REVIEW: House of the Dragon – Season 2, Episode 2, “Rhaenyra The Cruel”

“Devotion has never sat well with him.”


In “Rhaenyra the Cruel,” Aegon grieves his loss. As always, Otto preaches patience and cunning. A funeral is held for the baby with his mother and grandmother. One of the killers is apprehended and tells Larys everything, but Aegon has his vengeance. Rhaenyra is accused of the baby’s murder, and she questions Daemon’s loyalty. Helena’s wits wane as Alicent ruminates on her tryst with Criston. For his part, Lord Commander Cristin Cole orders Arryk to kill Rhaenyra. Rhaenys and Corlys discuss Daemon’s loyalty. Rhaenyra meets Mysaria to interrogate her. All rat catchers are hanged per the King’s command. Ser Otto criticizes this course of action, and Aegon fires him. Rhaenyra frees the White Worm, who then sees Erryk’s twin enter Dragon Stone. Erryk confronts Arryk, and they fight in Rhaenyra’s quarters. Erryk kills Arryk and then himself. Ser Otto leaves King’s Landing, and Alicent repeats a mistake. 

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra The Cruel

Am I the only one who feels a little bad for Daemon here? Hes not a good person, and maybe he deserves Rhaenyras speech, but not for this, specifically. Its horrible that a baby was killed, and I understand why everyone on both sides is upset. The fact that Rhaenyra was aghast at the news is precisely why I like her. Daemon is the most interesting to watch, but Rhaenyra is my favorite. I shouldnt care about them as a couple as much as I do; he killed his first wife, and its incest. I absolutely hated it in Game of Thrones when Daenerys and Jon got together because they were related. But for some reason, Ive been on board with this marriage, at least since the wedding. It could be the contrast between Rhaenyras restraint and Daemons recklessness. Maybe theyre just both pretty, but I thought Dany and Jon were pretty, too. The part of what Rhaenyra says that bothers me is that Daemon has used her to get his birthright back and doesnt really support her. I just don’t think thats fair at all. Since they married, he has done everything in her name and for her claim to the throne. Even if it is personal ambition as her consort, he has served her needs. He ordered Aemond to be killed, and I dont imagine hes happy his orders were ignored. I cant believe what this show does to my feelings and morals, but here we are. I feel bad for Daemon Targaryen, which is probably not even the intended result.  

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra The Cruel

The scenes where everyone receives the news about Jaehaerys are very effective. Like I said, I think its good that almost everyone is horrified, even on Team Black. Alicent and Helaena understandably have the most visceral reactions, and Otto is quick to capitalize on their grief. I find it interesting that Otto is uncomfortable with Alicents feelings in private, trying to calm her down. But in public, where its profitable, he encourages her tears. I dont think Helaena would tell anyone about Alicent and Criston. Shes consumed by the loss of her son, as one would expect. But I also don’t think she would hurt her mother like this when it offers her no gain. She seems like one of the only harmless characters. I could be wrong, though; she could surprise us. 

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra The Cruel

It made me furious when Criston, leader of the Kingsguard, blamed Arryk for failure to protect the heir. When youre in charge, whatever goes wrong is on you, even if its not directly your doing. In fairness, I guess this applies to Daemons situation, as well. I absolutely hate that the twins split between loyalty to Aegon and Rhaenyra are named Arryk and Erryk; are they pronounced the same? I found this very confusing when looking them up. I think I have it right, but I may have called one the wrong name. The tension is excellent when the twins are both in the hallways at Dragonstone, crossing paths but not seeing each other until its almost too late. This was brutal, with Arryk accusing Erryk of breaking them up when they had been together since birth. Erryk kills himself after killing his brother, unable or unwilling to live without him. This reminds me of stories about brothers on different sides of the American Civil War. Each side has lost a valuable warrior. I immediately knew that Criston was stupid for sending Arryk on this mission. It just wasnt a good idea, even under the best of circumstances. Criston is still mad that his high school crush wouldnt run away with him. 

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra The Cruel

Speaking of Criston Cole, Aegon is dumber than I thought if he wants Cole as his Hand. This man is a fighter, a blunt instrument of warfare. He cant be the Kings Hand, or at least not a good one. His mind isnt where his strength lies, and he doesnt have a strategic bone in his body. Look at what happened with Arryk; an intelligent person wouldnt have created this situation to begin with. Im in a similar situation with Otto to the one with Daemon; I dont like him, and hes a bad person, but I actually do feel for him here. And Aegon is also just wrong; hes obsessed with being seen as strong, but Otto is right to respect Viserys temperance and patience. He was a great king and a good man. I loved it when Otto tells Aegon he only thinks Viserys chose him for the Iron Throne. Otto admits here that Rhaenyra is the rightful heir but he played puppet master to get his grandson on the throne. 

Aemond is one sick puppy, isnt he? His baby nephew is slaughtered in his bed in full view of his mom and sister, and all he can say is hes happy to be seen as a threat. Really, dude? Hes just as callous as Daemon but without any of the charm. I liked the prostitutes observation that the behavior of people like him usually hurts regular people like her. A scene directly shows this as a family struggles to scrape food together amid a blockade. I wonder if theyll become important later. Another prominent example comes when the city mourns all the rat catchers Aegon had executed. This is just a small detail, but I liked the shot of the dog looking up at the guy who kicked him, now dead—one of the only cathartic moments in this episode. 

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra The Cruel

We also have the guy who saved Corlys and his brother, who urges him to ask Corlys for a naval commission in return. Mysarias line that powerful men will never accept her echoes what Rhaenyra had been saying to Daemon, that he only supports her in name and wants to take her place. 

I liked this episode, but it isnt as shocking and gripping as “A Son For a Son.” Please, no book spoilers, but Im afraid Daemon and Rhaenyra wont be seen united again. Despite what she said, justified or not, his being absent when her life was threatened matters. Thats bad all around. I felt for most of the characters this week, except for Aegon, perhaps ironically. The way he treats the little people of Kings Landing almost cancels out his great loss.

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 2, "Rhaenyra The Cruel"

Plot - 7.5
Acting - 9
Music/Sound - 9
Production Design - 9
Drama - 7.5



"Rhaenyra the Cruel" is well done and engaging, but not as show-stopping as "A Son For A Son".

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