House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2 recap and review: Criston goes full villain, Rhaenyra stands her ground

The second episode of season 2 is another eventful one as Aegon seeks revenge.
House of the Dragon season 2
House of the Dragon season 2 /

It's a great time to be alive because House of the Dragon is back with its second season! The acclaimed Game of Thrones prequel series returned on June 16 after nearly two years, and the premiere episode certainly had us talking. Despite an underwhelming ending depicting a major moment from Fire & Blood, the first episode was a great way to kick off the new installment, and the second episode is even better. The war is imminent, that's for sure, and the greens and blacks are making their moves like a game of chess.

The second episode of season 2 premiered tonight, June 23, and it takes place directly after the big Blood and Cheese moment. Now that Jaehaerys is dead, Aegon wants blood on his hands, while Otto doesn't think he should act too quickly. Let's go over all the biggest moments of the new episode.

WARNING: Major spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2 below.

Aegon declares war

As Aegon learns of his son's death and the castle is in shambles after the murder, Aemond makes a discovery of his own. He finds coins on the floor in his room, likely realizing that the assassins were sent to kill him. As we see in a later scene, this sticks with him as he grapples with what he's done. Alicent speaks with Otto, telling him she's being punished for her sins. But Otto sees a potential upside in Jaehaerys' death.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

Aegon continues to throw a fit during a Small Council meeting, asking Criston where he was while his son was being murdered. Criston says he was in bed, an answer that doesn't satisfy Aegon. Larys comes in and informs everyone that a Gold Cloak has been caught fleeing the gates with the baby's head, and he's being detained. Otto then makes his proposal. He believes they should host a funeral procession in the streets of the city so the smallfolk can see what happened at the hands of Rhaenyra. Aegon disagrees but eventually comes around to the idea, knowing this might help him keep and even gain supporters.

Though neither Alicent nor Helaena want to, they agree to ride behind Jaehaerys' body in the procession to appear before their people — and to portray Rhaenyra as the villain. In a moment alone, Alicent tries to bring up what Helaena saw the night before between her and Criston in bed, but Helaena doesn't want to talk about it, understandably.

The funeral procession paints Rhaenyra as the villain

As Alicent and Helaena ride in the procession, a man presents Jaehaerys' body by telling the smallfolk: "Behold the works of Rhaenyra Targaryen." This is the first time we hear Rhaenyra referred to as "Rhaenyra the cruel," something she's portrayed as in Fire & Blood during the war. The procession scene, as you can imagine, is very ominous. The smallfolk try to touch Alicent and Helaena as they ride by, and the coffin sways back and forth as if something really bad is about to happen at any moment.

Larys goes to interrogate Blood in the prison cells, but he doesn't have to turn to torture. Blood immediately gives up Daemon's name, and while he doesn't know the name of the man who committed the act with him, he reveals that he's a rat catcher. Aegon comes in after Blood's confession and kills him.

In Dragonstone, Rhaenyra and her council hear the news of Jaehaerys' death and she is shocked. She doesn't understand how she could be accused of having the boy killed when she would never do something so cruel to Helaena. Her council is skeptical, however, wondering if she had a hand in the murder. As everyone looks at each other, Rhaenys stares at Daemon, clearly questioning what he did.

Rhaenyra and Daemon get it all out

When they're alone, Rhaenyra confronts Daemon and asks what his instructions were to the men. She asks what they were supposed to do if they couldn't find Aemond, but Daemon denies telling them to kill Jaehaerys. Rhaenyra doesn't believe him and tells him that she cannot trust him. She feels that Daemon only thinks of himself, a claim he pushes back on. Rhaenyra tells Daemon that he used her words as an excuse to do whatever he wanted, which isn't fair to her. Because of his actions, he's weakened her claim to the Throne. The two continue to argue, and Daemon suggests that Viserys only named her his heir to get back at him. Ouch.

Daemon Rhaenyra House of the Dragon season 2
Photograph by Theo Whitman/HBO /

Their fight ends with Daemon storming off, and we can assume he's headed to Harrenhal. We don't know when they'll see each other again, but this fight is certainly a long time coming. They finally discuss things they had left unsaid, and Emma D'Arcy and Matt Smith give such strong performances. As a fan of Daemon and Rhaenyra together, even I can admit they might not be meant to be. This scene is a highlight of the episode for me.

On his way out, Daemon passes Baela in the hallway but says nothing. Rhaenyra instructs Baela to head to King's Landing on Moondancer the next morning to keep watch on the city, and Baela asks what her dad's doing. "He must follow his own path," Rhaenyra tells her. We also get a heartfelt scene between Baela and Jace as Baela is practicing with a crossbow outside. They talk about their fathers, bonding over their experiences.

Criston constructs a scheme

Back at King's Landing, Criston is ready to make trouble. He confronts Arryk and picks a fight with him, asking him where he was when Jaehaerys was murdered. Arryk defends himself, saying he was with Aegon. But Criston doesn't back down. He needs someone to blame, and, of course, he wants Rhaenyra to pay. So what does he do? He tells Arryk that he must go to Dragonstone and kill Rhaenyra, disguising himself as his twin brother Erryk. Arryk very clearly doesn't want to do it, but he's left with no choice.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

One super interesting moment from the House of the Dragon season 2 trailer that had us raising our eyebrows happens in this episode — we see Aemond in a pleasure house opening up to a prostitute about Lucerys and almost getting killed. Lying on a bed naked in a fetal position without his eye patch, this is without a doubt the most vulnerable we've seen Aemond in his adult years. He tells the woman that he's "proud" Daemon considers him such a threat before admitting he regrets killing Luke.

As Rhaenyra tries to piece together how Jaehaerys was killed, she calls in Mysaria for questioning. Mysaria says she regrets taking money from Otto and simply gave Daemon two names, nothing else. Rhaenyra doesn't recognize Mysaria at first but as they start talking about Daemon, she realizes who she is. Mysaria tells her Daemon promised her freedom, but, of course, Daemon is no longer there.

In King's Landing, the smallfolk are horrified to see multiple men hanging in the streets, as we learn that Aegon had every rat catcher in the city hanged. Cheese is there, dead, and in an emotional moment, his dog sees him and looks up at him. Not the dog!

Goodbye Otto

Otto hears of what Aegon's done and is incredibly angry, feeling like they've taken a major step back. He was trying to win people over with the funeral procession, and now Aegon is portraying himself as the villain. Aegon fills Otto in on Criston's scheme to kill Rhaenyra, and Otto is appalled. In a humorous moment which I literally laughed out loud at, Otto realizes just how dangerously idiotic Aegon is — especially with Otto at his side. Otto goes off on Aegon, who doesn't respond kindly. He removes Otto as his Hand and gives Criston an honor, a decision that certainly is not smart in the long run.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

Rhaenyra decides to honor Daemon's word and sets Mysaria free, a move that Mysaria is very grateful for. I love seeing these two together! I know they'll never be the best of friends, but the way they were able to bond for a brief moment over Daemon's unreliability and respect one another is really awesome. I love women! As Mysaria walks to the boat waiting for her, she notices one of the Cargyll twins walking in. Knowing Erryk is back inside, she decides to turn back around to alert the blacks.

The Cargylls fight to the death

It's now time for a big showdown to happen. Arryk is able to sneak into Dragonstone under the guise that he's Erryk, and he easily walks into Rhaenyra's room as she's getting ready to go to sleep. He pulls out his sword, frightening Rhaenyra, but is interrupted by Erryk, who walks right in behind him. They begin fighting, leaving Rhaenyra and her servant Elinda in shock. Rhaenyra tells Elinda to go find help, but even when another guard comes in, they can't figure out which twin is which. All they can do is watch. One of the twins, seemingly Erryk, kills the other before telling Rhaenyra to "forgive [him]." He falls on his sword and kills himself, leaving Rhaenyra in tears.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

The episode has a couple of final scenes after this. We go back to King's Landing as Otto and Alicent talk about what they can do next. Exiled from the Small Council, Otto feels it's best he leaves, and he tells Alicent he'll go to Oldtown to be with Alicent's son Daeron. (Wow, he does exist!). Alicent disagrees, telling him to go to Highgarden instead, assuring Otto she'll talk some sense into Aegon. Alicent tells her father that she's sinned, but he doesn't want to hear it.

Alicent then finds Aegon crying, surprised to see him so vulnerable. Instead of comforting him, however, she quietly leaves the room and reunites with Criston. Although she's clearly angry with him and takes it out by slapping him repeatedly, nothing's changed between them. The episode ends as they begin making out. What a mess!

The second episode of House of the Dragon season 2 is an improvement from the first in that it keeps a consistent pace, includes standout performances, and gives us a taste of many perspectives as the list of characters and locations grows. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Don't miss new episodes of House of the Dragon season 2 every Sunday on HBO and Max.

A. The impact of Jaehaerys' murder is felt across the realm as Rhaenyra questions who she can trust in an exciting, emotional episode.. . House of the Dragon S2E2. House of the Dragon S2E2