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House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1 review: A strong, albeit slow return with more insight and less action | Web Series

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 1 review: A strong, albeit slow return with more insight and less action | Web Series

The return of House of the Dragon after nearly two years comes with solid expectations. Season 1 of the Game of Thrones prequel series set the bar high, positioning its viewers right in the middle of the action, with vibrant character development covering roughly 20 years in the Dance of the Dragons. Season 2 begins firmly after the bloody aftermath of the previous season, where Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy) youngest son Lucerys (Elliot Mitchell) was murdered by Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) and his dragon. Intent or no intent, it does not matter now. Blood has been spilled, and there will be bloodier consequences. (Also read: OTT releases this week: Do Aur Do Pyaar, Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2, House of the Dragon season 2 and more)

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in a still from episode 1 in House of the Dragon season 2.

The first episode of the second season-titled A Son for a Son, sets the action in a manner that might remind Game of Thrones fans of the strategic war table scenes where the characters scheme and plot in dimly lit interiors, and call council on what could be the immediate next approach. If the first episode is any indication, viewers can expect a more immersive return this time. It is, quite frankly, a welcome change in the trajectory of the last season’s focus on relentless exposition, that covered the brewing war between the Blacks and the Greens. This season feels much more consolidated in its approach, attending to the internal battles first and foremost. Peace is certainly out of the question, but in the quest for revenge, what also meets the eye is the reclamation of power, and the expression of grief.

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Emma D’Arcy is ferocious from the very first scene they appear in, infusing the breath of the scheming realm of things with underlying grief and mourning. Daemon (Matt Smith), on the other hand, is not to be trusted, for he has his own plans of succession. He can’t see why there needs to be a pause in the way of seeking revenge when one can be done with it after all. “The mother grieves as the queen shirks her duties,” he reasons. There’s also Alicent (Olivia Cooke), who along with daughter Helaena (Phia Saban), must become more than just a guilty onlooker. Helaena says she is scared of rats, and by the end of this gritty episode, we know exactly why.

The first episode takes viewers into the chamber rooms and council meetings, tightly knit into the deliberations and treacheries. It steps in the direction of escalating conflicts with poise and confidence. Showrunner Ryan Condal’s approach might throw off some viewers expecting a grand scheme in the start of the season itself, one that would be emphasizing battle scenes and a more fantastic pieces at play, but the character-driven intrigue tackles much deeper questions of war, treachery and legacy. The first episode is promising, if a tad too uneven and restrained for its own good, but we do get a deeper look at the despair and inner demons of these characters that relish in bloodshed and revenge. The first episode is still intimate and poignant, laying the necessary groundwork for the battles that will inevitably follow as the season develops.

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