‘House of the Dragon’ recap: The mourning after

On last week’s “House of the Dragon” Season 2 premiere, the threat of all-out war grew after Daemon sent a guard and a ratcatcher to try to kill Aemond (the one with the eyepatch) at King’s Landing as revenge for last season’s death of Lucerys, a.k.a. Luke. Unable to find Aemond, the pair instead killed a child: King Aegon’s heir, Jaehaerys. Episode 2 opens amid the chaos unfolding in the Red Keep after the murder.

The camera comes into moody slow motion focus as a servant girl walks by with a bloody blanket. Kingsguards round up Red Keep workers and everybody’s thrown into the courtyard with the hounds. Aegon, enraged, smashes his father’s models of the city with a stick, screaming that he’ll kill all traitors and villains. Portentously, Aemond notices that the coins he and Ser Criston Cole were moving around on a map are now missing; he finds one under the table. Ser Otto Hightower assures Queen Alicent that the gates are shut and the villain will be found.

One thing about this show: Nobody thinks theyre the villain. Alicent wonders if all this is punishment from the Gods for her own sins. Otto asks what sins, but she doesn’t answer.

Otto then offers a silver lining: Some good might come of this. (Enough to fill a 72-minute episode!)

In the Small Council room, Aegon continues to rage. This is not when you’d expect comic relief, but after Tyland Lannister asks, “Were you also threatened, Your Grace?” Aegon shouts back, “I could have been!”

When Aegon asks Criston where he was when the boy was killed, Criston says he was in bed (but not which bed). Aegon speculates that Rhaenyra, his sister, is savoring the death of his child, and is about to start in on Alicent when Lord Larys announces that they’ve found someone: a Gold Cloak carrying a child’s head in a sack. Aegon suspects everyone in the room, but Otto notes that it really doesn’t matter who did it: They’re going to blame Rhaenyra no matter what the truth turns out to be.

Aegon, not wanting to appear weak, demands action. Otto says the king is already perceived as weak, which only makes Aegon angrier. Otto suggests that if that they hold a funeral procession and display the body of the dead child, everyone will turn against Rhaenyra. Alicent is shocked by the idea — Aegon, too, at first. He doesn’t want his dead son dragged through the streets. “Honored!” Otto corrects. It’s too much for Aegon, who cries. Otto says he loved his grandson, and won’t let him die in vain, demanding that Alicent and Helaena shall ride in the procession so everyone can see their grieving.

Riding in carriages with queens

Helaena doesn’t want to ride behind the casket, but Alicent explains that it’s for the good of the kingdom. “Sometimes we have to pretend,” Alicent tells her. Helaena hands Alicent an ornate blanket she’s been holding, saying it’s for her boy. Cut to the procession.

A drum beats slowly as knights, staffers and Alicent and Helaena, both wearing veils, start to move with the coffin, in which the dead child lies exposed, wrapped in Helaena’s blanket and with a rough stitch around his neck. As they trudge, a crier yells, “Behold the works of Rhaenyra Targaryen!” The wagon carrying the casket gets stuck in a pothole, and as the crowd surges to touch the queen, the casket rocks. Helaena panics.

Meanwhile Larys interrogates the murderer. He unwraps his gnarly torture toolset and hasn’t even picked an implement before the guy says, “I was hired by Daemon Targaryen.” He mentions a ratcatcher accomplice, but not by name. Aegon enters the cell. He’s got a metal stick with a ball at the end and swings hard at the man’s head.

Back at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra has heard about Jaehaerys and is stunned that anyone thinks she plotted to kill the boy. She is doubly insulted that after she just lost her own son, anyone thinks she’d do that to Helaena, “An innocent.” Daemon sits quietly, so quietly that Rhaenyra realizes he’s hiding something.

We cut to the two of them speaking privately. He explains his orders weren’t followed: “I cannot be responsible for a mistake,” he says. Rhaenyra accuses Daemon of weakening her claim to the throne and angrily speculates that he’s using her as a tool to get back his “stolen inheritance.” Daemon moves at her as if to strike, but instead touches her face roughly and reminds her that when Ser Erryk brought the crown, he put it on her head.

She asks if Daemon accepts her as his queen and ruler or if he’s still pining for what he gave away — he pursued his own glory instead of helping her father in his grief. Daemon calls Viserys a coward, snidely asking if the king named her his heir because of her wisdom and virtue, which gets him a “How dare you?” He takes it a step further, suggesting that Viserys used Rhaenyra to put Daemon in his place. Rhaenyra, frustrated, says it wasn’t that Viserys was afraid of Daemon, it’s that he couldn’t trust him, either. Daemon thinks Rhaenyra is afraid to spill blood, just like her father.

“You struck down a child,” she tells him. “It was a mistake,” he replies. She calls him pathetic. He exits pathetically.

Daemon passes his daughter, Baela, in the hall without saying hello. She’s on her way to see Rhaenyra, who wants Baela to take her dragon and patrol near King’s Landing, something she wouldn’t let Jace do. Baela asks about Daemon. “He must follow his own path,” Rhaenyra says. Daemon’s path: Flying his dragon Caraxes out of Dragonstone.

At the Red Keep, Helaena passes Aegon on the stairs. He barely glances her way. She nods, like, yep, Aegon is on brand. Elsewhere in the castle, Criston enters the room where the murder took place as servants disassemble the bed and a blood-covered mattress is carried out.

Ser Criston just can’t shut up

Alicent asks Criston if he’s told anyone what they were doing during the murder. “What do you take me for?” he asks. She asks if he’s seeking absolution, and he says there is none for what he’s done. Alicent shuts her door, annoyed, then gets into the tub and does the I’m-sad-in-a-movie slide until her head is underwater.

Criston finds Ser Arryk and picks a fight, telling him that his cloak is dirty. Arryk promises to clean it, but Criston insists that he do it immediately because the white cloak is a symbol of purity and fidelity. Still not content, Criston waits until Arryk is halfway down the hall to ask, “Where were you when Jaehaerys was murdered?” Arryk says he was in the throne room with Aegon, adding, “Where were you, Lord Commander?”

Arryk asks why Helaena didn’t have her own security, but Criston turns it around, pointing out that Arryk’s twin brother, Erryk, is a known traitor. At this point the other guards quickly get up to leave. Criston tries to pin the murder on Arryk, saying it happened on his watch. “You are mad, Ser!” Arryk tries, but he’s outranked. Criston says Arryk must restore the damage he’s done by pretending to be Erryk, sneaking into Dragonstone and killing Rhaenyra. Has Criston been watching “Days of Our Lives”? Pressured, Arryk very reluctantly agrees to the mission.

On the cliffs near Dragonstone, Baela practices crossbow. Jace joins her and they talk about Daemon. “Sometimes I think I hate him,” she says. She asks about Uncle Viserys. With affection, Jace says the king taught them fishing and shanties, and he liked cake. She asks about his biological father, Ser Harwin Strong. “He loved us, I think,” Jace says.

In a brothel scene, the obligatory shots of bare flesh give way to Aemond in bed with a middle-aged woman who is holding him like a baby. Milk is served. His eyepatch is off. Aemond tells the woman somebody at the castle tried to kill him, but he wasn’t there. “You were here with me,” she says. Aemond is gratified that Daemon went to such ruthless lengths. The woman tries to kiss him, but he’d rather be cuddled. Aemond says he’s sorry about Luke. The woman reminds him that when princes lose their temper, it’s smallfolk like her who suffer.

Speaking of smallfolk, we cut to family on hard times. Hugh, one of Aegon’s petitioners, is being told by his wife that food in town is getting scarce. His daughter lies sick in bed. The man says the king has promised some relief, but admits he doesn’t know when that’ll happen.

Alyn Velaryon arrives by ship and is greeted warmly by his brother, Addam. Addam has heard about the visit Corlys made to thank Alyn for saving his life. Addam, a shipbuilder, has been called upon to help with the fleet and asks whether Alyn will sail with Corlys, but Alyn has reservations about the impending war. Later, we see Addam marveling on the shore as Daemon and his dragon fly overhead.

Corlys, commanded (in bed)

Speaking of the Sea Snake, Corlys lies naked with Rhaenys, engaging in pillow talk. They have something in common with Daemon and Rhaenyra — Rhaenys was passed over for the throne like Rhaenyra, and Corlys says he managed just fine as not-quite king consort. He asks whether Daemon might challenge Rhaenyra for the throne. Rhaenys notes that he’s not one who likes being commanded. Corlys says that’s a pity because he quite enjoys that. You sly dude!

Rhaenyra is reading an old book in her library when Erryk brings in Mysaria, Daemon’s former lover — Rhaenyra wants to know what part she played in the murder. Mysaria regrets being involved and says Daemon offered her freedom for giving over two names. Mysaria asks whether Rhaenyra will honor Daemon’s promise, but Rhaenyra isn’t convinced that Mysaria won’t betray her. Mysaria then recounts her started-from-the-bottom life story; Rhaenyra didn’t know the part where the Hightowers burned her business down. She asks about the big scar on Mysaria’s neck but Mysaria doesn’t reveal its source.

Back at King’s Landing, people wail as they find men hung dead in the center of the town. One of them is the ratcatcher who co-perpetrated Jaehaerys’s murder. The dog that was with him looks up, thinking, “Remember that time you kicked me? That’s what you get!”

Otto confronts Aegon and Criston, demanding answers about the ratcatcher hangings. Aegon explains that the accomplice confessed but couldn’t name the specific ratcatcher, so he killed them all. “Idiot!” Otto yells. Criston tells him to watch how he talks to the king. Otto says the king is his grandson and his grandson is a fool. Otto’s getting a World’s Belittlingest Grandpa mug.

Aegon lets slip that Criston took action as well. They reveal their brilliant scheme to send a twin to kill Rhaenyra. Otto is dumbfounded and shifts to sadness, asking if Aegon ever thinks of his father and the dignity he embodied. Aegon gives dignity the f-word. Otto could probably make peace, but he can’t resist hurting Aegon. “Your father was right about you,” he says. Aegon is confused: “He made me king.” Otto just chuckles and responds, “Is that what you think?”

As Otto moves to leave, Aegon says he wants a new Hand. “You wouldn’t dare,” Otto dares. But Aegon surprises both men both by telling Otto to remove his pin and hand it to Criston, someone he finds more worthy. Otto tosses the pin across the room at Criston’s feet. As Otto exits, Aegon spits, “You are dismissed.”

Rhaenyra visits Mysaria’s cell and says she’s willing to keep the word of her house and has arranged for safe travel by ship to Myr. Mysaria is genuinely surprised. Shortly after, Mysaria walks with a guard toward the sea and notices a man wearing armor and a metal helm walking toward the castle; she recognizes Erryk’s twin, Arryk. He doesn’t notice her, but she stops and looks back in alarm.

Arryk strides confidently to one of the castle entrances. “Ser Erryk,” one of two guards calls to him. He’s like, “Uh … yeah! That’s me! Definitely Ser Erryk with an E and not an A!” He takes to sneakiness quickly, wandering through the castle and keeping to the shadows when he hears Erryk close by. Arryk finds his way to Rhaenyra’s chamber as she’s going to bed, locking one door from the outside and relieving the guard at the other door. When he enters the room unannounced, Rhaenyra confuses him for Erryk but realizes something is wrong when he draws his sword, saying, “Believe me, I had no choice.” Warned by Mysaria, Ser Erryk is already entering the room yelling, “Brother!”

Arryk tries to dash for Rhaenyra, but Erryk is right there to counter. Rhaenyra sends a servant to get Ser Lorent as the brothers clash swords, but when Lorent arrives, he can’t tell them apart. Eventually, it’s Arryk who gets a sword through the torso; the two hug for a long time until Arryk falls and bleeds out. Erryk, woozy, stumbled toward Rhaenyra. “Your Grace,” he says, “forgive me.” Erryk quickly plants the sword’s hilt on the floor and shoves the blade into himself.

Back at the Red Keep, Otto still can’t believe Aegon’s chutzpah. He can’t stay; he says he’s going back to Oldtown where another son of Alicent’s, Daeron, may be able to help them. Alicent thinks he should go to Highgarden and get the Tyrells on their side while Aegon cools down. Otto, uncharacteristically optimistic, believes they can still bring peace if they work together. Alicent leaves and finds Aegon, who is fidgeting with the ring on his pinkie as he sobs. Rather than comfort him, Alicent leaves quietly.

She ends up in her room, where Criston is always just one bad idea away. They approach each other wordlessly and Alicent slaps him. Then she slaps him again. She shoves him. You know where this is going, right? Another shove, another slap, more shoves. Criston grabs her wrists and pushes her against a wall. They start sexing it up as the longest episode of the series (so far) concludes.

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