‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2’s Best Change Is Also Its Most Brutal

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Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2.


The Big Picture

  • House of the Dragon
    Season 2 shifts to civil war, showcasing brutal violence and tragic dragon deaths.
  • Dragons play a central role in Season 2, with unique personalities and heartbreaking casualties.
  • The civil war escalates, leading to more dragon suffering and reinforcing their tragic role in Westerosi diplomacy.


Throughout its first four episodes, House of the Dragon Season 2 has already introduced audiences to even greater stakes and dramatic entanglements than those included in Season 1. The Game of Thrones prequel series, created by Ryan Condal and legendary author George R.R. Martin, has largely departed from its first outing’s more diplomatic tone in favor of the sudden march to civil war, featuring crimes as dark as child murder and fields littered with the newly dead of ancient feuds. The show’s renewed focus on violence expands House of the Dragon‘s scale to all corners of the realm, depicting scenes of awe-inspiring carnage that inevitably hurt fan-favorite characters, proving that House of the Dragon‘s exhilarating shift in tone can also feel absolutely brutal to watch.


The series’ increased ferocity is most pronounced in this week’s release of Season 2, Episode 4, “The Red Dragon and the Gold,” which sees King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) join up with his brother, Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), in order to lay siege to Rook’s Rest. The ensuing battle between the forces of Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Queen Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) defenders exacts a heavy toll on both sides, but the episode’s true victims are those who suffer most from the series’ increased reliance on violence — the Targaryen dragons. As the consummate symbols of warfare in Westeros, the plight of dragons is on increased display with the onset of the conflict between the Blacks and the Greens, showcasing how one of House of the Dragon‘s biggest changes from Season 1 is also the show’s saddest.



‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Greatly Increases the Role of Dragons

While House of the Dragon Season 1 doesn’t shy away from the Targaryens’ namesake, the series’ first episodes mainly depict dragons in passive contexts, relegating the creatures to exciting flying sequences or the stables of the dragonpit. As a season that takes place in a time of peace, there simply isn’t much need for the iconic Valyrian war machines, with Daemon’s battles against the Crabfeeder and Aemond’s murder of Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) in the Season 1 finale providing the few examples of Targaryen dragons turning aggressive. The end of the season sets off the battle for Rhaenyra’s succession, however, allowing dragons to take center stage in House of the Dragon Season 2.

This week’s episode gives fans their first look at the adult version of Aegon’s dragon, Sunfyre, while also prominently featuring Vhagar and Meleys in the battle of Rook’s Rest. Moreover, from Season 2’s onset, dragons have been used in a more active capacity than they were featured in Season 1, with Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) using Meleys to patrol Rhaenyra’s blockade of King’s Landing in the gullet and Daemon’s Caraxes being utilized to strike terror into the Riverlands. Baela Targaryen’s (Bethany Antonia) dragon, Moondancer, is even introduced in Season 2, Episode 3, when Daemon’s daughter encounters the rogue Kingsguard on a patrol of the Crownlands. Watching the green dragon chase Cole back into the woods in horror proves how effective even a young dragon can be, but unfortunately, epic chase scenes aren’t the only consequence of the dragons’ increased time onscreen.


Related

What Does [SPOILER]’s ‘House of the Dragon’ Death Mean for the Blacks?

Gone but not forgotten.

‘House of the Dragon’s Greater Focus on Dragons Invites Even Greater Tragedy

Aside from their battle capacity, this week’s episode of House of the Dragon draws more attention to the unique characteristics of each specific dragon’s personality. Scenes of Rhaenys hugging and murmuring to Meleys demonstrate the gentle intimacy of the pair’s bond, while Meleys’s obedience to Rhaenys’s instructions during the battle with Vhagar — even when Meleys has already been injured by the larger dragon — emphasizes the creature’s loyalty to the elegant Queen Who Never Was. This loyalty stands in contrast to the more irascible, willful attitude that Vhagar displays when she disobeys Aemond to eat Lucerys in Season 1, as well as the touching affection that Sunfyre displays for Aegon when the gold dragon nuzzles up to him in the Dragonpit. Tragically, due to the episode’s main battle, the show’s brief glimpse into each dragon’s unique nature only makes it harder to watch the innocent creatures suffer.


Meleys’s grapple with Sunfyre and Vhagar in the skies above Rook’s Rest initiates the real Dance of the Dragons, but these dragons don’t dance so much as they cruelly tug at the heartstrings. It’s difficult to watch as Meleys uses her larger claws to shred Sunfyre’s beautiful golden scales, and the tender bond between Rhaenys and her lifelong companion makes it absolutely devastating to watch Meleys stare back lifelessly at her rider from within Vhagar’s furious jaws. The dragons’ high-pitched shrieks and doleful wails as they are battered and burned for the sake of the Targaryens’ war only underscores each creature’s distinct pain, taking advantage of each dragon’s increased screen presence to drive an even larger stake through the viewer’s heart.

‘House of the Dragon’s Civil War Promises To Bring Even More Death to the Dragons


As if Meleys’s death and Sunfyre’s maiming aren’t heartbreaking enough, House of the Dragon is set to introduce even more suffering to its dragons throughout the rest of the season. House of the Dragon‘s trailer for Episode 5 reveals that the Greens have the Red Queen’s severed head wheeled through the streets of King’s Landing, humiliating the blameless creature that did nothing but follow Rhaenys’s loving lead. Daemon’s brief scene with Vermithor at the end of Season 1 also hints at the older dragon’s eventual inclusion in House of the Dragon‘s future battles, while the show’s focus on Ulf the White as a potential dragonseed implies new riders could be found for even more gut-wrenching dragon fights in the future. Since Rook’s Rest already makes such a mess of its audience’s emotions, these new dragon duos mean the show is doubling down on the poor creatures’ suffering.


As Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) explains in the original Game of Thrones, the Dance of the Dragons marks a seismic shift in the power of the Targaryens, and their eventual decline is due largely to the house’s loss of dragons. As a result, the civil war that House of the Dragon has just begun to wage is destined to wipe out a large number of those dragons currently being depicted in the show, as well as those that have received less screentime, like Halaena’s (Phia Saban) Dreamfyre, Jacaerys’s (Harry Collett) Vermax, the currently unseen Silverwing, and possibly even dragons as ancient as Vhagar. Since the fire-breathing titans remain the greatest weapon that the Targaryens have against their enemies, it’s likely that Rhaenyra’s Blacks will only look for more after Rhaenys’s death, setting up even more traumatic dragon battles for House of the Dragon‘s future.


Not only are these dragon duels primed to deliver the same heartbreaking displays of animal cruelty that both sides experienced at Rook’s Rest, but the impending death of even more dragons emphasizes the creatures’ tragic role in greater Westerosi diplomacy. As House of the Dragon Season 2 turns to war, the Targaryens’ greatest weapons and companions are either being confined or injured brutally by members of their own domesticated species. Dragons’ personalities and their unique bonds with dragonriders are put into focus in time for both to suffer the Dance, and the injuries inflicted from Episode 4’s battle are only going to encourage both sides to spill even more dragon blood, proving that not even the most thrilling action scenes can numb the pain of House of the Dragon‘s most devastating casualties.

House of the Dragon Season 2 is currently streaming on Max. New episodes air every Sunday night.

WATCH ON MAX

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