin House of the Dragon's second episode with the repellant sight of the Crabfeeder's handiwork. We see a semi-conscious sailor being eaten alive by red crabs, then a wide shot that shows two wrecked, burning ships. Turns out those ships flew Lord Corlys' own banners, so the next thing we see is him storming into a Small Council meeting to once again raise the alarm.
Otto Hightower, the King's Hand, dismisses Corlys' objections, saying Westeros cannot wage war with the Free Cities. This turns Corlys irate.
"What reason does the Crabfeeder have to fear us?" Corlys asks the Small Council. "The king's own brother has been allowed to seize Dragonstone and fortify it with an army of his Gold Cloaks. Daemon has squatted there for over half a year without even a protest from the crown."
That's how we learn that six months have elapsed since the end of the first episode, when Daemon left King's Landing in a huff.
King Viserys rebuffs Corlys, saying he is doing something about the Triarchy -- he's sent an envoy to negotiate, at which point Princess Rhaenyra asks why Viserys doesn't just send her on dragonback to solve the problem. The Small Council exchanges nervous looks. It's suggested that Rhaenyra should be excused to go choose which knight should fill a new post in the Kingsguard, the group of warriors that protect the monarch.
It doesn't take Rhaenyra long to make her choice. In the next scene, we see a procession of knights offering their services to the crown. The queen-to-be is unimpressed with all the blokes except one -- Ser Criston Cole, who we saw defeat Daemon in combat in episode 1. To the apparent chagrin of Otto Hightower, Rhaenyra chooses Criston Cole for the job, reasoning that he's the only knight among them with actual combat experience.
The king's hand (in marriage)
In a particularly confronting scene, Queen Aemma. Since six months have passed between the first and second episodes, it's now time for King Viserys to start thinking about marriage once again. Or at least, that's what Lord Corlys and his wife, Rhaenys Targaryen ("The Queen That Never Was"), tell him as they propose King Viserys marry their daughter Laena.
The Velaryons and Targaryens are the two surviving Valyrian bloodlines, Corlys says -- as good a reason as any to join the families and project a unified front to the realm. (Valyria is a region in Westeros, for those struggling to keep up with the lore.)
Rhaenyra is understandably not stoked about it all, what with the Small Council literally politicking over her dead mother's body. She confides in Alicent Hightower -- daughter of King's Hand Otto Hightower -- as they walk through the High Scept. After being encouraged to do so by her father in the last episode, Alicent is still regularly visiting Viserys in his bedchambers to give him (seemingly aboveboard) company.
"I want him to see me as more than his little girl," Rhaenyra tells Alicent as they pray in the Scept. Just the night before, Viserys had told Alicent that he and Rhaenyra haven't been speaking much.
"Mine own father does not know the language of girls, either," Alicent councils Rhaenyra. "When I wish to talk with him, I know that I must make the effort."
King Viserys isn't super excited about remarrying, either. He's still mourning Aemma, and worries a second marriage may upset Rhaenyra. Compounding matters is the age of Laena. She's 12. We see Viserys and a very young Laena walking through King's Landing's lush gardens making chitchat about dragons, and the contrast in age is grim.
Laena stops and, with evident discomfort, recites: "It would be a great honor to join our houses as they were in old Valyria. I would give you many children of pure Valyrian blood so that we might strengthen the royal line and the realm."
"Is that what your father told you to say?" replied Viserys, clearly finding the whole enterprise a bit gross. "What did your mother tell you say?"
"That I wouldn't have to bed you until I turn 14."
Viserys lets out a big sigh as they continue to walk.
The order of things
Rhaenyra was watching Viserys and Laena's stroll from the Red Keep. As she strolls away to go about her business, she's accosted by Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. For those who forgot, Rhaenys is the wife of Lord Corlys, and it was she who lost the council vote for succession to Viserys in the opening scene of episode 1.
Rhaenys wonders aloud whether the marriage bothers Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra basically tells Rhaenys to not taunt her, but Rhaenys gives her a reality check.
"Whether it's to my daughter or someone else's, your father will marry sooner than late. His new wife will produce new heirs, and chances are better than not that one of those will be male. And when that boy comes of age and your father has passed, the men of the realm will expect him to be heir, not you. Because that is the order of things."
Rhaenyra says she'll become queen and make a new order. She says the men of the realm didn't reject women, they rejected Rhaenys. The Queen That Never Was once again gets real with the younger Targaryen.
"Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne," Rhaenys says. "And your father is no fool."
The king is still sick
During his yelling match with Daemon in the first episode, you'll recall, King Viserys accidentally cut his own hand on one of the blades that constitute the Iron Throne. Six months later, in this episode, that wound is festering.
In order to save his finger, which the maesters have presumably been treating with cauterization (fire), the king's medical help submerge his hand in a bowl full of maggots. "This is our best chance to save the digit," Grand Maester Mellos says. "The maggots will remove the dead flesh and hopefully stop the advance of the rot."
With Hand of the King Otto Hightower in the room, King Viserys brings up the proposed marriage between himself and Laena Velaryon. Grand Maester Mellos reckons it's a good idea. Hightower seems less excited.
Anything that you can do...
Daemon Targaryen is still making mischief. Having taken Dragonstone and named himself rightful heir to the Iron Throne, he's discovered to have stolen a dragon egg from King's Landing. And by discovered I mean he left a note saying who he was and why he stole the egg: Because he's now got a second wife, a sex worker named Mysaria, and his wife-to-be is with child. The dragon egg is to lie in the baby's cradle, as is custom for Targaryens.
Daemon's note also claims that he's to be married, and that King Viserys is invited. After it's worked out that Daemon stole the same egg that was in Baelor's cradle for the few hours the child was alive, King Viserys is pushed over the edge. (Baelor is the baby boy Aemma gave birth to in episode 1.) He says he'll take back Dragonstone himself, but is talked down by Otto Hightower, who says he'll go instead of the king.
You'll remember from episode 1 that Otto and Daemon deeply dislike one another. Daemon and his army, the former City Watch, confront Otto and the king's men in a dramatic scene, meeting head-to-head along a thin bridge leading to Dragonstone. They have words, with Otto disparaging Daemon's "whore" wife-to-be and calling Daemon a disgrace to the Targaryen family. The men on both sides draw swords, but before they can clash they're interrupted by Daemon's dragon, which made its presence known by looming over Dragonstone's castle.
Otto's men begin to retreat. We hear another dragon in the distance, however. From the clouds flies Rhaenyra, riding a dragon of her own. She hops off and walks straight up to Daemon on the bridge.
"My father named me Princess of Dragonstone," she says as she confronts her uncle, "that is my castle you're living in." Boss mode activated. She calls him out for stealing her deceased baby brother's dragon egg, but Daemon protests that his child deserves to sleep with a dragon egg, too. A surprised Mysaria shoots a disappointed glance at Daemon before storming off. Turns out Daemon was lying about both the wedding and the pregnancy.
"I'm right here, Uncle," Rhaenyra dares him. "If you wish to be restored as heir, you'll need to kill me. So do it. And be done of all this bother."
Daemon stares her down, then heads back to the castle -- but not before tossing the dragon egg over to Rhaenyra. Having secured the egg, the princess gives Otto Hightower a looks that says "that's how it's done," then flies off on her dragon. Boss mode deactivated.
Back in Dragonstone, we see Mysaria chastise Daemon for playing "stupid games" with his family by making up lies that they're to be married and have a child.
"I have been sold as property more times than I care to count," she says to him. "Most of my years have been spent living in terror... I didn't come into your service wanting gold or power or station. I came to you to be liberated."
A long engagement
King Viserys is still mulling his proposed engagement to Laena, seeking the council of Lord Lyonel Strong, his Master of Laws. Viserys says that he's felt Lord Corlys' envious gaze ever since he took the crown, and ponders whether it's wise to link families. Viserys is also understandably cold on the idea of marrying a 12-year-old.
Yet Lord Lyonel encourages him to see it through, reasoning that it's Viserys' obligation to the realm and that Lord Corlys wouldn't take it well if his offer was denied. There's potential war coming with the Triarchy, Lord Lyonel says, and they'll need Corlys' ships to win it.
At this point the two men are interrupted by an announcement that Rhaenyra has returned from Dragonstone. From the look on his face, we can see that King Viserys had no clue she went to Dragonstone in the first place.
The king is furious, browbeating Rhaenyra for acting so recklessly. He yells and yells, but relents when she points out that she retrieved the dragon egg without bloodshed, a feat Otto Hightower was unlikely to achieve. Viserys sinks into his chair and puts some respect on her name. Then, finally, the two have a heart-to-heart about the death of Aemma.
"Your mother's absence is a wound that will never heal. Without her, the Red Keep has lost a warmth that I dare say it will never recover," Viserys says. "I wish I'd known better what to say to you in the aftermath. I struggle to realize that my daughter had so quickly become a woman grown. But I know she understands what is now expected of me."
He says it's his duty as king to remarry. Rhaenyra is his only heir, which makes his line of succession too vulnerable.
"You are the king," she says. "And so your first duty is to the realm. Mother would have understood this. Just as I do."
The next scene is a Small Council meeting. Now that he has Rhaenyra's consent, and has been told by many people that joining his family with Lord Corlys' is the responsible thing to do, the king announces he's decided to get marry once more.
To Alicent Hightower.
Rhaenyra is shocked. Otto Hightower is pleased. Lord Corlys is furious.
"This is an absurdity," Corlys says. "My house is Valyrian, the greatest power in the realm."
"And I am your king," Viserys sternly replies.
Otto Hightower shoots Lord Corlys a look. "You've been outplayed" is written across Otto's face. Corlys storms out of the Small Council room, followed shortly thereafter by Rhaenyra. We now know why Hightower was so keen to have Alicent keep the king company the moment Aemma passed.
In the final scene of the episode, Lord Corlys is seated by a fire in his chambers, flapping his gums to a mystery companion. We soon see that he's forging an alliance with Daemon Targaryen.
Corlys complains again about the Triarchy, and the gruesome Crabfeeder. We see a protective side to Daemon, who bristles when Corlys criticizes King Viserys' judgment. "I will speak of my brother as I wish," he says while villainously staring over the fire. "You will not."
Lord Corlys believes Daemon is the solution to his Triarchy problem.
"Waiting in the Step Stones is a chance for you to prove your worth to anyone who might yet doubt it. We are the realm's second sons, Daemon," Corlys says. "Our right is not given. It must be made."