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REVIEW: 'House of the Dragon' season 2 burns slowly but surely

By AYIE LICSI Published Jun 17, 2024 9:48 am

As the world of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire has taught us, revenge is a vicious cycle. Case in point, in the first season of House of the Dragon, Greens' Queen Alicent Hightower wanted the eye of the Blacks' now-Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen's son after her own son Aemond lost his in a family dispute. With the death of Rhaenyra's child at the end of the first season at the hands of the one-eyed prince, will she swiftly seek justice, wanting a son for a son? 

Season 2 of House of the Dragon picks up on this pivotal event. In Game of Thrones, which takes place about 200 years later, the death of one important character like a prince would instantly wreak havoc, but its prequel series takes more of a slow-burn approach.

The first season of the show saw a massive time jump between its 10 episodes—the pacing faster as we had to follow teen-aged Rhaenyra and Alicent growing up as friends and then a few episodes later, they're adults bearing children of their own. But this season may have viewers a bit disoriented as the series is taking its time building a war in addition to the world of Westeros.

With the slow burn, however, we get to know the complexities of our main players. They're not just hell-bent on starting a war because of revenge or just because they want the throne for themselves. In the first season, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) crowned her and the late King Viserys' son Aegon as the successor to the crown because she believed this was her husband's dying wish (but he was actually pertaining to Aegon the Conqueror), not just because she wanted to rule the realm for herself and her cunning father Otto Hightower, who's served as Hand of the King for a long time.

Her son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) is an inexperienced ruler, yes, but he's also so young—you tend to forget how the character was probably just around 22 years old when he became king. The second season shows this as he pays more attention to his playing son Jaehaerys in a council meeting than the matter of war at hand, but Aegon is not without nuance. He's impulsive and rash because he's eager to prove himself worthy of the crown.

On the other hand, the Blacks' Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D'arcy) is more tactical. That last frame of her glaring into the camera in the final episode of season 1 after she learned of her son's death would have you think she'd be ready to burn King's Landing a la Daenerys in the Game of Thrones season 8, but she exercised patience. She's not one to take an eye for an eye wantonly, even though her council and uncle-husband Daemon (Matt Smith) would rather she take action swiftly. As she said in the first season, the Iron Throne looms larger than her and anyone in her family. Rhaenyra will do whatever it takes to ensure she's done everything to keep the peace before unleashing war, fire, and blood.

Will there be more dragons?

As the Dance of the Dragons takes shape, viewers can expect to see more of these creatures on screen. The series is building toward a war, so there will be some waiting for the chess pieces to fall into place. While the dragons seem to be the more threatening beings, some beasts loom in men.

Other major players in this season from the Blacks' side will be Rhaenyra's Prince Daemon, her son Jacaerys (Harry Collett), and the queen who never was Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) and her husband Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint). Meanwhile, on the Greens' side will be Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), Alicent's son Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), and her daughter Helaena (Phia Saban).

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres on HBO Go on June 17, 9. a.m.