House of the Dragon EP 3 Review: The Second of His Name begins with a big jump in time, which is told so casually that you immediately feel the difference to Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon is based more on a chronicle than on an epic. With that, I take back my point of criticism from the last episode, which concerns teleporting via Westeros. It's just a different storytelling system.
The episode is framed in two fire-heavy action scenes. Their value is still well above the market average, but the battles from Game of Thrones - Season 6 looked significantly more expensive. But so far the action is just a nice-to-have. Like the episodes before it, The Second of His Name is dialogue-heavy, layered, and subtle.
The episode's heart is the royal deer hunt in honor of Aegon's name day. The nobles of the well-known houses circle around King Viserys like vultures at a funeral feast. This is the most fascinating character of the series to date because he cannot be pigeonholed. Is he now a weak or a strong king? Is his action moral or naive? Does he have a heart or is he just plagued with regrets? His drunken breakdown around a campfire is a testament to the strength of the series' script.
Rhaenyra shows adolescent defiance in this episode, which is explained in the course of the scenes. Nothing is more critical to Rhaenyra than independence. Her flirtation with the handsome Knight of the Kingsguard, Ser Kriston Kraut, underscores her desire for self-determination.
A successful metaphor runs through the episode: while King Viserys only manages to kill a brown stag under the guidance of his subordinates, Rhaenyra encounters a white, royal stag, which she lets go unharmed and kills a wild boar instead.
The series creators want to tell us that Rhaenyra is the right queen, but doesn't covet the title. She desires independence and that's why she lets the white stag go. But by killing the wild boar, she makes it clear to the men that she will not be hunted and is not afraid to answer with blood.
In the last few minutes, the episode's slow pace of narration picks up. We get to see the series' first major action scene, which also has strong character motivations. Daemon wants to win the fight against the Crab Feeder alone, without the king's help, at any cost. This motivation turns Daemon into a Terminator on the battlefield but doesn't make him invulnerable. This keeps the tension high and the typical feeling we know all too well from the early seasons of Game of Thrones: anything is possible. Anytime.
The Second in His Name is the most exciting episode of the first season so far. In addition to excellent dialogues and character motivations, the first physical conflict solutions are added, which don't look as epochal as in the last season of Game of Thrones but are still far above the genre average. It's absolutely stunning how quickly House of the Dragon manages to captivate through great storytelling.