I Need a Full Week to Recover from the ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Premiere

house of the dragon season 2
The ‘House of the Dragon’ S2 Premiere Floored MeHBO

Welcome back, my liege lords! It’s been nearly two years since House of the Dragon debuted its first season, and I couldn’t be happier to dive back into Westeros. In retrospect, the first season of the Game of Thrones prequel had its ups and downs. The pacing was a bit rushed, there were three too many bloody childbirth scenes, and the time skips recast actors so fast that we barely understood who anyone was anymore. After watching the first episode of season 2, I can safely say that those problems are behind us.

Over the past two weeks, I reentered everything there is to know about House of the Dragon and George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood novel into my brain. Now I’m a walking encyclopedia of a fictional fantasy realm and its sibling-marrying, dragon-riding royal family. With season 2’s big premiere finally here, I can say without a shed of regret that it was completely worth it. This season will contain some of the most shocking events you’ve ever seen on television. Given that we’re talking about the Game of Thrones–verse, you know you’re really in for something.

To start, let’s recap a tiny bit. Season 2 seems to pick up just a few days after the events of the season 1 finale, which set up the rest of the series. The most important thing to remember is that King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is dead. His council conspired to place his grandson Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the Iron Throne instead of the king’s chosen heir: his daughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy). Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke)—Rhaenyra’s former friend (and later stepmother)—believes that Viserys spoke Aegon’s name right before he died. She interpreted his final breath to mean that he wished for Aegon to ascend the Iron Throne instead of Rhaenrya. Whether that was right or wrong, she would secure her family’s legacy. Escaping to Dragonstone, Rhaenyra assembles an army to fight back and retake her throne.

house of the dragon season 2
Rhaenyra and her son, “Jace,” gather allies at Dragonstone.Theo Whiteman - HBO


We start season 2 with Rhaenya’s son, Jacaerys (Harry Collett). He flies north of Winterfell to make an ally out of Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) at the Wall. Yes, the Starks have returned! Cregan warns Jacaerys about the whole "Winter is coming" thing, but he agrees to support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne nonetheless. The Northern fighters are a great addition to her army. Sadly, there’s no time to celebrate. Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) murdered Jacaerys’ brother, Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), in the season 1 finale—and Jacaerys hears the news for the first time.

Back at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra is in mourning. Daemon (Matt Smith) seeks immediate revenger at King’s Landing, but Rhaenys (Eve Best) and her dragon hold him back. “A raven has told Rhaenyra that her son is dead,” she reminds him. “She needs to know it for certain.” Rhaenyra later finds Lucerys’s clothes and a torn-off dragon wing down by the beach. It’s unwise to attack with a vengeful impulse at a time of impending war, but Daemon is ready to take “a son for a son.” He tells Rhaenys that none of this would have happened had she killed Aegon II when she crashed his coronation. “If you had acted when you had the chance, Aegon’s line would be extinguished,” he says. Agreed! Her appearance at episode 9’s coronation is easily one of the largest differences from the book, and I can’t say it isn’t fair to blame her for everything that happens from here on out.

Meanwhile, Rhaenys and her husband, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), hold a naval blockade to protect Dragonstone and Driftmark. Corlys is the commander of the royal fleet and the former Master of Ships, but he sided against the crown. Oh, and he’s also recovering from a random battle with pirates in season 1 that occurred entirely offscreen. Reportedly, he was rescued by a member of his crew named Alyn (Abubakar Salim), whom we’re meeting now. He presents Corlys with a sword hilt that he commissioned for Lucerys before his death, as Lucerys was named heir of Driftmark last season. Remember that whole arc when Corlys’s brother, Vaemond (Wil Johnson), challenged Lucerys’s claim and then Daemon killed Vaemond in front of everyone? That was insane.

house of the dragon season 2
Though we didn’t expect him on the throne last season, Tom Glynn-Carney is giving an excellent performance as a king who is in way over his head.HBO

King’s Landing

On the other side, King Aegon II wants to bring his young son, Jaehaerys, to a small council meeting. It’s important that we remember and spend some time with little Jaehaerys this episode—just wait. “He’ll be king one day,” Aegon II reminds us. I’m not so sure about that!

At the meeting, we get a tally of the forces in King’s Landing. The Baratheons in the Storm Lands, the Lannisters at Casterly Rock, and Hand of the King Otto Hightower’s (Rhys Ifans) family in Old Town have all bent the knee. The council is distracted by Jaehaerys’s presence, as he keeps playing with the big stone marbles that every council member has in front of them. What are these things? Are you only allowed to talk in these meetings if you have a big marble? I need to know more.

But Aegon II is impatient. There’s no time to explain the marbles, because war is upon us. The king wants to ride out himself and strike Rhaenyra, but the council warns him that the realm can’t risk their king leaving the safety of King’s Landing. By the way: Glynn-Carney is fantastic so far. I can tell from one scene alone that he’s going to completely take over this season, just as Milly Alcock did in season 1.

On the way back to her room, Alicent speaks with Larys Strong (Matthew Needham). He’s a weasel of a man and no one should talk to him under any circumstances. He tells Alicent that he’s murdered several members of their staff whom he deemed untrustworthy. Uh... WTF?!? Later, he even implies that the king should ditch his own grandfather as his Hand—and name him instead. Poison! Everyone, please stop talking to him. Get this man out of here!

Aegon II then sits on the throne to hear the common folks’ pleas. He has a posse of shithead knights around him. (For now, I’ll just call them the Lads.) But this Joffrey-esque king isn’t a tyrannical nutcase all the time—just most of the time. He actually wants to do some good for his people today, even as his grandfather curbs his actions at every step. The third commoner to step up is a blacksmith named Hugh, who requests more funds to build their giant dragon-killing crossbows. This guy feels important—he even gets the good lighting. Maybe we’ll even see him again...

By now, House of the Dragon season 2 is already feeling like a massive step up for the series. The pacing is much better, the side characters are just as compelling as the leads, and it’s clear we’re building up to a war. It’s a battle no one wants—and that no one is prepared for. But it’s too late to turn back, and unspeakable horrors lie before us.

house of the dragon season 2
Blood and Cheese are never a good combo. Theo Whiteman - HBO

Blood and Cheese

Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) is back. She had an incredibly complicated plot last season—one that matched her incredibly complicated accent. This season, House of the Dragon will attempt to rid her of both. Daemon asks her to use her criminal spy network to find him two very important idiots. She gets him a turncoat member of the Kingsguard and the Red Keep’s rat-catcher, whom Daemon hires to surprise and kill Aemond Targaryen. “A son for a son,” he declares, just as before. In the books, these two assassins-for-a-night are named Blood and Cheese. (Yes, he’s a rat-catcher named Cheese.) They’re bad news. Cheese even punts a dog, just so you’re fully aware that they’re despicable human beings.

Sneaking up through the rat-infested tunnels of the castle, the two men find Queen Helaena (Phia Saban) unguarded, along with her sleeping children. Feeling that this is the end of the road for their mission, they kill the young Jaehaerys while he sleeps. (Quite brutally, I might add.) I won’t mince words: They cut off his head. “A son for a son,” Blood repeats. Damn! I thought House of the Dragon would end season 1 with this scene—but this fits much better as season 2’s catalyzing event.

Horrified, Queen Helaena runs away and finds her mother having sex with Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel). Oh shit! How have I not mentioned this yet? Alicent and Ser Criston are hooking up now. It’s a massive change from the source material, but Ser Criston’s character can really use the added drama. When that guy switches sides, he really switches sides. Imagine how much he’s going to lose his mind when he learns what Blood and Cheese did on his watch. Hell, everything’s about to go nuts.

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