This review is based on episodes 1 to 4 of House of the Dragon season 2.


All of the groundwork has been set, relationships have been built and shattered, and a dynasty is at stake – it's finally time for House of the Dragon season 2.

We return to House Targaryen as civil war has become an inevitability. Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault), the son of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy), is dead at the hands of Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), the son of Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). Regardless of whether or not it was intentional, it was the move that would begin the Dance of Dragons, a war that could rip an entire house apart.

Rather than rush straight into the fiery clashes to come, the new episodes take the time to deal with the aftermath of Lucerys's death and we find both sides plotting for the inevitable war. Rhaenyra is broken, as she simultaneously has to deal with a mother's grief and a queen's duties, desperately searching for tangible proof that her son is dead. Elsewhere, Daemon (Matt Smith) has his mind set on revenge.

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2
Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Following the death of Lucerys at her son's hand, we find a less sure Alicent, but one who's resigned herself to what's to come, and who's clamouring to keep both sons within her reach. But when one is a naive, self-centred Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) placed on the throne and the other is, well Aemond Targaryen, it's all she can do to stop them actually destroying the realm. She's dependent on her calculating father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) – but can the pair of them agree? And just how long can they keep control of the fiery pair of brothers?

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After dealing with the aftermath of Lucerys's death, we see both sides spring into action, providing plenty of the jaw-dropping shocks we've come to expect from a Game of Thrones series. There's only so much we can say but a particular sequence at the end of episode 2 will have everyone holding their breath.

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2
Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2. HBO

Westeros feels bigger in House of the Dragon season 2. We encounter a bigger cast of players and see more of what civil war will mean for the ordinary citizen – but the focus is still sharply on the Greens and Blacks and, crucially, on the women of the show. There's no doubting that the entire cast are stellar but D'Arcy and Cooke remain in a league of their own. We see both Rhaenyra and Alicent more vulnerable than ever before, reeling from the violence that's already happened yet resigned to the brutality that must surely be ahead.

Smith is just as ruthless as Daemon and, while his scenes with D'Arcy are limited, they're mesmerising when they happen. The pair have a unique chemistry and, while we're not expecting it to dominate as much as it did in season 1, purely due to the storylines coming our way, it's a treat seeing them back on screen together after so long.

But there's also more of a focus on the next generation of the Targaryen dynasty – and it pays off in a big way so far. Glynn-Carney comes into his own as Aegon after being crowned king at the end of season 1. The first half of the season sees his internal battle with becoming king – and the price that inevitably accompanies the crown. Meanwhile, Phia Saban thankfully gets more shining moments as Helaena Targaryen, with chilling and beautiful parallels made between Alicent's daughter and Rhaenyra.

Compared to season 1, the opening to season 2 intentionally feels much slower. Instead of paving the way for what's to come, we're very much settled in the here and now, with focus on the intricacies of each storyline. Where season 1 had to race ahead with time jumps and casting changes, season 2 so far very much takes its time. While some might find the season opener a little too slow, seeing the detail in these moments is essential, adding depth to each and every character. Visually, it's beautiful – these are episodes you'll want to revisit over and over because you'll notice something new with every watch.

The first half of season 2 is masterfully handled, taking the time to reacquaint us with not only the key players, but those who will have greater importance going forward. It's slower-paced but never dull, action-packed yet in-depth, and violent yet beautiful.

Fans of the books won't be disappointed, with key moments coming in each of the episodes. Much like the season 1 finale, some moments have crucial changes that are bound to spark debate. One of them in particular is handled masterfully, shining a spotlight on key players of the supporting cast and giving them a moment for the ages. Another faces up to quite a big change from the book – but it feels as though that change could have paved the way for bigger consequences than it otherwise might have had.

As we go into the second half of season 2, we're faced with the devastating impact that this irreversible fracture in House Targaryen has already had, not just on the key players, but everyone across the realm. Much like Rhaenyra and Alicent, we must prepare ourselves for the violence to come. One thing's for certain – it's only just begun.

House of the Dragon season two will air 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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