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A Son for a Son: Ep 1 is a terrific but grisly start to the House of the Dragon Season 2

Season 2 Episode 1, streaming on JioCinema, begins in the aftermath of Lucerys Velaryon’s death

Chandreyee Chatterjee Calcutta Published 18.06.24, 04:30 PM
Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1.

Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1. X

Welcome back to Westeros, and to blood and mayhem between the Greens and the Blacks. The first episode of the second season of House of the Dragons — A Son for a Son — dropped on Monday morning and landed an ugly sucker punch, reminding us exactly what this show has in store. Season 2 starts with a new intro, this time a tapestry woven in blood and yes, there are some great shots of the dragons.

For those who need reminding — it’s been almost two years since the first season of the prequel to Game of Thrones — Viserys Targaryen is dead. Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) has been crowned the King of the Seven Kingdoms by her mother, Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), deposing Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy). Rhaenyra sends out missives to the other Houses, including her sons Jacaerys ‘Jace’ Velaryon (Harry Collette) and Lucerys ‘Luke’ Velaryon (Elliot Grihault). Luke’s mission to Storm’s End ends in tragedy as Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) loses control of his dragon Vhagar who chomps Luke and his dragon Arrax in two.

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All in all, A Son for a Son is a terrific if grim and grisly start to the second season. The episode clearly tries to set up a ‘wrong side’ and ‘right side’ but it is much more ambiguous than that and in the world of Westeros sympathy can change to horror with just one action.

Winter is coming

The first episode starts right where season one left off — the aftermath of Luke’s death. Jace’s missive takes him to a place so familiar to fans of Game of Thrones that it will almost feel like a homecoming — The Wall.

We meet the first of the Starks on the show, Cregan (Tom Taylor), the Lord of Winterfell, Head of the House of Stark and Warden of the North. He talks of duty and honour and the price people have to pay, encapsulating the theme of the threatening civil war. He talks of the coming winter and the importance of the Night Watch — not to fight “wildlings and the weather” but to fight “death”.

A mother’s grief

On Dragonstone, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) is ready to avenge Luke’s death while Rhaenyra scours the nearby coastlines with her dragon Syrax, trying to look for his remains. He tries to get Rhaenys (Eve Best) to join him in killing Aemond and his dragon but she shuts him down saying Rhaenyra needs to grieve.

Rats and cracks in the Red Keep

Alicent and Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) are still steaming up her bedchambers but all’s not well at the Red Keep. Aegon is still insufferable and is chafing against the tight rein that Alicent and the Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifan), have over him. Alicent feels undermined by Otto, and Aemond just wants to get on with the war and feels his mother is too soft for harbouring what he considers love for the enemy. And Lord Larys Strong is taking advantage of all these cracks to manipulate both Alicent and Aegon.

The Red Keep seems to be crawling with rats both literal and figurative. While we see rat catchers walking around various parts of the Keep to take care of the former, the latter is dealt with by Larys Strong in much the same way.

Two new faces

With how apparent they make it, you know that the two new faces we see in episode one will have a role to play in the Dance of the Dragons. The first is Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim), who we see repairing Lord Corlys Velaryon’s (Steve Toussant) ship. The other is Hugh Hammer (Kieran Bew), the man at the audience of the Small Folk with Aegon, who asks for advance payment for the smiths working on weapons. Saying why these two are important will be a spoiler for those who haven’t read the book, so we will refrain.

Four words that spell doom

Rhaenyra speaks only four words in the entire 64-minute episode and they put into motion actions that will have major repercussions in the war to come. Overcome by grief, Rhaenyra tells her war council, who are waiting for her to decide how to retaliate, ‘I want Aemond Targaryen ’. Daemon, her uncle and husband, takes her words too seriously and with the help of an old lover, Mysaria or the White Worm (Sonoya Mizuno), who is now a prisoner on Dragonstone, recruits two vagabonds to infiltrate the Red Keep and kill Aemond.

Blood and Cheese

Well, it has happened. The grisly scene that readers of Fire & Blood (on which the show is based) have been dreading closes out the season premiere in a shocking manner. Daemon hires a former city watchman known as Blood and a ratcatcher called Cheese (the names are not mentioned in the episode) to kill the one-eyed prince. When asked what they should do if they can’t find Aemond, Daemon just gives them a look that doesn’t bode well.

The way the sequence plays out in the show is different from that in the book but the outcome is just as horrific. When they can’t locate Aemond, Blood and Cheese find Queen Helaena (Phia Saban), Aegon’s sister-wife, and her twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera and hold her hostage till she identifies which one is the boy — ‘a son for a son’, remember? When they decide she is telling the truth, we hear knives on flesh and bone as they slit the six-year-old’s throat and decapitate Jaehaerys.

Helaena runs with her daughter to her mother’s chamber, where, because this is Westeros and HBO, Alicent and Criston Cole are in the throes of sex, and tells her ‘they killed the boy’. The shock on Alicent’s face must be reflecting the ones on the faces of the audience.

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