HBO’s House of the Dragon continues with episode 2, “The Rogue Prince.” Episode 2 is far more than just the sequel to “The Heirs of the Dragon” in both a literal and spiritual sense. “The Rogue Prince” is equal to its predecessor in terms of quality and intrigue; this episode is wholly inoffensive without being particularly engaging. It offers nothing of note or quality to deserve recommendation to disenfranchised Game of Thrones fans waiting to watch this prequel series, though neither has it earned their ire. So far, House of the Dragon is the meh-ist thing to ever meh. However, my money is on the series’ quality tanking at some point soon, as Hollywood is wont to do.
“The Rogue Prince” follows Rhaenyra acclimating to her new position as heir to the throne. At the same time, her father is pressured to take a new bride. Raging against his brother’s rejection, Daemon steals a dragon egg for the fake child of his phony wife, all to draw his brother to him. Not taking the bait, the King sends Otto in his stead, deepening the insult against Daemon. Only the quick thinking of Rhaenyra can save Otto from his murder at the hands of Daemon. Leveraging her relationship with her uncle, Rhaenyra defuses the conflict with Daemon and recovers the stolen dragon egg. With temporary peace restored, the King chooses his new bride, his daughter’s best friend, rebuffing the marriage designed by the Sea Snake. Offended by this slight, the Sea Snake joins forces with Daemon to make war against the pirates decimating his house. War is on the horizon on every front, the King’s choice of bride and the upcoming pirate conflict feeding into the discourse of a nation.
There is minimal action in this episode, and the pacing is languid, resulting in a rather dull experience. There’s some political intrigue that’s done better than in “The Heirs of the Dragon,” but nowhere near the level for which Game of Thrones was known. The episode’s biggest flaw is the lack of Daemon, who easily cemented himself as the fan favorite after the pilot episode. The rogue prince is in an episode called “The Rogue Prince” far too little. The best interactions are between King Viserys and Alicent, developing their relationship in intriguing ways, perfectly telegraphing the King’s later choice of bride. These conversations develop the characters and allow a certain degree of vulnerability between them without harming their strength or intimidation factor. These scenes are very well-written, with some top-notch character work. The writing is further propelled by genuine chemistry between the actors. Despite their age difference, they appear good for each other, which further sets up the King’s decision at the end of the episode.
Another well-written conversation comes between Rhaenyra and her aunt, Rhaenys. In today’s Hollywood, it would seem obvious for two women who almost become queens to be allies, women united against the patriarchy. However, that isn’t the case whatsoever. As with the best Game of Thrones interactions, neither of these characters are genuinely good people, immediately resorting to manipulation and assuming their antagonistic position relative to each other. Even the line from the trailers, “The men would rather burn this realm to the ground than see a woman sit upon the Iron Throne,” comes across as organic and as continued manipulation. What harms this scene is the behind-the-scenes at the end of the episode, where the interviews make it about feminist propaganda. However, that is not how the scene appears in context. Those end-of-episode interviews continually do far more harm than good to these series. These are just two women who do not trust anyone and who see each other as enemies.
The weakest part of “The Rogue Prince” is Princess Rhaenyra. She’a less likable than she was in “The Heirs of the Dragon,” though not to an extreme degree. She seems to think that the moment she becomes heir, she should be inducted into the councils of the King and become an essential member of the court. This is not the case because of her age. Her aunt implies that it’s insulting that she has remained the cupbearer. That is still the best position for her, though, as she can listen to all the council meetings and learn by observation. However, this isn’t good enough for the Princess. She must blurt out her clearly flawed opinion before getting upset when she’s asked to leave because of it. Even later, when the King forgives her transgression, she becomes angered at him. There are many such scenes; they are neither extreme nor too numerous, but they drive down her likability quite a bit.
On the technical side, the CGI is, again, a little off with the dragons but great otherwise. The weapons and costume designs are incredibly detailed and immersive, except for Otto’s armor, which looks cheap. Otherwise, House of the Dragon is once again head and shoulders above its competitors in terms of design.
“The Rogue Prince” is equal in quality to its predecessor in every underwhelming way possible. This episode cannot be called bad or good; it merely exists to propagate the Game of Thrones franchise, offering little immersion or relatability for its audience to latch onto. With such an emotionally neutral experience, it’s hard to care whether or not this series continues. It can neither be hate-watched nor truly enjoyed. House of the Dragon will continue next week, but “The Rogue Prince” offers nothing to elicit excitement for the next addition to the series.
With the constant dullness that this series has demonstrated, the conflicts set up must be truly enthralling to maintain audiences’ investment going forward. The conflict with the Crab Feeder or the union between the Sea Snake and Daemon must involve some extreme action or intriguing politics; otherwise, interest in this series will dip. Without a doubt, House of the Dragon will beat out the upcoming Rings of Power premier in terms of quality and fan adoration. However, merely beating Rings of Power is not enough to cement this show as good or worthy of remembrance. House of the Dragon needs to step up its game, or audience retention will slip.