The second episode of House of the Dragon season two, Brothers in Arms, starts with the bokeh of flickering wall torches… in complete silence. We then see a maid with bloody clothes on one hand and the other literally red-handed. Sound of muffled screaming accompany castle residents being led down the stairs and into the courtyard by guards. We finally Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) adjusting his armor and slipping into the crowd.

The Aftermath

Sam C. Wilson (Blood), Phia Saban (Helaena Targaryen), Mark Stobbart (Cheese), House of the Dragon

Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) is smashing his father's model of Old Valyria. “I'll kill them! I'll kill them all! Traitors and villains!” punctuate each smash.

“Fire from the sky! This is war! I declare war! I declare war!” he screams before one of his guards belatedly remembers to close the door.

Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) strides into his room, crouches down and sees a coin.

Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) reassures Alicent,” The gates have been shut. The search progresses. The villain will be found. We mustn't be shaken by this. This act.” By this act, he means the gruesome murder of his grandchild.

Alicent (Olivia Cooke) faces away from her father, in tears. She starts, “The child — The child is dead. His pain is ended. But what they've done to… to my girl…”

She breaks. We're not sure if this is due to what Helaena must be going through or her own overwhelming guilt. Otto tries to comfort her by saying that “they” — he means the Blacks — will pay for this. However, she refuses his comfort and walks away.

“Who will pay?” Alicent asks.

“Whosever hand did this or caused it to be done,” Otto replies.

She's still trying to be coherent and mindful so she asks again, “And what if the hand that's done it is not who must be blamed? The gods punish us. They punish me.”

“For what sin?” her father asks, as if he — as Hand of the King — doesn't know the goings on in the Red Keep.

Otto Hightower's terrifying pragmatism

Terrifyingly pragmatic, he tells her, “Daughter, listen to me. We will mourn as we must, but some good may yet come of this.”

How callous do you have to be to use the word “good” when your grandchild has just been brutally murdered? And yet, the excellent Ifans answers this question as the Hightower patriarch.

During a hastily convened Small Council meeting, Aegon demands, “And where were the members of this council while the murderer threatened their king?”

What?! You were only threatened, your son and heir brutally murdered! Do these men have to reminded of what ACTUALLY happened?

Master of Coin, Ser Tyland Lanniester (Jefferson Hall) takes the words out of my mouth and asks, “Were you also threatened, Your Grace?”

YES! Exactly! Thank you for asking THAT question.

But he's unrepentant, “I could have been!”

I half expect Ser Tyland to do Hangover's Mr. Chow and say the Westerosi equivalent of “But did you die?”

But there's no time for that because Aegon is screaming, “My son is my legacy! My son is heir to the Iron Throne!”

And he asks the question I'm pretty sure Criston is dreading, “And where were you, the Lord Commander of my Kingsguard?”

Before he even finishes asking, the camera pans to Alicent.

“I was abed, Your Grace, having ordered the Night's Watch,” he replies with a straight face.

As Aegon repeats the word “abed” several times, anyone who's seen the first episode probably just wants to scream, “With whom?!” knowing the answer full well.

“Instead of safeguarding the sanctity of my family!” he yells again.

Aegon is screaming, but it feels so… performative to me. Where's the anguish? Why is this all anger and offense?

Otto tries to be the voice of reason, part of his job and all that, “This is not the time for blind accusations, Your Grace. We'll know who did this soon enough.”

The Green king — in more ways than one, scoffs, “Who did this? Who… what? Is there any question who did this? Who would do this save the bitch queen of bastards, the smug c**t of Dragonstone? There she sits across the bay, on her rock, laughing at me. She's f***ing laughing at me!”

He turns to Alicent, “You wished her life to be spared.”

Before he could continue Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) enters and says, “If I may, Your Grace? My Lords. The guard has detained someone. The man we apprehended is known to us. He's a gold cloak. Noted for his brutal nature. We caught him, fleeing the Gate of the Gods, with the child's head in a sack.”

A blustering Aegon tells the assembly, “I'll kill him myself.”

Ser Criston is useful this time, following Aegon and physically pushing him back, preventing him from leaving.

Otto reminds the king, “We'd do well to get what information we can from the blackguard. I trust in the mastery of your trade, Lord Larys.”

Master of Laws, Lord Jasper “Ironrod” Wylde (Paul Kennedy) adds, “A king may have more than one enemy, Your Grace. We would do well to ascertain if this is your sister's hand or if there is a serpent nestled closer to our bosoms.”

Otto agrees, “Lord Jasper is correct. In one sense, we must determine what happened and if we in the Keep are still in peril. In another sense, of course… it doesn't matter.”

A lightbulb — or a torch, in keeping with the time and world — lights up within Tyland, “You mean to blame Rhaenyra. Tell the realm she has done this.”

However, Aegon disagrees, “I'll have the realm told nothing. We were assaulted within our own walls. Within our own beds. I will not be seen as weak.”

In what might be one of the nails that will seal Otto's Hand coffin later, he reminds him, “You're already seen as weak, Aegon… A hasty coronation, a dragon escaping the pit. The people see an omen. They whisper in the streets. They say, perhaps Rhaenyra should be queen.”

Otto wants Rhaenyra named more than just a monster and slayer of infants. He wants a funeral procession and let the smallfolk see the child.

Alicent offers a feeble protest, but her father steamrolls over her.

Aegon, in a display of his grief, refuses, “No. I will not have my little son's body dragged through the streets like a dead dog.”

The Hand of the King wants to argue semantics at this time and says, “Not dragged! Honored! Escorted to the dragon pit to be burned as a Targaryen prince.”

To sway Aegon, he adds, “Let no one say I do not grieve.”

Too late, Otto. I've already said it.

“Jaehaerys was my grandson. I loved him. I will not have him die in vain. Those who declared for Rhaenyra will they still support her when they hear of her depravity? Or will they rather not renounce her? Jaehaerys will do more for us now than a thousand knights in battle,” he continues.

Okay, I understand the logic, but this is just foul.

“You will have your war, Your Grace. But if you wait a short time, you may yet double your strength,” Otto adds.

Aegon tries to get Alicent to see it his way, but she's on her father's corner, telling Aegon that Otto may just be right.

He gives the order to let the Silent Sisters ready the prince for his final journey.

But then he wants to add one more thing to the journey, “And riding behind him, his mother the Queen and with her, the Queen Dowager.”

Alicent refuses, saying she doesn't want to be a spectacle. But your daughter's fine with that?

I swear, it is a testament to Ifans' acting skill that he makes this sound both logical and hateful in equal measure: “The realm must see the sorrow of the crown, a sorrow best expressed through its most gentle souls.”

Wait, you think Alicent is ‘gentle'? Or did you just mean ‘female'? Note that he doesn't want Aegon to be a part of this.

A funeral procession worthy of one from the House of the Dragon?

Later, we see Helaena (Phia Saban) in her room, clutching a green garment.

Alicent tells her, “There's to be a funeral for Jaehaerys. We've been asked to ride on a wagon behind his body.”

Obviously, Helaena refuses. But her mother insists, “But when a thing like this happens, a blow to the king is a blow to the realm.”

She's saying this to the mother of the child that has just been murdered.

She continues, “It isn't just a blow to the king. It's a massive tragedy for her, knowing what transpired before Jaehaerys' murder. When the people share our grief, they draw closer to us.”

Helaena tries to make her point, “I don't want them closer. I don't know them.”

Alicent still insists that they have to pretend sometimes. As to why: “We are representatives of the throne. We have a duty.”

But there's one more pressing thing she wants to address — other than her daughter's state of mind and the fact that her child had just been murdered, “Helaena, what you saw last night when you came to my room —”

Helaena doesn't let her finish. She shoves the green garment to Alicent, “This is for my boy.”

Good for you, Helaena.

The non-interrogation of Blood

The procession starts with Alicent and Helaena in black veils, waiting for Jaehaerys to precede them. Intercut with Lord Larys doing what he does best with Blood in the dungeon. He uncovers his tools, and that's all Blood needed.

“I was hired by Daemon Targaryen. He paid us. Half now, half when the job is done,” he readily confesses.

He knew the other man was a ratcatcher, but never got his name.

We go back to the procession where a herald makes sure to follow Otto's instructions and yells, “Behold the works of Rhaenyra Targaryen!”

We then see a shot of Jaehaerys, with his head sewn to his body.

The priest continues, “Pretender to the throne! Kingslayer! Defiler of the innocent! Behold the works of Rhaenyra the Cruel!

Back at the dungeon, Aegon enters the cell with a mace and swings at Blood, who looks resigned to his fate.

As the procession is underway, Jaehaerys' wagon gets stuck in a pothole. Helaena gets more and more anxious. The crowd presses in trying to get to the Queen. Now the the prince's wagon is rocking.

At Dragonstone, Maester Gerardys (Phil Daniels) reports to Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy), “It is yet unclear how the Keep itself was breached. The boy's head was severed from his body. Thousands witnessed the procession.”

They discuss how she has been accused of the young prince's murder as well as messages sent to the realm repeating this. Rhaenyra wants to counteract this with messages of their own, but Gerardys isn't hopeful that it would turn the tide to their favor. However, the Black queen is still pragmatic, ordering more guards where they are and at Driftmark.

Jacaerys (Harry Collett) volunteers to fly out on Vermax. He points out that Rhaenys (Eve Best) is needed in the Gullet so it's up to him to watch for movement from King's Landing. His mother meets that with a swift rejection, most likely wanting to keep him close.

Even as Rhaenyra keeps refuting that she had no hand in Jaehaerys' murder, Daemon (Matt Smith) just sits there, poker-faced. The queen tells her council that she never would have done what she is being accused of, as a mother who has just lost her own son, especially to Helaena of all people.

Rhaenys looks directly at Daemon… and their eyes meet. She knows he knows that she knows.

One of the Targaryen guards, Ser Alfred Broome (Jamie Kenna), is either trying to play devil's advocate or doesn't believe Rhaenyra because he tries to give her an out of sorts, “The death of Prince Lucerys was a shock and an insult. A mother so aggrieved might naturally seek relief in retribution.”

She doesn't take this sitting down, literally and responds, “Are you suggesting, Ser Alfred, that my grief drove me to order the decapitation of a child?”

He's not backing down, though, just presses on, “I merely thought, perhaps, an action taken in haste…”

Rhaenys has had enough and tells him, “Mind yourself.”

It's an unfair comparison, but the Greens' initial reaction understandably lacked restraint. The Blacks, on the other hand, need as much restraint as they can muster as they are operating on the defensive.

House of the Dragon infighting: Rhaenyra vs. Daemon

A scene of HBO Max's House of the Dragon Season 2.

Rhaenyra looks at Daemon with ease at first, but slowly realizes that he might have been responsible for this.

In their room, she asks him point blank, “Did you send assassins to murder children in their beds?”

“I sent the queen's vengeance for her son,” he replies, skirting the question.

But she's not about to let him weave and bob his way out of this, “What did you tell this ‘vengeance'? What did you say to him, Daemon? That a boy lies dead and I am accused of killing it?”

There's really no way out of this but an explanation, so he relents, “Mysaria provided me with names and a subterfuge. I was clear in my instructions: Aemond, the brother of Aegon the Usurper. I cannot be responsible for a mistake.”

Rhaenyra is aghast, “Cannot be responsible? If Aemond was not to be found, what were your instructions then?”

He tries to hedge, “They did not concern, in any way, that of a little child.”

But his wife has a steel trap memory, “You said that it was your aim to spill Hightower blood and if not Aemond then anyone would do.”

Their argument escalates until it comes down to the one thing neither one of them has ever really addressed when Rhaenyra tells him, “And so we come to it, at long last. I cannot trust you, Daemon. I've never trusted you, wholly, much though I wished to, willed myself to. But now I have seen that your heart belongs only to you. And when I was a child, I took this as a challenge. But I am older now. I have challenges enough.”

Daemon defends himself, but Rhaenyra may have been holding on to this for so long because she confronts him whether all this time he's just been using her “to grasp at your stolen inheritance.”

Daemon initially reaches for Rhaenyra's neck, echoing what he did in season one. I believe he realizes how this act would support Rhaenyra's literal accusation of his grasping so he instead holds her face.

He reminds her that he was the one who placed the crown Ser Erryk brought from the Red Keep on her head. However, she has her own thing to remind him of: that before that, he led a war council, leaving her alone in labor. And afterwards, when she thought about considering the terms from the Greens, he cuts her off, calling the move a folly, giving up his brother's throne “to the traitorous lies of Otto Hightower!”

“My throne, Daemon, mine! I think you used my words as an excuse to take your own revenge, to indulge the darkness you keep sheathed within you like a blade,” she counters.

He asks her if she thinks he's a monster. She says she's not sure what he is or who or what he serves. Then she asks the question, “Do you accept me as your queen and ruler? Or do you cling, even now, to what you think you lost?”

As Rhaenyra earlier said, this argument has been a long time coming. Her trust issues with Daemon have roots in his own relationship with his brother, her father. The other issue at hand is how they perceive the same man differently. Obviously, Rhaenyra sees her father as someone Daemon abandoned in his search for his own glory. Daemon sees his brother as someone afraid of being in his shadow.

I think the truth lies in between. But that's not the point right now. Right now, Rhaenyra has to deal with what Daemon agrees was a mistake. Whether or not he thinks it was his is another matter. They don't resolve their quarrel and Daemon ends up walking out, seeing his daughter Baela (Bethany Antonia) who's on her way in, summoned by the queen.

When Baela enters Rhaenyra's chambers, she sees the remains of the cups Daemon threw.

Rhaenyra sees this as well, but doesn't address it. She has more pressing matters and tells her stepdaughter, “When morning comes, take Moondancer and keep a watch on King's Landing. I must know which course they take next.”

“I will be vigilant,” Baela promises.

Finally, dragons! Or one for now. It's Caraxes and Daemon in armor flying out of Dragonstone.

Back at the Red Keep, Alicent remains rooted in her priorities, whether or not Criston told anyone. He, on the other hand, tries to find absolution through ordering other people in what seems to be a suicide mission. He challenges Ser Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) to prove his loyalty to Team Green by posing as his identical twin brother Ser Erryk (Elliott Tittensor) who's allied to the Blacks and slay Rhaenyra within her own walls.

A Jace and Baela scene, yey!

She tells her stepbrother and betrothed, “Sometimes I think I hate him,” referring to Daemon.

“It's hard, with fathers,” Jacaerys commiserates.

They speak about her uncle, Jace's acknowledged father, Ser Laenor Velaryon. He remembers him teaching him and his brothers how to catch fish and sailors' shanties. He also recalls his fondness for cake.

And as for his unacknowledged father, Ser Harwin Strong?

Jace remembers him as being gentle and fierce. He tells Baela, “He loved us, I think.”

She reassures him that he did, and he tells her he misses Luke. Sometimes I wish I hadn't read the book because as much as I like seeing them together, I know SPOILER ALERT it's not just meant to be.

Aemond finally reappears in a brothel. He tells the older woman in whose arms he lays that Daemon had sent Blood and Cheese to kill him. He and Alicent really have their priorities skewed as he tells her that he's proud his uncle considers him that much of a foe that he would hire someone to murder him in his bed. Because he fears him. Um, no. it was a mistake.

Speaking of mistakes, Aemond also said his temper got the better of him the day Luke died and that he's sorry for it. Whether he's sorry for Luke's death or for losing his temper is up for debate.

In Driftmark, we finally meet Alyn's (Abubakar Salim) brother Addam of Hull (Clinton Liberty).

We also see the only time Corlys (Steve Toussaint) on screen, speaking with his wife Rhaenys about Daemon's departure.

“Devotion has never sat well with him,” she replies. “Where he goes, he wishes to be his own master.”

I believe Corlys has more empathy for Daemon because of what he believes are their rightful places taken from them: Daemon as Viserys heir and he should have been consort if Rhaenys had been crowned queen.

On Dragonnstone, Rhaenyra has Mysaria brought in the library where she questions her about her involvement in Prince Jaehaerys' death. She corroborates what Daemon had said, that she only gave him names and that while she “took profits from an inevitability,” she regrets them now. The conversation ends at an impasse.

Later, Addam sees a pale dragon flying over the shore where he is. It could be Seasmoke, Laenor Velaryon's dragon, who has remained riderless since his “death,” foreshadowing Addam — as a “dragonseed” claiming the dragon in the future.

At the Red Keep, Aegon has ordered that all ratcatchers be hanged. We see the dog (good, he survived) standing before the body of his master Cheese. The guards had punished him, but most likely not knowing he was the one they were looking for.

Otto bursts in Aegon's room, looking out the window with Ser Criston. He harangues the king and is reminded to hold his tongue. However, Otto has his own reminder to him, “The king is my grandson and my grandson is a fool! He's worse than a fool! He's murdered innocent men!”

In the same breath, he says, “With your child's blood, we bought their approval.” This is one of the coldest lines Otto has ever spoken, and that's saying something.

“With your mother's tears, we made a bitter sacrifice against the depravations to come. And you've thrown it away,” he continued. He calls Aegon “thoughtless, feckless, self-indulgent,” describing Aegon to a T and more.

Otto then finds out that Criston sent Ser Arryk to Dragonstone to impersonate his twin brother to slay Rhaenyra, which the Hand calls a prank, “ill-considered” and “trifling.”

He tries to remind Aegon about his father's attributes, of his dignity. But the king isn't having any of that.

“F**k dignity! I want revenge!” he tells Otto.

The Hand closes his eyes, as if regretting Aegon's very existence.

He tells Aegon, “He was right about you,” referring to Viserys.

“He made me king,” Aegon counters.

Otto laughs and asks, “Is that what you think?”

That's the last straw for Aegon, who has been chafing at the bit. He makes his move and tells Otto to remove his badge.

“You were my father's hand. Not mine,” he tells his grandfather.

Aegon tells Otto to give the badge to Cole instead. The now former Hand doesn't exactly give it to him as much as he throws it on the floor. I can't quite be sure which is worse: nepotism or incompetence. Nepotistic incompetence, maybe. Criston is a good soldier, but a leader he isn't. But I think Otto had the last laugh because even as he's dismissed, he still instilled that seed of doubt in Aegon's legitimacy.

Ser Arryk, Ser Erryk: We hardly knew you. We certainly couldn't tell you apart.

Back in Dragonstone, Rhaenyra frees Mysaria and asks Ser Erryk to escort her to one of the Velaryon ships. On their way there, Mysaria sees someone who looks exactly like her escort and calls for Ser Erryk to stop.

We see Ser Arryk entering Dragonstone. The suspense kills me since I can't actually tell which one is which. Remember, they're identical twins and they're dressed identically as well. Arryk finds himself inside Rhaenyra's room, but Erryk gets there in time as well. The twins confront each other and fight with their swords. Ser Erryk prevails in the end, but his guilt in killing his own twin overwhelms him and he literally falls on his own sword after asking for Rhaenyra's forgiveness.

At the Red Keep, Otto tells Alicent that he will return to Old Town now that he's no longer Hand of the King. Alicent asks him to go to High Garden instead. She also confesses, again, but Otto tells her that he doesn't want to hear it. It's not like he doesn't know. He has to. He has just chosen to ignore it so long as Alicent still heels. But maybe not for long.

After Alicent leaves her father, she comes across Aegon crying. She stands there, conflict written all over her face. Is it her guilt that prevents her from comforting him? We're not sure, but she leaves any way, without Aegon knowing she was there to begin with.

When she returns to her room, she sees Ser Criston is in her bed. She goes to him and slaps him three times. We get a little more clarity in their dynamic. Before, she was queen and he the lowly commander of the Kingsguard. Now, he's Hand of the King and she the queen dowager.

How quickly these two forget their ideas of guilt and absolution.