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House of the Dragon Season 2: Episode 1 Recap- A Son for a Son

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Michelle Holstine
| June 19, 2024
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LET’S GOOO YA’LL! We are BACK in Westeros! This begs the question of whether we ever really leave if we’re always rewatching. Anywho, two long years and one strike later, House of the Dragon has returned to delve deeper into the Dance of the Dragons. The first episode did not disappoint. It quickly reminded us that we are in Westeros, where the game of thrones never ends.

Before we get too far into the episode, here’s a quick reminder to catch our new show, “Decoding Dragons,” where my talented co-host Liza Phoenix and I break down all things House of the Dragon (also available on YouTube and podcast format)! We dive deep into lore, symbolism, easter eggs, and even more of Westeros and Game of Thrones. If you don’t have 40 minutes to listen or watch, but you do have a few minutes to read, continue forth, my Lords and Ladies. If you don’t want to get burned by spoilers, I suggest watching the first episode before continuing!

Without further ado, strap on your saddle belts, and let’s get to riding back to the world where we thrive while everyone else dies.

Last Season

As a recap, last season set all the pieces in place to put the Dance of the Dragons puzzle together. There were large time jumps to set the stage for everything coming this season. Here’s a brief on how it went down:

Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower were best friends in a very lonely Red Keep. Rhaenyra is King Viserys Targaryen’s’ only heir, and her mother died during childbirth of a son who also died. Rhaenyra was named heir in the stead of his deceased son. The realm had come together and chosen King Viserys over his cousin, Rhaenys Targaryen, because they couldn’t see a woman on the throne. She and her husband, Corlys Velaryon, became the Lord and Lady of Driftmark instead. They have important blood, names, and personalities, just not the iron throne (you don’t really want the drama, trust us). Once Rhaenyra’s mother and King Viserys’ wife died, he had to remarry. Otto Hightower is the King’s hand, and he places his daughter strategically in front of a mourning King, resulting in his marrying her. Rhaenyra and Alicent are now stepmother and stepdaughter. Alicent bears King Viserys two sons and a daughter, sealing the family’s fate and promoting the strife of an uncertain succession. King Viserys dies, uttering that Aegon needs to take his place as King to fulfill the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy handed down through generations.

The problem? Rhaenyra now had a son named Aegon, and King Viserys and Alicent had a son named Aegon. We, as the audience, know he was talking about Rhaenyra’s son (who was with her Uncle Husband, because Targaryens keep their lines pure and incest things). However, Alicent takes it to mean her son Aegon and boom. The misunderstanding of all the land allows Alicent the power to usurp the throne, leaving Rhaenyra to flee to Dragonstone. Once the factions have been set, Team Green (Hightower Green) and Team Black (Targaryen red and black) start sending envoys for supporters. They both send someone to Storm’s End, which the Baratheons call home, and the (possibly) unintentional death of one son by the hands of another plunges the realm into the greatest war it has ever seen. This, of course, does not cover the entirety of the season, but it is the main aspect leading to season 2.

Honorable Mentions to…mention:

·        Prince Aemond Targaryen, a son of King Viserys and Alicent Hightower, lost an eye in a fight with Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen’s children after stealing the largest and oldest dragon currently in this story, Vhagar.

·        Daemon Targaryen is King Viserys’ brother and ends up marrying Rhaenyra and fathering her Aegon with a couple more children.

·        Rhaenyra’s first sons are not to her first husband, Rhaenys and Colrys’ son, but to the captain of the City Watch, Harwin Strong, leaving the line of succession and her claim to the throne in question if her children are illegitimate. Ser Strong was murdered by his brother in Harrenhal castle.

·        Rhaenyra sleeps with the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole, and sets him on a stage of complete spite and revenge, cementing him on Team Green.

·        Alicent and Viserys’ son and daughter, Aegon and Helaena, marry and have three children, twins Jaehaerys and Jaehaera, and son Maelor.

Now that we’re as caught up as necessary, let’s get into the first episode!

A grieving Rhaenyra after discovering the War’s first blow

We all Grieve Differently

Episode 1 opens in the best way I can think it could….with the Stark theme and a shot of Winterfell! Rhaenyra sent her 2 sons, Jace and Luke, off to garner supporters, which is how Luke died at Storm’s End. Jace was sent to the wall to talk with northern houses and, specifically, the Starks. This episode begins immediately after the death of Luke, so Jace doesn’t know about it yet. There is a brilliant monologue from Cregan Stark about the honor that comes with guarding The Wall, which is different from how we know it from the original series. We know it as a place where rapists, cast-outs, and criminals go to be punished. In this era, one of every 10 men who go to the wall is from the Stark family, and it is an honorable duty.

Jace and Cregan ride the elevator up the wall, and we hear the ever-present ‘Winter is Coming’ in the best mashup of accents between Ned Stark and Jon Snow. Cregan gets a raven, letting them know of Luke’s murder, which Jace then finds out. He rushes home, but not before we see (and learn) that Rhaenyra is missing.

Cregan Stark and Jacaerys Velaryon on The Wall

Meanwhile, Daemon confronts Rhaenys to let her know they are heading to King’s Landing to kill Vhagar, to which Rhaenys swiftly says no and lets Daemon know that Rhaneyra’s absence is not unwarranted; we all grieve in our own ways. She mentioned when her daughter Laena died last season, she had to see the remains to believe it. This is exactly what Rhaenyra went to do. She is seen watching the waters around Storm’s End and finds Luke’s cloak and his dragon’s wing. It was a beautifully sad shot.

Jace and Rhaenyra meet in Dragonstone, and Jace is trying his hardest to be the ‘strong’ (hehe) commander she has taught him to be, but can’t make it through his report before succumbing to tears, in which they both wrap each other in embraces and let the tears fall. They burn Luke’s cloak in a ceremonial funeral pyre before Rhaenyra enters the War Room. She says her one line of the entire episode, which becomes the battle cry, “I want Aemond Targaryen.”

A head is a head

Once the (one true) Queen has spoken, Daemon goes into action. He finds his Mistress of Whispers from Season 1, Mysaria, and employs her help to sneak into the Red Keep in King’s Landing. He bribes a knight and a rat catcher to sneak into the Red Keep and get Aemond’s head. They wonder aloud what they are to do if they cannot find Aemond, and the screen goes black.

Let’s rewind briefly. We quickly see Alicent is busy with her Queen consort duties towards the beginning of the episode, busying herself with Criston Cole, the now Lord Commander of the King’s Guard. We also had King Aegon introduced as  “Aegon the Magnanimous,” which he knows is laughable. We see Aegon taking pledges from townsfolk, or as he reminds them, smallfolk that help win wars. Alicent and Otto have a couple ‘woe is me moments’ that no one actually cares about, and Aegon brings his son Jaehaerys to a small council meeting so he can begin learning about it.

Now that we are caught up, the knight and the rat catcher enter the castle via Maegor’s tunnels, which are far too low and dirty to be seen or cared about. We follow their journey through the castle, where we see Aegon drinking with his buddies on the throne and trying to figure out a better name than Magnanimous. The knight and the rat catcher make their way to where Aemond is supposed to be and cannot find him. They sneak their way into Halaena’s room, King Aegon’s wife and sister, where her 2 children are sleeping in their beds. The knight reminds the rat catcher that Daemon requested a Son for a Son and traps Halaena into letting them know which of her children is the heir. After trying to bribe them away, she points to Jaehaerys’ bed. They immediately begin beheading, yes, a child, and the camera follows Halaena grabbing her daughter and making her way to her mother, Alicent’s chambers. Ready to be welcomed and comforted, Halaena walks in on Alicent and Criston Cole being busy with each other. Thanks, Mom. She sits down and simply says, “They killed the boy,” and the episode ends.

The knight and the rat catcher, known as Blood & Cheese from the book Fire & Blood

*deep breath*

That’s one way to start a season. We are in it now, ya’ll. Next week, we will get to bear witness to the fallout of the murder of a son in the Red Keep (can you imagine Cersei’s reaction? *shudder*), and the steps are coming closer and closer to seeing some dragon fighting. Syrax and Caraxes and Meleys all day!

Did you watch the premiere? What did you think? Let us know in the comments and on our podcast when you get a chance to listen to our eloquent ramblings!

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