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

WARNING: Spoilers included from the first episode of House of the Dragon Season 2.
Westeros is on the brink of war as the dance of dragons sets into motion.

The Dragons Dance

The highly anticipated HBO original and Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon, returns – with vengeance, deceit, and bloodshed at the forefront. Civil War between Rhanerya and Aegon is in full swing, as the episode begins with more alliances forged, the grieving loss of a son, and the life taken of another. The chilling display of tactile and inhumane actions in the first episode alone is enough to warrant people to choose a side – Are you Team Black or Team Green? As if anything in Season 1 didn’t solidify any allegiance to a side, certainly the first episode of season 2 will.

A Cold Summer in Winterfell

Kicking things off in Season 2, an alliance is forged between Winterfell and Dragonstone. Prince Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) and Lord Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) come to an understanding – Stark’s graybeards will assist Rhanerya and keep their promise to Viserys, recognizing Rhanerya as the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, once all is said and done, a raven appears in Winterfell to deliver the news of Lucerys death at the hands of Aemond Targaryen and his dragon Vhagar.

Vengeance or Justice?

Back at Dragonstone, Daemon (Matt Smith) makes it abundantly clear what the next course of action is to be – Kill Aemond Targaryen and make the board an even playing field whilst seeking revenge on Team Green for their actions. However, Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) is quick to call Daemon out for not only making decisions without the Queen’s presence, but reminds him that she is still in a grieving state of mind. (Also quick to point out that he is NOT the king and has no true authority over her and how she handles her duties). The real beauty of this show is the balance of showcasing the many layers of humanity through exposition – while a hierarchy of power is to be maintained, there is still a believability to the performances here from Smoth and Best that sell the dire situation but still maintaining a sense of realism.

The Iron Throne

In King’s Landing, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) plots his defenses against Rhanerya’s coming retaliation, but not without guidance from his current hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) who is still very much charting his own agenda whilst using Aegon and the rest of Alicent’s children to his own will. Ifans delivers a performance that is reminiscent of one Lord Baylish from the previous series but puts his own spin on a character who manipulates the game to their own will – that said, Lord Strong (Matthew Needham) offers Aegon II a chance to turn the tables into his favor, by suggesting he finds a new hand to the king to the throne (more than likely, offering himself for the role). Will Otto Hightower be out of the council by the end of the season? Time will tell.

One Less Dragon

Once Rhanerya (Emma D’Arcy) and Jace(Harry Collett) return to Dragonstone, they both grieve over the loss of Lucerys. Immediately once Jace returns to inform his mother of the alliances gained, he cannot do it without breaking down in the wake of losing his brother, and both share a very emotional moment. This is also a touchstone of the series, as it sells tender moments with sincerity. Emma D’Arcy especially gives a multifaceted performance as they do not utter a single word for half of the episode, only until a meeting is called to order in the wake of the death of Lucerys – in which the first words uttered are “I want Aemond Targaryen.”

Retaliation and A Son for a Son

Daemon takes it upon himself to seek out the rats in King’s Landing to personally see to the demise of Aemond, but that plan takes another direction. Daemon offers up gold to two scoundrels to secure the head of Aemond, but when the two break into the castle, they come across the children of Aegon II. With a knife to Queen Helaena Targaryen (Phia Saban), she is forced to choose which of the two children is chosen to die. Once she offers up the son and he is beheaded in gruesome off-screen fashion, Helaena quickly flees to Alicent Hightower’s chamber to find her in bed with Sir Criston Cole (Earlier in the episode, the two were seen engaged in another act of pleasure which in turn, both of them deciding to no longer pursue this any further. Clearly this didn’t last long.)

The Dance of Fire and Blood

House of the Dragon has quickly taken the pop-culture scene by storm for its franchise roots of high fantasy, seductive characters, and intrinsic storytelling. Season 2 reinforces that with its long-awaited premiere episode by continuing a trend of betrayal, conquest, and deep emotional beats that continue to give this show life. While the grimdark action, fire-breathing dragons remain a staple of this series in particular, one cannot deny the excellent display of performances and production design that continue to entice audiences with this world. The Dance of Dragons continues and in splendorous fashion. With a third season already greenlit ahead of the Season 2 premiere, one can only wonder how long the Dance of Dragons will last. Regardless, it is hard to deny the sheer level of storytelling is nothing short of captivating, and the first episode of this season is an excellent start for what is to come.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air on Sundays, on MAX.