Warning: Full spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 and some spoilers for Fire and Blood ahead.


It's time to fight fire with fire, as House of the Dragon season 2 has finally arrived!

Episode 1, A Son for a Son, did not disappoint, with showrunner Ryan Condal adapting Blood and Cheese, one of George RR Martin's most brutal storylines from his beloved novel Fire and Blood.

While not quite on the same level as Game of Thrones' infamous Red Wedding episode (with Condal admitting nothing can top that), episode 1 saw brutal heartbreak for both the Greens and Blacks, most prominently for Phia Saban's Queen Helaena Targaryen following the murder of her son Jaehaerys, and Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) in the aftermath of her son Lucerys's death at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell).

In true Thrones fashion, there's murder, there's betrayal and, of course, there's a whole lot of dragons. Buckle in as we break down the first episode with some help from the cast.

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House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1 full recap and cast breakdown

Winter is Coming

The first episode begins with a visit to Winterfell, with Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor), AKA the Wolf of the North, telling Prince Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) about a custom introduced by Torrhen Stark - fortifying the watch with one in 10 men from House Stark.

Jacaerys reminds Cregan of his oath to Queen Rhaenyra, the rightful heir of King Viserys, and insists he needs men to help in the upcoming war against the Greens.

Cregan says that the Starks never forget their oaths - but during the winter, his duty to the Wall surpasses his duty to King's Landing, and he claims that he needs his men. Why? To protect the North from whatever lies beyond the wall.

While Jacaerys assumes he means wildlings, we and Cregan know better - that something else lies beyond the Wall.

Game of Thrones fans know about this threat that will come to haunt Westeros in the centuries to come. But why mention it now?

Showrunner Ryan Condal tells RadioTimes.com: "Those scenes are a way of reminding people that there is this bigger beyond us power that's looming over this series, and that people are aware of it and worried about it but it's a prophecy that nobody knows when it's going to be fulfilled.

Harry Collett as Jacaerys Velaryon and Tom Taylor as Lord Cregan in House of the Dragon season 2 walking along the wall in the snow
Harry Collett as Jacaerys Velaryon and Tom Taylor as Lord Cregan in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

"Of course, we having the knowledge of having seen the original series know that it doesn't land and affect these characters, but we understand that it's also driving them and it's in the back of their minds."

For now, Cregan and Jacaerys look uneasily over the Wall. Cregan offers some of his older fighters, who have seen too many battles. But before they can speak further, a raven arrives from Dragonstone with "urgent news" - bearing the news of the death of Jacaerys's brother Lucerys at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Mitchell).

Jacaerys actor Collett tells RadioTimes.com of that revelation: "At the start of the season, obviously he doesn't know, which I think makes it a lot more heartbreaking. We don't know what it said on that note to Cregan, but what I would imagine is it just sort of says what happened.

"I always pictured it that Jace would find out from his mother, but I think Rhaenyra wouldn't even want to break the news to Jace. I think that he would have [found out] in Winterfell and sat on his dragon for days and cried about it, which is really sad because he's done it all alone."

A "shattered" Dragonstone

Back at Dragonstone, Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) has just arrived home - only to be ordered by Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) to take her mount again and fly back out to kill Vhagar and Aemond to avenge Lucerys. A noble quest, but can our woman not get a break?!

As Rhaenys actress Best tells RadioTimes.com: "She's shattered, really deeply shattered about Luke and all of it. She's digging very deep, because like all great people, women, mothers, carers, because while everybody else is melting down, she's holding them all emotionally and holding herself emotionally... she's basically been doing all the work.

"She's coming back, she's absolutely exhausted, she hasn't had a bath, she's been riding round on this dragon, not crying and just dealing with it and getting on, she comes back to this group of total half-wits who are all in pieces."

Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen in armour for House of the Dragon season 2 standing in red and black armour
Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Rhaenys asks Daemon if it's the queen's command, and he reveals that Rhaenyra has been missing for days. Rhaenys and Daemon share a war of words in which he blames her for Lucerys's death, as she didn't kill Aemond "when she had the chance". However, the princess has the final say when she declares: "Would that you were king."

Breaking down that scene, Best tells RadioTimes.com that it surprised her: "The scene with Daemon in episode 1, when we did it at the read-through, it felt like it would be just a kind of Top Trumps, 'Who's got the most power?' kind of power play scene.

"Then just digging a bit deeper and coming to do it as well with Matt, what came out of it was an awful lot of compassion that Rhaenys felt for Daemon, which was very surprising, because I feel like she's always kept him at arm's length and profoundly distrusted him as a character.

"But actually, [she discovered] in that scene a lot of empathy for him, a lot of understanding and... in this scene she suddenly sees him as this hopeless little lost boy."

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in a long platinum wig in House of the Dragon.
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon. HBO

Finally, we catch a brief glimpse of Rhaenyra staring out at the sea across Storm's End. As Rhaenys said to Daemon, she's only received a raven informing her of Lucerys's death, and needs proof that her son is dead.

But first, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) needs to tend to his broken ship. As a reminder, Corlys was gravely injured warring in the Stepstones last season, and was dragged from the sea by a new character this season, Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim), who may have greater significance later on in the run. Corlys says he owes Alyn a great debt.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Corlys actor Toussaint says: "Corlys is still recovering from the injury he got in [season 1], I still walk with a stick, and his ship is in disrepair. So [he's] wanting to hurry to get that fixed so he can get back out there and lead his men in this oncoming war, and also having to deal with certain dark clouds on the horizon due to past misdeeds."

A chaotic King's Landing

At King's Landing, weapons are being readied as a dragon approaches. We see Ser Arryk Cargyll, one half of a set of divided twins who formed part of the Kingsguard in season 1, standing down as they realise it's Vhagar, Aemond's dragon.

Inside, Queen Helaena Targaryen is minding her own business with her children and servants before being bothered by her brother-husband (yep, don't forget about the incest of it all), King Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney). He takes his young son Jaehaerys to the small council to begin his instruction as, according to Aegon, he'll become king one day.

Aegon actor Glynn-Carney tells RadioTimes.com: "He's trying to take [being placed on the throne] in his stride as best he can or just for appearances, at least for now. I think he's decided that he’s in this position now and he can either embrace it or reject it, and it's a more fun option for him at this point to embrace it."

Tom Glynn-Carney as King Aegon II Targaryen sat in a throne for House of the Dragon season 2 sitting in an elaborate chair with a gold chain
Tom Glynn-Carney as King Aegon II Targaryen sat in a throne for House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

With a great big heap of foreshadowing, Helaena tells Aegon she's afraid - not of the dragons, but the rats. While Aegon seems puzzled, it's soon revealed she was very, very right to be afraid of the rats. More on that later!

Meanwhile, Queen Dowager Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is seemingly having a grand old time, as she's struck up a relationship with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Surely this can only go well. Alicent tells Criston that they can't continue their relationship, and he has her place his white cloak (you know the one, signifying the purity of the Kingsguard) back on.

At the small council, Alicent, her father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who is still Hand of the King, and Aegon's advisors plot to gather as many troops as possible before the inevitable war. Alicent reveals she's written to Rhaenyra with terms, but that her letters have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, young Jaehaerys is causing chaos with Ser Tyland Lannister.

Aemond arrives Aegon's summons, despite not having a seat at the Small Council. He says the Greens need to establish a toe hold in the Riverlands. While Alicent urges caution, Aegon is ready to throw that caution to the wind and send Vhagar to Riverun to threaten Lord Tully. Alicent argues that Vhagar is needed at King's Landing to deter Rhaenyra from attacking after the death of her son, and Otto agrees.

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2 in a black outfit looking shady
Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

After the Small Council, Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) corners Alicent and tells her that her staff have been questioned, and that he's exposed any who betrayed her trust. He says that the ones who have "no longer breathe our air", presumably referring to Alicent's shady lady-in-waiting Talya, who had been part of Mysaria's network of spies in the Red Keep. He says he's chosen her new staff personally.

Needham tells RadioTimes.com: "What me and Olivia [Cooke] discovered was that, with Larys and Alicent, none of the things that they say to each other are what they actually mean. It's all about what's actually happening underneath the line or in the silences.

"So that's really, really fun to play. And it was just fleshing that out with the writers and directors and really trying to be as detailed as possible, because it's all subtext, really. And Olivia is just great. I mean, it's such an odd power dynamic between those two, you're never quite sure who's in control. It's really fun to play those really messed up scenes together."

Still looking for tangible proof of Lucerys's death, Rhaenyra flies to the beaches of Storm's End. She sees his shredded clothes and breaks down in tears, finally accepting that her son is gone.

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 standing looking out over the sea
Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Aegon, now "The Magnanimous", apparently, is getting to work in his duties as king, with the petitions. It's disastrous, with Aegon making promises he can't keep and Otto Hightower attempting to keep him in order. Afterwards, Larys corners him and gives him some advice, subtly suggesting he remove Otto as his Hand if he wants to be seen as less "pliable" than his father.

Meanwhile, Otto and Alicent have a discussion. She tells him that he can't undermine her in the Small Council meetings, otherwise her words will fall on deaf ears. They discuss whether they're fully aligned in what they see as victory, and decide they are - but Alicent urges her father to work with her, not against her. Alicent makes it clear that she knows violence is ahead, but she doesn't want it to be any more cruel than it needs to be.

Elsewhere, Ser Erryk (the second of the divided twins) finds Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) stowed away and brings her to Daemon. He interrogates her after she provided information to Otto Hightower, and she insists it was purely for profit and that she has no loyalty to the Hightowers.

Daemon orders for her to be sent to the cells. Ser Erryk defends her claim, but Daemon confronts him about his "traitorous" twin Ser Arryk. Ser Erryk reminds Daemon that he abandoned the Kingsguard and his brother.

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria in House of the Dragon season 2 standing in a shadowy spot
Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Bringing the conversation to an abrupt end is the roar of a dragon, signalling the return of Queen Rhaenyra. Approaching her Small Council, she's bombarded with information - Daemon is ready to secure a toe hold in the Riverlands and Corlys is securing a blockade, meaning that all trade to King's Landing will be cut off. But a grieving Rhaenyra only tells them one command in return: "I want Aemond Targaryen."

Later, Jacaerys is reunited with Rhaenyra. He begins to tell her about the men that have been pledged to her army but breaks down and the pair hug, sharing in their grief.

At King's Landing, Alicent lights a candle for those she's lost, including her late husband, King Vicerys. After a moment's pause, she shakily lights one for Lucerys, proving again that she still holds love for Rhaenyra and her family. Rhaenyra, Jacaerys and their family hold a funeral for Lucerys.

Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 sitting in a black outfit with an eyepatch
Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Elsewhere, Aemond and Criston are plotting. He claims Aegon is "hostage" to Otto and Alicent, who say that a war of dragons is inevitable. He makes it clear that he doesn't believe the war is his fault, and says that Alicent "holding love" for her enemy, AKA Rhaenyra, makes her a fool.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com, actor Mitchell says that Aemond still believes his brother is "inferior".

However, he adds: "Aemond is the second son, he’s the spare, and it’s the duty of the spare to fight the war. So he's very much at his brother's command. That's one of the redeeming qualities about Aemond is that he is fiercely loyal. He will have his mother's back, he will have his brother’s back. I think Aemond knows that war is inevitable, and he will make sure that he’ll emerge the war hero."

Otto arrives and scolds Aemond, telling him to keep a grip on his impulses where Aegon can't.

Blood and Cheese

Daemon, meanwhile, has other business to attend to. He arrives at Mysaria's cell and offers her freedom in return for a contact - a spy who has knowledge of the Red Keep. He finds the assassin Blood (Sam C Wilson) and the pair of them approach Cheese (Mark Stobbart), a rat-catcher with a unique knowledge of the Red Keep.

Daemon pays the two of them to kill Aemond Targaryen. When asked what they should do if they can't find him, we don't see what Daemon replies - but we soon find out.

Blood and Cheese arrive in the Red Keep, using underground tunnels. Acting as rat catchers, they easily sneak past Aegon and finally make it into royal chambers. Aemond is nowhere to be found - but Cheese discovers Helaena with her twin children, Jaehaerys and Jaehaerya.

Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 sitting in a green robe looking angry
Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Unable to tell them apart, Blood orders her to point to whichever one is the boy, and it quickly becomes clear that Daemon has ordered "a son for a son". After pleading with them for her children's lives, Helaena makes her decision and points to one of her children. Blood and Cheese don't hesitate, cutting off the child's head to ensure they're paid.

A traumatised Helaena runs with her other child in her arms into her mother's bedroom (where she also finds Criston Cole). As Alicent asks what's happened, we discover that Helaena was telling the truth and that Aegon's only heir has been killed.

This is a slightly different turn of events to the book. In the book, Aegon and Helaena have a second son, the younger Maelor. Blood and Cheese force her to decide which son to kill and she chooses the younger boy. They instead kill the older, Jaehaerys, taunting Maelor that his mother wanted him dead.

Speaking about why this was changed, Condal told RadioTimes.com it's simply down to logistics - due to the amount of time covered in season 1 (20 years rather than 30), Aegon's children are younger and Maelor hasn't been born yet.

Meanwhile, chatting about what it meant to perform that notorious scene, Helaena actress Saban added: "I was trying to keep from overthinking it from an acting perspective, and working with them, Sam and Mark, who play Blood and Cheese, they're so good. They both brought such different energies, but they were, like, intimidating - not as real people… they're just brilliant, and just sort of staying present with them and seeing what happened.

"Helaena essentially kind of bought the of social agreement that she would do what was necessary for the royal family and return to sort of relatively being left alone. And that she'd be safe in her marriage to her brother, or that she'd be left to her own devices in return for like heirs.

"I think in this season, she's really realising that it's not true, and it's not a fair bargain. And she's slightly coming into her own and realising that maybe she's not willing to sacrifice what she has to sacrifice for this family of absolute wrong ‘uns!"

As for how the Greens will hit back, only time will tell...

House of the Dragon season 2 airs on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK from 17th June – find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV.


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