House of the Dragon season 2 premiere recap and review: "A Son for a Son" is almost exactly what we wanted

The first episode of House of the Dragon season 2 follows the fallout of Lucerys' death.
House of the Dragon season 2
House of the Dragon season 2 /

We finally made it, y'all. House of the Dragon is back on our screens and I could not be happier! The HBO hit serves as a prequel to Game of Thrones, one of the biggest series of all time. Based on George R.R. Martin's Targaryen history book Fire & Blood, the spinoff takes us back nearly 200 years to a time when dragons are in abundance and House Targaryen sits the Iron Throne, thanks to Aegon I Targaryen's conquest years before. The second season will follow the Targaryen civil war, known as the Dance of the Dragons, when Rhaenyra and her half-brother Aegon battle for the crown.

Though the first season of House of the Dragon is fantastic, the current installment is going to be much bigger in scope; you can think of season 1 as the setup for season 2. As such, it's no surprise that the season 2 premiere, "A Son for a Son," is quite eventful. Though I do wish it was a little more brutal. Let's get into our recap and review! WARNING: Major spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 below.

Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor) and Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) in House of the Dragon season 2 at the Wall.
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO /

Welcome to Winterfell

The season 2 premiere opens with an unfamiliar voice narrating as we journey to the North, which is revealed to be Cregan Stark! An ancestor of Ned Stark and his family in Game of Thrones, Cregan is known as the "Wolf of the North" and serves as the Lord of Winterfell. In the season 1 finale, Jacaerys leaves Dragonstone for the North to ensure they're keeping their alliance with Rhaenyra, and in the season 2 premiere, we see Cregan showing Jace the Wall. The Wall is not included in Fire & Blood, but I do think the show handled this change nicely. Sure, it's a little bit of fan service, but it works!

Cregan tells Jace that winter is coming, and while the Starks do not forget their oath to Rhaenyra, they also have other things to worry about in the North. Jace doesn't understand why they need to fight off the cold and the free folk when a war is brewing in the realm, but Cregan assures him that's not all there is. He's, of course, referring to the wights beyond the Wall, though he doesn't explicitly say it. He simply tells Jace that the Wall keeps out "death." The Lord of Winterfell agrees to send men to fight for Rhaenyra, and their conversation is interrupted when a raven arrives from Dragonstone. It's news that Lucerys is dead.

Unfortunately, it looks like this is all we'll be seeing of Cregan this season, which is so disappointing! The scenes between him and Jace in Fire & Blood are some of my favorites, and I was really hoping we'd get to see more of their relationship. But of course, there's a lot more the show needs to get to, so it's fine, I guess.

Over at Dragonstone, Rhaenys arrives and is greeted by Daemon. He orders her to get back on Meleys so they can fly to King's Landing together to kill Vhagar and Aemond. "Make it a son for a son," he tells her. Rhaenys doesn't listen, knowing this isn't Rhaenyra's order and she doesn't have to listen to him. Clearly, Daemon is upset; he wants to act quickly after Lucerys is killed but Rhaenyra is nowhere to be found. She's been flying on Syrax looking for Luke's body. Rhaenys reminds Daemon that he needs to allow his wife to grieve, telling him that she found out about Laena's death from a raven and couldn't accept it until she saw her body. Rhaenys understands Rhaenyra's grief, but Daemon grieves differently.

The Blacks have established a blockade of the Gullet, led by Corlys Velaryon. He speaks with a character named Alyn of Hull — who book fans will know and new fans will get to know — who gives him a sword that was just delivered. Distressed with the delivery, Corlys explains he had the sword made for Luke, who would've been his heir. Alyn apologizes for his loss, and Corlys tells him he's indebted to him; Alyn was the one who pulled him out of the water when he was injured in the Stepstones. This is a quick introduction to a character who will become important this season.

Helaena's intuition should not be ignored

In King's Landing, the Greens are on high alert in case Rhaenyra and her supporters try to fly over on their dragons. We get a scene between Helaena and Aegon, as Aegon comes looking for their son Jaehaerys to bring him to the Small Council. As Jaehaerys is his heir, Aegon wants him to be exposed to a king's activities. Now this part is important: Helaena tells Aegon she's afraid, to which Aegon assures her no dragons will get to her. But that's not what she's talking about. She tells him she's afraid of the "rats." Confused, Aegon brushes her off. But as we know, Helaena is incredibly wise, and this will take a deeper meaning later in the episode.

House of the Dragon season 2 Phia Saban (Helaena Targaryen)
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO /

Across the castle, we quickly learn that Alicent and Criston's dynamic has changed with a surprising scene of him performing oral sex on her. Though it's been evident that the two have had some sort of tension or possibly romantic feelings for each other over the years, this is the first time we've explicitly seen that their relationship has turned sexual. We also see a shot of a rat catcher in the castle, something that will prove to be important later on. Remember, Helaena says she's scared of the rats.

During a Small Council meeting, Aegon brings Jaehaerys, who, at six years old, has no interest in what they're talking about. Otto gives the group an update on who is and who isn't answering their letters, mentioning a marriage pact for Aemond. Alicent asks if Rhaenyra has answered her letters and the answer is no. She's told that because the Blacks are blocking the Gullet, war is definitely coming. Aemond shows up, to Alicent's frustration, and she tells him he doesn't have a seat at their table. Aegon wants him there, however, which isn't great for Alicent's cause. She wants them to proceed cautiously, but Aegon disagrees.

Rhaenyra tries to find closure

Rhaenyra finally finds some remnants of Luke on a beach, flying down on Syrax and discovering parts of Arrax's dead body along with Luke's clothing. She, understandably, breaks down in tears, getting just a little bit of closure for what happened. Rhaenyra has been through so much, especially as a mother, and unfortunately, things aren't about to get better. Emma D'Arcy doesn't have many scenes in the season 2 premiere but they are, as usual, fantastic.

House of the Dragon season 2 /

Back at King's Landing, Aemon listens to petitions from the smallfolk and gets his first taste of this element of being the king. He seems to genuinely want to help his people, but as Otto reminds him, he has to keep his priorities straight for the war. Meanwhile, Erryk Cargyll, the twin in support of Rhaenyra, finds Mysaria as a stowaway and brings her to Daemon.

Daemon is angry with Mysaria for working with Otto, but she assures him their relationship was only transactional; she has no allegiance to him or Aegon. Angry, Daemon tells Erryk to put her in the cells, but Erryk pushes back and tells him that she's being truthful. This, of course, frustrates Daemon even more and he goes off on him.

Daemon asks Erryk how he could just watch as Aegon usurped the crown, but Erryk reminds him that's why he left and joined the Blacks. Daemon tells him he should've killed Aegon, but what Erryk says back shuts him up. He tells Daemon that he and his brother swore an oath to protect the Royal Family when they joined the King's Guard, so what was he to do when that family turned on one another? I love this conversation; it's a great reminder of how complicated this war is. It reminds me of the quote from season 1: "The only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself."

The Blacks are out for revenge

Rhaenyra returns to Dragonstone and her council awaits her orders. Rhaenys updates her on the blockade, while Daemon tells her he's ready to go Harenhaal whenever she needs him to. But Rhaenyra isn't interested in those things right now. She tells everyone that she wants Aemond Targaryen. Of course, Daemon wastes no time and goes to see Mysaria. He promises her freedom if she tells him who can help him at King's Landing, and she does.

Rhaenyra and Jace reunite in a highly emotional scene, followed by a funeral for Luke. No, they don't have his body, but the family members take turns burning his belongings to commemorate him. While this is happening, we get a scene of Alicent at King's Landing, burning candles for those she has lost. After hesitating, she lights the final candle and says the name Lucerys Velaryon. As much as the families are in conflict right now, there's no way Alicent would ever want Luke dead (even if she did try to cut his eye out in a moment of madness).

Rhaenyra, Jacaerys, and Joffrey at Lucerys' funeral in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1.
House of the Dragon season 2 /

Daemon successfully sneaks into King's Landing and meets with one of the members of the City Watch, offering him payment. They next meet with the castle's rat catcher who knows the Red Keep incredibly well, and Daemon makes his proposal. He wants them to kill Aemond, and he will pay them handsomely for the deed. The rat catcher asks what they should do if they can't find Aemond, but the scene cuts before Daemon can answer. We can assume — though we don't know for certain — that Daemon tells them to kill any of Aegon's children if they can't find Aemond, or perhaps specifically Jaehaerys.

In the castle, Aemond and Criston spend time together plotting, though they're interrupted by Otto who tells Criston to go back to his post. Otto tells Aemond he shouldn't be scheming behind his and the king's backs, though Aemond assures him that everything he does is to serve his king. Otto warns him to keep his impulses in check, something Aegon can't seem to do.

The Gold Cloak and rat catcher enter the castle through the underground tunnels and find themselves having to walk through the throne room. Aegon sits atop the Iron Throne, drunk, talking to friends and being obnoxious. I'll take the opportunity here to applaud Tom Glynn-Carney's performance as Aegon. Just one episode in and he's already a much more compelling character you feel like you could even root for. (Don't worry; I could never actually.) I'm very excited to keep watching his performance this season.

Blood and Cheese goes down — just not exactly like the book

Now, the final few minutes of the House of the Dragon season 2 follow the event that is known in Westeros history as "Blood and Cheese." Haven't heard of it? You're going to now! The rat catcher is nicknamed "Cheese," while the Gold Cloak is known as "Blood," so that's how I'm going to refer to them going forward. Here's what happens. They manage to sneak up to the family's quarters and the tension rises quickly. Not only is it storming out, but the music is also enough to get your heart rate up. I really like how these final minutes are shot as we follow the characters through different rooms.

Though Blood and Cheese are unable to find Aemond, Blood walks into one of the rooms and discovers Cheese holding Helaena at knifepoint. Blood is confused, reminding him it had to be a son for a son, but Cheese points out that Helaena's kids are sleeping in their beds nearby.

But considering the twins, Jaehaerys and Jaehaera, both have long hair, they can't tell who the boy is. They ask Heleana to point to her son, and she does, but Blood doesn't believe her. Cheese stares at her, with his hand holding the knife shaking, and declares she's telling the truth. Quickly, the two men walk over to Jaehaerys and begin decapitating him as Helaena quickly scoops up her daughter and walks out of the room as fast as she can.

Phia Saban as Helaena Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO /

Helaena manages to walk through the castle quickly and opens Alicent's bedroom door, finding her having sex with Criston. But considering the amount of pure shock Helaena is in, it doesn't faze her at all. All she can think about is that her son has just been killed. Alicent is mortified at being caught and asks her daughter what's happened, to which Helaena, in a monotone voice, tells her: "They killed the boy." The final shot of the episode is a zoom-in on Alicent's face as she tries to process what she's just heard.

Blood and Cheese plays out differently in House of the Dragon from what happens in Fire & Blood, and I've been conflicted over it. In the book, Alicent is in the room when her grandchild is killed. Blood and Cheese give Helaena the choice of which child they should kill, to which she says Maelor, but instead, Blood cuts off Jaehaerys' head. They go against Helaena's wishes and completely horrify the family. In both cases, killing a six-year-old boy is absolutely terrible, though the book's version is much more brutal in my opinion.

The first episode of House of the Dragon season 2 definitely delivers, though as a fan of the book, I feel a little underwhelmed with the way Blood and Cheese goes down. Of course, I wasn't expecting a Red Wedding moment, but the final moments feel a little rushed and less horrific than I was anticipating. Again, the murder of a young child (or anyone!) is awful, but I wish there was more weight to the depiction. I've seen the episode twice now and I've come around to it a little more, and as a scene of television, it's very entertaining. I just wish it was more effective.

Otherwise, I'm happy. It's so, so great to see these characters back on screen and I'm thrilled to have seven more episodes ahead. We are so back! House of the Dragon season 2 releases new episodes every Sunday night, and you already know I'll be here at Show Snob giving my thoughts each week. Be sure to check back with us!

"A Son for a Son". B+. The House of the Dragon season 2 premiere is an excellent episode of television that reintroduces our beloved and hated characters of Westeros. But with such high expectations on my end, one major moment feels a tiny bit underwhelming. Maybe that's my fault!. . "A Son for a Son"