‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 1 Promises A Bloodbath Is Coming

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 18, 2024 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
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House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 Recap
House of the Dragon | Image via HBO

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

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Summary

House of the Dragon returns with a real statement premiere, immediately rising above the first season’s mistakes and promising a bloodbath to come.

House of the Dragon Season 2 begins with some reassurances. It’s still good, for a start. Episode 1, “A Son for a Son”, is actually better than most of the first season, and that’s while focusing primarily on side characters and keeping its violence and nudity implied rather than displayed. And yet despite that, it feels tense and dangerous and grim in a new way.

This is thanks, in large part, to the events of the Season 1 finale having made a nasty civil war basically inevitable. To recap:

  • On his deathbed, King Viserys Targaryen made some drug-addled allusions to the Song of Ice and Fire that his wife, Alicent Hightower, rather generously interpreted as him reneging on his choice of heir.
  • Despite Viserys’s daughter, Rhaenyra, having long since been promised the Iron Throne, Alicent instead plotted with her father, the King’s Hand Otto, to install Viserys’s perennially overlooked first-born son Aegon II as King instead.
  • This led to some understandable friction, with Rhaenyra and her husband/uncle Daemon and their allies on Dragonstone plotting to face off with Aegon, Alicent, and their allies in King’s Landing.
  • Things took a rather nasty turn when the one-eyed nutter second son, Aemond, lost control of his ginormous dragon Vhagar while trying to intimidate Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys, leading to the unfortunate deaths of both Lucerys and his dragon, Arrax.

And thus here we are.

The Stages Of Grief

“A Son for a Son” begins auspiciously enough, though. And for the first time since the woeful Game of Thrones finale, it returns us to the North and indeed the Wall, where Rhaenyra’s surviving son Jacaerys is petitioning Cregan Stark for support in the coming war. He successfully recruits a few thousand Northern warriors, but he also learns of his brother’s untimely passing, leading to a very good and understated scene with Rhaenyra later.

Rhaenyra is in mourning, you see. We don’t actually see much of her in this premiere. She spends the early looking for proof of Lucerys’s death, and once she finds it she returns to Dragonstone and mostly keeps to herself. It’s a minor touch, but when she and Daemon stand side-by-side with their backs to the camera, you can tell she’s taking the loss harder because her trademark silver hair is a mess. Daemon’s is perfectly straight as ever.

When Jacaerys arrives to give her a very formal progress report, they both just break down and cuddle. Understated, as I said, but effective nonetheless.

The Sins of Season 1

House of the Dragon Season 2 reminds us sometimes of the things Season 1 got wrong, and that’s mostly evident in everything involving Rhaenys and Corlys.

For what it’s worth, both of those two have sided against the crown and are allied with Rhaenyra and Daemon, but it’s a testy alliance. At the end of Season 1, during Aegon II’s coronation, Rhaenys gate-crashed the ceremony on dragonback and… did nothing of any substance, which Daemon isn’t shy about bringing up.

And then there’s Corlys, who is still recuperating from having almost been killed by pirates after he went off adventuring at sea for no real reason. He was saved by a nobody in his crew named Alyn, who is sure to have a burgeoning role this season and whom we meet for the first time here, but since this entire arc happened off-screen it’s a bit weird when it crops up.

This also relates to that bit in Season 1 when Lucerys was named heir of Driftmark, Corlys’s brother Vaemond challenged the claim, and Daemon sliced his head clean in half when he said some unsavory things about Rhaenyra and her kids. “He can keep his tongue,” Daemon had said as it flapped around in the remains of his skull. These people are allies now.

What to make of King Aegon II?

Do you remember that bit in Season 1 when Aegon went missing, and it was implied that he was a crazy sex nutcase who had sired bastards all over King’s Landing and abandoned them to grow their nails and file their teeth and fight in an underground pit for the entertainment of degenerates? Or did I imagine that?

Either way, the show isn’t sure how it wants to depict Aegon now. Initially, he seems absolutely bonkers, insisting on taking his son – sired with his sister, Halaena, as is the Targaryen way – Jaehaerys to a small council meeting and laughing like a maniac when he completely derails Otto’s stern accounting of which houses have bent the knee in support. But then he later sits on the Iron Throne to hear the pleas of the common folk and seems very reasonable, so much so that Otto has to intervene to stop him from making promises the Crown can’t keep (or afford to pay for.)

So, is this guy a crazy rapist who gets off on child violence or a decent enough kid looking for approval being forced into a position he’s not ready to hold? Both?

Larys Is Up To No Good (As Ever)

Let us briefly mention Larys, since he’s plotting again.

Larys initially started out as House of the Dragon’s version of Littlefinger, but he’s probably even worse. He’s always scheming and having people killed, and at one point – sorry to remind you of this – he started randomly pleasuring himself to the sight of Alicent’s bare feet, so he clearly can’t be trusted.

And yet Alicent seems mostly unperturbed when he implies that he has murdered several members of her staff who might have been gossiping and hand-picked their replacements. Sorry, but, doesn’t this give Larys a significant amount of control within King’s Landing?

Alicent is mostly concerned with hiding the fact that she’s regularly having sex with Ser Criston Cole now to pay any of this much mind. Later, Larys takes Aegon aside and implies, very unsubtly, that he should get rid of his grandfather and replace him as Hand of the King. It doesn’t take much to imagine who he’s planning to replace him with.

Blood and Cheese

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 Recap

Blood and Cheese in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 | Image via HBO

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 gets horrible quickly after this.

With Rhaenyra having confirmed her son’s death and decided she wants a son for a son in response, Daemon enlists his old flame Mysaria to use her underground spy network to find him two would-be assassins. He settles on a turncoat Kingsguard named Blood and the Red Keep rat-catcher, whose name, fittingly, is Cheese.

These two are to sneak into the castle, find one of Alicent’s sons, and kill him. Now, to be fair, I interpreted Daemon’s instructions as being specific to Aemond. He even mentioned the eyepatch! But Blood and Cheese just take it to mean any son, so they sneak into the nursery where Helaena is tending to the kids and cut Jaehaerys’s head off in his bed.

This is such a horrifying turn of events that I expected all the confusion to begin with – the kids look identical but only one of them is male – to result in Blood and Cheese making a mess of things and having to flee. But no, they legitimately murder that little boy.

Helaena, in distress, picks up the other kid and hurries to her mother’s room, where she’s riding Criston without a care in the world. Helaena drops the bombshell that her grandson just had his head cut off. There’s going to be hell to pay for sure.

And it’s only Episode 1!


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