House of the Dragon – Season 2 Episode 1 Recap & Review

A Son For A Son

Episode 1 of House of the Dragon season 2 starts with us over with the First Men. The first sign of Winter is coming, and the Night’s Watch continue their watch. Jace shows up to bargain with the Starks, pointing out that the realm is on the verge of tearing itself apart. The Starks do remember their honour, but Lord Cregan Stark reminds him that their duty is torn between the North and the South.

The Hightowers ave their slimy claws around the throne, as we know, and Jace wants Stark to join them and support their claim. Stark refuses to take men away from The Wall. Of course, we know what’s out there, and the threat of a forever Winter is too great to tear those men away. However, a raven arrives from Dragonstone, confirming the shocking events at the end of season 1. Lucerys is dead.

Rhaenys tries to quell Daemon away from his mission to head off and kill Vhagar. With their dragons together, they can avenge their son for Alicent’s son. War is upon us, but Daemon is not waiting around for Rhaenyra to grieve. Rhaenys reminds him that Rhaenyra is waiting before acting on her vengeful impulses. Daemon here though brings up the encounter inside King’s Landing, specifically how Rhaenys didn’t kill Alicent when she had the chance and hints that it’s her fault that Lucerys is dead.

Rhaenyra is very much grieving though, especially when she shows up and sees the charred remains of her child washed up on shore. She can’t help but cry her heart out.

Down by the docks, Lord Corlys is itching to get back to sea and lead the charge. The Smithy has a present for Corlys though, coming in the form of a sword… something that cuts deeper for Corlys, given this was meant for Prince Lucerys.

Speaking of the Hightower family, they’re focused on the task at hand, keeping their defences under check, with Scorpions at the ready for any rogue Dragons. Except Vhagar of course.

Ser Criston Cole continues to sleep with Alicent in private, but the latter laments this sordid affair and decides they can’t do this again, “Yes, Your Grace,” He says in reply. It’s an encounter that hints that she’s said this multiple times but continues to give in to her desires.

They’re needed in the Council though, where Otto is there of course, and he gives the lowdown over what’s been happening. Their letters to the North have gone unanswered but Aemond’s marriage pact with the Stormlands should be theirs with the union alongside the Baratheon clan very much in hand.

Alicent’s letters to Rhaenyra have also gone unanswered, obviously, and with a blockade set up at the Gullet, there are those in the room who believe war is upon them. It’s a grave indication of where things are going, but King Aegon II is surprisingly chipper. In fact, he has a more light-hearted “Joffrey-esque” glee to the way he wants Tyland, the Master of Coin, to be his “amusement” but Alicent puts a stop to that.

King’s Landing is under strain right now and the conflict is not going to end quickly. They need to bolster both the Lannister and Hightower navies and it’s suggested that young Lord Dalton Greyjoy is given the title of Master of Ships. Aemond is also part of the Council when he shows up, something that Alicent isn’t too happy about.

The Council is divided between those strategists who want to hold back and play the hand they’ve got, and both Aemond and Aegon, who suggest a more attacking front. This is a powder keg just waiting to go off, and everything is hanging in the balance.

After the war council, Aegon sees a number of different people come forth with their requests. He’s an amateur in these “trivial” matters and Otto tries to give him some words of wisdom rather than just saying yes to everything. Otto points out how, in particular, one small action can become a larger catalyst for the realm changing. It’s a really clever scene, especially in conjunction with the incidents escalating and leading to Lucerys’ death.

Alicent is definitely feeling the weight of all this on her shoulders, which is ironic as the next scene we see her in the bath, after having staff picked out personally by Larys, rubbing her shoulders. As for Larys , he speaks to Aegon in confidence about forging his own identity.

Otto heads in to see his daughter and they discuss Viserys’s last wishes, which of course have been misconstrued here. Otto is frustrated over how things are going, while Alicent feels like she’s losing her grip over the boys.

Alicent is concerned that if Otto undermines her voice in the council, both boys will eventually grow deaf to it, which isn’t ideal for anyone. Alicent believes Aegon will grow tried of playing leader soon and her plan is to wait for that moment then swoop in alongside Otto and steer themselves “to victory”. Either way, the path they’re forging is one of violence, and although she knows it, it’s not something she actually wants.

Rhaenyra and Daemon eventually reconvene at the War Council. The former simply states four words: “I want Aemond Targaryen.” Daemon watches her leave.

When Jace returns to Dragonstone, he’s a grief-stricken mess. He struggles to contain himself as he speaks to his mother, confirming that Lady Arryn has pledged support in exchange for a Dragon watching over the Vale. Lord Stark has promised 2000 men too… but soon it’s too much. Jace and Rhaenyra are wracked with grief and end up embracing one another as they break down crying. Just before war hits, we get a beautifully shot funeral scene, with both Alicent and the Targaryen paying their respects to poor Lucerys.

After having grabbed The White Worm as a stowaway earlier in the episode, Daemon proposes a deal – her knowledge in exchange for freedom. That information that Daemon gains comes from an inside man inside the walls of the Hightower. A Ratcatcher, to be precise. With the castle under siege from rats, it’s the perfect guy to have pose as an assassin. His mission is simple – kill Aemond Targaryen. In exchange for a massive stack of coins, he’s to get the job done that very night.

Otto shows up to see Aemond, who happens to be right in the midst of talking to Criston Cole. Their conversation is about loyalty and tactics, but both agree that war of dragons is very much upon us. With Cole stepping out under Otto’s instruction, Otto speaks plainly to the dragon rider, reminding him that there are many pieces at play that he can’t see. He promises the vengeance he wants but he needs to keep a grip his impulses.

Aegon surrounds himself in the council with a bunch of lads that big him up and play the music he wants to hear. Aegon is very much drunk, and believes he has Aemond under control. While they’re smiling and laughing, the ratcatchers break in and begin their search for Aemond.

Unfortunately, they find the young kids – not Aemond – and mistake this for the prince. The young boy is slaughtered in his bed, while the Queen takes off with her other child, as quickly and quietly as she can, after initially being threatened at knifepoint. Halaena heads straight in to see Alicent, who happens to be in bed with Criston Cole (of course she is), and she hears the news.

The Episode Review

House of the Dragon is back and it could not have come at a better time. In a month that’s seen both Doctor Who and Star Wars sink to new lows, it’s great to see an IP dust itself down and soar to new heights. This first episode is intelligently written, dripping in tension and a wonderful reintroduction to our characters.

War is very much upon us and seeing both sides of the coin, and how desperate the struggles are for both the Hightowers and the Targaryens, is great to see. Every character is multifaceted, with deep motivations and a tenuous hold over the realm. Alicent paying respect to Lucerys is a great touch and a definite stand-out here, while seeing the twist at the end, with the wrong Prince killed, is an excellent way of deepening the themes of grief, revenge and violence. It certainly lives up to the title of “a son for a son”!

The ending leaves massive ramifications for next week’s episode too, and House of the Dragon looks set to kick off in a massive way. Next Sunday can’t come soon enough!

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