House of the Dragon’s newest episode reveals the sequence’ largest downside

Alicent and Criston face each other in House of the Dragon season 2.
Ollie Upton / HBO

Warning: This article accommodates spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2, episode 2.

The second episode of House of the Dragon season 2 begins, because it ought to, in chaos. As the information of Prince Jaehaerys’ homicide spreads all through the Red Keep of King’s Landing, mattress maidens and chateau staff are detained, all whereas Jaehaerys’ father, Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney), rages over his son’s dying, and members of his Small Council — specifically, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) — brainstorm over how to reply to the tragic occasion. The Hightowers, as crafty as ever, resolve to make use of Jaehaerys’ assassination to their political benefit by parading the boy’s lifeless physique by means of the streets as a part of a funeral procession and denouncing his homicide as an act of wanton cruelty on the a part of Aegon’s rival, Rhaenyra (Emmy D’Arcy).

Jaehaerys’ dying naturally hangs heavy over everything of House of the Dragon episode 2, and director Clare Kilner repeatedly re-emphasizes the grisly nature of his homicide with close-up pictures of his bloodied bedsheets and the stitches that preserve his severed head connected to his corpse. Despite all of that, the episode, written by Sara Hess, vastly struggles to navigate the inevitably dour temper set by the House of the Dragon season 2 premiere’s surprising conclusion. The episode, particularly, races by means of so many necessary plot twists and developments that it leaves you reeling from the emotional whiplash brought on by its haphazard plotting.

There’s an excessive amount of occurring

Alicent sits next to Helaena in House of the Dragon season 2.
Theo Whitman / HBO

House of the Dragon‘s latest episode packs a lot into its 69-minute runtime, which — despite its length — proves to be too short. So much happens throughout the installment, including Jaehaerys’ morbid funeral, Otto’s removing as Hand of the King, Aegon’s executions of the entire Red Keep’s ratcatchers, Criston Cole’s (Fabien Frankel) confrontation with Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) and his subsequent demand that Arryk pose as his brother Erryk (Elliott Tittensor) and try and assassinate Rhaenyra Targaryen. That, notably, is simply what occurs within the episode’s King’s Landing scenes.

On high of all of these beats, the episode additionally makes time for a tense argument and parting of the methods between Rhaenyra and her husband, Daemon (Matt Smith), over his involvement in Jaehaerys’ homicide, a number of scenes between Rhaenyra and a still-captive Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), and a duel between the Cargyll twins that ends in the deaths of each. Somehow, regardless of all of the moments of grief and dying scattered all through the episode, it then ends with Alicent and Criston sleeping collectively once more lower than 24 hours after their affair helped pave the best way for the homicide of considered one of Alicent’s grandchildren.

The present’s actual battle: plot vs. character improvement

Alicent stands alone in House of the Dragon season 2.
Ollie Upton / HBO

To say that the latter scene is an odd one for the episode to finish on could be an understatement. It is, for starters, extraordinarily jarring to leap from the brutal back-to-back deaths of Arryk and Erryk Cargyll to extra more and more callous and emotionally chilly moments between Alicent, Otto, and Criston. Even extra importantly, Alicent and Criston’s climactic hookup speaks to a much bigger downside that House of the Dragon has confronted ever because it premiered, and which is suffocatingly obvious all through the present’s most up-to-date installment. The sequence, fairly merely, continues to have a tough time juggling the emotional wants of its many characters with the mandatory developments of its plot.

The new episode rushes by means of so many confrontations, deaths, and political twists that it doesn’t give itself any room to discover the feelings its largest moments would inevitably provoke. No one exterior of Aegon and Jaehaerys’ mom, Helaena (Phia Saban), reacts in any respect usually to the boy’s midnight decapitation. Alicent, Otto, and Criston, specifically, deal with the occasion with a degree of disregard that isn’t simply appalling however which defies logic. To be clear, House of the Dragon‘s characters can completely be villainous, however the present must be cautious to not lean so arduous into their shared selfishness that they turn out to be one-note.

The sequence’ newest chapter jams a lot violent, brutal trauma into its runtime that it’s unattainable to just accept even two characters as self-involved as Alicent and Criston instantly shifting previous Jaehaerys’ horrifying homicide and leaping proper again into mattress collectively. It’s a storytelling choice that threatens to fully negate the preliminary weight of Jaehaerys’ dying.

Is House of the Dragon repeating Game of Thrones’ largest mistake?

House of the Dragon Season 2 | Weeks Ahead Trailer | Max

For most of its eight-season run, Game of Thrones managed to maintain its overarching story shifting ahead with out ever leaving its characters and their wants by the wayside. That, after all, modified in the show’s final two seasons when it started to prioritize its plot over its characters, however Thrones wouldn’t have gained the next that it did if it had at all times fallen sufferer to that mistake. Up up to now, House of the Dragon has by no means taken its viewers’s intelligence as a right as a lot as Thrones‘ final 13 episodes did.

The present has, nevertheless, persistently struggled to carry its plot-heavy supply materials (a fictionalized historical past of the Targaryen dynasty titled Fire & Blood) to the display screen. That’s an issue it should deal with sooner slightly than later if it desires to cease inflicting the identical sorts of intense emotional whiplash that it does all through its latest episode, particularly provided that the seeds have already been planted for its forged to develop even bigger this season and subsequent.

New episodes of House of the Dragon season 2 premiere Sunday nights on Max and HBO.

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