Well, here’s the dirty little secret: a helluva lot of attention goes into that first hour. A helluva lot. Showrunners, screenwriters, actors, studio heads, network executives, etc. are all prone to want to weigh in on how it might be best to introduce a new program. Anyone who has an opinion is likely going to express it one way or another, and we’ve all read how dramas get retooled based on test screenings and the like. Once the premiere is out of the way, then this creative focus tends to shift just a bit into developing the secondary plots and characters who help (or will help) inevitably take the audience on this journey; and this is exactly why I think second installments are often more important and intricate than the first.
House Of The Dragon’s “The Rogue Prince” might be more aptly (and humorously) titled “Egg Hunt” … but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. After a stellar premiere performance that arguably proved there was sufficient reason to bring viewers back into the fold of the Seven Kingdoms (this is a spin-off of Game Of Thrones, after all), I didn’t feel Rogue upped the ante so much as it put a few more important bricks into this show’s foundation. Prince Daemon Targaryen’s estrangement took on a life of its own – now that he’s been away some time – and young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen acquired her first taste of power, an event that tonally served to reveal just how quickly and easily a young mind might crave expressing one’s opinion even when its culturally inappropriate. King Viserys Targaryen realized his responsibility to the kingdom might be remarrying (after the tragic loss of his queen), and he finds himself nearly painted into the proverbial corner with an ally’s suggestion to wed a young child. There’s a bit more but I’ll leave it at that as I think the developments certainly prove that this House is not without its troubles, and – as a viewer – I’m excited to see where these showrunners might weave all of this threads.
As I wrote in my review of the program’s first hour (review is here), Game Of Thrones’ biggest narrative misstep – in my humble opinion – was the fact that as the Fantasy/Drama wore on the episodes seemed to be more about ‘spectacle’ than they were ‘substance.’ Some of this is logically owed to the fact that ‘winter’ was no longer coming but had fully arrived, positioning that adventure’s key players in the midst of a survival for their world. Still, I’d argue that those of us drawn to that show because of its characters had good reason to feel some betrayals over the way their respective conclusions played out … though I’ll caution once again anyone expecting a ‘happy ending’ must’ve been watching a different program than I was. Thrones was always going to end as a bit of a downer – with a few upbeat flourishes for those most deserving – and that’s just my take: dare I suggest that House Of The Dragon feels as though it’s ringing that dour bell right out of the gate?
As I eluded above, that egg wasn’t the only one discussed at length: the good king himself has finally decided to put his past behind him in pursuit of siring a new wife. (Snicker snicker) It is the hope of Viserys’ advisors that such a new egg might produce a male heir, thereby putting the crown back into the hands of a male heir and giving the council the opportunity to dismiss Rhaenyra’s right of succession. Clearly she won’t go quietly into the night, and she’ll likely double down on her claim as she learned that her new mother is none other than her childhood friend: Alicent Hightower.
This is the stuff that good drama is culled from, and “Rogue Prince” continues to mine territory that should distinguish it both from its predecessor as well as competing Fantasy shows that seem to be popping up all over the streaming place. (Not that I’m complaining …) Though I’ve yet to really warm to Paddy Considine’s royal reign nor any in his immediate council – nor am I all that enamored with Matt Smith as the program’s central villain – this second episode felt like a very organic follow-up to where the pilot left off. I am a bit surprised we’ve been treated to so much ‘dragon action’ so soon in the evolution of the franchise, but as long as the showrunners avoid their overuse I think we’re in a good position.