Home TV TV Reviews/Recaps ‘House of the Dragon’ Returns With War On The Horizon

‘House of the Dragon’ Returns With War On The Horizon

Revenge is strong in "A Son For A Son."


Welcome back to the world of Westeros and the seven kingdoms, and a new season of skullduggery, sex, and dragons. It’s time to check your morals at the door and wade into the realm of bloody violence and rampant incest.

It’s been almost two full years since we last saw the warring factions of House Targaryen vying for the Iron Throne. If you need a refresher, and if you can’t remember which one is Rhaenyra, Rhaenys, or Rhaena (all different characters who sometimes are in the same scene), might I suggest going back to my highly informative and entertaining recaps of Season One?

But if you’d rather jump right in (Really? I worked so hard on those recaps…), here is the highly condensed version: King Viserys named his daughter Rhaenyra his heir. Then, he married Rhaenyra’s childhood friend, Alicent Hightower, and had three kids. Alicent and her dad, the King’s Hand Otto Hightower, want her son Aegon to be on the throne. When Viserys passed away, Alicent heard him mumbling about the “dream of Aegon.” We know he was talking about the first Aegon’s dream, about how Winter is Coming™. Alicent interpreted that — either by mistake or on purpose — to mean that Viserys had changed his mind to now have Aegon be his heir. This kicked off a war of succession with the Hightowers wasting no time in putting Aegon on the throne, while Rhaenyra and her Uncle-Husband Daemon race to rally their bannermen to their side. The last season ended with Alicent’s younger son, Aemond (who looks like an anime villain), and his giant dragon chomping Rhaenyra’s younger son Lucerys and his little dragon, all but ensuring a bloody war.

Now you’re caught up, we can dive on in.

After Aemond killed Lucerys, the entire kingdom is on edge. Daemon is eager to fly into King’s Landing and start burning shit down (Hmm, a Targaryen that wants to burn down King’s Landing… sounds familiar…). However, he can’t because his wife and queen, Rhaenyra, is still grieving the loss of her son. (Daemon’s all like, “It’s been a week, come on!” So tactful, Uncle-Husband.) Because they are allied with House Velaryon, who control the seas, they have effectively blockaded King’s Landing.

Meanwhile, the Hightowers are getting ready for the inevitable counter. Their dragons patrol the skies, and Aegon and Aemond are eager to fight. However, this time, they’re the ones being restrained by Mom and Grandad, and they will have a strategic Small Council meeting.

Alicent is prepping for the Small Council meeting by cramming Ser Criston’s head between her thighs. On the one hand, I can’t blame her. Viserys wasn’t exactly a generous lover, especially when he was literally decaying toward the end. On the other hand, fuck her and Criston. Remember when Rhaenyra seduced Criston back in Season One, mere hours after her uncle had had his way with her? (Busy night!) And then he got all mad at her that she wouldn’t run away with him to a distant land to grow oranges? And how Alicent used his confession of this to plot against Rhaenyra? Yeah, double fuck them. (Later on, Criston says he still thinks of Rhaenyra as an evil spider trapping innocents like him and Alicent in her web of lies, so triple fuck that asshole.)

At the Small Council meeting, Aegon has brought his toddler son, Prince Jahaerys, to the meeting. After all, he’s going to be king one day, better start learning about it! And the toddler proceeds to be exactly as interested in affairs of state as you’d expect: more interested in tormenting the Lannister who is the Lord of Coin. When the latter protests, Aegon tells Lannister to give his son a horsey ride. Alicent tells him to knock it off. There’s serious stuff to consider.

Afterward, Larys, Alicent’s obsequious, club-footed adviser and fixer, informs her that he has surveyed all the staff and determined who might have been leaking the information that Viserys was dead before they were ready to announce it. And what happened to them, she asks? “They no longer breathe our air.” Hey, remember when Alicent was shocked that Larys would burn his own family to death in order to get Otto back as the Hand so he could help make Aegon the king? Now she nonchalantly acknowledges this information and hurries off, probably to go rendezvous with Criston again. Poor Larys. He murdered a bunch of chambermaids, and she didn’t even give him a peek at her ankles.

The next day, Aegon is hearing petitions from the common folk. He’s trying to be gregarious and grant all the wishes he can, but mean ol’ Otto keeps swatting him down.

Peasant: The crown took a tenth of my sheep.

Aegon: Well, you shall have your goats back!

Otto: Sire, we put a tithe on livestock to feed the dragons for war.


Larys sees this and approaches him after the session, telling Aegon how good he is with the commoners, and what a shame it is that the Hand is trying to rein him in. You know, Otto was a Hand to three kings and he got a real rep for manipulating Viserys… Then some meaningful glances are exchanged and it seems clear to me that Larys the Lame is about to swap out his meal ticket. (You’d better hope he has pretty feet, Larys.) Bargain Bin Littlefinger is going to be the Hand for Bargain Bin Joffrey.

Rhaenyra, meanwhile, has returned from grieving Lucerys and is ready for revenge. She wants a son for a son, and specifically, she wants Aemond’s head. Daemon slinks off to King’s Landing and, using intel from his old brothel buddy, Mysaria (who apparently escaped getting burned up by Otto), he finds a bent guard who he can bribe to let into the city. The guard has no love for the Hightowers and is happy to help. They recruit a rat catcher named Cheese (sure, okay) to get them inside the Keep. He’s got gambling debts to pay off and is all too eager to join in. He knows all the ways around the castle, since he has to chase all the rats. Aegon’s wife, his sister Haelena (Sigh, I know… It’s a whole historical thing.) has been saying she’s scared of the rats.

The guard and Cheese sneak into the castle easily. (And I am going to have words with George RR Martin for making me write sentences like that.) In fact they stroll right past Aegon sitting on the Iron Throne, joking with his bros about how they’re calling him Aegon the Magnanimous. “No one knows what that means! How about Aegon the Dragon Cock?” Charming. The kingdom is in great hands.

Meanwhile Aemond is plotting away with Criston about how best to wage war against Rhaenyra, until Otto tells them to knock it off. There are pieces at play on the board that he has no idea of. He sends Aemond off to bed.

The guard and Cheese (Is it better if I write Cheese and the Guard, like this is ’70’s cop show? No? Argh.) search the upper levels but cannot find Aemond. But they do find someone else.

Haelena and her twins.

Hey, a son for a son. So what if its not the right son? Cheese forces her to point out which one is the boy and then brutally kills him by chopping off his head to take back to Daemon, while Haelena runs away with her daughter.

You didn’t think you were getting through an entire episode without some horrible act, did you?

Now, this conclusion to the episode is a reminder that yes, this still is the world of Game of Thrones (especially when Haelena bursts into her mom’s room and finds Alicent riding Criston. This is HBO!) But, despite this burst of horrific violence at the end, this was a fairly contemplative episode which weighed the personal costs that the war has taken so far. There is some lovely work done by the two lead actresses — Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra and Olivia Cook and Alicent. In one scene, Rhaenyra is having a funeral pyre for Lucerys while Alicent lights candles for the dead — including one for Lucerys — and Rhaenyra’s older son, Jacerys, tries to give his Queen a report on all the armies he has rallied to their side, until he starts to break down and they hold each other, sobbing. They are just mother and son, sobbing over the loss of Lucerys. All of it, touching and lovely.

There is a lot of great work with the dragons here. There aren’t any big dragon fights, but their presence is felt everywhere. The guards at King’s Landing nervously watch the dragon Vhagar circle overhead, patrolling the skies as they ready the scorpions should Rhaenyra attack. Rhaenyra sees some fishermen pull up a dragon wing that belonged to Lucerys’s mount, and as she flies in, the townspeople scream and run away. These are essentially the nuclear weapons of Westeros, and the poor commoners want nothing to do with them. Which is too bad, because after little Jahaerys got killed, there’s going to be a lot of dracaris-ing going on.

Last season, I thought that the show took a while to find its footing, relying too much on the old ultraviolence and sex position. It took a little while, but by the end of the series, I was fully on board. So far the series has kept that strong finish going into Season Two. And with the promise of war and epic dragon battles to come, I’m going to be highly entertained all summer.

Episode Rating: 4 out of 5

Who’s the worst? A lot of solid candidates this week, but the clear winner here is Cheese the Ratcatcher. I think it’s a pretty safe rule that if you BEHEAD A TODDLER in front of their mother, you automatically are the worst.

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