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

Spoilers

If you’ve ever wondered how to pull off the perfect season premiere, look no further than tonight’s bombshell kickoff to House of the Dragon’s sophomore season.

After a two-year break, there’s a lot to catch up on, but HOTD’s writers provided a seamless transition back into the world of dragons, murder, strategy, and revenge.

I hope the rest of the season doesn’t make me regret saying this, but at this moment in time, I believe this dark, gritty spinoff of Game of Thrones is even better than its source.

The cast is, without a doubt, a large part of House of the Dragon’s immense success.

If you’ve been keeping up with the press tour at all, you know that Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke, in particular, are absolutely dripping with chemistry, and so are the rest of the show’s many stars.

Related: Aegon’s Conquest: HBO to Develop New Game of Thrones Spinoff Described as ‘Direct Prequel’ to House of the Dragon

Until House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 1, plenty of fans (myself included) had doubts about Matt Smith’s casting.

For better or worse, his whimsical portrayal of the eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who left quite an impression, and many of us didn’t know if he had it in him to enter the world spawned from George R. R. Martin’s twisted mind.

Matt Smith on the second season of House of the Dragon

But boy, we were wrong. Like his talented costars, Matt Smith managed a flawless execution of his character.

The cunning, calculated, and arguably sexy Daemon Targaryen had us hooked from his first scene.

No one doubted the abilities of Olivia Cooke, who has served up a heaping portion of regality and poise, or Emma D’Arcy, whose stoicism and timeless good looks pushed their raw talent over the edge.

Now that HOTD has entered its second season, fans are finally getting what we’ve been waiting over two years for, and this premiere episode was everything we could have hoped.

The Hand of the King- HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

Perhaps the most shocking event from House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 10 was Aemond Targaryen’s brutal attack on Lucerys Velaryon and his dragon, Arrax, which left the dragon and his rider dead.

This devastating loss for Rhaenyra immediately followed the delivery of her stillborn baby girl, Visenya, proving once again that there is no limit to the pain that Westerosi women must suffer.

Related: House of the Dragon Renewed for Third Season on HBO

The first season of the HBO hit had a recurring theme of child loss, and after the way the new episode ended, Season 2 won’t be much different.

It takes a while in the episode before we catch a glimpse of Rhaenyra.

She’s taken off on a solo mission to find Lucerys’s remains and confirm his death for herself.

A Quiet Meeting- HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

Another testament to Emma D’Arcy’s acting chops, the scene where Rhaenyra discovers Luc’s body and falls to her knees in mourning is a visceral punch to the gut.

It’s never easy to watch a mother mourn her child, even on television, but the way D’Arcy lays themself bare in this role translates on screen to something almost palpable.

A new character was briefly introduced in the premiere, and fans think he’s likely to be a major player going forward.

Cregan Stark, who was seen showing Jacaerys Velaryon around the Wall moments before the prince received a raven informing him of Luc’s death, is the many-times-great grandfather of Eddard Stark.

In winter, my duty to the wall is even more dire than the one I owe to King’s Landing.

Lord Cregan Stark

This connection to the powerful old family — who will eventually cut ties with King’s Landing and consider themselves sovereign — will almost definitely be important as we face a massive war of succession between those backing Rhaenyra and those behind Aegon II.

The question is, will the budding friendship (or, at least, allyship) between Cregan and Jacaerys have an impact on Winterfell’s loyalty to the crown?

Related: House of the Dragon Season 2 Fan Theories: Who is Cregan Stark, and Why Does He Matter?

Over in King’s Landing, we learn that Alicent is still trading sexual favors for information from Larys, the creepy busybody who seems to have his nose in everyone’s business at all times.

Don’t worry, though, because Alicent is also getting her needs met by good old Ser Criston Cole, whose duties seem to extend far beyond protecting Alicent with his sword.

Ser Criston Cole - HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

No one can blame either of them. It may be chock full of violence, incest, and graphic tragedies, but everyone on this show is — as Olivia Cooke would say — stunnin’.

Meanwhile, King Aegon II is trying to figure out his role as king, and it’s a little messy.

It’s understandable, given the circumstances, but he’s stressing out his entire court.

While navigating how to deal with his subjects, he also decides to make a point to include his toddler son in serious meetings.

If you’ve ever been at work with a coworker who brought their kid to the office and expected someone else to entertain them, you can understand why Aegon’s advisors were a bit annoyed with the tot.

The King on His Throne - HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

Luckily for them, it won’t be a problem anymore. (Sorry, too soon?)

Okay, fine, we’ll talk about it.

Related: How Important Are Showrunners to a Series?

We’ve seen Daemon do some pretty messed up stuff, and we knew he was heading to King’s Landing for revenge.

But damn.

The episode is titled “A Son for a Son,” so shame on me for not seeing it coming. Aegon II’s sister/wife even told him early on in the hour that she was scared — not of dragons, but of rats.

The Queen Mother's Candles - HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

So, she knew something was coming. But even Heleana couldn’t have predicted that the mercenaries would make her give up one of her children to save the other.

Again, I say: why must the women in this universe be forced to endure so much?

I’m team Rhea-Rhea all the way, and I even have a horrible soft spot for Daemon, but I think we can all agree that this was too far.

But at the end of the day, this isn’t a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of show.

Sigh. RIP, Jahaerys.

Alyn of Hull - HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

Things are only going to get darker from here, I’m afraid.

Rhaenyra’s simple but powerful announcement that she expects Aemond Targaryen — her half-brother, lest we forget — to be delivered to her points to a dramatic (and likely bloody) family reunion.

Presumably, she plans to make him pay for Luc’s death. Can you blame her?

Related: 19 Characters Who Would Sacrifice Their Love Lives for the Greater Good

And Daemon, in his strange way, loves his wife/niece, so I have faith he’ll bring her what she wants.

Let’s hope he figures out a better way to hide his hair the next time he goes sneaking around King’s Landing, though. Seriously, can we get this guy a ponytail holder?

How people don’t immediately clock him and his gorgeous, silvery Targaryen locks is beyond me.

Lady Baela and Prince Jacaerys - HOUSE OF THE DRAGON S2E1 -- A SON FOR A SON

We’ve got seven more episodes ahead of us this season.

Despite the fact that it’s a shorter-than-expected run, we’re confident that the writers have found a way to accomplish everything we hope to see before the finale.

As for the premiere, I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

It was well worth the wait, perfectly set up the rest of the season, and reminded us of everything we love about Westeros.

Olivia Cooke in Season 2

What was your favorite part of the season premiere?

Related: 21 Complicated Mother/Daughter Relationships

Are you Team Rhaenyra or Team Aegon II?

Give us a shout in the comments, and we’ll look forward to meeting you back here to discuss next Sunday’s episode.

Haley Whitmire White is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.

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