The long-awaited premiere of House of the Dragon's second season is here. The first episode bears the title of an order, “A Son for a Son.”

The introduction, for which Game of Thrones set the bar, has changed into a tapestry being embroidered.

Season one opens in the forest with sparsely leafed trees and a raven flying across the landscape. We hear a voice saying, “Duty is sacrifice,” echoing Alicent Hightower's (Olivia Cooke) words in the first season.

“It eclipses all things, even blood. All men of honor must pay its price,” the voice continued. This is Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor), the Lord of Winterfell. It has echoes of Sean Bean's (who played Ned Stark in Game of Thrones) accent in his voice. It might be because I believe that's the Stark fortress and the Wall coming into view.

“The North owes a great duty to the Seven Kingdoms. One older than any oath,” Lord Stark adds.

The Starks are gathered together outside. Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) is among them, watching.

The North remembers

Jon Snow on Game of Thrones.

“Since the days of the First Men, we have stood as guardians against the cold and the dark,” he starts again.

We see the men passing around a bag with stones in them. One pulls out a white stone before passing it to the next person.

“Through its long tradition, the Night's Watch cultivated its strength from doomed men who had their life as their only possession. But my ancestor, Torrhen Stark,” he explains as a man draws a black rock from the pouch.

“Began a traditional by making an offering at the onset of winter, one in 10 men from our household was to be chosen to fortify the Watch,” Cregan states and then the Starks begin a procession with only two torches to guide the way.

“This is not a sentence but an honor. A duty embraced by all who serve the North. Even by mine own kin,” he adds.

We see our first glimpse of what the Wall looked like a century before we saw it in Game of Thrones.

“The North must stand ready,” Lord Stark intones and we hear the House Stark motto: “Winter is coming.”

Cregan and Jace are inside the wooden elevator that will take them up the Wall. Fans have been waiting for a long time for this duo. Taylor looks only a few years younger than Collett so the canon close friendship should work.

“Coming? What is this then that falls from the skies and shivers my bones?” Jace asks Cregan.

“This is only a late summer snow, my prince. In winter it will cover all you see and all memories of warmth will be forgotten,” he replies.

“It pleases me to think that over a century ago our ancestors treated in this very place. The Conqueror and the King in the North,” the Velaryon-Targaryen prince says to his bannerman.

“You, at least, had the mercy not to threaten me with your dragon,” Cregan says to him, not in jest, but in all seriousness.

It's a stark (pardon the pun) reminder to Jace that his pride in his ancestors isn't shared by those who aren't of Targaryen blood. That no matter how loyal the Starks are to the Targaryens, if he starts going down memory lane, it wasn't a friendly treaty that demanded. They became Wardens of the North through Torrhen's sacrifice as he bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror, surrending his crown as King of the North, in order to spare his people from dragonfire.

While Jace may have initially looked chastised, he tries to rally and counters with, “Surely the great Torrhen Stark would've sooner died than bend the knee. Unless he believed the Conqueror could bring unity to the Seven Kingdoms.”

Cregan concedes that point, “You are right in that.”

“That unity is now threatened. The realm will soon tear itself apart if men do not remember the oath sworn to King Viserys and to his rightful heir,” Jace begins his spiel. This is something he's given before, and he seems comfortable saying it now.

“Starks do not forget their oaths, my prince. But you must know that my gaze is forever torn between north and south. In winter, my duty to the wall is even more dire than the one I owe to King's Landing. I need my men here,” Cregan reminds him that while he does know his duties, he has more than one.

“Whilst your men guard against wildlings and weather the Hightowers plan to usurp the throne. If my mother is to defend her claim to hold the realm united she needs an army. War is coming to the whole of the realm, my lord. We cannot wage it without the support of the North,” Jace tells him.

“My father brought King Jaehaerys and Queen Alysanne to see the Wall. His Grace stood at this very outlook and watched as their dragons, the greatest power in the world, refused to cross it. Do you think my ancestors built a 700-foot wall of ice to keep out snow and savages?” Lord Stark is trying to get Jace to understand that while he's not trying to shirk his duty to the royal family, there is a bigger danger to the realm than warring houses.

“What does it keep out?” Jace asked.

“Death,” Cregan responds.

But he isn't saying “no,” to the prince's demand. He has a plan, “I have thousands of graybeards who've already seen too many winters. They are well-honed. I can ready them to march at once.” His graybeards may be old, but they are seasoned fighters.

Jace acknowledges this, “If your graybeards can fight, the queen will have them.”

Their conversation is interrupted when a raven arrives with an urgent message from Dragonstone. Jace is about to get his entire world frozen as he stands on the Wall.

The only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself

House of the Dragon Season 2: What is it about?


Back on Dragonstone, we see a lone dragon flying towards the castle. It's Meleys and her rider Rhaenys (Eve Best) returning. Just as she dismounts, Daemon (Matt Smith) arrives and tells her that they're flying out.

“I alone patrol over a hundred miles of open sea endlessly, to hold the blockade. Meleys must gorge and rest, as must as I,” she tells him.

He stops her with a hand on her shoulder and tells her, “We're going to King's Landing.”

“To what end?” I echo Rhaenys' question, only I said, “Why?”

“Killing Vhagar. I cannot face that hoary old bitch alone,” Daemond responds.

As arrogant as Daemon is, he's also a soldier. He understand when he's outdragonned, “With my dragon and yours together, we can kill Vhagar and her rider. Make it a son for a son.”

“Was this the queen's command?” Rhaenys asks, I think, knowing full well it's the only way she can refuse Daemon.

“The queen remains absent. I should be at Harrenhal bending knees but I must instead remain here to wage her war,” he said, bristling at what he believes is his confinement.

“Or perhaps, more simply, to await her return,” his cousin replies, trying to be the voice of reason.

“She has been gone for days. Too long. She is exposed,” Daemon says.

The royal cousins discuss the actions Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) has taken since receiving word of Luke's death. Rhaenys defends her, that she's grieving. However, Daemon counters that while she has that right as a mother, as queen she is shirking her duties.

It seems Rhaenys couldn't take this accusation anymore and explains the complexities of a mother's grief to Daemon: “It was a raven that brought me news of Laena's death. I existed for weeks in torment, refusing to believe that I'd been told. It was only when I saw my daughter's mortal remains that I could begin to mourn her. A raven has told Rhaenyra that her son is dead. She needs to know it for certain.”

And then we see that exchange in the trailer:

Daemon: She was a fool to go alone. What if Aemond were to happen upon her?

Rhaenys: Then I would pity Aemond.

But she also reminds him of something Rhaenyra, in the middle of her grief has done right, “The queen was wise to recuse herself. She has not acted on the vengeful impulse that others might have.”

However, Daemon has a logical response to that, “If you'd have acted when you had the chance, Aegon's line would be extinguished. And Luke would be alive.”

I think he knows he can't force her, but he still has one card to play: “Fly with me. It is a command.”

But Daemon isn't the only one who knows how to play, and play well, “Would that you were the king.”


The House of the Dragon's grieving mother and queen

Rhaenyra stands alone on the rocks, with Syrax below her, as she watches Dragonstone. Her eyes are red from weeping, still unable to find any trace of Luke or (dragon's) body.

Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) walks on a cane towards one of his ships. We meet Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim). He hands him a short sword, which Corlys says is something he had the smithy commissioned for Prince Lucerys.

In King's Landing, we see the greens, in actual green cloaks. Ser Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) watches as a dragon approaches from the southeast. It's Vhagar returning.

Helaenea (Phia Saban) is embroidering as Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) arrives to look for Jaehaerys. She has one of her premonitions when she tells Aegon that she's afraid. Not of the dragons, but of the rats. He and her maids look around, finding none.

“The queen is an enduring mystery, is she not?” he says in dismissal.

We see Alicent receiving her pleasure for Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) on his knees. After they're done, she starts talking about the weather as he reminds her of her duties, attending the small council.

Criston is a petty bitch as he asks her to put his cloak on for him, right after she tells him, “We cannot. Again.”

The Vale and the North have continued their silence, not responding to the letters sent. “C***s,” Aegon summarizes succinctly.

And still no responses from Rhaenyra to Alicent's letters. One of the members of the small council quietly asks, “An apology for her dead son?”

I may not know this man's name, but I agree with him.

Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) arrives. Alicent doesn't seem to want him there, telling him that he has no seat on the council. However, Aegon insists that he is his “closest blood and our best sword,” and welcomes him.

Rhaenyra interrupts fishermen who have found a dragon's wing and within the net, Luke's crimson coat. The fishermen look on as Rhaenyra weeps and Syrax wails.

What's in a name?

In King's Landing, Aegon arrives to hear the people's petitions.

“Aegon the Magnanimous?” he questions one of his heralds once they're done with his introduction. Are his minions trying out monikers for him?

As Aegon is thwarted by his grandfather and Hand Otto Hightower's (Rhys Ifans) advice against returning all of a shepherd's flock, he gets back at him by saying, “Our victory depends on the effort of our smallfolk,” in response to an blacksmith's request.

Aegon has the head to rule, at least administratively, but this scene does set him against Otto. And Larys is there to whisper that maybe it's time for a change of… scenery.

On board one of Lord Corlys' ships, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) is found to have stowed away inside one of Lord Corlys' ships. She meets Daemon as The White Worm. He blames her for having a hand in installing Aegon to the throne, that if she hadn't told Otto's men where he was, then there would have been no coronation.

“You blame me because your true enemies are out of reach. My arrangement with the Hand was purely transactional. I held no loyalty to him. Certainly do not now. Otto Hightower was to me as I am to your noble ilk, fodder to be cast off,” she tells him.

Rhaenyra finally returns to Dragonstone. Both Daemon and Rhaenys report of the actions they want to take, but Rhaenyra could only say one thing, “I want Aemond Targaryen.”

So now the Rogue Prince makes his own move, a business transaction with Mysaria in exchange for her freedom.

Still in Dragonstone, Jace arrives to see his mother with his cousin and betrothed, Baela Targaryen (Bethany Antonia).

He reports that the Vale will raise their banners in exchange for a dragon to guard their territory. His voice starts to break when he tells her that Lord Cregan Stark has promised 2,000 men. He crumbles and cries into his mother's arms.

Later, Rhaenyra sets her torch on the remains of Luke's dragon, interspersed with Alicent lighting candles for her own dead, beginning with Viserys. Jace holds Joffrey (Oscar Eskinazi) up for him to throw a carved dragon into the funeral pyre.

Back in King's Landing, we see a cloaked Daemon steal into the capital. He bribes one of the King's Guards, who we know is Blood (Sam C. Wilson) to let him into the city, as a prisoner.

Inside the Red Keep, Aemond conspires with Criston for their plan of attack. It's good to know that even in his frustration, the prince understands that his mother did usurp the crown in his brother's favor. He understands that theirs isn't a war based on principle, but of holding on to power.

The same can't be said for Criston. He still holds a grudge against Rhaenyra's rejection. He's on Alicent's side because she allows him liberties. He places the blame on Rhaenyra, telling Aemond that it was her who drew Alicent into the web, even as he takes clear advantage of that.

Otto interrupts the planning session. He cautions Aemond against acting without the king's and his Hand's knowledge.

Blood and Cheese… and dog?

While I know Blood and Cheese are brutal, and dogs historically are known to have been used by real-life rat catchers, it pains me to see the dog used as a prop in what is most likely one of the most gruesome killings we've yet to see in this season.

Aegon speaks with his minions about which moniker to use for his introductions even as his son's would-be assassins walk freely and seemingly unnoticed across the hall. At least, the dog has been set free.

However, that's the last comfort here. Blood and Cheese don't find Aemond, as was Daemon's instruction when he meets with them. But they have their orders, a son for a son. They find Helaena and her children instead. They kill Jahaerys in his bed, cutting his head slowly, as Helaena runs with Maelor in her arms. She goes to her mother's bedroom, but finds her in bed with Criston.

The episode ends with her telling Alicent, “They killed the boy.”

Gruesome death aside, the premiere episode sets up the rest of the season. Sure, I agree that there's very few scenes of Daemon here, but what there is, I believe is enough. One of the common criticisms of Rhaenyra is that she spends “too long” grieving. I disagree. I'm not a mother, but I am a daughter. I would hope that my mother would spend time mourning me. And then I want her to seek vengeance. Both of which Rhaenyra is doing.

A lot happened in this 64-minute episode, but I think the pacing was just right. I also prefer that Jaehaerys' murder isn't as gruesome as I imagined it was going to be. The series actually departed from the books in this scene. In George R.R. Martin's book, Alicent was there. Blood and Cheese killed her handmaid and bound the dowager queen as they waited for Helaena. So she saw all of this unfold.

I wonder how her absence in the scene, in the series, will impact the story going forward.

All I know is war will no longer be whispered in the halls of the Red Keep. Aegon will scream it for all of Westeros to hear.