Things are heating up in Westeros, and it’s not just because of the dragon fire. Okay, well, it’s mostly because of the dragon fire, but that’s not the only reason!
This week, the shuffle for control of the Iron Throne is becoming more persistent–we’re jumping three years ahead of Episode 2 and getting acquainted with a new tension that will define the future of the Targaryen lineage.
Things are moving quickly on House of the Dragon, which could indicate just how brisk of a pace the showrunners want to set with this new series. The source material, Fire and Blood, is presented as a historical text and covers decades of the rule of House Targaryen. This is a dramatic departure from the slow-paced action of Game of Thrones, and it’s thrilling to see plot points converge so quickly after being introduced.
Daemon and the Sea Snake
Prince Daemon and his new ally, the Sea Snake Corlys Velaryan, are waging war against the Crabfeeder’s pirates in the Stepstones. This is something the Prince and several lords of Westeros have called on King Viserys to do, but which he has resisted. Instead, Daemon has taken matters into his own hands and flown on dragon-back to root out the pirates.
The opening scene of the episode reminds us of the destructive power of House Targaryen’s dragons. They’re the war engines that have helped the silver-haired family from Valyria secure the Iron Throne, and it’s impossible to overstate their importance in any conflict. For as crafty and cruel as the Crabfeeder might be, he doesn’t have the fantasy equivalent of a fighter jet at his disposal, and his men are reduced to hiding in caves along the shoreline to avoid a fiery death at the mercy of Daemon’s mount.
Years go by, and the Crabfeeder’s forces are in retreat. While the armies on Westeros’ east coast make things difficult for pirates and merchants alike, King Viserys has been busy: he and his new wife, Lady Alicent, have had a son named Aegon, and Alicent is already pregnant with another child. This is going to be complicated for Viserys’ only other child, Rhaenyra, who was recently named the heir to the throne.
Aegon’s Name Day
Rhaenyra is not pleased with the prospect of her younger brother ascending the throne. In fact, she’s livid that her father has been so insistent upon her marrying a lord of Westeros, like the prideful Jason Lannister or the cunning Laenor Velaryron, son of Corlys. As she tells her father, she hates the idea of the lords rushing in like vultures to pick the bones of her future.
At Aegon’s second “name day,” or birthday as we call it in the real world, Viserys holds a massive feast and a royal hunt. Jason Lannister attempts to woo Rheanyra with promises of building her a dragon pit at his home in Casterly Rock and even offers her a goblet of the finest Lannister wine. The rebellious young Rheanyra rebuffs him and instead rides out into the wilderness, chased by her attendant knight Criston Cole.
As Viserys seethes that political entanglements are complicating his son’s feast, Jason gifts him a spear and once again makes a plea for Rheanyra’s hand in marriage. Viserys, showing a bit of the wine-soaked madness that will make one of his descendants infamous in a little over a century, sends Jason away and fumes over his inability to make any decisions without angering some lord or another.
A Question of Marriage
The question of marriage is a loaded one for Westerosi royalty. Viserys explains to his daughter that it’s their responsibility as leaders to make political marriages and secure their lineages to strengthen their claim to the throne. However, Viserys is also a better man than some kings and mostly just wants his daughter to be happy. He vows to her that she’s still his choice for a successor and tells her to simply marry whoever will make her happy.
Rhaenyra is pleased that her father trusts her judgment, and things seem to be going well within House Targaryen. However, trouble is clearly brewing. Jason Lannister made note that the lords of Westeros expect Aegon to succeed his father, as there has never been a female monarch on the Iron Throne. Moreover, Aegon’s grandfather, Otto Hightower, the Hand of the king, has designs on the Throne himself–he wants his lineage to control the fate of Westeros.
Fans of the books will undoubtedly see what’s coming next. Joffrey Baratheon himself noted that Rheanyra and her brother Aegon fought a deadly civil war against one another, one of the singers of the realm called The Dance of Dragons. So, while Rheanyra and her father might have finally reconciled, dark days are ahead for the House of the Dragon.
Meanwhile, Viserys finally relented and decided to send reinforcements to his brother in the Stepstones. When Daemon receives word that the king plans to send a host to supplement his forces, he flies into a rage and slays the messenger before sailing out to the Crabfeeder’s camp alone. He flies a white flag and offers up his sword in apparent surrender–drawing out the pirates and springing a devious trap.
Daemon becomes a one-man army, cutting down several pirates before arrows slow him down and force him to the ground. Corlys and his men sail in just as one of Daemon’s dragons swoops in from overhead. The result is a complete rout for the Crabfeeder’s men, complete with a vicious (offscreen) duel in which Daemon brutally ends the pirate lord’s reign.
As the bloodied and furious prince exits the cave with what remains of the Crabfeeder, the audience is left to contemplate the future fires of war that will engulf Westeros. The Targaryen lineage is known for blood and fire, after all, as Deamon was so eager to prove in the Stepstones.