House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 recap: A Son For A Son

Emma D'Arcy plays Queen Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 recap
Emma D'Arcy plays Queen Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon season 2 (Image credit: HBO)

This House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 recap contains spoilers. Dragons are preparing to take to the skies and armies are about to move as Westeros draws one last breath before the deep plunge into the Targaryen civil war. With hot heads and vengeful Princes on both side of the Green / Black divide, it's surely not long before this tale ignites... 

US viewers wanting to keep up with the epic fantasy series need to be signed up for either HBO or its streaming service Max. HBO can be added to traditional TV packages or live TV streaming services as a premium add-on channel, including YouTube TV. Or you can sign up for Max as a standalone streaming service (though also available as an add-on channel on some platforms).

In the UK, with the show airing on Sky Atlantic, a Sky TV subscription is necessary to watch House of the Dragon. Episodes are also going to be available to stream on-demand on Sky Go and NOW TV.

“War is coming..” 

After soaking up the sun in King’s Landing during the first season, the opening scene of the sequel takes us off to Winterfell, where Game of Thrones nostalgia feels like a warm blanket even as flakes of snow fall from the sky.

However, we’re soon heading North to the wall, where Jacaerys Velaryon has been sent to persuade Cregan Stark to join his mother, Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, and the Black faction of his house. “War is coming to the whole of the realm,” says Jacaerys, before faltering over his words as he climbs to the top of the 700 ft wall to view the icy expanse beyond. Cregan points out that he needs his men to defend the realm from what lies beyond (although we know it won’t be coming for a few centuries) yet he will send a few "greybeards" to fight for the Blacks.

Elsewhere, Princess Rhaenys returns to Dragonstone after patrolling on Meraxes only to clash with Prince Daemon over the Black faction's next move. Rhaenyra, who is grief-stricken by the loss of Lucerys, is nowhere to be found and in her absence, her petulant uncle/husband wants to take vengeance. 

"The Queen is wise to recuse herself," says Rhaenys. "She’s not acted on the vengeful impulse that others might have," taking a swipe at her relative, before refusing his command in an act that exposes Daemon as a capricious chancer, ever-reaching beyond his station.

We're then reintroduced to Rhaenys' husband Lord Corlys Velaryon, whom we feared had met his maker at the end of the first season. Yet the Sea Snake lived and is now in charge of a vast blockade upon Kings' Landing. He was Prince Lucerys' grandfather by name and although he knew the young Targaryen didn’t share his blood (Ser Harwin Strong, rather than his son Ser Laenor Velaryon, fathered Rhaenyra’s boys) the attack upon his family’s honor cuts almost as deep and has far-reaching consequences. 

Harry Collett as Prince Jacaerys and Tom Taylor as Cregan Stark

Prince Jacaerys (Harry Collett) and Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) (Image credit: HBO)

'We must play the board before us...'

At King’s Landing, we get a glimpse of the mighty Scorpion arrow-launcher that will almost certainly come into play as the series unfolds, before joining King Aegon’s small council. Apparently the gods toss a coin every time a Targaryen is born, but in our experience the family has produced plenty more unhinged psychos than normal men. The late King Viserys was something of an outlier in that regard.

Aegon’s no a Joffrey just yet, but he clearly has the potential to become just as annoying, especially when he brings his young son into small council meetings. It’s the Westerosi version of calling someone and being put on the phone with their small child. It's not cool people.

Elsewhere, Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower, who’s a grandmother at the age of 30 (hey, that’s Westeros for you!) nearly misses the meeting all together because she’s cavorting with Ser Cristan Cole. We’re not sure these two are very good for each other - or anyone else for that matter!

At the meeting, Alicent’s father and Hand of the King, Set Otto Hightower, tries his best to reason with his grandson, King Aegon II, as they muster allies in the face of Rhynaera’s blockade. “Regrettably the opportunity for surprise has been lost,” he says of the missed chance to kill Rhynaera and end the conflict quickly. “We must play the board before us.”

When Prince Aemond arrives, his mother reminds him he has no place on the council, yet the young Targaryen seems to be in no mood to respect his elders or “proceed cautiously”, in what could be an ominous sign of things to come.

Later on, we’re reacquainted with Alicent’s deeply creepy advisor, Larys Strong, whose omniscience makes him indisposable, even though the Dowager Queen finds him as unsettling as everyone else. However Larys’ talent for whispers is beyond question and he’s soon dripping ideas about replacing Ser Otto Hightower as the Hand of the King, into Aegon's pliable ear.

He may be dry, but Otto is undoubtedly playing a key role in keeping the young King in check and we doubt Alicent would approve of her creepy stooge working against her father. Has Larys sensed the time is right to switch horses and aim for a bigger prize? Although Alicent and her father don’t seem to be as closely united as they once were…

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans)

Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) (Image credit: HBO)

'I want Aemond Targaryen...'

Prince Daemon’s former paramour, Mysaria — aka The White Worm — arrives in Dragon Stone. He’s furious by her transactional attitude towards her role in helping to put King Aegon II on the throne and she's correct when she tells him he “only blames her because his true enemies are out of reach”. It clearly comes as a shock to Daemon when lowly folk act to further their own interests, although he does spare her. 

In an echo of the conversations going on in King’s Landing, Daemon then lambasts Ser Erryk Cargyll for not killing King Aegon when he had the chance at the end of season one. Rhaenys could also have smoked Aegon at the end of the last series, while Otto regrets that no one from his side tok the chance to kill Rhynaera. So many missed chances on both sides, but we wouldn’t have much of a series if any of them had been taken!

When Rhaenyra finally returns, she’s ready for war and says she wants vengeance upon one-eyed Prince, Aemond Targaryen, with Daemon realizing Mysaria could be the key to that. Meanwhile, Jacaerys returns from his missions to The Vale and Winterfell, and is embraced by his mother as they share in the grief of the departed Lucerys. 

Ser Cristan Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell)

Ser Cristan Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) (Image credit: HBO)

'They killed the boy'

In the opening seasons of Game of Thrones it took whole seasons for characters to travel about Westeros, so we’re glad to see that Prince Daemon’s journey to King’s Landing is done within minutes. I suppose that’s the luxury dragons for you! Anyway he’s there to plot the death of Prince Aemond, with the help of a rat-catcher. “What if we can’t find him,” says the ad-hoc assassin, before Daemon gives him a knowing look.

Inside the Red Keep, Aemond is discussing tactics with Ser Cristan Cole when the Hand of the King interrupts them. Despite his calm demeanour, it’s clear he's concerned to see the younger generation wresting control of the Green faction from his grip is clear. How long before the beast he unleashed slips from his control?

As the rat-catcher and his henchman penetrate the Red Keep, they embark upon a nerve-racking hunt for Prince Aemond, while his brother Aegon knocks back drinks while perched on the Iron Throne. Ser Cristan Cole is cavorting with Alicent, so there’s no one to guard the royal chambers and when the assassins fail to find Aemond, they happen upon Helaena and her two children.

With Daemon’s unspoken instruction still in their mind, they decide to take the head of young Jaherys - King Aegon’s son - instead. “They killed the boy,” Helaena tells her mother after escaping with her daughter.  However why the Queen helped them take the heir to the throne, rather than her politically less-crucial daughter is a mystery. Will Helaena come to regret her decision if the truth emerges - and how did the rat catcher know she spoke the truth? Intriguing. 

House of the Dragon season 2 continues on HBO on Sunday, June 23 in the US and on Sky Atlantic on Monday, June 24 in the UK.

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.