Seven things to look for in season 2 of 'House of the Dragon'
House of the Dragon season one ended with poor sweet Prince Luke, doomed son of Queen Rhaenyra, getting gobbled up like a grape. You've heard of snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat? Yeah. Luke just plain got chomped by them.
And while season one consisted of a lot of meetings that could have been conducted by raven, it made sense. We were witnessing the events that brought the Seven Kingdoms – and the Targaryens who run it – to the brink of war.
Well, war's here. It's been well and truly brinked and a willful Vhagar was the one who brinked it. Now that Prince Luke has been reduced to a sticky toffee wedged in the dragon's molars, here's a handy list of things to expect out of House of the Dragon season two, when it arrives sometime in early 2024.
1. A widening out and a picking of sides
We stuck to a handful of locations in season one, because the story was that of hairline cracks forming within a single ruling family and spidering outward. As the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons erupts in season two, we'll see Houses across Westeros getting pulled inexorably into the brutal and devastating conflict.
Lords of Houses with names we know from Game of Thrones will choose to get in line behind either King Aegon II or Queen Rhaenyra: Stark, Arryn, Frey, Greyjoy, Tarly, Tully.
More Houses means more locations, as battles big and small start to detonate throughout the Seven Kingdoms. We'll still spend a lot of time in the Red Keep, but at least we'll get some fresh air.
2. Drafting of dragon teams – and people to ride them
Speaking of air: We saw in the season finale that Rhaenyra's husband Daemon is trying to put a dragon team together. It's like a fantasy draft, except the fantasy in question is epic fantasy.
He went deep into the Dragonmount, singing a song in Old Valyrian in an attempt to entice the old dragon Vermithor out of retirement. And he mentioned a slew of other dragons that were currently riderless and/or wild who were all living on Dragonstone. He's going to spend a bunch of season two trying to get some saddles on those dragons and some butts in those saddles.
To find said butts, he might need to think outside his immediate family.
3. Battles. Lots of them: Dragons vs. dragons, dragons vs. men, men vs. men
As mentioned above, there will be clashes between armies in season two, plenty of them. Among them, we'll see a handful of bloodless victories – the presence of a dragon or two can be hugely intimidating, after all. But most of them will feature plenty of blood. Great gurgling gouts of it.
Blood and, you'll forgive the expression, fire. Because while Game of Thrones showed us that this team can create sweeping battle scenes that capture the chaos of war without losing focus on the characters we care about, this time out, there's an added dimension – a third one, as dragons can swoop down on a battlefield and take out a battalion with a single breath. We got a bit of this in season one – we'll get a lot more in 2024.
The dragon-on-dragon air battle between Vhagar and Arrax in the season finale also gave us a taste of what's coming. Some of our favorite characters are dragonriders. And as we've seen, a dragon battle isn't something that both sides walk away from.
4. A payoff for that whole "rats in the Red Keep" runner
I kept promising you that all those shots of rats scurrying around the Red Keep all season long was going somewhere. I'm still promising you that. Be patient.
5. Another Targaryen enters the chat
It turns out that Viserys and Alicent had three sons, not two. We spent some time in season one with the whiny, wildly unfit sexual predator Aegon, who is now king. We got to know his younger brother, the intense, cruel Aemond One-Eye, who killed Prince Luke.
Their third and youngest son – who's named Daeron, because of course he is, everyone on this damn show has to sport a name that's one consonant away from another character on it – hasn't appeared in season one. But George R.R. Martin has said he's going to factor in season two.
He evidently spent season one off in Oldtown, with the Hightowers. But he's got a big role to play in the Dance of the Dragons, so expect Alicent to send for him as soon as the season opens.
6. Brother vs. brother
You know they wouldn't go to the trouble of introducing Ser Arryk Cargyll and his twin brother Ser Erryk Cargyll and then have them pick opposite sides, solely to confound and confuse us, right?
Sooner or later, like the Game of Thrones' Cleganes before (technically, about 200 years after) them, an Erryk vs. Arryk fight is coming. Get your tickets now for Cargyllbowl.
7. A tale of two Aegons
Remember the scene where Rhaenyra brings her newborn baby Viserys to meet the ailing king, for whom he was named? She also introduced the king to the first kid she had with Daemon, named ... wait for it ... Aegon.
Yep. There's the Aegon who's now king, and there's this Aegon, who's on the opposite side of the civil war – Rhaenyra and Daemon's oldest kid. Same name, very different characters. Who we have to keep track of, as they'll come into conflict at some point.
The show, and the book, try to keep them straight by referring to them as Aegon the Elder (ie, King Aegon II) and Aegon the Younger (ie, Rhaenyra's kid). That's fine for them, but you and I will refer to them thusly:
The vile and detestable king is Aegon the Aess. Raenyra's kid is Aegon the Baeby. Got it?
The real war
There's an eighth thing to look for, but it's not as specific as the items on this list, so I won't number it. It's just a general sense, a gestalt feeling that the show will continue to do what it did in season one – unpack the events outlined in Martin's book Fire & Blood. And in that noble attempt to mine TV-ready emotional nuance out of its dry pseudo-history, they'll make some smart choices and some dumb ones.
Take the fact that Rhaenyra and Alicent were close childhood friends. That's a pure show invention, but look at what it does: It centers these two women and allows the bond between them to come alive. We watch it stretch, rebound, and stretch again (until Vhagar comes along in the season finale to snap it in two). It was a smart choice that adds tension and drama and lets the actors playing them find layers of depth and regret that the book doesn't bother with.
But some other departures that the show made from the text make a lot less sense. The same impulse is behind them – a desire to make the show's characters seem more humane, more sympathetic and a lot less like the ruthlessly cruel caricatures of the book.
Letting Laenor live and disappear to open a gay clothing-optional bed and breakfast in the Summer Isles (note: not canon, but come on, give me this) feels good in the moment. But it leaves him dangling out there as a loose plot thread and makes Rhaenys and Corlys's siding with Rhaenyra and Daemon just plain mystifying.
Turning the penultimate episode into a race between Otto and Alicent over who could find Aegon first is another show invention, one that introduced conflict without drama, because it was never terribly clear why, or if, it mattered.
And by turning Aemond's ruthless murder of Luke – which is hugely important, as it's the triggering event for the Dance of the Dragons – into an accident committed by a disobedient dragon, the show backpedaled on Aemond's brutality and turned a cruel act of war into a whoopsie.
Season two won't just be about war – it'll be about a war created by George R.R. Martin, who famously strives to depict the brutal horrors of war, because he feels it's dishonest and irresponsible not to.
So that'll be the real conflict in House of the Dragon season two. On one side you've got the demands of serialized drama to humanize characters and resist slotting them into the tidy and artificial slots of hero and villain.
One the other, you've got the need to faithfully depict the devastating, grisly and immoral realities of war that will force some of those very same characters to commit acts of unspeakable evil.
It'll be a pitched, protracted battle without a clear victor – but I'll be there to watch it happen.
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