House of the Dragon – Season 2 (HBO GO) – Review

This review is based on the first four episodes of House of the Dragon Season 2.

There’s no war so hateful to the gods as a war between kin, and no war so bloody as a war between dragons. 

As HBO’s House of the Dragon enters its second season, the simmering tensions of the first season have reached a boiling point, threatening to engulf the Seven Kingdoms in a fiery conflagration. The road to war is paved with small betrayals and simmering resentments, and this prequel to Game of Thrones (2011-2019) doesn’t shy away from depicting the slow burn of escalating conflict.

house of the dragon season 2

Two years ago, House of the Dragon emerged from the shadow of its predecessor, proving that there was still life in the fiery breath of Westeros. After the divisive finale of Game of Thrones, the prequel series based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood (2018) won over sceptics with its return to the core elements that made the original show a cultural phenomenon – political intrigue, complex characters, and a meticulously crafted world. Season one was a whirlwind tour de force, establishing the new players, the shifting alliances, and the simmering resentments that would ultimately ignite the Dance of the Dragons.

Picking up in the aftermath of the first season’s dramatic finale, the realm is teetering on the precipice of war. The tragic death of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy, Hanna, Truth Seekers) son, Lucerys (Elliot Grihault, All That Glitters), at the hands of Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell, The Last Kingdom, Saltburn), has ignited a powder keg of tension and mistrust. Westeros is divided, with loyalties split between different factions. There are the Blacks, led by Rhaenyra, the late King Viserys’ (Paddy Considine, Blitz, Dead Man’s Shoes) chosen heir; and the Greens, who support Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke, Ready Player One, Bates Motel), the second wife of King Viserys. She champions her son Prince Aegon’s (Tom Glynn-Carney, Tolkien, Dunkirk) claim to the throne.

house of the dragon season 2

Despite the departure of original showrunner Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), who was replaced by director Alan Taylor (Mad Men, Game of Thrones), the brooding atmosphere of the first season permeates House of the Dragon‘s second outing. Visually, the colour palette remains dark, with the mood sombre, as Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack continues to evoke a sense of impending doom. A brief glimpse of the North, with its gritty Stark stoicism, offers a welcome contrast to the tumultuous lives of the Targaryen clan, while the CGI dragons, as majestic as ever, continue to awe and terrify.

In contrast to the first season’s whirlwind pace, season two of House of the Dragon slows down to focus on the intricate political manoeuvring and simmering tensions that precede the Dance of the Dragons. This deliberate pacing allows for deeper character development and a nuanced exploration of the complex political landscape. While this approach mirrors the successful slow-burn storytelling of Game of Thrones, it occasionally risks losing momentum with scenes focused on lesser-known characters or plotlines whose significance remains unclear.

house of the dragon season 2

With a wider cast of characters and a greater emphasis on the impact of civil war on ordinary citizens, Westeros feels larger than ever. However, the focus remains squarely on the Targaryens, particularly the women at the heart of the conflict. D’Arcy and Cooke continue to deliver exceptional performances as Rhaenyra and Alicent, respectively. Both queens are portrayed in their most vulnerable states yet, grappling with the aftermath of violence and the inevitability of future bloodshed. 

Cooke, in particular, shines as the Green Queen Alicent, her wide-eyed, hunted expression reflecting the mounting pressure and desperation she faces. Her character, while often manipulated by the court’s machinations, finds moments of defiance this season, adding a cathartic layer to her otherwise tragic arc.

On the other side of the conflict, D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra navigates the delicate balance between a woman at the pinnacle of political power yet grappling with profound personal grief. Their performance is a masterclass in subtle expression, conveying a range of emotions through a single, intense gaze without the need for spoken words. 

house of the dragon season 2

Alongside D’Arcy, Matt Smith (Morbius, Doctor Who) returns as the enigmatic Prince Daemon Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s husband/uncle, his disturbing charisma and cunning intellect undiminished. Freed from Rhaenyra’s orbit for a time, Daemon embarks on his own Machiavellian journey, allowing Smith to further explore the character’s flaws and vulnerabilities, adding depth to his already captivating portrayal.

The young princes also take centre stage, each embodying the volatile mix of ambition and recklessness that fuels the conflict. Harry Collett’s (Dolittle, 2020) Prince Jacaerys, Rhaenyra’s eldest son, exudes a quiet charisma and inherent goodness, while Mitchell’s chilling portrayal of Prince Aemond, Aegon’s younger brother and Alicent’s son, adds another layer of complexity to the narrative, his ice-veined menace somehow tempered by a strange likability. He is a force of nature, a villain whose presence is both horrifying and alluring. 

However, despite the promise of a ‘Dance of the Dragons’, the series initially holds back on the fiery spectacle. Dragon enthusiasts may find themselves yearning for more aerial action in the early episodes. Though dragons remain a looming threat and a key factor in war planning, the focus shifts towards the intricate buildup of tension and the psychological warfare between the rival factions. Each episode, clocking in at just under or over an hour, offers only a few truly surprising or dramatic moments, leaving viewers yearning for the all-out war that seems inevitable.

That being said, when the action finally ignites at the end of episode four, the wait proves worthwhile. A dragon dogfight, arguably the show’s most impressive aerial combat sequence yet, unfolds with a visceral energy that is both thrilling and emotionally charged, leaving audiences both awe-struck and heartbroken. The battle scenes in this climactic episode rival even the most iconic moments from Game of Thrones, including the Battle of the Bastards in season six, by blending breathtaking CGI with raw emotional stakes. It’s a reminder of why this franchise stands apart, capable of delivering epic battles and deep emotional narratives that resonate with viewers long after the credits roll.

Book readers will find much to appreciate in the season’s faithful adaptation of key moments, although some creative liberties have been taken, which will spark inevitable debate among fans. One particular alteration, however, proves to be a masterstroke, as it spotlights key supporting characters and elevates their roles in the unfolding drama. Another change, while deviating from the source material, potentially opens the door for even greater consequences, leaving viewers on tenterhooks as the story progresses. 

Heading into the second half of the season, the tension escalates, setting the stage for the brutal confrontations to come. Unlike Game of Thrones, where viewers could often find solace in rooting for virtuous characters, House of the Dragon offers no such comfort. This is a story of morally complex individuals, driven by ambition, trauma, and a thirst for power. The show excels in exploring the nuanced relationships between these characters, making their inevitable descent into conflict all the more tragic. 

While the pacing may still be a point of contention for some, the show’s commitment to character development and emotional depth is undeniable. The result is a captivating, if not always enjoyable, journey through a world on the brink of chaos, where even the smallest choices can have devastating consequences. 

The dragons may dance, but their fiery ballet is a sombre reminder of the human cost of war.

House of the Dragon Season 2 will be available to stream on HBO GO starting 17 June, with new episodes dropping weekly.



With its focus on political intrigue, lavish world-building, and Shakespearean levels of family drama, House of the Dragon season two delivers everything fans have come to expect from the franchise, albeit with some pacing issues.

  • Story - 8/10
  • Direction - 9.5/10
  • Characterisation - 9.5/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 9/10