House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1&2

For better and for worse, House of the Dragon continues to remind us of what we lost in Game of Thrones.

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I think most of us at this point have a somewhat toxic relationship with Westeros and its many tales. Game of Thrones' ending burned us so bad many of us immediately swore we'd never go near George R.R. Martin's world again. And then, House of the Dragon came out, and none of us could resist.

And for good reason. House of the Dragon could not quite recreate the magic of early Thrones, but it was the closest we'd get, and it had plenty of CGI dragons to please the people who watch the show in a pub and cheer at every explosion. Elevated to great television by stand-out performances from Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy, and Olivia Cooke, House of the Dragon Season 1 caught our eyes once again, but the question now is whether it can keep up this fiery hot streak.


We've seen the first two episodes of Season 2, and the first impression is strong. We pick up right where Season 1 left off, which is slightly jarring if you've not bothered rewatching the show since it last graced our screens two years ago. Rhaenyra is currently mourning the death of her second son Lucerys and the Black camp is deciding how they should respond, while the Greens try desperately to cajole their new king Aegon into being a worthy leader.

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We know that a war is coming. Really, the battle lines have already been drawn, but it's a strength of House of the Dragon to not just throw you headfirst into the action and instead show the reluctance on both sides of bringing a civil conflict to Westeros the likes of which it hasn't yet seen. Dragons are used as deterrents as much as they are massive, fire-breathing weapons, and the only people who don't mind spilling blood as soon as humanly possible are Aegon and Daemon, but because everyone else is either building an army or not wanting to seem the aggressor by using it, we get to spend a decent amount of time in the real best bit of Westeros, which is the politicking.

House of the Dragon

As this isn't Game of Thrones, and the biggest rift has already been formed between House Targaryen, there's not much space left for subtle court manoeuvring. Dialogue remains sharp and clever in most places, but there are few whose motives and true ambitions remain completely hidden. You're not left pondering the layers of political machinations that go into each conversation, each carefully chosen word, but we are given plenty of time to attach ourselves to the wide cast House of the Dragon has, most of which give stellar performances. The only real weakness I could find was Mysaria, the White Worm.

Otherwise, even without Paddy Considine in the beloved role of King Viserys, we still have plenty of strong and deep characters to latch ourselves onto, on both sides of the conflict. House of the Dragon Season 2 doesn't yet commit to telling its audience that one side is right, and the other wrong. Rhaenyra remains our protagonist clearly, but efforts have been made to humanise Aegon and the Greens, ensuring that when a major character dies on either side, one half of the audience will cheer while the other will mourn.

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Many scenes in these first two episodes take place in dark, smaller rooms, and yet House of the Dragon still manages to capture the scale of the world in a way that only Westeros can achieve. With the dragons fully woven into the society of Westeros, the once low-fantasy setting now has a lot more magic, and yet it doesn't feel any less "realistic," for lack of a better word. Tax and grain are major concerns as well as dragon battles, creating a world that is equal parts grounded and extraordinary. HBO has always done very well at immersing its viewers in the World of Westeros, even in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, and it hasn't skipped a beat since.

There are some minor thorns sticking in the side of House of the Dragon Season 2. First, while the writing and dialogue remains mostly sharp, there are elements that feel contrived or overcomplicated. The Blood and Cheese scene, for example, has some extra complications added from the books, which tries to amplify the drama and horror but only feels slightly flat compared to the terrifying imagery I'd cooked up when reading the same passage in Martin's work. There's a sense of a pulled punch, which is strange considering this is House of the Dragon we're talking about.

Also, with such a wide and varied cast, already the feeling is creeping in that some names are going to be left by the wayside. The book retelling of the Dance of Dragons suffers from the same issue, but it is meant to be a history, skimming over names to get to the major events. In House of the Dragon Season 2 we are getting new names and faces to remember, which is all well and good, except for the fact that I'm not quite sure the show is handling everyone equally well. We're only two episodes in, so we'll have to wait and see, but Alicent for example will have one strong moment but then fall back into cyclical behaviour, as if the show is telling us we don't have to really worry about her or care for her now, just let her do as she does.

House of the Dragon

Otherwise, House of the Dragon Season 2 starts off very, very strongly. It's a welcome return to Westeros, without any needless fat but also with the character introspections and quieter moments we loved from its predecessor series. It's prestige drama with a scope and scale that few can hope to match, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
An epic scale only Westeros can offer, great performances, mostly strong writing
Some overcomplications that take away from big moments, a couple of weaker performances dotted in
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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