House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 Review – “A Son for a Son”

Last season, House of the Dragon concluded with a dramatic dragon battle accompanied by flashes of lightning and thunder. It may be unrealistic to expect this new season to begin on such a dramatic note, but establishing a sense of the stakes for these individuals would be beneficial. Instead, we get an episode that feels like a longer “Last season on House of the Dragon” montage spanning much of its runtime before a sliver of real action begins after the halfway mark.

We begin in Winterfell, where the Starks go to deliver volunteers to the Wall to signal the advent of Winter. Jacaerys, played by Harry Collett, is among them, trying to gain the North’s loyalty to his mother’s cause; Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) offers him elder troops as backup, all he can spare because – sing it with me – Winter is coming. Unfortunately, that’s all we get of the plain-speaking Northerners since a raven appears and informs Jacaerys that his brother has died and that he must fly home to Dragonstone.

He’ll finally find Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy). She flies south first, searching the coast for Lucerys’ remains. She grabs something to burn and insists that her council bring her Aemond, but otherwise she is lost in grief, lacking in action just when her Blacks need to mobilise to secure important allegiances and fortifications for the impending war.

Matt Smith’s Daemon is placed in charge of the war effort, but he lacks the necessary authority to be effective: he is merely a prince consort, not king. He tries to boss Rhaenys (Eve Best) around and is denied; he confronts her about her failure to just incinerate all the Greens last season, but she is unconcerned. Daemon believes that he and Rhaenys, or rather their dragons Caraxes and Meleys, can defeat the formidable Vhagar, and he may be correct. However, it does not appear that we will find out very soon.

Rhaenyra’s knight, Ser Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor), rescues the spy master and plotter Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) from a ship and transports her to Daemon. He quickly turns to her for assistance in killing Aemond. Ser Erryk warns against assassination and expresses his sorrow at the Targaryen rift. His oath as Kingsguard, he claims, was to protect the Royal Family. “What were we to do when they turned against each other?” It’s a heartfelt note and a wonderful bit of character depth for the often-overlooked Kingsguard; keep in mind that his brother Ser Arryk (Luke Tittensor) serves Aegon.

Back in King’s Landing, Olivia Cooke’s Alicent is hooking up with the horrible Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), who remains sour-faced despite the hanky panky. She informs him that this will be the last time they do this; nevertheless, by the end of “A Son for a Son,” she will have broken her vow. After a clash in council in which Alicent offers peace overtures to Rhaenyra and her father shoots her down, she and Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans) meet secretly and agree to collaborate more closely: he finally acknowledges her as a true co-conspirator rather than just a genetically handy reproductive system. Yay for girl power?

We also get a glimpse of Aegon as King: his adoring frat-bros-turned-courtiers refer to the lazy, disinterested sod as “the Magnanimous”. He briefly tries to live up to that during a public appearance, but quickly grows tired of the effort. In council, he’d rather let his young son, Jaeherys, distract his advisors than listen. He scarcely tolerates his sister-wife Helaena (Phia Saban), a bit otherworldly girl who was a simpleton in the novels but now has unusual insights. She claims she is scared of “rats,” and by the end of the episode, it is evident why.

That is because Daemon has gone out to seek Rhaenyra’s head. Sneaking into King’s Landing, he recruits a dissatisfied Goldcloak and a ratcatcher – known as Blood and Cheese in the novel, but unnamed here – and orders them to penetrate the Red Keep and deliver him Aemond’s head. When they reasonably question what they should do if they can’t find him, he reflects quietly – but it subsequently becomes evident that he must have told them “A son for a son”. When they can’t find Aemond, they turn to the King’s children and stab Queen Helaena in the throat to force her to reveal which is which. They slay the small heir to the throne, chopping off his head and bringing it to Daemon. These are irredeemable bastards, as evidenced (unnecessarily) by Cheese kicking his own dog. As if killing an infant were not enough.

“A Son for a Son” ends in stillness, leaving you horrified by the sound of butchery; the murder is heard but not seen, for even Westeros has a queue someplace. But there are a few additional things worth noting. Characters from the novel make their first appearance on screen: in the Sea Snake’s shipyards, we meet a shipwright and sailor named Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim); he was only a young teenager in the books, and the fact that they’ve aged him up may imply he’ll see some action. One of Aegon’s petitioners is a smith named Hugh, played by Kieran Bew; he’s given a little too much attention to be a one-off.

We’re also reminded that Ser Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) is a genuinely frightening person who worries Alicent even as she uses him; Larys also attempts to persuade Aegon against his grandfather and Hand. Aemond has had enough of waiting and wants to fly to war. He attempts to gain Ser Criston’s favour, and, like Daemon, he sees Harrenhal as a critical bastion. There could be danger in the future!

House of the Dragon new episodes airs on HBO every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

What day does house of the dragon come out?

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

How many years before game of thrones is house of the dragon?

This epic series is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and explores the story of House Targaryen.

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