‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 1 recap: Green and Black, But No ‘Red Wedding’ Shock

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Episode 1 of House of the Dragon Season 2.

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King Viserys Targaryen is dead. Aegon II has been placed on the Iron Throne instead of the king’s chosen heir, Rhaenyra. Luke has also already met a tragic end, being torn to bits by Vhagar. These events set the stage for an eye-for-an-eye situation in season 2, which many fans familiar with George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood — the book on which the spinoff is based — expected to be as shocking as, if not more shocking than, the bloody Red Wedding scene in “The Rains of Castamere.”

Unfortunately, the season 2 premiere — titled “A Son for a Son” — failed to meet that expectation.

But before delving into the most important scene in the episode, let’s first discuss some aspects of it that I thought were good.

New intro

I like the brand-new title sequence for season 2. It’s still set to Ramin Djawadi’s classic Game of Thrones theme — because, you know, if it ain't broke, don’t fix it — but they've changed it to a tapestry-themed intro that quite literally stitches together the fabric of important Targaryen history. I thought it was a bold move that resulted in an opening sequence that’s both familiar and refreshing.

Return of the Starks

Speaking of the opening, the episode begins with Jace flying north to Winterfell to seek an alliance with Cregan Stark at the Wall. (Seeing the Wall, I gotta admit, it choked me up with memories.) Despite Cregan's mention of the famous phrase we all know well, he agrees to support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne. I'm a sucker for nostalgia-driven scenes like this because, when they're done right, they really hit you in the feels.

Powerful Acting

I liked how Emma D’Arcy portrayed Rhaenyra’s silent grief over her son’s death. She hardly said a word in this episode, and when she finally spoke, uttering just four words, it reminded me of the fact that this is going to be one crazy civil war.

But what I enjoyed the most was Tom Glynn-Carney’s performance as Aegon. He's cast perfectly, resembling Olivia Cooke, which makes their mother-son dynamic incredibly convincing. Plus, he acts brilliantly. He's like a more relatable version of Joffrey Baratheon. We'll all be eagerly awaiting his downfall as the series progresses, but I appreciate how the show lets us see his vulnerable side. It sometimes makes it hard to side with Team Black when you have this much charm to handle in Team Green.

Blood and Cheese

Now, let's turn to the most crucial scene in the episode: the underwhelming Blood and Cheese moment.

Rhaenyra is determined to see Aemond Targaryen dead. (Aemond was Vhagar's rider when the dragon killed Luke.) Mysaria the White Worm reappears and is promptly arrested in Dragonstone for treason. To fulfill Rhaenyra’s desire, Daemon proposes a deal to Mysaria: help him locate two assassins in King's Landing in exchange for her freedom. Daemon then infiltrates the capital and successfully bribes a City Watch guard (Blood) and a rat catcher (Cheese), who is familiar with the ins and outs of the Red Keep, to eliminate Aemond.

Blood and Cheese move stealthily through the castle until they find Queen Helaena Targaryen, wife of King Aegon, and her children. They enter Helaena's chambers and pressure her into revealing which of her twins is a boy. Despite Helaena offering herself in exchange, it proves futile. Blood and Cheese proceed to kill her son, Jaehaerys, one of the heirs to the Iron Throne. Stunned, Helaena escapes and stumbles upon Alicent and Criston Cole in a compromising situation, exposing their affair.

The TV adaptation feels quite underwhelming compared to its source material. However, I don't think the problem lies in the writing. It's more about the direction. There's something about the direction of the episode that intentionally opted for a season premiere that lacks the shock factor of “The Rains of Castamere.” I believe it's intentional because we're talking about the Game of Thrones franchise here. They could have shown a lot of bloodshed in this episode and we would have become desensitized to it, but instead, they chose a subtler approach.

“A Son for a Son” is kind of meh, but I still think it’s the right kind of meh, especially in a show that’s under pressure to carve out its own identity.

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