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Twin Plots and Twisted Fates: my thoughts on House of the Dragon, Season Two, Episode Two, "Rhaenyra the Cruel".

Twins are notorious in Westerosi history. The first two episodes of Season 2 of House of the Dragon can be considered a “twin set” – reflections of each other. Both begin with the fallout of a tragedy, first in King's Landing, then Dragonstone. Both hatch a dangerous and ill-conceived murderous plot, culminating in the wrong death.

We begin Episode 2 with Aegon throwing a mega tantrum, destroying his grandfather’s model of Old Valyria. All magnanimity of the previous episode is gone as he grows hellbent on revenge for the murder of his son and heir. It is revenge that got them all here in the first place, and it is revenge, I suspect, that will draw this grim tale further into its murky depths.

The problem for the Hightowers, as Otto comes to discover, is Aegon is now beyond control. Otto and Alicent’s plan to let him outgrow the novelty of rule doesn’t have a chance anymore. When Aegon gets the satisfaction of results, hanging all 100 city ratcatchers in a bid to get the one guilty one (which he did – ‘Cheese’ is grieved by his surviving dog), Aegon learns he likes such power. In a scene reminiscent of Tywin Lannister berating his grandson King Joffrey, Otto unleashes on Aegon, calling him an "insolent pup" and everything else under the sun and having a moment in which he remembers the more restrained Viserys. Otto says, “he was right about you.” Aegon quips his grandfather wanted him to be king, but Otto’s reaction demonstrates what he really thinks. If that is Otto’s true opinion, how far will his allegiance change? Will he scuttle off to Oldtown as he declares to Alicent after Aegon forced him to relinquish his position as Hand, or will we see him pop up on Dragonstone once Larys is sworn in as the new Hand? (All conjecture on my part).

Daemon atop Caraxes

The best shot in the episode: Daemon swoops out on Caraxes.

On Dragonstone, Rhaenyra has finally realised something – she cannot trust Daemon – and the brutal murder of the innocent Jaehaerys finally proves it. In a tête-à-tête, in which it’s honestly difficult to take sides, we feel sympathy for both their claims to power. But with Rhaenys, the queen who never was, always watching from afar, we are constantly reminded there is always someone more deserving of our sympathy. Rhaenyra seems to come to a conclusion – let Daemon do whatever it is he pleases, realising she has no control over him anyway. We see him, in one of the best shots of the episode, looking very badass upon his dragon as he takes off on a vertiginous swooping flight on Caraxes. Off to Harrenhal to secure more support for Rhaenyra? His daughter wonders too, and we hope so.

Ser Criston Cole, meanwhile, is getting even more above himself. Angry at himself for his own incompetence and the fact he was abed with the queen dowager when Helaena found them, his answer is to ‘kick the dog’ (as the ratcatcher did last episode) by taking his frustration out on Arryk, who wears a dirty Kingsguard cloak from doing his job – protecting Helaena and Alicent in the funeral procession. During this tongue-lashing, Criston seems to get his bright idea – send Arryk to kill Rhaenyra in the guise of his twin, Erryk. Simple! The man is a genius. What could go wrong?

Rhaenyra’s magnanimity is what goes wrong for Criston Cole’s plan. She keeps “the word of her house” and decides to give the White Worm, Mysaria, her freedom. Upon her release, she spies “Erryk” enter Dragonstone, and knows something is amiss, for she just saw him inside. Thus, Erryk himself comes to Rhaenyra’s rescue when his brother successfully admits himself to her chamber to undertake his dark quest. They die, as twins do in this world, in each other's arms.

Will each house have a new traitor to contend with soon? I can’t wait to find out.

Other thoughts:

  • Best line: “I have sinned,” says Alicent. “I do not wish to hear of it,” says Otto. Alicent’s fervor for both her faith and her lover grow stronger, but no matter how many baths she has, she can’t wash away her sin. How long before it tears her apart?
  • Those two smallfolk – the ship builder Alyn and the smith, Hugh, continue to have tacked-on scenes that don’t meld with the flow. Hopefully, their narrative will be more coherently incorporated soon.