House of the Dragon Recap: Season 2 returns With Grief, Fire, and Fury

House of the Dragon Recap: Season 2 returns With Grief, Fire, and Fury

Welcome back to Westeros and welcome back House of the Dragon!

Everyone’s still reeling from the final events of House of the Dragon season one: the installment of King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the Iron Throne in place of designated heir Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy)—and the tragic death of Rhaenyra’s son, Lucerys, thanks to Aegon’s brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and his enormous dragon.

The war Game of Thrones fans know as “the Dance of the Dragons” hasn’t fully broken out yet, but it’s certainly looming in the season two premiere, ominously titled “A Son for a Son.”

First of all: a revamped opening sequence (same familiar music, though), showing us Targaryen drama, both Green and Black, coming to life through embroidery rather than as blood flowing through stone and metal. There’s still plenty of red stuff oozing up through the cloth, however, as well as fiery sparks dancing around the frame—nodding to George R.R. Martin’s source material Fire & Blood in a creative new way.

We open in a place familiar to Game of Thrones faithful: Winterfell. Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) is showing Prince Jacaerys (Harry Collett)—who’s visited on dragonback to remind the Starks of their loyalty oath to his mother—that there are parts of Westeros more spooky and mysterious than he can comprehend. It’s a nice way to open season two, and ties House of the Dragon into Game of Thrones in ways only someone from House Stark can do. We get a reminder about the Night’s Watch, which has fresh context thanks to House of the Dragon’s season-one introduction of Aegon the Conquerer’s prophetic dream about a threat from the frozen north, and we even get a “Winter is coming.”

“Coming?” Jace jokes as the young men ride the elevator to the top of the Wall amid snow flurries. “What is this then, that falls from the sky and shivers my bones?” All jokes stop when Jace beholds what lies beyond the Wall. Dragons are powerful, but as we saw on Game of Thrones, there are things even more powerful than dragons in this world. “What does it keep out?” Jace asks. “Death,” Stark tells him, then lets Jace know that while he can’t sacrifice his prime defensive forces with death on the other side, he’ll send “thousands of greybeards” (translation: old dudes who still kick ass) to help bolster Rhaenyra’s army. The convivial moment ends when a raven arrives with news from Dragonstone—and that’s how Jace finds out his little brother Luke is gone.

New character alert: Abubakar Salim as Alyn of Hull.

Back in Dragonstone, Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) returns from patrolling the skies, in no mood to take orders from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), who’s all hot to fly to King’s Landing and take out Prince Aemond and his dragon, Vhagar—the duo responsible for Luke’s demise. “A son for a son,” he says. Rhaenys reminds Daemon that a) he’s not the king, and b) Queen Rhaenyra, who’s desperate to find tangible proof of her son’s death, needs space to grieve. Furthermore, she’s not one to act on vengeful impulses. Daemon snaps back that if only Rhaenys had barbecued the usurper and his family when she had the chance, they wouldn’t be having this problem. Rhaenys, who has already made very clear that this war wasn’t hers to start, walks away… but not before reminding him that he can’t issue commands because he’s not the king.

Down at the Driftmark docks, Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) is checking up on repairs being made to his fleet, and we meet a new character: Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim), who updates the Sea Snake on the progress. They have a nice rapport—Alyn offers condolences over the loss of Luke, who was Corlys’ heir to Driftmark—and Corlys thanks Alyn for rescuing him during season one’s (off-camera) battle against pirates at sea.

In King’s Landing, members of the Kingsguard are keeping an eye on the skies—“Dragonnnn!” is a truly terrifying thing to hear anyone yell—while inside the castle, the royal family, including married siblings Queen Heleana (Phia Saban) and King Aegon and their white-blonde children, are going about their business. Heleana is embroidering and when she tells Aegon she’s afraid—specifically of the rats in the castle—his awkward response to the maids gathered around is “The queen is an enduring mystery, is she not?”

Cole, you dirty dog you.

In a nearby bedroom, surprise! Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) are not just court colleagues… they’re secret lovers, too! He has his head up her dress! This is obviously not the first time they’ve been intimate, and clearly won’t be the last, despite Alicent guiltily muttering “we cannot… again” as they reassemble themselves. As they head into the Small Council meeting, they pass a rat catcher—a seemingly insignificant character, just a guy you’d see doing his job in the Red Keep—but one we’ll be seeing again before the episode is over.

Turns out Aegon is no longer a reluctant ruler. He’s having the time of his life being “in charge,” though Grandpa/Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) is obviously the one who’s actually running the show. There’s a lot to discuss, being that Team Green is trying to figure out which noble houses they can count on in the looming war, but the meeting is nonetheless dominated by Aegon’s son Jaehaerys—who, being a toddler, is busily pestering Ser Tyland Lannister (Jefferson Hall). The Master of Coin’s patience is stretched thin, especially after Aegon mockingly asks “Is the heir to the throne bothering you?”

Aemond stalks in as the child is being escorted out, and the power struggle continues. Everyone thinks their approach is the best one; when Otto advocates “patience and restraint,” Aegon slithers down in his chair and sighs dramatically like a school kid who’s just learned there’s a pop quiz. Afterwards, Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) materializes to bend Alicent’s ear. He’d tried to talk to her before the meeting, he says, but her handmaiden said Alicent was “indisposed.” (Needham’s impeccable line delivery here lets us know Larys knows exactly who and what Alicent was doing during that time frame, and Cooke’s wordless reaction shows us Alicent knows he knows, too.) Anyway, now that Larys has rooted out all the “betrayers” in the castle, “I’ve chosen your new staff personally,” he tells her. In her chambers, Alicent shoos all her attendants away, preferring to do her own scrubbing while taking a contemplative bath, fully aware that any notion of actual privacy does not exist.


On Dragonstone, there’s another “Dragonnnn!” moment as Rhaenyra swoops in to behold the awful proof she’s been seeking: a severed dragon wing caught in a fishing net, with what looks like Luke’s cape tangled alongside. As she sobs, her dragon, Syrax, lets out a mournful cry.

Back in King’s Landing, a self-satisfied King Aegon II struts into the great hall, ready to perch on the Iron Throne and hear from his subjects. As he’s announced, his usual array of titles (Game of Thrones fans know the drill: “King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men,” etc.) includes a new descriptor: “Aegon the Magnanimous.” Even he finds that ludicrous, muttering “the magnanimous?” toward one of his sycophants. The smallfolk are in struggle mode—their POV is something House of the Dragon seems intriguingly interested in exploring this season—and Aegon has no understanding that his regime is the reason why. He blithely tells a sheep farmer the crown will replenish the sheep they took from him, until a lurking Otto Hightower—who is visibly dying inside, watching this kid who knows nothing about leadership make random declarations—reminds him that sheep are required to feed hungry dragons now that all-out war is imminent. And he reminds Aegon to be careful before he opens his mouth: “When the king speaks, Your Grace, all hear it.”

The ever-present Lord Larys has some reminders to pass along, too. King Viserys had a reputation for being “pliable,” he tells Aegon, and points out how controlling Otto has always been. Maybe a change is in order? Maybe it’s time to stand apart from your father and find a new Hand? As Aegon ponders this, the implication for the viewer is clear: who’s pliable now?

This leads into a loaded meeting between Otto and Alicent, where they agree they have the same endgame (they want to see Rhaenyra bend the knee), but they have been traveling opposing paths to get there. Alicent would like Otto to support her at the Small Council; Otto is close to boiling over with frustration over everything that’s happened since Viserys died. “If you undermine my voice, both those boys will grow deaf to it,” she tells him, meaning her sons Aegon and Aemond. Otto considers this, but he also reminds her that the way things are now, “The path to victory is one of violence.”

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower.

Off Dragonstone, a ship being searched for stowaways yields a familiar face: Daemon’s old pal, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), also known as the White Worm. There’s no joy in their reunion; he’s furious that she revealed a then-reluctant Aegon’s hiding place before the usurper’s coronation, but she tells him her secret-selling ways are purely transactional. They’re a means for survival in a world where she’s going to be stepped on otherwise, and she doesn’t care who sits on the Iron Throne as long as she gets paid for her services. Ser Erryk Cargill (Elliott Tittensor)—the Kingsguard twin who took Rhaenyra’s side and is now Team Black; his brother, Arryk (Luke Tittensor), is on Team Green back in King’s Landing—stands up for the imprisoned Mysaria. Daemon is in a Very Bad Mood and barely listens, criticizing how Erryk/Arryk handled themselves in King’s Landing, but you have to feel for Ser Erryk when he points out that when your whole gig is protecting the royals, things get complicated when the royals start turning on each other.

Speaking of royals, Rhaenyra finally shows up for a council meeting, but she’s not interested in hearing about the Sea Snake’s blockade or Daemon’s plans to fly to Harrenhal. She has one thing on her mind: “I want Aemond Targaryen.”

That’s all she says, no specifics—but we cut to Daemon pestering Mysaria to use her unique knowledge of the Red Keep to help the cause. “Scheme with someone else, Daemon,” she groans, but he tempts her by offering to set her free in exchange for information. Fire & Blood fans can begin to get an inkling of what’s coming… but before we get to Blood and Cheese, House of the Dragon takes a beat to let the emotional weight of what’s happened so far really sink in. As Rhaenyra and her family hold a fiery Dragonstone funeral for Luke, we cross-cut to Alicent lighting candles in the sept at King’s Landing—including, with visible emotion, one in tribute to Luke.

Then it’s right back to Daemon, now in full-on scheming mode, wearing his scheming disguise and scheming his way into King’s Landing. He meets with a hulking member of the City Watch who still addresses him as “Commander.” (The big dude also says “Fuck the Hightowers!”, so we know where his loyalty lies.) Then they find the rat catcher we saw earlier in the episode; for a bag of gold he’s persuaded to share his own unique knowledge of the Red Keep and its many tunnels (he knows them “better than the shape of my own cock,” he brags). Daemon lays it out plainly: “Find and slay the Prince Aemond Targaryen. He has silver hair and one eye… should be easy enough to find.” Ladies and gentlemen: Blood and Cheese have arrived.

Fire for blood.

At that very moment, in fact, Aemond is discussing war strategies with Cole—two people who have no authority to discuss war strategy, and Otto is very displeased when he discovers what they’re up to. After Cole leaves the room, Otto expresses his concern—politely but firmly. “There are many pieces at play here, some of which you can’t yet see,” grandfather reminds grandson; another motif of House of the Dragon season two that’s already coming into focus is that certain characters have problems envisioning the big picture. “You must keep a grip on your impulses,” Otto says. “We both know that your brother cannot.”

And indeed, as the two assassins enter into the castle—it must be noted that Red Keep security is awfully porous—we get a glimpse of a tipsy Aegon perched on his Iron Throne. “No one knows what magnanimous means,” he says to his gathered cronies, and guffaws at the suggestion he should be called “Aegon the Dragon Cock” instead. The intruders sneak their way upstairs, but they can’t find their intended target. But going from room to room, they do find… Queen Heleana and her children. Figuring if they can’t find the prince they’ve been tasked to kill, any prince will do, they force Heleana to point out which of her identical children is Jaehaerys, the kid who caused such a scene in the Small Council meeting earlier in the episode. (Now we realize why House of the Dragon wanted us to take special notice of him.) While the show does use some tact and cut away while the deed’s being done, the sound of muffled screaming and then sawing that accompanies the removal of a small child’s head from his body is unmistakably awful.

A terrified Heleana grabs her other child and runs into her mother’s room, where she doesn’t react at all to the sight of a naked Alicent in bed, having her way with a naked Cole. (The queen is an enduring mystery, after all—and she was right to be afraid of the rats!) Instead, all she says, very matter-of-factly, is: “They killed the boy.” The last shot closes in on Alicent’s horrified face. Though the murder didn’t quite go off as planned, well: “a son for a son,” mission accomplished.

New episodes of House of the Dragon arrive Monday on Binge.

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