‘House of the Dragon’ season 2 premiere recap: Blood and Cheese and death

‘House of the Dragon’ season 2 premiere recap: Blood and Cheese and death
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Emma Darcy and Olivia Cooke
  • “House of the Dragon” season two premiered Sunday night.
  • The episode has new opening credits, a Stark appearance, and one extremely brutal death.
  • Daemon’s decision to go over Rhaenyra’s head for vengeance brings House Targaryen to the precipice of war.

House Targaryen’s civil war is closer than ever after the events of the season two premiere.

“House of the Dragon” finally returned on Sunday night, two years after season one aired on HBO and became a smash hit. On season one of the “Game of Thrones” prequel, tensions rose between the Greens (those loyal to Alicent Hightower and her son Aegon II Targaryen, who backed his claim to the throne) and the Blacks (those loyal to Rhaenyra Targaryen, the king’s oldest child and publicly named heir), culminating in Alicent’s son Aemond killing Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys Velaryon during a dragon fight.

The first episode of season two picks up shortly after that event, finding Rhaenyra seeking out the remains of her son, the Greens strategizing, and Daemon making some extremely poor decisions that push the two factions closer to all-out war.

Below, Business Insider reporters Eammon Jacobs and Palmer Haasch and senior entertainment editor Caralynn Matassa recap all the major events of the season premiere.

Emma D'Arcy in "House of the Dragon" season 2
Rhaenyra is ready for vengeance.

The opening credits were changed for season 2

Caralynn: These credits are new, right?

Eammon: Have to say I do like the embroidery style over the board game approach.

Palmer: I really like the bleeding ink. Plus it feels thematically more in line with the whole “this is a historical text” aspect of it all.

A cold (very cold) open in the North, featuring… a Stark!

harry collett and tom taylor on "House of the Dragon" season 2
Cregan Stark makes his debut in the season premiere.

Eammon: Ah, the over-the-top northern accent. As the group’s own northerner, I can confirm it is dumb.

Caralynn: Is this bowl-cut kid who gets picked to go to the wall supposed to be someone? They keep cutting to him in a way that feels purposeful, and on the “even by mine own kin” line…. Are they trying to imply he’s some kind of important Stark? Is this a book thing I’m not getting?

Palmer: This is a net positive intro for Cregan, at least for me. Him versus Jacaerys is a very funny juxtaposition. Jace is kind of funny (doesn’t know his brother has been brutally killed by Vhagar), but Cregan is soooooo serious.

Caralynn: This whole scene feels extremely “Game of Thrones” fan servicey. “The Starks!!! ‘Memba them???”

Palmer: I agree, especially having just put on season one of “Game of Thrones.” Once again, the entire “Southerners don’t know anything about the North” schtick! But less fun without Tyrion Lannister.

I will say though, I don’t hate it — I think it’s good to do a little check-in with the prophecy/greater scope of the universe before we get really into it.

Caralynn: Extremely true! A good reminder of the real stakes here, aka, ice zombies.

Rhaenys v. Daemon

Matt Smith in "House of the Dragon."
Daemon acts rashly in the premiere.

Caralynn: This is my favorite scene of the first episode. I love Rhaenys being deeply unimpressed by Daemon and all his posturing.

Palmer: I appreciate that Rhaenys is one of the people who has zero desire to take Daemon’s shit.

Eammon: “Meleys must gorge and rest.” Mood.

Caralynn: Gotta say, it was extremely helpful editing your dragon roundup right before this, Eammon.

Palmer: I appreciate Rhaenys so much here — I don’t think there’s any lost love between Rhaenys and Rhaenyra, and don’t believe that she’s fully absolved Rhaenyra of Laenor’s fake death, but she also very intimately knows what it feels like to lose the child. Especially when Daemon was tangential to both of her children’s deaths.

Corlys talks to a newbie who seems important

Abubakar Salim as Alyn of Hull on "House of the Dragon"
The show is unsubtly telling us to keep an eye on this guy.

Caralynn: This is one of those things that was tough for me with “Game of Thrones” too — where they’re clearly introducing a character who’s gonna be important down the line (Alyn, here) but I feel like I’m missing something as a non-book reader.

Palmer: Yes. This is a good introduction for Alyn, but reminds me of something that generally does irk me about this series — it’s so difficult to keep up with characters that the show is signposting as plot relevant but we won’t figure out what’s going on with them for a while.

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Helaena and Aegon’s exchange foreshadows what will happen at the end of the episode

Phia Saban in "House of the Dragon."
Helaena recognizes something bad is about to happen.

Palmer: Oh here we go, even worse. Arryk vs. Erryk. Which one is this?

Caralynn: Vhagar really is the most badass looking dragon.

Palmer: Yeah, Vhagar is sick. My beautiful large girl. There is nothing funnier to me though than Aegon suddenly wanting to be an involved father.

Eammon: Tom Glynn-Carney sets me on edge whenever he’s around his family.

Palmer: Poor sister-wife Helaena, who seems unfairly implicated in all of this.

Caralynn: Helaena’s line here about the rats was good foreshadowing for what happens later. But I think there’s an even subtler moment of foreshadowing when Aegon goes to check which kid it is in the room because even he can’t tell his own twins apart!

Alicole is a little icky

Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole on "House of the Dragon"

Palmer: Oh, this is the bit that’s going to make so many people mad. Welcome to Alicole, everyone!

Caralynn: This sex scene might be the show’s least sexy ever. They seem so dispassionate. Also, “we cannot again” — how many times do we think she’s said this?

Palmer: When Criston and Rhaenyra have sex, he also seems surprisingly gentle and lets her get on top, which is much different from some of the other sex we’ve seen in this show.

It a little bit feels like Alicole is coming out of nowhere, but it was somewhat foreshadowed in season one — them suddenly having on-camera sex doesn’t strike me as particularly egregious.

Eammon: Going from watching “Bridgerton” season three to this scene is the whiplash I did not expect this week.

Caralynn: The Barbenheimer of 2024, if you will.

Eammon: “House of the Bragon”? “Dragerton”? That second one sounds like a different show…

Palmer: Two very, very different series concerned with marriage, pregnancy, and lines of succession.

Rhaenyra, in mourning, needs to see her dead son for herself

emma d'arcy as rhaenyra targaryen, seen from the back. rhaenyra's wearing a red lather coat, her hair loose, and she's seen from the back as she looks out to the se
Rhaenyra discovers the remains of Arrax, her son Lucerys’ dragon, in the season two premiere of “House of the Dragon.”

Eammon: Emma D’Arcy deserves all the awards for their thousand-yard stare. They look utterly haunted.

Palmer: I loved Milly Alcock — loved! — but I am so happy that this season we really get to see Emma anchor the entire show.

This is one of my favorite moments of the entire episode — Emma is so on their game here, and it’s heartbreaking to watch Rhaenyra have to pick up the pieces of Luke and Arrax’s death.

We don’t really see Rhaenyra break like this — even when she lost Visenya in the season one finale, I feel like. But I think the touch with Syrax also clearly feeling grief is very poignant. Bonus points to the sound engineers working on those dragon cries!

Eammon: It’s the fact that Rhaenyra doesn’t even have a proper body to bury. That sense of loss goes so much deeper and it’s put across so well without needing to over-explain it with dialogue.

Aegon plays at being king (poorly)

Tom Glynn Carney as Aegon II Targaryen on "House of the Dragon"
Aegon put together the most inept possible Knightsguard.

Palmer: It’s extremely, extremely funny to see Tyland Lannister get so irritated with a small child that he is obligated to be nothing but polite to. And Aegon is so deadly serious about it! What humiliation, though — getting talked down to by your boy king for trying to stop his child heir from bothering you.

Eammon: I know Larys is basically the new/old(?) Littlefinger, but I think Otto gets overlooked for all his scheming.

Palmer: I appreciate everyone explaining that dragons are actually essentially weapons of mass destruction to Aegon, and that they’re more valuable as deterrence. But I also appreciate that his response is “My brother will simply nuke anyone who gets in our way on Vhagar.”

Larys Strong act like a normal person challenge: failed.

Eammon: Well, at least he didn’t make her get her feet out this time! Although it’s telling that she instantly needs a bath after speaking to him.

Matthew Needham as Larys Strong on "House of the Dragon"

Palmer: Aegon hearing petitions is so incredibly funny. Man has no idea what it takes to run a kingdom and just wants to please everyone.

Caralynn: This scene does a great job of showing how Aegon truly does not have any idea what he’s doing. And also truly doesn’t give AF.

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Eammon: How many sheep does it take to feed a dragon?

Palmer: Gotta be at least three sheep. Maybe four. How many [sheep] could a dragon need, Michael? Ten?

Eammon: Aegon’s never played RollerCoaster Tycoon or Farmville, and it shows.

Caralynn: Ah yes, Hugh, another THIS DUDE IS IMPORTANT long-held close-up.

Eammon: They’re just hammering it home.

Palmer: You know who wields a hammer? Thor. You know who has the word Thor in their name? Vermi — [I am immediately yanked off stage]

For all of Otto’s scheming, I do truly think that he just does not have game anymore. Larys is DESTROYING him. Alicent entertains Larys even though he uses her as his own personal WikiFeet, but she is sooooo done with her dad.

Alicent drives me a bit insane with this, and I know it’s the point, but my god, I can’t imagine that anything will go wrong with her plan to use Aegon as a puppet King when he gets tired of ruling!

Caralynn: I do think it’s so interesting and effective how they keep showing Alicent and Rhaenyra as being of the same mind about this but each having no idea the other feels this way — Alicent really doesn’t want all out war, and Rhaenyra needs to see her kid’s charred body in order to accept it may need to happen.

Palmer: Yeah, it’s unfortunate, because clearly neither of them want it. But they’re in too deep!

Mysaria is revealed to be alive and Rhaenyra returns home

Sonoya Mizuno in "House of the Dragon."
Sonoya Mizuno in “House of the Dragon.”

Palmer: Oh yes, it’s our favorite ambiguously dead gossip maven, Mysaria.

Caralynn: Lady Whistleworm.

Palmer: I’m no great Mysaria fan, mostly because I feel like the show constantly deploys her to make half-hearted commentary about the common folk, but free this poor woman from Daemon.

Eammon: She’s one of those, “Oh yeah, I forgot about her” characters.

Caralynn: I will say I’m curious about what they’re going to do with her long-term.

Palmer: Yep, there’s clearly a reason to bring her back, and I hope it’s a good one!

Eammon: Can we all just take a moment to appreciate Rhaenyra’s badass leather coat? I believe that’s what the kids call “a look.”

Palmer: She’s ready to “slay.” But yes, I really love the Rhaenyra leather fits.

Caralynn: The costuming on this show is always flawless.

Daemon makes an oopsie

Daemon (Smith) and adult Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) in "House of the Dragon" season 2
Daemon (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) in “House of the Dragon” season 2.

Caralynn: And ope, here’s the moment that sets this whole mess in motion. Rhaenyra: I want Aemond. Daemon: actively misunderstanding the assignment

Palmer: But this moment is so impactful — show up, say you want your half-brother killed, walk off. Rhaenyra, one episode ago in season one, would not have hit that point, and it really underscores the impact of Lucerys’ death.

Caralynn: Ah, this moment of mourning with Rhaenyra and Jace — so unexpected and heartwrenching. They both do such a great job here.

Eammon: This is the bit that got me a little bit. He’s trying to maintain his sense of duty as a man, when he’s still just a boy himself really.

Palmer: Yeah — I feel like we so rarely get to see Rhaenyra be a mother, and Jacaerys doing his best to step up is heartbreaking. He’s still a child! One who hasn’t really seen battle.

I feel like we wouldn’t have gotten something like that in season one — the show was always moving at such a breakneck pace that there wasn’t much time actually develop the kids too much.

Eammon: Yeah, I’m pleased they’re letting moments like this breathe instead of just jumping straight into “HEY, LOOK IT’S THE DRAGONS.””

Palmer: This is a series that is at its core, about the grief of mothers, and these are moments where it’s really well-executed (as opposed to, say, gratuitous childbirth sequences)

Eammon: Also Ramin Djawadi’s score is beautiful here.

Palmer: If I were Daemon Targaryen, personally, I would not entrust a task like this to These Guys, recommended to me by my ex-lover who hates me.

Caralynn: This is like Taskrabbit from hell. Blood and Cheese have a 4.3 rating from 3 jobs and Daemon’s like “Seems fine!”

Back in King’s Landing, the assassins that Daemon sent after Aemond close in

Ewan Mitchell in HBO's House of the Dragon Season 2
Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen in “House of the Dragon” season two.

Eammon: Aemond correctly taking stock of his mom situation: “She blames me for starting this war.” To be fair, mate, your dragon did make a midnight snack out of Lucerys.

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Palmer: I do think it’s funny because Aemond is not faultless, but he’s also not particularly wrong — he does seem to have the clearest head out of the whole bunch.

Caralynn: Ewan Mitchell is great as Aemond. He has so much more insight than the others. It’s interesting how he’s the one to clock that Alicent still has love for Rhaenyra and it’s holding her back.

Palmer: He’s extremely perceptive! Criston, however, is a bitch.

Caralynn: Criston’s long-held grudge is, at this point, a bit much. For him to still be this pissed that she didn’t want to marry him is so unhinged. It’s giving fragile male ego.

Palmer: I love Aegon and his shithead friends drinking on the Iron Throne. As the people intended!

Caralynn: They’re like a bunch of frat bros.

Palmer: I was trying to think of a Westerosi frat house name but was not quick enough on the draw.

Eammon: Alpha Beta Valyria. And oh hey look, a rat. Symbolism!

Palmer: This entire Blood & Cheese bit is so silly, but not necessarily in a bad way? It’s horrifying to watch these guys bumble their way into one of the worst inciting incidents of the entire war. They have no clue what they’re doing. Ultimately, very effective.

Caralynn: This entire scene is so stressful, and the music is so effective.

Palmer: C’mon guys, does that child look like he has an eyepatch, or can hold his own in a fight?

Eammon: The realization about what’s about to happen is just horrifying.

Palmer: Extraordinarily horrifying, and I feel like it’s worse because it’s Helaena, who is about as close to an innocent as we get aside from the literal children.

Caralynn: Her weakly trying to bargain with them and realizing it’s pointless — Phia does phenomenal work here. You can practically see her dissociating.

Palmer: It’s also so brutal that Helaena tells the truth when she points out her son — what do you even do? It just feels like the worst kind of gut reaction.

Caralynn: OK, not the vibe, but this bit with the running did make me laugh a little — she’s so obviously running with a fake kid.

Palmer: I do think that these shots of her running down the hallway, limp baby aside, are very effective.

olivia cooke as alicent hightower, lighting candles while wearing a green dress.
Olivia Cooke as Alicent in season two of “House of the Dragon.”

Eammon: This moment, with Helaena interrupting Alicent and Criston during sex and blowing the cover on their affair, irritated me. It’s so tonally mismatched — the goofiness of getting barged in on mid-intercourse, and the brutality of what just happened.

Palmer: I have yet to truly reckon with Helaena walking in on Alicent and Cole. It feels like it muddies the moment a bit, but I can also rationalize it as this transition point where the war really, truly becomes serious.

Caralynn: It also sets the stage for an interesting tension between Alicent and Helaena because wasn’t Criston, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, supposed to be, y’know… guarding them? But he was too busy getting his rocks off with her mom!

Palmer: Probably! Him or someone else on the Kingsguard who was slacking off. But it is worse to see one of the family’s protectors having an affair instead of protecting!

Eammon: Although, to be fair, this is the same franchise that ended its pilot with Jaime and Cersei having sex in a tower when Bran walked in on them.

Palmer: That is…. a very fair point. It is a kind of twist on that inciting incident.

Caralynn: That’s a really good point. Sex really screws everything up!! Especially like, illicit sex that these people are definitely not supposed to be having

Palmer: Yes, this is the moral we should be taking from “Game of Thrones”/”House of the Dragon”: Never Have An Affair.

Caralynn: Sex: Simply not worth the trouble (i.e., multiple wars).

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