House of the Dragon.

House of the Dragon Season 2 – Episode 2 “Rhaenyra The Cruel” Review

WARNING: Spoilers included from the second episode of House of the Dragon Season 2. Revenge is in the air, and Aegon is coming to conquer.

Misanthropic Revenge

In retaliation for the death of his son, Aegon turns all of his immediate attention to two things: Igniting a war with Rhaenyra and seeking those responsible for the death of Jaehaerys. Otto Hightower sees the child’s death as an opportunity to tarnish the image of Rhaenyra further and bolster the public perception of Aegon’s reign as their current ruler. Even going so far as to tell Aegon his current reputation is “weak”. With a funeral set, the greens proceed to play into the hands of the people and lay to rest young Jaehaerys. The aftermath of this has visibly shaken the greens and continues to showcase the visceral, grounded, and emotional storytelling that has been prevalent throughout House of the Dragon thus far.

Imposed Mourning

Losing a child as a parent is already hard enough. Now, being a member of the royal family currently occupying the throne AND witnessing the death firsthand would be nothing short of traumatic. Helaena’s scarring life-altering event was capped off with having to witness her mother in bed with Ser Criston Cole. House of the Dragon continues to challenge its characters in ways that test their emotional limits, often with a mantra of nobody being safe from death. When a major death occurs in the world of Westeros, the ramifications are quite large. The ripple effects are even felt when Alicent and Helaena are escorted to the final resting of the late Jaehaerys and the wagon is caught in some mud. This causes the crowd to swarm the two and shower Helaena with praise, affection, dedication, and, above all, uncomfortable, unwarranted attention she did not want in the first place. Phia Saban displays a range of emotions during this sequence and is enough to warrant plenty of accolades. Truly a triumphant and powerful display of acting.

Unfortunate Consequences

In Dragonstone, news reaches Rhaenyra about her nephew being slain, and being labeled the culprit behind it. This, in turn, leads Rhaenyra to fortify the defenses at Dragonstone and hasten any messages to possible allies to aid in claiming the Iron Throne. Daemon remains noticeably quiet, which leads to a very powerful discord between the two. Ultimately, Rhaenyra admits she cannot trust him, and Daemon takes off to reprimand his error, of his own accord as he tends to showcase throughout the series. Emma D’Arcy and Matt Smith carry this show with true gravitas and this single exchange demonstrates what true chemistry looks like on screen.

Duty and Allegiance

After a scorning from Alicent, Ser Criston Cole takes his frustrations out and hatches a plot of his own to garner some good standing with the greens. While belittling Ser Arryk for his wardrobe and blaming him for the death of Jaehaerys, he then orders Arryk to make his way to Dragonstone and slay Rhaenyra to end an impending war before it even starts, by standing in as his twin brother Erryk. Fabian Frankel’s performance is so diabolical and self-serving, that he continues to be a fan favorite. In the sense that, fans love to hate Ser Criston Cole. Frankel, like the rest of his castmates, continues to showcase sublime commitment to making these characters and their motives and actions feel real.

Brothers in Arms

Upon learning of Mysaria’s involvement in the machinations of Daemon plots, Rhaenyra grants her freedom. When leaving Dragonstone, Mysaria spots Ser Arryk arriving to fulfill his assignment. Despite slyly navigating his way into Rhaenyra’s chambers, Arryk is met by his brother Erryk, and the two duel to the death. Game of Thrones notoriously has someone die in each episode (most of the time), but for this one, it was a sad two-in-one. Seeing the twins go was sad, but it also gave a sense of closure to their respective stories. Both brothers would rather die fighting each other than continue to fight on opposite sides.

Changing Hands

In the final moments of this episode of House of the Dragon, Aegon hangs all the castle ratcatchers to prove a point about his tenure on the throne. Otto Hightower storms in, showing nothing but disdain for his grandson’s actions and how they undermine everything Jaehaerys’ funeral was supposed to convey to the people of Westeros. Aegon dismisses Otto as the current hand of the king and transfers that power over to Criston Cole.

The rash decision-making shown by Aegon will likely play a part in the upcoming civil war with his sister and the decisions he will make going forward. Cole becoming the hand of the king is only going to make people not like him even more (fans and people in Westeros alike). Now, we must ask how will Rhaenyra react to this act of war. What will Cole’s first act as hand to the king be? Is Aemond going to continue moping in a brothel? Are the ships of Driftmark going to be able to sail in time for the looming war? Can Daemon return with an army from Harrenhal? Time will certainly tell.

New episodes of House of the Dragon air on Sundays on HBO.