“Second of His Name” is probably the weakest of the three House of the Dragons episodes so far. This is partially due to, yet another massive time skip when I think everyone is quite invested in the story as is. We could have easily done a couple of episodes on the aftermath of Queen Aemma’s death as well as the marriage of Alicent Hightower to the King. Part of this is since they didn’t start the series with the Dance of the Dragons beginning, in my humble opinion, so we’re caught between the show moving too fast and getting bogged down in a season of backstory simultaneously.
The episode can be summarized as taking place in two parts: the Great Hunt and the Stepstones War. A Great Hunt has been arranged for the celebration of Prince Aegon’s second birthday and King Viserys is already getting pressure to marry his daughter off as well as name his son the new heir. Waiting two years with the infant mortality rates seems reasonable, sadly. Meanwhile, Daemon and Corys are not doing great in their war against the Crabfeeder.
We start with a three-year time skip and unfortunately, it makes Rhaenyra look terrible because it looks like she’s been in a snit for literally that entire time. Milly Alcock is forced to play a bratty teenage daughter for an entire hour of runtime, and it removes a lot of the awesomeness we saw with her for the past two episodes. Rhaenyra is just mean to Alicent the entire time and the fact it’s meant to have been a years-long estrangement doesn’t make her look any better. She also pouts about her arranged marriage versus trying to think of bolstering her claim to the Iron Throne by making allies.
This episode really belongs to Emily Carey and Alicent Hightower is at her most sympathetic. If we’re meant to infer that she’s spent the past three years trying to rebuild her friendship with Rhaenyra, no matter the betrayal, it’s something that shows she has the patience of a saint. We also see she’s not overly enthusiastic about stealing Rhaenyra’s birthright. Which Otto points out that the majority of the realm would see as the reverse.
Surprisingly, Otto is shown to be a trifle more sympathetic this time around as well. While still a scheming weasal, he’s clearly not interested in just destroying Rhaenyra to get what he wants. He wants her married off to a Great House and a comfortable retirement. He also is interested in marrying her to his grandson, 16-year age difference or not. Seriously, Viserys seems to be the only man with any sense of age issues in the realm and he still married a teenager.
We get some build-up for a possible Rhaenyra and Cristin Cole romance, however. They get to spend the majority of the Great Hunt alone together as well as making it clear that Cole is personally very loyal to Rhaenyra for raising him up to the Kingsguard. I’ll even go so far as to say part of her problem is Rhaenyra is suffering some sexual frustration while being terrified of marriage due to her mother’s horrific death as well as the political ramifications. Really getting some serious Elizabeth I vibes here.
Viserys is at his worst here but he’s also starting to show some spine. Sadly, it seems that he’s finally picked on the fact that everyone thinks of him as a weathervane. Blow on him and he goes whichever direction you want. Unfortunately, growing a spine primarily means that he’s become a drunk and willing to yell at everyone who annoys him until they back down. He’s gone from being a harmless but otherwise good man to being more and more just Robert Barthaeon the early edition. Thankfully, he’s not taken to spouse abuse yet.
The battle scenes are both the best and worst part of this episode. The plot armor is strong with Daemon Targaryen as he shrugs off multiple arrows as well as stands up to a hundred men before bringing down his dragons. On the other hand, I also like the implied politics of it all with the reason the Crabfeeder was winning is because he had a nation standing behind him while it was just Daemon as well as House Velaryon trying to take him down. Sometimes dragons win wars, other times its logistics.
In conclusion, I liked it more than Rings of Power’s opening episodes, but I think I’m going to be continued to be disconcerted with all these massive time jumps, and I know there’s still more ahead since The Dance of the Dragons is a decade or so aware. I always love dragons on screen, though, especially when they’re frying people and could have used more of that. Just keep Rhaenyra being awesome, give me some more Matt Smith’s Rogue Prince, and throw in more dragon action–that’s all I want show.