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‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Premiere: An Epic Continuation of the Saga

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After a two-year wait, HBO’s hit series House of the Dragon returned this past Sunday night. The first season was a hit installment in the Game of Thrones universe, leaving the second season highly anticipated. With June being a busy month for TV, it’s expected that House of the Dragon will open its season premiere to massive viewership numbers. The show has already opened to raving reviews from critics, boasting an 87% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

[Warning: Spoilers from season 1 and 2 of House of the Dragon]

A quick recap of the first season of House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon‘s first season certainly was a slow burn of the struggle for the eventual succession of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). The penultimate episode saw Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) conspire to usurp the throne from Rhaenyra Targaryen and plant her son Aegon Targaryen II (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the throne.

The season one finale set the stage for the next season, with Rhaenrya Targaryen (Emma D’arcy) and Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) planning for war against the Hightowers. The season ends with the shocking death of Lucerys Velaryon, the son of our main protagonist Rhaenyra, leaving the audience on a shocking cliffhanger. All the pieces are set for an epic second season, let’s take a look at how the premiere turned out. 

The return of The Starks in House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon season 2 premieres with a sweet surprise for long-time Game of Thrones fans. The instantly recognizable House Stark theme plays while we watch a raven fly to the beloved Winterfell castle, the home of House Stark. The episode then delivers a voiceover from Lord Cregan Stark of Winterfell (Tom Taylor) while the camera pans around Winterfell. Our time in the north culminates with a brief conversation between Cregan and Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) at another infamous Game of Thrones location, Castle Black. 

The first season differentiated itself from the original Game of Thrones series, to the point where I at times felt like we were watching two different universes. With the opening of season 2 giving the audience a nice little nod to House Stark and the North, it provides a nice reminder that these beloved locations still do exist in this world. While much of the show takes place in King’s Landing and Dragonstone, House of the Dragon season 2 is expected to explore other infamous locations throughout Westeros as well. 

The reintroduction to “The Greens”

House Hightower takes up much of the screen time in the premiere. This may come as a surprise to some, as Rhaenyra Targaryen is clearly our main protagonist of the show, and expected to get much of the allotted screen time. House Hightower currently is in possession of power in the realm, with Alicent Hightower and the deceased King Viserys Targaryen’s son Aegon Targaryen II being crowned king of the seven kingdoms. King’s Landing is notably the capital of Westeros as well, and therefore a large reason as to why the Hightowers will likely command a large amount of screen time this season. 

Olivia Cooke in House of the Dragon season 2
Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon (HBO)

We’re first reintroduced to the Hightowers with the reveal that Alicent Hightower and Ser Criston Cole are engaging in a secret affair that is unknown to all members of the Hightower family. It’s an odd turn of events that is surely to make most of the audience uncomfortable.

We see the hand of the king, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) advising King Aegon Targaryen II while they perform their daily royal duties, giving us a look at the expected growing relationship between the new king and the hand of the king. The character who does not get much time in episode one is Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), which comes as a surprise due to his direct involvement in the murder of Lucerys Velaryon at Storm’s End. 

The intention of episode one, at least for the Greens, is clearly to continue to flesh out the dynamics of House Hightower and the young Targaryen children in King’s Landing. The episode spends a chunk of time on dialogue and character development, likely due to most of these characters only appearing for a minimal few episodes in season one. Overall, episode one’s focus on the Greens makes sense because it culminates with the infamous Blood and Cheese moment. 

Team Black sees less screen time in the season 2 premiere

As mentioned, much of episode one focuses on Team Green while Team Black sees reduced dialogue and character moments. Rhaenyra spends most of the episode understandably mourning her son Lucerys, while searching for his remains at Storm’s End.

Harry Collet & Emma D'arcy in House of the Dragon season 2
Harry Collet & Emma D’arcy in House of the Dragon season 2

As many will instantly recognize, Emma D’arcy is able to flawlessly convey the heartbroken emotion of a mother who’s lost her child. Daemon’s grief over Lucerys is more subtle, as he uses the means of revenge as a way to attempt to sooth his and Rhaenyra’s grief. The theme of grief is scattered across the episode, mainly showing how it can take many forms. 

Other characters on Team Black see reduced screen time. We get a few minor scenes from Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), delivering some witty dialogue with Daemon. Characters like Corlys Velaryon, Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, and Jacaerys Velaryon make appearances in two or three scenes at most. Reduced screen time in episode one doesn’t come as a shock, as season one heavily featured Rhaenyra, Daemon, Rhaenys, Corlys, and other members of Team Black in almost every episode. 

Blood and Cheese make their deadly appearance in the House of the Dragon season 2 premiere

Potentially the most controversial moment from George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood highlights the season premiere, delivering the most disturbing scene in Game of Thrones in quite some time. Daemon Targaryen infiltrates the depths of King’s Landing to hire an old gold cloak and a red keep ratcatcher to kill the Prince Aemond Targaryen. What ends up happening is taken from the infamous quote “a son for a son”. The hired assassins end up murdering the young child Prince Jahaerys Targaryen, heir to King Aegon Targaryen II, in front of his mother, Queen Helaena Targaryen (Phia Saban). 

The scene is not a direct 1:1 adaption from the books, which has surely rubbed some book readers the wrong way. But after all, this is an adaptation and not all will be a direct 100% accurate adaptation. The scene in the show is certainly Game of Thrones stretched to its limits of brutality, while what transpires in the books is entirely more brutal and disturbing. The murder of an innocent child in a TV show is something that should not be shown, and thankfully, HBO made the right decision to cut away during the brutal moments.

The decision to follow Helaena throughout the events was more than likely the right way to deliver the brutal moment. While the famous scene was toned down for good reason, it still delivers one of the most horrifying scenes in all of Game of Thrones

Overall, the premiere for House of the Dragon season 2 feels right in line with how a season of Game of Thrones should begin. The calculated reintroduction of over a dozen characters is certainly a broad task for the writing team, but they managed to re-establish the show in the proper way and set in motion the events to come in the season.

While Team Black was already out for revenge, the Greens likely have just as much motivation for revenge now. While some book readers may be aware of the events that are about to come to fruition, a great majority of the audience is hopefully in for another great season of television from the land of Westeros.

House of the Dragon season 2 will be releasing weekly on HBO and Max. What did you think of the premiere episode? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus!

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Drew Reed

Hey I'm Drew Reed, Staff Writer here at The Cosmic Circus. I love Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, The Lord of The Rings and many more fantasy and sci-fi universes. You can find me on twitter @ DrewReed1099

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