“The Rogue Prince” picks up roughly half a year after the conclusion to “The Heirs of the Dragon.” After storming off in an indignant huff, the titular rogue prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) has taken up at the Targaryen ancestral home of Dragonstone. King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) and his council are content to leave him to his tantrum there, even if it is symbolically fraught as Dragonstone is supposed to be the seat of the king’s true heir. But when Daemon announces his betrothal to the “Lady” Mysaria (Sonoyo Mizuno) and steals a dragon egg for their eventual child, the king is forced to act. And by “act,” I mean send Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) over to the foggy isle to glare at Daemon for a bit.
While House of the Dragon’s sense of (fictional) historical fidelity to its source material imparted episode 1 with a real sense of importance, that same historical approach immediately runs into some issues in episode 2. Just like the real history of our world, we don’t always know what happens behind closed doors of George R.R. Martin’s fictional history. Though in Fire & Blood, the “history” book upon which House of the Dragon is based, Martin’s maester characters are able to make some pretty educated guesses.
A lot of those educated guesses made their way into “The Heirs of the Dragon” and it’s perhaps why the episode so closely resembles the early Thrones seasons. Moments like Daemon referring to his dead nephew as “heir for a day” and the exhilarating King’s Landing tourney (or Maidenpool tourney in Fire & Blood) are events that Martin’s fictional maesters have a lot of “sources” for. “The Rogue Prince,” however, doesn’t have many, if any, of those well-sourced scenes. As such, throughout this episode the Westerosi maesters’ voice (which is really just Martin’s) is replaced by the show’s best attempts at it, which are often less than inspiring.
The ostensible climax of this episode, in which Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) arrives on Dragonstone to confront her uncle about squatting in her home, is a fine example of how the show’s fictional history approach has already started to fray. While one dragonrider flying to a fiery island to treat with another dragonrider may sound fairly epic in the annals of history, in practice viewers must concede that there’s not much to it.
House of the Dragon’s depiction of Dragonstone is certainly visually stunning, and continues a welcome trend of the show improving upon production design elements from Thrones, but the action of the scene leaves much to be desired. Daemon folds far too quickly and the scene’s dialogue doesn’t really hold up – though newly-minted Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) reminding Daemon of who knocked him off his horse is admittedly satisfying.
Truth be told, “The Rogue Prince” is filled with talky scenes where the quality of the talk just doesn’t pass muster. The episode’s first dialogue-heavy moment between Viserys and his soon-to-be-child-bride Alicent (Emily Carey) is intriguing enough…even if we learn the devastating information that Viserys isn’t a master craftsman and it’s the stonemasons who have erected his Old Valyria model. But after that, the usual “people talking in rooms” approach lacks the clever repartee and kinetic energy that the Thrones-world is capable of.