'House of the Dragon': BI reporters break down Daemon and Rhaenyra's fight and Criston's bold move

House of the Dragon Screenshots
"House of the Dragon" season 2 episode 2 focuses on the fallout of Jaehaerys' death.HBO; BI
  • Rhaenyra lays into Daemon after learning he was inadvertently responsible for Jaehaerys' murder.

  • Meanwhile, Alicent and Criston grapple with their guilt in very different ways.

  • Criston makes a big move against Rhaenyra, and Aegon II names him his new Hand after ousting Otto.

The brutal killing of Aegon II Targaryen's heir has left both sides in chaos.

The "House of the Dragon" season two premiere ended with Blood and Cheese, two inept assassins hired by Daemon Targaryen to kill Aemond in retaliation for the death of Rhaenyra's son Lucerys Velaryon, beheading Jaehaerys, the oldest child of Aegon II and his sister-wife Helaena.

Episode two picks up shortly after the shocking death, with the Greens reacting to the death (and using it for political moves) and a clueless Rhaenyra desperately trying to figure out why the kingdom believes she's responsible for the murder of a child. (Thanks, Daemon.)

Below, Business Insider reporters Eammon Jacobs, Palmer Haasch, and Ayomikun Adekaiyero and senior entertainment editor Caralynn Matassa break down all the major moments in "House of the Dragon" season 2, episode 2.

The aftermath of Jaehaerys' death

Olivia Cooke, Phia Saban in "House of the Dragon" season 2 episode 2
Alicent and Helaena attend the procession behind Jaehaerys' body.Theo Whitman/HBO

Palmer Haasch: There are a few really important reactions here: Alicent feels like she's being divinely punished, Helaena is utterly grief-stricken, Rhaenyra is aghast that she's being blamed, and Otto knows that this is the biggest political gift his side will probably ever see. And he's right!

Caralynn Matassa: And Aegon — just utterly wrecked. Any intention he had to try to be a good king is entirely wiped away here in favor of vengeance.

Palmer: I think it's interesting, because you really don't get the impression that Aegon cares too much about his children until he starts to see Jaehaerys as a viable heir. Even though he didn't want the throne himself, he too has become power-drunk and wants to continue his legacy.

Eammon Jacobs: Phia Saban's performance during that procession scene is so haunting. She's doing so much without needing to wail lines of over-the-top predictable dialogue. It's clear that Helaena is tapping into something bigger too, just with the focus on the seeds/leaves blowing in the wind and her frantic facial expressions.

Ayomikun Adekaiyero: The series does a great job of showing how this toxic masculinity among the men — particularly Aegon, Daemon, and Criston — escalates this conflict. Aegon doesn't really care about Jaehaerys; he is terrified at looking weak, which also isn't his fault, considering he has been raised to be this great king. Tom Glynn-Carney really has one of the best performances in this episode.

And on the toxic masculinity point, it's interesting to see how the harm of this conflict so far is mostly affecting the women. Rhaenyra is blamed for a murder she didn't order, Alicent and Helaena are forced to perform for the royal family during their grief while the men plot and create more chaos.

Palmer: This is also really the moment where we realize how much of a curse Helaena being a dreamer is. She can foreshadow the death of her own son, but she doesn't realize it and can't prevent it. The entire funeral procession should also satiate everyone who didn't think the death was horrifying enough — I think seeing little Jaehaerys, with his neck stitched, valorized like a martyr in the streets is infinitely worse than whatever else we could have gotten out of Blood and Cheese. Phia's performance here heightens the entire thing.

Caralynn: Phia and Tom were both such standouts in this episode! The way the procession was staged and filmed was also gorgeous and so evocative. The closeup on little Jaehaerys' sewn-on head almost made me puke.

Palmer: I also want to talk about the conversation between Alicent and Helaena right before the funeral procession — it's a huge insight into Alicent as a mother. For the most part, I've gotten the impression that the moments where she's protecting her children are also deep political moves, like when she demanded Lucerys' eye at Driftmark in season one. But in this moment, she is truly throwing Helaena to the wolves, and knows it. Olivia manages to elucidate this tension between protecting her daughter from scrutiny and making the savvy political choice, but obviously, we know where Alicent lands.

Caralynn: I've never had less sympathy for Alicent than in this episode. You can see her struggling with this choice — and that's all thanks to Olivia's meticulous performance — but she makes the wrong choice at literally every opportunity here.

Palmer: I do think that she is unfortunately pretty on the nose when she says that she's being punished by the gods.

Ayomikun: I haven't read the books, and maybe I'm reading into the procession too much, but I feel like there was so much foreshadowing that there is worse to come. The flowers of the funeral fall down like ash, terrifying Helaena. The people of the city reach out as if they are also in pain. So far, the casualties have all been kept to the royal family but there is a great sense that this is going to go really badly for everyone, and soon.

Eammon: That's a constant theme in the franchise, really — the smallfolk always pay for the actions of the upper class. We saw that back in season one when Rhaenys broke out of the Dragonpit and squished people watching the coronation!

Don't ignore the smallfolk

Kieran Bew, Ellora Torchia in House of the Drago, Season 2 - Episode 2
We get it, Hugh Hammer is going to be important soon.Ollie Upton/HBO

Caralynn: Speaking of squished people, we got a lot of smallfolk scenes scattered throughout the episode. But the most effective for me was that mom who saw her dead ratcatcher son strung up. And the dog giving that small whine when he saw Cheese dead!

Palmer: Thank god the dog is safe!

Ayomikun: The hanging scene really highlights how much Aegon messed up more than Otto's tirade. The smallfolk don't really know the ins-and-outs of what's going on, but they know their king has just murdered the lowest of their servants, most of whom were completely innocent. They likely will trust Aegon less than Rhaenyra, who kept the conflict to just the royals.

Palmer: To be fair, Aegon is barely still winning the PR war because everyone thinks Rhaenyra killed a child. But yeah, ultimately, I agree with you — which is funny because everyone was lauding him as a wealth redistribution icon in the last episode.

Aegon giveth sheep..... he taketh away sheep..... he slays rat men.......

Eammon: I do think that even in the first two episodes, the writers are trying to show the war from the smallfolk's perspective — maybe more than "Game of Thrones." We had the sheep/dragon debate last week, and now we've got the elimination of the ratcatchers.

Palmer: I have mixed feelings about how the series handles this, because, on the one hand, I think that it's hugely important for the show to contextualize the war within the actual population of Westeros in order to convey the scope. But I also think that it's a bit halfhearted when — ratcatcher mother aside — the smallfolk we interact with the most in the show are all like, hugely important characters down the line. They're not truly the everyman.

Caralynn: I, for one, found it hard to care about the scene with Hugh's family because it just felt so much like a set-up for his eventual More Important story.

Eammon: That moment with Hugh's family did seem heavy-handed. And I'll be honest, hearing that the cost-of-living crisis has also hit Westeros was not the plot twist I was expecting.

Ayomikun: Damn, not real-world inflation infiltrating my fantasy comfort show!

Palmer: Hugh comes from a SIOSK (single income, one sick kid) family.

Caralynn: If only they had access to a Costco for a $5 rotisserie chicken.

Eammon: Westerostco.

clinton liberty and abubakar salim as addam and alyn of hull, two young men in blue clothing. addam has long hair, arranged in dreadlocks and pulled back, while alyn is bad. they're looking at each other in a shipyard
Clinton Liberty and Abubakar Salim as Addam and Alyn of Hull in "House of the Dragon."Ollie Upton/HBO

Palmer: We should also talk about Alyn and Addam of Hull, who, without saying too much, are also going to continue to be important. There's a very conspicuous dragon (cough, cough Seasmoke) flying in the sky above Addam during one scene that we should... probably pay attention to!

Ayomikun: If I didn't know Addam and Hugh were so important, some of their scenes feel so forced and out of place. Like the writers are stage-whispering, "YOU SHOULD KEEP AN EYE ON THESE PEOPLE."

Eammon: I found those two reuniting far more interesting than Aegon's predictable breakdown, I'm sorry to say. Their dynamic and that shot of the dragon was a great way of endearing them to the audience and positioning them as key characters further down the line.

Ayomikun: The conversation between Alyn and Addam — where Addam is like, "You should try to get close to Corlys Velaryon!" and Alyn is like, "I don't want to get involved in this conflict at all" — is a good way to establish the key divides of normal folk during this conflict. There are those who want to use the situation to rise above their station and those who just want to survive another day. It will be interesting to see where both those storylines lead.

Caralynn: Then, re: smallfolk, there's of course the prostitute Aemond is with in the brothel who goes ahead and helpfully spells out that it's really the commoners who get the shaft when royals, say, get angry and let their dragon eat their nephew.

And speaking of poor, traumatized Aemond…

Let's get a little love for the poor traumatized kids

ewan mitchell as aemond targaryen in house of the dragon, wearing a black leather coat and with an eye patch strapped over his eye
Poor Aemond.Ollie Upton/HBO

Palmer: I love Aemond, my beautiful, very very messed up boy. Ewan gives a great physical performance here — there's one shot where it shows him all curled up, and it's very effective to see all his limbs folded in like that. Somehow, he manages to make Aemond feel very, very small!

Caralynn: He was literally in the fetal position at one point, wasn't he?

Palmer: Yeah, he's baby.

Eammon: It was refreshing seeing him in a pretty vulnerable state for once though. All of Aemond's scenes previously have revolved around conflict, angst, or anger, so having a peek behind the armor (so to speak) really helps make him feel like more of a well-fleshed-out character than just a constant ball of contempt.

Palmer: It's also a very interesting contrast, because we haven't seen this side of Aemond since he was a child, basically. He is clearly the single most powerful war asset for the Greens, but I think it's important to remember that he is also the loser cousin who got bullied. But on top of that, he also very clearly realizes that Daemon is his true rival in the war, and I love the way that the show sets them up as counterparts.

Caralynn: Overlooked and extremely angry second sons.

Palmer: Who have both managed to indirectly exact the most damning murders of the war!

Ayomikun: Aemond is never escaping the wannabe Daemon allegations.

Palmer: Also, nice to know that he's seeking some absolution for killing Lucerys.

Caralynn: The confessional element of his conversation with the prostitute was a nice touch. She looked a little taken aback at him suddenly confiding that he regretted the single action that arguably started the war. She's just like, "Welp. You goofed, kid, and now we're all screwed."

Palmer: Can you imagine what it would be like to be the confidant for the most capable, messed up child of the entire royal family?

Caralynn: High-pressure therapy situation.

Eammon: It's like "The Sopranos," but with dragons.

Harry Collett, Bethany Antonia in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2
The only reasonably well-adjusted members of this family.Theo Whitman/HBO

Palmer: I also really want to talk about Baela and Jace because, damn, this is the most the show has given us of either of them in a hot minute.

Caralynn: Such a sweet scene! I love that Baela gave Jace the opportunity to talk about both his dads.

Palmer: It's a great way to show the closeness of their relationship. Baela knows how to ask about Ser Harwin Strong without judgment, and he's clearly someone that Jace still wants to talk about. Bethany Antonia, who plays Baela, told me at the premiere that she and Harry Collett, who plays Jace, made the decision that betrothal aside, Baela and Jace do want to be together — and I think this sequence does a great job illustrating that.

I also think it's extremely telling that Rhaenyra doesn't allow Jace to patrol near King's Landing on Vermax when he volunteers, and instead dispatches Baela to do the same thing on Moondancer. There is a difference in the children that she's willing to potentially sacrifice.

Caralynn: YES, that was such a subtle telling moment. She's not willing to lose another son. But Daemon's daughter? Sure, fine, whatever.

Ayomikun: Honestly, these two seem like the most emotionally and mentally well-adjusted of all the Targaryen/Velaryon/Hightower families. I'm rooting for them.

Palmer: That's the Laena Velaryon in them, truly.

The final straw for Daemon and Rhaenyra

Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 2
Rhaenyra's had it with Daemon.Theo Whiteman/HBO

Eammon: The writing in this whole scene was fantastic, it weaved through their twisted, chaotic relationship with such sharpness.

"Have you used me as a tool to grasp at your stolen inheritance?" There it is — the writers digging into what makes Daemon actually tick. Even among the violence, bloodshed, and dragons, they're committed to exploring these characters in great detail. In a way, it makes me sad that other shows (ahem "Star Wars" ahem) don't take as much time to do the same.

It's so obvious that Daemon continues to blame everyone but himself as that sociopathic, narcissistic streak keeps slipping out.

Palmer: It's unfortunately very funny that during the council meeting where they discuss Jaehaerys' death, Rhaenys basically immediately clocks that it's Daemon's fault.

Caralynn: The council meeting was kind of weirdly hilarious. It seemed like everyone registered it was Daemon's fault except for, belatedly, Rhaenyra?

Palmer: Their fight is a real watershed moment for Daemon. I think he's a character that — don't get me wrong, I love Daemon — got a little bit muddied in season one. He's bloodthirsty! He's a war hero! He's a devoted husband who wants to hang out in Pentos! Actually, he does want to be King Consort! We get a lot out of him, but it's hard to see where his head is at. I think this, and what it's setting up with him leaving, are great for us to get a bit of Daemon's interiority.

Caralynn: Also the chemistry between Matt and Emma is absolute fire, as usual. They're both top of their games in that scene.

Ayomikun: This conversation also sees them finally confronting an issue that we, as viewers, have all wanted to see hashed out since Daemon first started trying to romance Rhaenyra. Does he actually care for her, or is she another obstacle to what he really wants: power?

Palmer: It's refreshing to see Rhaenyra basically hit her breaking point there. I think it's important to note that she's been using him as well, whether it was to maybe indirectly piss off Viserys, or more obviously, to strengthen her standing as heir. This is the moment where she realizes that he's more of a liability than a boon, and that the challenge of mentally sparring with him just isn't worth it anymore.

Caralynn: I love that Rhaenyra lays every single card out on the table here. She's had enough of Daemon and his games.

Palmer: It speaks volumes that his insult is instead that Viserys used her to get back at him, by naming her as the heir. Daemon still ultimately sees her as a pawn, rather than a player.

Ayomikun: Also, though I do believe both Aegon and Daemon want war for the wrong reasons, they're kind of right? Both sides are unwilling to give in at this point. This doesn't end without one side dying, so why aren't they already making more proactive plans to win?

Maybe this is partly selfish of me, trying to see some action, but I find it kind of comical that both sides basically created a civil war scenario and now are just like, "No, you start the war. No, you start it!"

My God, Criston is an idiot… aaaand now he's the Hand

Fabien Frankel in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 2
So pretty, but so stupid.Ollie Upton/HBO

Caralynn: Criston might be one of the most deeply unlikeable characters in the wider "Game of Thrones" universe, which is saying something.

Palmer: In many ways, Criston and Aegon are a perfect match. Two revenge-minded imbeciles made to plunge Westeros into chaos. Criston is so unlikeable, it's genuinely funny. Alicent at least has the decency to be completely wracked by her guilt, but Criston instead lashes out to blame Arryk for what is basically his own mistake.

Ayomikun: Criston and Aegon are really like that "It's always two dumb people telling each other exactlyyyyy" meme. They do not have a single smart thought between them. They're all action and vengeance and justice.

Caralynn: He has such a toxic male reaction to the guilt that he can't internalize it at all — he needs to project it outward. Good on Arryk though, for being like, "Well, where were you?" I thought Criston was going to bitch slap him at that point.

Eammon: Hilarious that the rest of the Kingsguard nope'd out when Criston started badgering him.

Palmer: Remember when Criston asked Rhaenyra to run away and like, trade oranges with him?

Caralynn: The scene with Arryk was very reminiscent of right before he beat Laenor's boyfriend to death. "There's a lot of things going on in my head that I refuse to have feelings about so instead... I'mma do a violence."

Palmer: Yeah, the man has deep-seated anger issues. But I think it's so funny, because Alicent has also been terrible for him, obviously. He was so wracked with guilt for sleeping with Rhaenyra all those years ago, and her spurning him clearly like, radicalized him. And now that he's in with Alicent, and loosely complicit in Jaehaerys' murder, he really has no path forward other than to Do This.

Caralynn: Aegon ousting Otto as Hand in favor of Criston is such a clear "OK, we've totally lost control of this situation" moment for Otto. It's silly and a little infuriating that Alicent is still insisting Aegon can be molded. This seems… unlikely?

Palmer: It's great to see Otto once again reaping the consequences of his actions. I love to see that man humbled (though I don't think he ever actually internalizes it).

Ayomikun: Otto was pushing the line a bit. disagreeing with the king is one thing, shouting about him being an idiot... like he's lucky Aegon idolizes him so much.

Fabien Frankel, Rhys Ifans, Tom Glynn-Carney in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 2
Ollie Upton/HBO

Caralynn: I did love the moment where Aegon says, "Well, Viserys named me his heir" and Otto says, "Is that what you think?" and laughs.

Palmer: It's definitely an emotional move, not an intelligent one.

Caralynn: I wonder if that little seed of doubt now planted in Aegon's head is gonna go anywhere. Or if that head is all just violence and vibes, no thoughts.

Palmer: His spite-fueled ego, probably.

Caralynn: Anyway, I'm looking forward to Criston making a bunch more dumb decisions in his official capacity as the Hand now.

Palmer: I'm sure he'll do great! No notes.

Ayomikun: Going back to Alicent and Criston for a second, it's interesting that both episodes end with a sex scene for them, but the circumstances are flipped. In episode one, Alicent is in charge completely and is on top during the scene. In episode two, Criston is now taking charge because he has reached the same station as her. I'm sure this will eventually cause conflict between those two.

Palmer: I do love how toxic and terrible they are for each other. Alicent beats him, and he's like, wow... that's hot.

Caralynn: One last thing I wanted to mention here — we finally got a shout-out to Viserys and Alicent's thus far unseen youngest son, Daeron! When Otto is telling Alicent he might go to Oldtown, he says Daeron is there and could be an asset to them. Maybe that means we'll finally see him sometime soon.

Criston's masterful gambit utterly fails — but Mysaria is so back

fabien frankel and luke tittensor in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2
RIP Erryk and Arryk.Ollie Upton/HBO

Palmer: Criston is so hot-headed he thought it was a good idea to send one guy on a suicide mission as penance for his brother defecting. Good work, man!

Caralynn: That Arryk v. Erryk fight scene was really well done.

Eammon: Absolutely brutal. Once again, people lower down the ladder are paying the price for the upper class's scheming.

Palmer: I think this is a great moment for Mysaria too, who has frankly been frustrating for me over the course of the show. It's not that I particularly dislike her character, but I feel like she's frequently deployed in irritating ways to make one-off points about the smallfolk.

But this is actually the first time I feel like we've really seen her make a decision — one that notably does not particularly serve her. It's fascinating to see her throw her lot in with Rhaenyra, but I think that Rhaenyra is also one of the first nobles to actually treat her with grace and respect by letting her go.

Sonoya Mizuno in in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2
What's Mysaria's end game here?Theo Whitman/HBO

Caralynn: The Mysaria of it all was really interesting. I'm so curious to see her explain her motivations for stepping in, and where this leads her now. (And how it changes her relationship with Rhaenyra.)

Ayomikun: The fight was a truly brilliant scene, especially since we as the audience can't really tell which twin is which.

Caralynn: I was worried that only one twin would survive and that they'd do a whole prolonged "Is it an imposter?" thing. I don't think I could have handled an entire season of waiting for that foot to drop so I'm thankful they just had them both die, honestly.

Eammon: That would've been kinda interesting, but I've been burned with that plotline in other franchises... (Yes, "Spider-Man: The Clone Saga," I'm looking at you.)

Palmer: I will say, I am happy that my notes are no longer filled with "Arryk? Erryk? AERRYK?"

"House of the Dragon" season two airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and is streaming on Max.

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