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  • Writer's pictureRayano R.

REVIEW: HOUSE OF THE DRAGON Season 2, Episode 2: Rhaenyra the Cruel

Updated: Jul 2

The second episode of the second season of House of the Dragon, titled "Rhaenyra the Cruel,” has been released on HBO/Max and gives us a much more character-driven narrative than its predecessor.


In an episode that so beautifully showcases the star power and talent of our stellar House of the Dragon cast, it is difficult to identify only a few standout performances from this episode. However, Rhys Ifans’ Ser Otto Hightower, Emma D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra Targaryen, Phia Saban’s Helaena Targaryen, and twins Elliot and Luke Tittensor as Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk Cargyll give the audience a true spectacle to behold.

Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower photo credits to HBO.

Episode 2 brings about the fallout of the assassination of Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen by Blood and Cheese within King's Landing and on Dragonstone. Naturally, the Red Keep is shown to be in complete disarray as the Greens attempt to restore order after the tragedy occurs. Through the barrage of confusion and distraught, Tom Glynn-Carney wonderfully displays the grief of a father as King Aegon II Targaryen through misery, heartbreak, and rage. When attention is first given to the entire council of Greens together, the audience can feel the weight of the actions of Blood and Cheese loom over their every word. We witness a family and coalition that have had their foundation shaken by the event, and their vulnerability is rising to the surface. In this moment, Rhys Ifans takes the stage and does not back down from it. Wasting no time, Ser Otto Hightower immediately moves to turn this tragedy into a win with his carefully crafted schemes to manipulate the narrative in their favor. Rhys Ifans is firm in his dialogue, expressive yet regal in his movements, and carries his actions in a way that nods to Charles Dance’s renowned performance as Lord Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones

Phia Saban as Queen Helaena Targaryen photo credits to HBO.

Phia Saban again blows us away with her emotional performance as Queen Helaena Targaryen. From the moment Saban is seen on screen, the audience is drowned in her emotion. The grief Helaena experiences is not shy, and the weight of it is carried throughout the entire episode. When Helaena is forced to sit through the funeral progression through the city, we experience a heartbreaking yet beautiful display of overwhelming anxiety. Saban so passionately expresses her discomfort as she squirms in her seat as if trying to set herself free, calling to her mother to end her pain. The scene is directed carefully by the talents of Clare Kilner, who lets the audience experience the angst through both Helaena and the mechanics of the scene itself.

Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria and Emma D'Arcy as Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen photo credits to HBO.

To no surprise, the great Emma D’Arcy once again leaves us in adoration with their performance as Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen. Emma showcases how Rhaenyra still grieves for the loss of her son, Lucerys, but with the focus simultaneously shifting to the shocking news from King’s Landing. Emma gives Rhaenyra even more agency in a scene brilliantly performed alongside the legendary Matt Smith. Rhaenyra is stern, unyielding, and unimpressed with the Rogue Prince and is not shy about showing it. Through Emma’s dialogue, we experience how wounded yet angered Rhaenyra has become at the mindless actions of Daemon. These turns of events inspire the vulnerability in D’Arcy’s performance of the actions of Rhaenyra from that moment on. Through D’Arcy, the audience witnesses how suspicious and anxious Rhaenyra becomes, with a looming dread that something is amiss.

Elliot and Luke Tittensor deliver a beautiful performance as Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk Cargyll, who rip twin brothers from each other and our hearts. Erryk and Arryk hold an emotionally brutal and bloody battle that ends with declarations of love while seeking forgiveness for their fatal dispute. In the end, Erryk calls to his Queen for forgiveness as he falls on his sword, riddled with the guilt of killing his brother but unyielding in his final defense of Rhaenyra. The final bow of the twins is raw and heartbreaking, and it gives us the exact feel and style of emotional action moments from Game of Thrones.

Elliot and Luke Tittensor as Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk Cargyll photo credits to HBO.

The episode is remarkably directed by Clare Kilner, with equally great performances from the entire cast.


HOUSE OF THE DRAGON Season 2, Episode 2, is now streaming on Max.


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