A Slow Burn of War and Tragedy: A High Five Review of “House of the Dragon” Season 2 Episode 1

When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. And with the onset of war fast approaching in the realm of Westeros, viewers can only be excited for the chaos that will ensue.

by Shane Jhastin Picson
HOTD promotional poster
Spread the love

HBO’s House of the Dragon season 2 has finally made its highly anticipated premiere. A spin-off to HBO’s iconic series Game of Thrones, the show takes us back nearly 175 years before the time of Daenerys Targaryen as we get a firsthand look at the events that would eventually lead to the bloodiest civil war in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, “The Dance of the Dragons.”

As the battle lines are drawn and the preparations for war begin, here is SEA Wave’s High Five Review of House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1. Beware of the journey ahead, for the night is dark and full of spoilers.

A New Opening and a Nostalgic Return

The very first episode of this season welcomed us with an intriguing and exciting new opening sequence that showcased threads being sewn into a tapestry that not only depicted the history of the Targaryens for the past 100 years, but also gave a brief glimpse into the history of Valyria, the extinct homeland of the Targaryens.

This new opening sequence should excite fans of the book the series is based on—Fire & Blood—as the show, yet again, gives us another look at the mysterious history of the Valyrians before the empire’s destruction in the doom. An era that could be expanded further in a future prequel show.

Cregan Stark and Jace Velaryon

Still from HBO

The opening scene of the new season also brought viewers back to a location near and dear to the hearts of Game of Thrones fans—the north. As viewers once again saw Winterfell and the Wall, the excitement from the nostalgic return to the region that started it all was compounded further by the introduction of Cregan Stark, a fan-favorite from the book series. Fans of the original show will be delighted as we also got to hear the return of the iconic line, “Winter is Coming.”

The Excellent Performance Of Two Mothers

Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen Facing Each other

Image from HBO

The show takes the viewers directly into the aftermath of the first season’s climactic finale, with a vengeful and mourning Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and a weary but determined Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), as the men surrounding them prepare for the inevitability of war.

While the show is all about the conflict between Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Rhaenyra, the premiere is ultimately about the tale of two mothers as they deal with the consequences of their pursuit of the crown on their own families. Cooke and D’Arcy showcase sublime performances once again as they skillfully portray the desperation and determination of their respective characters.

Olivia Cooke’s performance as Alicent Hightower in this episode is magnificent as she acts out a spiraling queen that is losing her grip on the situation while desperately trying to temper the flames that her two sons are fanning. Emma D’Arcy, on the other hand, excels with her emotive acting, performing both grieving and vengeful mother simultaneously in the episode. While we don’t hear much from Rhaenyra as she spends much of the episode desperately trying to find signs of life from her son, she delivers in the moment she does speak, highlighted when she utters a spine-tingling declaration that escalates the stakes of the episode.

The King is Here

King Aegon II sitting during a small council meeting

Still from HBO

With the first season of the show mainly focusing on the reign of King Viserys and the brewing discord between a young Alicent and Rhaenyra, this meant we only got a brief glimpse at the other main player of this Game of Thrones.

But this season is different as we finally get to see more of Tom Glynn-Carney’s King Aegon II. He successfully gives a memorable first impression as King Aegon II in the episode, fully embodying the energy of a reckless, petulant and hedonistic king.

While the show has, so far, mainly focused on the emotional conflict between Rhaenyra and Alicent. The emergence of King Aegon II is bound to shake things up in the war, with his haughty and impulsive nature setting up a conflict that will see unimaginable death and destruction to the kingdom in the coming war.

The Emergence of New Players

Corlys Velaryon and Alyn of Hull

Still from HBO

The first episode was paced relatively slowly and mainly focused on setting up the stakes and pieces for upcoming episodes, with character dialogue dwelling on topics such as war planning, petitions to the king, and naval blockades. The episode also saw the appearance and mention of exciting characters that are set to play huge roles in the coming civil war.

Two characters that immediately stood out were Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim) and Hugh the Hammer (Kieran Bew). Alyn was revealed to be the one who saved Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) during the off-screen encounter that almost killed him in the previous season. His debut also teases the future appearance of his brother, Addam. Meanwhile, Hugh the Hammer makes his first appearance as the smithy who petitions King Aegon for advanced payments to blacksmiths as they prepare weapons for war.

The Small Council scene also mentions Dalton Greyjoy by name, a character that readers of Fire & Blood would be familiar with. Viewers should pay close attention to these seemingly random characters as all of them are set to play significant roles in the coming conflict.

The Defining Moment of the Episode

Helaena holding her child

Still from HBO

Readers of Fire & Blood all knew where this episode was heading the moment Vhagar chomped off Arrax’s wing in the skies of Storm’s End, resulting in the death of Lucerys at the hands of Aemond. The final moments of this episode were the tipping point of the pre-war conflict that ensured there was no going back.

Rhaenyra, devastated by the loss of her son Lucerys, demanded revenge, which drove her husband, Daemon (Matt Smith) to action. Daemon brings out his crime hood once more and hires an assassin to take out Aemond, and failing to accomplish that, to kill Jaehaerys, Aemond’s nephew and the first-born son of King Aegon II.

Unable to find Aemond, the assassin nicknamed “Blood” and his hired helper nicknamed “Cheese” made their way to the quarters of Queen Helaena (Phia Saban) and her twins, Jaehaerys and Jaehara. The pair of hired assassins ask Helaena which child is Jaehaerys. Helaena, after attempting to bribe the pair with her jewels, points directly at Jaehaerys and while Blood assumes the Queen is lying, Cheese confirms that she is telling the truth. The pair then quickly murder Jaehaerys, and as the camera pans away, the horrifying cries of Jaehaerys echo through the night.

But while the scene in the show itself was already terrifying, this event in the books happened in a different way. In Fire & Blood, Helaena was in her mother Alicent’s chambers with her three children – the twins and her second son, Maelor. And when forced by Blood and Cheese to choose which son she’d like to be killed, Heleana pointed to Maelor instead. Then in a cruel act, Cheese said to Maelor, “You hear that, little boy? Your momma wants you dead,” before abruptly killing Jaehaerys with a single strike of the blade.

The big moment was heavily altered for the series, which could be due to Maelor not yet making an appearance on the show or to streamline the story. But while the reasons for the changes are still uncertain, these alterations can completely change the trajectory of the characters heavily affected by Jaehaerys’ death—namely Alicent and Heleana. Whether these changes will negatively affect the story of the show, we’ll just have to wait for the next episode to see the full aftermath.

Episode 1 of House of the Dragon season 2 was a slow burn that quickly escalated once it reached its conclusion. With amazing performances, nostalgic callbacks, the introduction and tease of new characters and a narrative that flowed well and was allowed to breathe, fans of the show will have a lot to look forward to in the coming episodes. SEA Wave rates the first episode of the season a 4/5. Catch the rest of the season on HBO GO as new episodes are released every Monday in Southeast Asia.

What do you think about “House of the Dragon” season 2 so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Skip to content