‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 2 recap: Fanning the flames

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


With the embers still aglow from the groundwork laid in the previous episode, the second installment of House of the Dragon Season 2 sees Team Green ramping up the intensity. The episode revisits the captivating intrigue and political maneuvering reminiscent of classic Game of Thrones themes. It builds tension with juicy plotting and ends on a perplexing yet deliciously shocking note.

“Rhaenyra the Cruel” begins with guards sweeping through the Red Keep in a desperate hunt for Jaehearys’ killers. King Aegon, incandescent with fury, declares war, seeking vengeance against Rhaenyra — though I would argue it was Daemon who technically caused his son’s death.

Ser Otto, whom I unexpectedly find the most likable character this season despite the narrative’s intent, proposes a controversial yet cunning move: publicly parading Jaehearys’ deceased body during the funeral to tarnish Rhaenyra’s reputation.

Alicent and Helaena, staunchly opposed to the procession of Jaehearys’ body or the concept behind it, receive condolences from the people as the event unfolds. I found this scene quite underwhelming. While the somberness felt overly stylized, which I understand is necessary, it also seemed like a filler that needlessly extended the runtime. Moreover, given the show’s decision to depict an unsettling image of a boy’s lifeless body trembling on a cart, my intrusive thoughts imagined a more jarring approach — like the body of the young prince actually tumbling to the ground when one of the cart’s wheels got stuck in the mud.

After being apprehended, Blood confesses to Lord Larys that Daemon hired him and his accomplice, Cheese, whom the former had referred to as an unknown ratcatcher. Later in the episode, we witness Aegon publicly hanging all ratcatchers, including Cheese — a move that seemed ill-considered, given they could have simply presented all the ratcatchers in the Red Keep for identification by Blood. But, hey! Our impulsive king is consumed by fury, so who are we to judge?

In Dragonstone, Rhaenyra learns of the accusations blaming her for Jaehearys’ death. Suspecting Daemon ordered the murder, Rhaenyra confronts him, declaring she no longer trusts him. In response, Daemon flies to Harrenhal to secure alliances, leaving Dragonstone without a clear return date.

Ser Criston Cole, arguably the least likable character in the entire series, orders Ser Arryk to assassinate Rhaenyra by infiltrating Dragonstone disguised as his twin, Erryk. This sets the stage for the most exciting scene of the episode, where Erryk ends up killing his own brother after the latter successfully sneaks into Rhaenyra’s chambers to execute Ser Criston’s plan.

Ser Criston subjecting Arryk to a failed plan, followed by his appointment as the new Hand of the King after Aegon dismisses Otto, is perhaps the most ridiculous part of the episode. It highlights Aegon’s poor judgment in assessing people and decision-making, which Otto has always been aware of.

In Episode 2, House of the Dragon prioritizes character development over editing and direction refinement. We see Rhaenyra freeing Mysaria, a gesture that speaks volumes about her true benevolence. Unlike the superficial portrayal of Aegon as “magnanimous” in the previous episode, Rhaenyra’s act exemplifies genuine compassion. It even makes me like her again, despite finding it difficult to cheer for her after the poorly directed Season 2 premiere.

We also see more of the smallfolk and their struggles, which at times may seem tangential but underscores the show’s commitment to portraying the impact of the civil war on those at the margins.

Two episodes into the second season, I generally like the path House of the Dragon is taking despite the many missteps I found in its writing and direction, which are unforgivably subpar for a series of this magnitude. I don’t want this show to fail, and I hope we get to see more compelling and convincing storytelling as the season progresses.

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

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