‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 2 Recap: Hijinks and Hotheads

House of the Dragon season two is not living in the past. It made that very clear when, upon the opening of the second episode, Aegon smashes his late father’s beloved model of Old Valyria. With just a few wobbly sword swings, the mercurial king destroys a memory of his father, a link to his family’s homeland, and a physical piece of the connection between his parents. Maybe, though, it’s for the best, as episode two of Dragons’s second season does feel like a bit of a turning point for the series, when it’s finally able to break free of its shackles and take flight.

The episode largely centers around the fallout from the Blood and Cheese incident in the season premiere. Aegon, unsurprisingly, reacts to it with anger—breaking anything fragile in sight while proving his proficiency in both alliteration and marketing (“The Bitch Queen of Bastards,” though inarguably rude, does have a good ring to it). His maniacal ranting is interrupted only when Larys enters the small council meeting to announce that someone has already been apprehended for Jaehaerys’s murder: a gold cloak from the City Watch. Never one to pass up an opportunity to prove his volatility, Aegon announces he will take the man’s head, only to be stopped by Otto, who reminds the king that it would be wise to at least question the man before silencing him forever. While the rest of his family was mourning Jaehaerys, Otto was already thinking next steps—regardless of who the gold cloak names as his boss in the Blood and Cheese scheme, the crown will blame Rhaenyra and use the boy’s murder as propaganda.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

Otto’s plan is a good, albeit painful one. The Greens have been the enemy of Dragon since the beginning, with most of the fandom falling on the side of Team Black. Of course, that’s not surprising, considering The Greens’s claim to the throne is rooted in misogyny. However, painting The Greens as unloving and heartless may not exactly be true. Yes, Aegon is insolent and needlessly aggressive, but he’s also a mourning father. And then, of course, there is Helaena. The death of her son and her forced participation in the affair are enough to make anyone spiral, but there’s the added layer of Helaena’s eccentricities (and possible prophetic nature). It seems like this incident will either make or break the queen.

In the dungeon, Blood spills all to Larys before The Clubfoot can do so much as lift one of his torture instruments. Blood confirms Daemon ordered the hit and hired a rat catcher alongside him. With all the information gained, Aegon can now move on from smashing his father’s old belongings to smashing in a man’s head. At the same time, Jaehaerys’s processional begins down the streets of King’s Landing with Alicent and Helaena at their posts, riding behind the dead boy. Otto’s plan seems to work perfectly, as the public shares in the Targaryen’s sorrow while simultaneously shunning “Rhaenyra the Monstrous.” Heleana is clearly uncomfortable with the attention, but when they get stuck on their path and commoners approach the carriage without abandon, her sadness turns to fear.

While his family mourns in their smashing, plotting way, Aemond heads to a brothel, fully aware that it could have been his head if all had gone to plan the night prior (though the thought of the bumbling Blood and Cheese posing any threat to Aemond is laughable). The prince finds comfort in the bosom of an older woman, speaking vulnerably about his feelings to her. While in the castle he is menacing—a skilled swordsman riding the largest dragon known to man—in bed, he just wants to be held. It’s while he’s in the comforting clutches of this woman that he admits his regret for Luke’s murder—a decently nice sentiment, but irrelevant at this point. The unnamed sex worker takes advantage of Aemond’s ear. “I would remind you only that when princes lose their temper, it is often others who suffer—the small folk like me,” she whispers, though that advice, like Aemond’s regret, seems too little too late.

Photograph by Theo Whitman/HBO

The success of Otto’s propaganda machine is further proven over at Dragonstone, where Rhaenrya is hearing of Jaehaerys’s murder. She, however, is the last to know, as news of her alleged savagery has already swept the realm. After Emma D’Arcy’s powerful silence throughout the season’s premiere episode, it’s nice to see Rhaenyra regain her footing and voice. It’s clear, though, that the events of the last few weeks have affected her: she’s more cautious and unwilling to send Jacaerys out on any business. It doesn’t help that Rhaenyra has surrounded herself with some questionable men. Impertinence is brewing in her small council, and then there’s Daemon, who called for a hit on a toddler in her name.

What follows is some of the pointed verbal sparring for which the world of Game of Thrones is known. Daemon and Rhaenyra’s wedded bliss (if you could ever truly call it that), is punctured by Daemon’s actions, and instead of moving forward, the two dive into the past. They speak about issues of trust and desire for power, a riveting argument punctuated with the occasional reminder of the incestuous and predatory nature of their relationship. Yes, it might not be important in the context of Dragon, but to the modern mind, hearing a couple talk about a man who was a father to the wife and a brother to the husband is weird, OK?

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

Anyway, back to the argument. Rhaenyra can’t trust Daemon, and if she’s honest with herself, she never could. When she was a child (cringe), she took it as a challenge, but now, it impedes her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne. Before Viserys’s marriage to Alicent, there was a time when many believed Daemon to be the rightful heir to the Throne (again, misogyny), and there’s likely a part of him that has not given up on that chance. And even if not for that, could a man like Daemon ever hand over total control to a woman, let alone his wife and former young niece? It’s a question to ask another time, because for now, there’s the objective fact that Daemon killed a child, an act for which Rhaenrya clearly cannot forgive him. With a declaration of, “You’re pathetic,” from his wife, Daemon storms out and leaves without notice, like the deadbeat dad he is at heart.

Speaking of deadbeats, Ser Criston Cole’s character arc continues as he attempts to assert his power by the easiest means available—bullying. Clearly, Cole has been spending too much time with Aegon, as he interrupts Arryk’s post-processional meal to question the state of his white cloak and his whereabouts during Jaehaerys’s murder. All will be forgiven, however, if Arryk plays along with Cole’s new scheme. He must head to Dragonstone and sneak into the castle as Erryk—his identical twin brother who is a part of Rhaenyra’s Queensguard—in order to kill Rhaenyra. It’s another act of hijinksand Dragon is filling up with them. It’s also a ridiculous plan, and all but guarantees Arryk’s death, but what choice does the knight have? Cole is his superior. and he must follow orders.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

Cole’s initiative unsurprisingly impresses Aegon, but less so Otto, who is irate with his grandson for hanging all the rat catchers in King’s Landing when he could not determine exactly which one murdered Jaehaerys. Aegon’s complete lack of empathy clearly frightens Otto and is more of a reason why he must keep a tight grip on the king. Unfortunately, Aegon disagrees. “Fuck dignity,” he says, and that just explains it all, doesn’t it? Aegon then swiftly removes Otto from the post of Hand and honors Ser Criston with the title—and with that, any judiciousness on the side of Team Green is completely eradicated, as hotter temperaments have prevailed.

It’s around this same time that Rhaenyra meets with her prisoner, Mysaria, demanding information on her part in Jaehaerys’s death. The White Worm admits she provided Daemon with the names of men who could help him, but nothing else. Mysaria asks for her freedom, as Daemon promised in return for her cooperation, and after some consideration, Rhaenyra agrees. It’s convenient timing, because as Mysaria leaves Dragonstone, she sees Ser Erryk. But wait, she just left Ser Erryk, how can that be? Oh, the hijinks.

Rhaenrya is readying for bed when Arryk enters her room. The Queen believes it to be Erryk until he aggressively draws his sword. Just then, the real Erryk enters, and a sword fight ensues. It’s an odd one since you can never tell who is winning, as both sides are literally identical. When one brother prevails, it’s impossible to know if Rhaenrya can trust the victor, who claims to be the loyal Erryk. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, as Erryk takes his sword and plunges it into his own stomach, officially ending the consistently confusing saga. I will lightly mourn the loss of Erryk—a character we didn’t know too well, but who proved his good nature in a short time—but I will celebrate the end of the muddled twin storyline. At least some of the hijinks can now be put to rest.

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