House of the Dragon, season 2, episode 1 review: slow and steady ...

16 Jun 2024
House of the Dragon Season 2
This review contains spoilers

The problem with epics is one of degree. It was an arms race that eventually caused Game of Thrones, the slam-dunk apogee of epicness in modern television, to implode. Its final season simply couldn’t keep upping the ante after seven years of monumental blood and thunder, and so it fizzled out.

House of the Dragon (Sky Atlantic), the Game of Thrones spin-off that functions on a similar level of cinematic gigantism, is currently on the upward curve. Its first season set up a classic childhood-friends-who-become-sworn-enemies face-off, in the persons of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). By the end of the series it was clear that their personal ding-dong was going to drag their Houses, and then the entire Seven Kingdoms, into war.

Which is great – we like war, it wins Emmys. So come season two, war it is. Yet unfortunately, episode one of season two is not the time to fight – not if you’re hoping to make House of the Dragon an epic worth its salt (where “salt”, in this world of streaming, means at least 40 hours of programming). As such, episode one, entitled A Son for a Son, was the very tip of the taper that we know will – one day – burn down to a big, fat bomb.

Rhaenyra was grieving her young son, Lucerys, who was grilled and gobbled by an angry dragon at the end of the last series. So her husband Daemon (Matt Smith) sent a thug to infiltrate the Red Keep and kill one of King Aegon’s (Tom Glynn-Carney) sons in retribution. That, really, was as far as the plot went for this first hour, and it was a bit of a dodgy one – if anyone with knowledge of the tunnels beneath the Red Keep could just walk in and bump off any given royal in their bedchamber, as suggested here, the whole of Game of Thrones could have been done within an episode.

Aside from that, the rest of it was mood music. Beautifully shot, impeccably acted, emotionally intense mood music, but still essentially scene-setting for greater things to come. Perhaps House of the Dragon has learnt the art of restraint from Game of Thrones – always leave ’em wanting more.

Episode one of the second season of House of the Dragon is available on NOW and Sky Go now and will air on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Monday 17 June

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