HBO’s House of the Dragon has certainly given fans what they expected through two episodes. Whether avid readers of the George R.R. Martin series or simply fans of the drama unfolding on Sunday nights, fans have heard familiar house names, filled in story gaps, and seen some heavy foreshadowing about the end of Targaryen reign in Westeros.
Game of Thrones has always been a delicate mix of political maneuvering and gruesome violence, and through two episodes (spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon) the name “Crabfeeder” has quickly become synonymous with both. First mentioned as someone interfering with shipping lanes, the start of episode two — The Rogue Prince — gave us a first look at a character who appears poised to be a volatile force in the show’s first season.
The character, whose moniker comes from a reputation of quite literally leaving his defeated foes on the beach to feed the crabs, is actually named Craghas Drahar. But as we saw in the second episode’s open, he’s very serious about that reputation. The show begins on a beach at low tide, with crabs scurrying over the bodies of fallen enemies nailed to hedgehog-like wooden crosses as the waters rise. Some, which we soon learned, were actually still alive.
The moment solidified something another major player in the House of the Dragon universe feared was coming: Crabfeeder is growing in power in the pirate stronghold of the Stepstones, and he’s a problem the crown simply can no longer ignore.
The second episode’s focus was largely on King Viserys’ heirs. Namely, whether he would remarry and if that new wife could conceive a son. There was also the messy business of Daemon Targaryen stealing a dragon egg and bluffing the conception of his own heir. All of that family drama will create the instability that ruins the Targaryen grip on power, but Crabfeeder is the immediate menace lurking just over the water.
So who exactly is Crabfeeder and what’s his deal? In short, he’s a threat to the empire that’s challenging Targaryen power at a time outsiders question its vulnerability. A prince admiral from Myr, a free city in western Essos, Crabfeeder became a figurehead for a group of free cities called the Triarchy who want to rid the Stepstones — an archipelago far from King’s Landing — of their nagging pirate problem. By taking control of the Stepstones and creating a colony in Targaryen territory, though, they themselves have become a threat to the empire.
In the first episode, Crabfeeder is merely mentioned by name. Corlys Velaryon, a powerful shipping magnate and ally of King Viserys, is worried Crabfeeder’s growing armies will impact his business and cripple his house’s power as they continue to attack Velaryon ships. But in Sunday’s second episode we see the real impact he’s had on the water. And though bloodshed was spared on screen — especially in Dragonstone — the looming threat of beach battles instilled plenty of dread in Episode Two.
While some viewers were grossed out by a variety of things in the episode — including a king’s hand literally dipped in maggots — the most striking moment may have come at the end with the reveal of Crabfeeder’s face. This came after an uneasy alliance between Daemon and Corlys to take care of Crabfeeder on their own following inaction from King Viserys. Both see it as an opportunity to prove their worth, but it becomes very clear Drahar is ready for a fight.
The setup makes Drahar pretty obviously the show’s Big Bad in Season One. While Viserys is reluctant to go to war amid a time of Targaryen turmoil, Daemon and Corlys see Crabfeeder as a real threat as well as an opportunity to undermine Viserys’ grip on power. Drahar, meanwhile, clearly agrees that the Targaryen reign is ripe for revolt as well.
Interestingly, a preview for Episode 3 teases another time jump, this time with a second son for Aegon actually alive following his marriage to Alicent Hightower. Which means we’re likely to get right to the action in a clash between Targaryen and Stepstones forces. And maybe we’ll actually see whether Crabfeeder will actually speak. We once again see a bit more of Drahar’s striking visage in the episode preview, revealing a bit more detail on the mask the prince admiral wears.
In a preview for the show’s third episode we get a better look at the sinister Drahar and what’s on his face. He’s shown twice, peering into the eyes of someone he seems to be leaving for the crabs to feed on, and again when the show teases the arrival of a dragon on the battlefield.
Fans of the books may already know Drahar’s fate, but it will certainly be interesting to see if the show deviates from its source material and — if not — exactly how that story will play out on the beaches of Westeros and beyond.