House of the Dragon – Season 2, First Episode Review

The Queen’s Grief

The series picks up just a few weeks after where the first season left off. Rhaenyra, mourning the loss of her son Lucerys, is far from being able to lead the impending war. She spends her days hoping to find her son’s body. After weeks spent on the Stormwind shores, she manages to find a piece of Arrax’s wing and her son’s royal attire.

Since the book narrates through the voices of various characters and rumors, we don’t have precise knowledge of Rhaenyra’s actions after Luciana’s death other than her grief. One of the highlights of the last season was how Ryan Condal and his team filled in these narrative gaps beautifully. For example, the Stepstones war and Daemon’s sea victory, which the book only mentions in a single sentence, were expanded into an entire episode, glorifying the character.

House of the Dragon

In the book, we knew Jacaerys was in the North during Lucerys’s death, but we had no information about when he learned of his brother’s death. Having the news reach him while he was at the Wall was an excellent addition.

Similarly, we had no details about Rhaenyra’s actions other than her mourning. Showing the heartbroken mother searching for her son in the area where the murder occurred was heartbreaking. But ultimately, the series stays true to the book. Lucerys’s body is never found. Some say it was never found, while others claim it was found and taken by the locals. However, by the end of this episode, our relationship with Lucerys is completely over, reduced to ashes.

Frivolity Reigns Supreme

While Dragonstone tries to manage the situation in the queen’s absence, King’s Landing tussles with problems and no resolutions. Rhaenyra’s lack of response to the ravens sent due to her grief, Corlys’s blockade of ships from King’s Landing, and the differing voices within the high council cause things to go awry. Similarly, the greens struggle to find allies.

The factions will repeatedly emerge in future episodes. The blacks manage to secure the support of The Reach and the North, while the greens struggle to find a major house to support them besides Hightower and Strong. The support from Stormwind is entirely contingent on marriage. Thus, in the series, they plan to forcefully gain allies, as seen in the royal meeting and the conversation between Aemond and Criston Cole. Strong and Harrenhall play a crucial role here because we will revisit Harrenhall and the eternal enmity between Blackwoods and Bracken in the next episode.

House of the Dragon

But the main issue is the king himself. Despite all their flaws, the Targaryen dynasty tried to rule Westeros as nobly as possible. Viserys was the last example of this noble perspective. However, since Aegon II took over the throne, the royal chamber has become far from serious. Aegon’s frivolous and unserious demeanor is highlighted throughout the episode. Allowing his son Jaehaerys to play with the meeting stones and trying to punish Tyland Lannister for attempting to maintain order were just examples of his lack of seriousness. Also, the famous iron throne is used for drinking and making inappropriate jokes at night. As Aegon II enters the throne room, he is given nicknames, and the sycophants who create these names do not take their actions seriously, showing that the throne has been taken over by names far removed from the nobility. The joke about rats sitting on the throne gains more meaning.

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However, the series insists on this throne-taking attitude. According to the book, the Greens treacherously seized the throne and declared the Blacks as enemies. However, Ryan Condal and his team wanted to turn this conflict into a misunderstanding and present both sides as innocent. In a conversation between Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower, it is seen once again that she still believes in the truth of Viserys’s last words and insists on it. Despite all that has happened, the series still intends to portray Alicent as an innocent character. The scene where Alicent lights candles for the dead, not forgetting Lucerys, once again highlights the absurdity of the conflict born out of this misunderstanding.

House of the Dragon

I need to connect this topic to Aemond because he will play a significant role in the remainder of the story. The series, once again filling in the gaps in the book, gives Aemond a grey role. Despite being a psychopathic character, we saw last season that he is aware of everything. In this episode, he emphasizes in his conversation with Criston Cole that the throne was stolen and the war is now on his shoulders. In the book, Aemond is directly a side, but in the series, he turns into someone forced to take sides to protect his family. As for Criston, he is still as we know him. The ironic part is Otto Hightower warns Aemond to control his emotions, but Aemond is quite aware of what he is doing. On the contrary, Criston Cole still harbors fresh hatred for Rhaenyra and directs his plans and the course of the war entirely based on this hatred and will continue to do so.

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In the fifth episode of the first season, I provided a footnote from the book. This anecdote beautifully explains Criston Cole’s unending hatred:

“Let me leave a nice footnote. In the fourth book of Game of Thrones, A Feast for Crows, there is a conversation between Arianne Martell and Arys Oakheart. Arianna says that Criston started the civil war. Although it is not exactly like this in Blood and Fire, I wonder how the scriptwriters will handle the subject.”


Bastards Everywhere

One of the most essential parts of the Dance of the Dragons is the search for new riders for the idle dragons at Dragonstone. To change the war’s course, bastards capable of riding these idle dragons will be sought, and four candidates will successfully pass this deadly test and possess dragons. The book introduces this dragon search suddenly and finally gives the names of those who deserve to ride the dragons. However, the series, instead of handling this part suddenly as in the book, has chosen to introduce the bastards who will become a crucial part of the series in advance, laying the groundwork. And this is quite a logical idea. The series shows that these characters are part of the common folk and actually live in the same regions as their distant relatives, with whom they share the same blood. The only difference is that the bastards are not noble.

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Hugh Hammer, one of the team’s leaders producing scorpions for the Greens, and Alyn, one of Corlys Velaryon’s crew leaders, are introduced to us. The roles of the bastards in the story will completely change the course of the war, but Alyn’s contribution to the story will be a bit more significant. The character being black gives a slight hint of what awaits you in the future.

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Son for a Son

After Aemond’s dragon Vhaegar kills Lucerys, tension enveloped the people of King’s Landing. They are sure that the other side will take revenge. So much so that Queen Alicent now prefers to bathe herself out of fear. Larys Strong has conducted a severe purge within the castle, killing everyone who does not believe in their cause. Security has never been tighter. They are sure a coup is coming. They consider every dragon they see a threat. This is quite comical because there are so many dragons in the series now that even the soldiers cannot figure out who is who.

Finding her son’s clothes buried in the sand, Rhaenyra returns to the meeting room after a long time and says just one sentence:

“I want Aemond Targaryen.”

One of the most striking parts of Fire and Blood is this segment. The assassination arranged by Daemon, resulting in one of Helaena’s children being killed before her eyes and the innocent mother being forced to choose who would die, was truly shocking to read. Unfortunately, the series, which started beautifully, could not handle this part as strikingly as the book. They even changed some parts and added new narratives to give the characters more depth.

According to the book, Mysaria is the one who arranges Blood and Cheese, who will carry out the assassination and helps them escape. We know that Mysaria has dark connections in King’s Landing, but the book does not explain why she is involved in this assassination. The series, however, provides an explanation. Mysaria is captured by Dragonstone ships while fleeing King’s Landing and helps Daemon in exchange for her freedom.

House of the Dragon

Daemon secretly goes to the city to meet Blood and Cheese. It was amusing that Cheese was eating cheese during the meeting. Here, new stories are added between the lines. Blood and Cheese enter the castle for Aemond. However, Cheese asks explicitly: “What if we can’t find him?” That’s when someone else has to die. Because, it’s a son for a son. It was obvious that Blood and Cheese’s motivation was money. But in the book, they are depicted as psychopathic killers who enjoy killing. In the series, however, they are shown in a state of panic, not fully aware of what they are doing, much like Aemond’s aimless killing of Lucerys. When reading the book, you perceive these characters as experts in their field, but the series portrays them as common folk ready to kill a noble child for money.

In my imagination, Helaena, while a knife on her throat, would choose one of her three children standing in front of her and witness one of them die in front of her eyes. But no such scene occurred, nor did we directly witness the death. Moreover, this happened while the children were sleeping. It is clear that this decision was made entirely due to on-screen violence rules. However, there is another issue with the sequence. Instead of focusing on the death part, the series shows Helaena taking her remaining child, Jaehaera, and running away, which is not in the book.

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Helaena was one of the most exciting characters in the first season. Her foreshadowing trait, added to her character, was quite intriguing for those unfamiliar with the book. We, who know, of course, understand what she is talking about each time. Her telling her husband Aegon II, “I’m afraid of the rats,” was an excellent detail for me. The rats have been playing a significant role since last season. In the final moments of the fifth episode, when we bid farewell to Milly Alcock, we did so with rats that would increase day by day.

Although the sequence of the assassination did not satisfy me, the episode made the start of a classic GoT universe. Calm and foundational. From the next episode onward, things will turn into a complete conflagration.


Some Beautiful Details

Dragonstone is one of the most unique places in Westeros. But since we met this small island in the Game of Thrones series, we knew it in a lonely and destitute way. Besides the meeting room and shores, we did not see much of it. This island will play a significant role in the remaining parts of the series. House of the Dragon season two has shown us the dragon parking area of Dragonstone. The scene was magnificent in a wide shot.

Another part of this scene worth discussing is the reminder to Rhaenys of her criticized choice last year. Why didn’t she burn them all during the king’s ceremony? When Daemon reminds her of this, Rhaenys prefers to walk away without answering. If anyone still has questions about why she didn’t do it, I explained it here at length.

Who are these sycophants wandering around and drinking with Aegon II? The series has created characters to share Aegon II’s vulgarities. Respectively: Ser Martyn Reyne, Leon Estermont, and Eddard Waters. These three characters are not mentioned in the book.

It was nice to return to Winterfell and The Wall after four years. We needed to see Jacaerys’s bargaining to secure the North’s side for the sake of the book’s plot. Thus, we also met one of the most important characters of the series, Lord Cregan Stark. The only downside to this scene is that we won’t see Cregan Stark again this season. His reign will start next season.

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One of the deepest points quickly passed over in Fire and Blood is the end of the Cargyll brothers. The series laid the foundation for this conflict last season. They continued it in the new season and made a nice foreshadowing for the future. Daemon gets angry at Erryk for not killing the king when he has the chance, and Erryk tells him, “I’ve dedicated my life to protecting the nobles, but when the nobles clash, I don’t know what to do.” Sadly, this was a message about the painful confrontation we will witness soon.

House of the Dragon has completely changed its opening credits, unlike Game of Thrones. The new season’s credits are a journey through history. You can find everything shown in the embroideries in my Targaryen history series. From the fall of Valyria to Daenys the Dreamer, from the conquest of Westeros by the three siblings to the long reign of Jaehaerys, you can read everything in my A Song of Ice and Fire series.

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