“House of the Dragon” Season 2, Episode 2 Recap

Any good publicist knows how to spin unfortunate circumstances into public-relations gold. Taylor Swift and her historic jet-fuel emissions have Tree Paine, and Aegon Targaryen and his beheaded child have Otto Hightower.

The second episode of House of the Dragon season two begins just moments after the ending of the premiere, which left us in the wee hours of the night, immediately following Blood and Cheese’s gruesome murder of little Prince Jaehaerys. Alicent, still reeling at Helaena catching her in bed with Ser Criston Cole, wonders if her dead grandson is the price she’s paying for her sexual awakening. To Otto, it matters less who’s to blame, so long as the people of the Seven Kingdoms rally behind the victims. As he assures a weeping Alicent: “We will mourn as we must, but some good may yet come of this.”

Whether she was behind the murder or not, Otto intends to pin the tragedy on Rhaenyra, who will undoubtedly have a hard time recovering from a new reputation as “slayer of infants.” Alicent and Helaena reluctantly ride in a funeral procession through King’s Landing, following a hearse bearing Jaehaerys’s body, his severed head sewn back onto his neck. It’s a macabre sight—and, as Otto predicted, terribly effective. The hordes of King’s Landing residents are transformed into voyeurs of grief, crying out for their lost prince and the mourning queen. But Helaena struggles with the pomp and circumstance of Otto’s PR campaign, especially when the wagon gets stuck in a muddy road and the crowds take that opportunity to surge toward her. She gasps and shudders, as if overcome by a riptide.

Blood gets captured amid his attempted escape, and is unceremoniously awaiting his fate in a dungeon cell. Ser Larys Strong enters to begin the interrogation, but at the sight of torture devices, Blood fesses up to the scheme immediately, revealing that Prince Daemon hired him and a nameless Red Keep ratcatcher to do the terrible deed. His confession doesn’t spare him, however, as Aegon then strides into his cell and delivers a fatal blow to Blood’s head.

Back at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra is baffled that anyone would accuse her—a mother who’s just lost her own son—of ordering the decapitation of her half sister’s boy. It is a ridiculous proposition—until she sees the smirk on Daemon’s face. Yes, Daemon admits to hiring Blood and Cheese to kill Prince Aemond in retribution for Lucerys’s death, but he denies ordering the death of Jaehaerys if Blood and Cheese couldn’t locate Aemond. His denials hold no weight with the queen. Rhaenyra is unimpressed.

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Theo Whiteman//Warner Bros.

At last, the lovers reach an impasse, pulling back the veil that has concealed the true treachery underlying their entire marriage. Rhaenyra doubts Daemon’s loyalty to her and suggests he has used their whole relationship to avenge the loss of his birthright. Daemon, easy to aggravate as he is, takes the bait. He goes on and on about how weak her father was as a king, and how that same weakness in Rhaenyra will cause her to lose the impending civil war, as well. Anyone who has ever been in an on-and-off toxic relationship will wholeheartedly relate to Rhaenyra’s resentful final words to her husband: “You’re pathetic.”

Speaking of pathetic men, Criston is back to his regular shenanigans—that is, projecting the things he hates most about himself onto those around him. This episode’s target is Ser Arryk Cargyll, the Kingsguard knight whose twin (helpfully named Ser Erryk) abandoned the Red Keep to swear fealty to Rhaenyra. Criston is clearly struggling with his failure, as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, to protect the beheaded prince—all because he was too busy violating his knight’s oath of chastity so he could bump goods with Alicent. Instead of coping with that or figuring out ways to be a better commander, he picks a fight with Arryk, naturally. His reasons for being aggrieved with Arryk are nonsensical: First, it’s about Arryk’s sullied white cloak, and then it turns toward Arryk’s inability to prevent Jaeharys’s murder. Finally, Criston very nearly accuses Arryk of treason—an accusation the knight can only remedy, Criston says, by posing as his twin brother at Dragonstone and slaying Rhaenyra himself. It’s less of a challenge than it is an order.

Criston’s stupidity is rewarded later on. Aegon hangs all the ratcatchers employed by the Red Keep and leaves their bodies swaying outside for all of King’s Landing to bear witness to. Otto storms into Aegon’s chambers, with the infuriated exasperation of the one competent worker stuck in a boardroom of useless higher-ups. Does Aegon not realize the damage he’s inflicted upon himself, Otto cries, by killing dozens of innocent men in search of the one who murdered his son? The support he’s lost, after Otto so painstakingly rallied sympathy to their cause? It’s hard not to be on Otto’s side here, until you remember that he’s basically just dealing with the consequences of his own actions. Hmm—if only there were an alternative leader whose rule wouldn’t be guided by her violent impulses, who would have heeded the advice of her council, had her throne only not been usurped by her younger, more reckless half brother. Guess we’ll never know!

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Warner Bros.

The crown has drained Aegon of good judgment, and the usurper king no longer tolerates being chastised. He promptly fires Otto, and then promotes Criston—Criston! Of all people!—to Hand of the King. Godspeed, King’s Landing.

Meanwhile, Criston’s plan for Arryk begins to take shape at Dragonstone. It seems that all the guards in the House of the Dragon universe are pretty easily duped, given how quickly they accept Arryk for Erryk. Thank God for women. Mysaria, granted her freedom by Rhaenyra earlier in the episode, immediately recognizes the deception and alerts a guard. The real Erryk then interrupts his brother’s scheme just in time, barging into Rhaenyra’s bedchambers just as Arryk unsheathes his blade to kill her.

What follows is difficult to watch—and a reminder of all the kin-slaying to come in the Dance of the Dragons. Arryk and Erryk battle each other brutally, and a Dragonstone knight is unable to help because he cannot decipher who is who. At last, one twin prevails. Arryk/Erryk hugs Arryk/Erryk close to him after stabbing him through the chest. The victory doesn’t last. Unable to live with killing his own brother, the triumphant twin then takes his own life. Poor Rhaenyra, who has already been through so much in these last two episodes, cannot do much but whimper at the sight of the corpses in her bedroom. Who can blame her? It certainly feels like an omen.

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As an associate editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com, Chelsey keeps a finger on the pulse on all things celeb news. She also writes on social movements, connecting with activists leading the fight on workers’ rights, climate justice, and more. Offline, she’s probably spending too much time on TikTok, rewatching Emma (the 2020 version, of course), or buying yet another corset.