House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1: Lucerys and Jacaerys and Jaehaerys and Larys

The Game of Thrones prequel tiptoes its way into its second season, teasing action like a fickle lover.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

When House of the Dragon was first introduced to us (as a concept in 2019 and then as a fully-formed show in 2022), it was clarified from the beginning that the show’s first season would act as a kind of prologue to the real action. We needed the backstory—of Viserys’s rule, Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship, and the high jinx and miscommunications that lead to the major conflict that plaques George R.R. Martin’s book, Fire & Blood. Season one—which had its moments, but in all felt underdeveloped and drawn out—gave us the information necessary so that, when the time was right and the stage was set, we could officially embark on the Targaryen civil war. That brings us to “A Son for a Son,” the season two premiere episode, which picks up almost immediately following the events of the season one finale. And while “The Black Queen” ends with the violent, dragon-induced death of Rhaenrya’s son Lucerys and her vengeful, slow look toward the camera, “A Son for a Son” doesn’t continue on the momentum but places a hard halt on the action.

So the prologue continues into season two, at least in the premiere episode. Westeros-enthusiasts who felt boxed in by the limited geography of season one, however, will at least be happy to see the premiere open up in the North. Jacaerys Targaryen (Harry Collet) fulfills the promise made to his mother and goes to the Wall to convince Lord Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) to declare support for Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy). It’s an easter egg-filled scene with talk of an impending winter and tales of both the past and foreshadowing of the future. The Starks of Dragon—similar to those of Thrones—are oath-abiding men, but just like Eddard and his offspring, their attentions are divided between the politics of the South and the realities of life in the North. Though we know it will be about two centuries before anything from beyond the Wall poses an actual threat, Cregan can’t see into the future like we can and is only willing to give up a few thousand old men to Rhaenyra’s cause. Negotiations are interrupted when Cregan receives a raven baring news of Lucerys’s death, confirming the episode’s timing as just days after the events of the season one finale.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

The reintroductions roll on as we next remeet Rhaenys (Eve Best) and Daemon (Matt Smith), the latter of whom is eager to go to King’s Landing to kill the dragon Vhagar and her rider, Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), who was Lucerys’s murderer (hence the episode’s title, “A Son for a Son”). Vhagar is currently the largest dragon alive, and Daemon is right to prioritize her elimination, as the episode continuously foreshadows the threat she will eventually pose. For now, though, Rhaenys is unconvinced and hesitant to take action before Rhaenyra returns. The usurped queen has been gone for days, mourning the death of her son. Daemon sees it as a weakness, but Rhaenys—who has lost both of her children—knows Rhaenyra just needs confirmation of Lucerys’s death before she can move forward.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) is enjoying his new title— dragging his son and heir, Jaehaerys, to small council meetings and getting drunk upon the Iron Throne. Alicent (Olivia Cooke), too, seems happy enough, and not so bothered by the impending civil war that she can’t enjoy a quickie with Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Life looks to be a bit more enjoyable down south, maybe because Team Green feels they have the upper hand now, considering it is their own Aegon sitting on the Iron Throne. Aside from a blockade on the part of Team Black and some unanswered ravens, the Hightowers are feeling pretty cocky. Plus, Alicent is holding out hope that she can speak to Rhaenyra and maybe come to a mutual consensus, an implausible thought for someone who knows the usurped queen as well as Alicent must. It’s this soft spot for their enemy that has both of Alicent’s sons questioning their mother’s intentions later in the episode. Her attempts to restrain the dragon fire-happy King on a more cautious path will clearly only last so long.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

When Aegon isn’t living up to the Targaryen “Mad King” stereotypes, he’s going about his general royal duties, which in his case includes making false promises to petitioning citizens only to immediately retract them upon whispers from his Lord Hand and grandfather, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). It is after this ego-beating that Aegon runs into Lord Larys, “The Clubfoot” (Matthew Needham), who seems unhappy in the role of Alicent’s lackey and attempts to move up in the world by worming into Aegon’s ear (there’s room for everyone in there!). Aegon doesn’t want to inherit his father’s reputation as a pliable king, does he? Clearly, the chat gets to Aegon, who spends the remainder of the episode trying to determine a fitting nomenclature (“Aegon the Magnanimous” doesn’t quite cut it).

Rhaenyra, meanwhile, returns to Dragonstone, quiet and sullen, with only one request: the head of Aemond Targaryen. Daemon, ever the loyal husband (and uncle), jumps into action, enlisting the help of his ex, Mysaria, aka White Worm (Sonoya Mizuno), recently captured with not much to lose. With her knowledge, Daemon is off to King’s Landing, where he throws his sacks of coins about and convinces two stooges (Blood and Cheese, as they are known) to sneak into the Red Keep and kill Aemond. The show then turns into a dark buddy comedy, and these bumbling men argue their way through the tunnels below the Keep, eventually emerging with absolutely no resistance. Unable to find Aemond, they instead stumble upon the enigmatic Queen Helaena (Phia Saban) and her two children. With the phrase “a son for a son” playing in the stooges’s minds and a “good enough” shrug, they slay Jaehaerys as his mother watches. Released from the men's grip, Helaena runs to find Alicent, who is back in bed with Ser Cole. “They killed the boy,” Helaena mutters, and it’s clear Team Green is not as well insulated as they previously thought.

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO

Season premieres can be hard, especially in a world-building show like Dragon, where there is explaining to be done and stages to be set. It also doesn’t help that half the characters’s names sound the same, and the other half are identical twins (yes, Arryk and Erryk are back and causing just as much confusion as ever). After ten episodes of lead-up, one may have been hoping for a vault into action upon the second season, but clearly, we must be a little patient. That being said, character development is most definitely underway, and Alicent’s conflicting consciousness, as well as Aegon’s budding rebelliousness, are something to keep an eye on. Hopefully, the action embarks soon enough, and we can move on from discussions of dragon fire and get into the actual heat of it. Dragon season two is only eight episodes long—two less than its predecessor—meaning we have no time to waste. It’s time to get those dragons dancing.