‘House Of The Dragon’ Is Back For More Dragons And More Drama In Season 2 — Is It Still Good?

Who you got: Team Green or Team Black? Make your choice soon, because House of the Dragon returns to HBO and Max on June 16. We’ll have weekly recaps for every episode this season, but for now, here are some initial thoughts on season 2 (the first three episodes were screened for review).

1. Let’s get right to it: Is House of the Dragon still good? (This assumes you enjoyed season one, which I very much did.) Yes, it is. Very good, in fact.

House of the Dragon, like Game of Thrones before it, is at its best when characters are scheming and/or feuding behind closed doors in a large room with a crackling fireplace. Or on a cliffside. Or the dankest corners of King’s Landing. The the episodes I’ve seen so far have so many scenes like that. I was worried about the understandable temptation to make everything more ACTION PACKED in season two, like a sequel that misunderstands the appeal of the original, but that’s not the case. The “bigger, badder” battles are coming, but the House writers understand that while dragons are fun and all, they’re best used as an off-screen threat. The real thrills are provided by the palace intrigue and the fine line between the personal and the politicial.

2. Two years isn’t a long time, relatively speaking. But it feels like forever when it’s a break between seasons of television. House of the Dragon’s season 1 finale aired in October 2022, the same month that Amsterdam hit theaters. Remember Amsterdam, the movie where Taylor Swift gets pushed in front of a moving car? Nope, and you’ve probably forgotten a lot of specifics about House of the Dragon as well (the last two years have been… a lot). Season 2 picks up 10 days after the events of last season’s finale, where Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys was killed by Aemon’s dragon Vhagar, so I suggest watching Max’s recap of everything that’s happened so far. Or at least jogging your memory on the various blond-wigged Targaryen children and which Cargyll brother is which.

It will help you enjoy season 2. Believe me.

3. Everyone in the cast does a fine job (including the new additions to the ensemble, who help expand the universe of the show), but House of the Dragon firmly doesn’t work without the lead performances from Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke. The pair do incredible work in interviews and as grief-stricken Rhaenyra Targaryen and ambitious Alicent Hightower, respectively; they’re able to convey so much emotion without saying a word. Matt Smith is also a blast as Daemon, the most amusingly nasty member of the Targaryens.

Other early MVPs include Phia Saban as King Aegon II’s sister-wife; Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria; and Rhys Ifans as King Aegon II’s hand Ser Otto Hightower

4. HBO has a long list of plot details that reviewers aren’t allowed to discuss yet, including [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. But here’s what I can reveal: Corlys and Rhaenys are still relationship goals, Larys Strong is still a creep, and Criston Cole is still the most pathetic man in Westeros.

5. Before House of the Dragon premiered, I was concerned that it would be nothing more than a shameless extension of the Game of Thrones brand. A DLC to check out but not engage with. Those fears have been unfounded. House of the Dragon quickly proved itself a worthy successor to Thrones (which, disappointing finale aside, is still one of the best shows of the 2010s). It exists on its own terms; it’s possible to enjoy the high-budget soap opera without prior knowledge of Westeros. House of the Dragon won’t be the monoculture behemoth that Game of Thrones was. No show will anymore. But it doesn’t need to be. House of the Dragon is doing just fine out of Game of Thrones’ dragon-shaped shadow.

House of the Dragon returns to HBO and Max for season 2 on June 16.