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House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 recap/review

season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon, from the Loud and Clear recap - review

We recap and review Season 2 Episode 1 of HBO’s House of the Dragon, which returned with the promise of fire and blood…for those willing to be patient.

Spoilers below for House of the Dragon and Fire & Blood, obviously. 

Creators: Ryan J. Condal & George R.R. Martin
Number of episodes: 8
Ep. 1 Release Date: June 16, 2024
Where to watch: Max

Duty is sacrifice. It eclipses all things, even blood. All men of honor must pay its price.” These words that open season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon come from a somewhat surprising source: Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor, The Dark Tower), Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.

Cregan speaks these words to Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett), Rhaenyra’s eldest son, as they walk along the Wall that separates Westeros from the vast frozen wastes beyond. Jace has been sent by his mother to secure the loyalty of the Starks and the Arryns of the Vale. He reminds Cregan of the oath of fealty his late father swore to Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) some twenty years previously; the northerner assures him that while Starks never forget their oaths, his ultimate duty is to protect the North from what lies beyond the Wall, which not even the Targaryen dragons of decades past would fly beyond. 

“Do you think my ancestors built a 700-foot wall of ice to keep out snow and savages?” 

“What does it keep out?”


While it initially seems odd to start the season in the North, which has only a relatively small part to play in the coming narrative, Cregan’s warning ultimately serves as a potent reminder of the stakes at play for one side of this civil war. The greens want Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the throne because they believe it to be Viserys’ dying wish, while Rhaenyra knows that this conflict is ultimately a petty squabble in comparison to the true war that has been prophesied since Aegon the Conqueror first laid his eyes on Westeros. 

But that war is still two hundred years away, so to the petty squabbles we return. We find ourselves on Dragonstone, where Rhaenys (Eve Best) and dragon Melys return from a long patrol. No sooner has Rhaenys dismounted that Daemon tells her to fly with him to King’s Landing and kill Aemond and Vhagar to “make it a son for a son”. Rhaenys refuses to do so without leave from Rhaenyra, who has been missing from Dragonstone for days. 

Emma D'Arcy in season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon, from the Loud and Clear recap - review
Emma D’Arcy in season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon (Ollie Upton/HBO)

She and her dragon Syrax can be found in the stormlands, searching Shipbreaker Bay for what remains of her fallen son Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault). All she finds is the severed wing of his dragon Arrax and a tattered cloak, tied up in a fisherman’s net. She clutches it tight as she and Syrax wail their grief. Emma D’Arcy is unfortunately sidelined throughout much of the episode, not being given much to do other than look distraught and be consumed by grief. They sell the hell out of it, especially in an intimate moment of mourning between Rhaenyra and Jace upon his return to Dragonstone, but here’s hoping they get to take a more active role in the plot in the rest of season 2. 

In King’s Landing, King Aegon searches for his son Jaeharys; the boy will be king himself one day, and Aegon wants the toddler to join the meeting of the small council. He assures his sister-wife Helaena (Phia Saban) that the blacks will not attack the city with their dragons so long as their brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and dragon Vhagar are present. Helaena tells him that it’s not the dragons she fears but “the rats”. Aegon brushes her off as “an eternal mystery”, even though it should be clear by now that Helaena’s seemingly random musings are prophetic more often than not. 

Dowager Queen Alicent and Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) are nearly late to the small council because they are going to town on each other (Alicole shippers rejoice, I guess?). It’s clear throughout the council’s meeting and the rest of the episode that Aegon has little to no interest in the day to day business of ruling his kingdom; he would rather bring fire and blood to Rhaenyra directly than listen to the cautionary advice his grandson and Hand Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) tries to impart on him. 

Glynn-Carney brings some welcome moments of levity throughout episode 1, whether that be through demanding his Master of Ships Tyland Lannister (Jefferson Hall) give his son a pony ride or drunkenly lounging about on the Iron Throne, complaining about his mom to his friends like he’s in a teen sitcom. Both Otto and Alicent know that Aegon is feckless at best; once the “novelty of rule” wears off for him, they will be able to steer the Crown down the “path of victory”, regardless of what must be done to achieve it. 

Off the shores of Dragonstone, the Velaryon blockade seizes a ship containing Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), the White Worm, Daemon’s former paramour who, through her spy network and dealings with Otto Hightower, effectively put Aegon on the Iron Throne. Daemon says as much when he throws her in a cell, calling her a traitor. It’s only after Rhaenyra returns to Dragonstone, demanding the death of Aemond Targaryen, that Daemon returns to Mysaria, plying her for secrets of the Red Keep in exchange for her freedom. 

Tom Glynn-Carney sits on the iron throne in season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon, from the Loud and Clear recap - review
Tom Glynn-Carney in season 2 episode 1 of House of the Dragon (Ollie Upton/HBO)

He goes to King’s Landing alone, bribing a member of the City Watch and one of the Red Keep’s ratcatchers, known as “Blood” and “Cheese”, respectively, to enter the castle and bring him Aemond’s head. Cheese asks, “What if we can’t find him?” Daemon’s dark look tells them, and the audience, all they need to know: an eye for an eye, a son for a son

Aemond is in his chambers with Ser Criston, secretly plotting behind Aegon and Otto’s back to head out and secure the Riverlands for the Crown. One of the joys of Thrones was seeing the odd couple pairings the writers would throw together and watching them play off one another. House of the Dragon seems eager to continue this tradition with Aemond and Ser Criston, who make for an intriguing pair, and Mitchell and Frankel have an easy chemistry with one another that makes future episodes featuring the two together an exciting prospect. 

Meanwhile, Blood and Cheese take the hidden tunnels up into the Red Keep, skirting past King Aegon and his lackeys under the guise of pest control as opposed to would-be assassins. Failing to find Aemond, they instead come upon Queen Helaena in her chambers, where twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera sleep peacefully, unaware that their mother is held at knifepoint mere feet away. 

Unable to tell which twin is the prince, Blood demands that Helaena tells them which one is the boy. He initially thinks her answer is a trick, but Cheese can tell that she speaks the truth. Saban is a marvel in this scene, her performance walking a tightrope between panic and a sense of grim resignation. 

As the assassins saw off the young prince’s head (in a truly nasty bit of foley work, props to the sound editors), Helaena grabs her daughter and rushes to Alicent’s chambers, where she barely seems to notice her mother abed with Ser Criston. She merely stares off into space as she states, “They killed the boy”; thus ends episode 1. 

Prince Jaehaerys’ death scene is one of many intriguing changes from the source material. In the book, the assassins force Helaena to choose which of her two sons, Jaehaerys or Maelor, she wants to die. Maelor is missing from the TV adaptation (he wouldn’t be the only missing Targaryen child) which might create adaptational issues down the line, although I am willing to wait and see. As is, the change makes Helaena’s decision to point out Jaehaerys even more crushing, as there’s a sense of inevitability to it. She knows that her son is destined to die, and no lie or trickery on her part will be able to change it. She is, as Aegon said, “an eternal mystery”, and how the prince’s death affects her arc in the show vs the book will be exciting to see. 

A couple of new characters were introduced in episode 1 who, while seemingly inconsequential now, will have huge roles to play in the war to come. Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim, Raised by Wolves) is introduced in a two-hander with Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) which reveals that he was the sailor that jumped into the sea to save Corlys’ life when he was injured in late season one. There’s a hint of a deeper connection between the two men that I look forward to seeing play out later on. 

House of the Dragon: Why Helaena’s choice is a good change – Loud And Clear Reviews
House of the Dragon season 2 presents Helaena Targaryen with a choice: here’s why it is complex and and a good change from the book.

An even bigger change is the introduction of Hugh Hammer (Kieran Bew, Warrior), seen here as a King’s Landing blacksmith who comes to court to ask King Aegon for more coin to build the dragonslaying scorpions the city needs. Given Hugh’s future role in the war and his seemingly honest and straightforward characterization here, I am very interested to see what other changes showrunner Ryan Condal makes to his storyline in particular throughout season 2 and beyond. 

The fun part of watching House of the Dragon having already read Fire & Blood is that the book often presents its story as an amalgamation of multiple historical sources. The show positions itself as the true, objective history of what occurred, mixing and matching elements of all of these POVs as it sees fit. It helps keep book readers on their toes in a way that feels less arbitrary than some of Thrones’ more controversial alterations to its source material. 

Overall, season 2 episode 1, “A Son for a Son” is a solid foundation-laying premiere that decides to be patient with its descent into all-out bloodshed rather than diving into spectacle. After an initial season with a breakneck timeline and several (well-done, I would say) time jumps, House of the Dragon has earned the right to slow down and hone in on its characters so that they don’t simply feel like chess pieces being moved about a board. That way, when the dragons dance and death comes for the blacks and the greens alike, it will be all the more devastating. 

Season 2 Episode 1 of House of the Dragon is now available to stream on Max. Read our reviews of Season 1 of House of the Dragon!

House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2 recap/review – Loud and Clear
We recap and review Season 2 Episode 2 of HBO’s House of the Dragon, where bonds are broken and blood is spilled.
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