Luke Tittensor and Elliot Tittensor as Arryk and Erryk Cargyll face off in House of the dragon

5 Best Moments From ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Episode 2, ‘Rhaenyra the Cruel’

Hating on Ser Criston Cole definitely counts as a moment!

With namedropping of Harrenhal in House of the Dragon season 2 episode 1, we were all hoping for some dragon action in episode 2. Instead, “Rhaenyra the Cruel” gave us something better: character development across the board and another reason to hate on Ser Criston Cole.

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To quickly summarise what happened in HOTD season 2 episode 2, it was about repercussions from last week’s Blood and Cheese incident that ended with baby Prince Jaehaerys beheaded in his bed. Everyone from Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) to Ser Criston Cole feels guilty for the part they played in this happening. Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), on the other hand, is in damage-control mode and thinks of this as an opportunity to rebrand the enemy as “Rhaenyra the Cruel.” 

Alicent and Helaena Targaryen dressed in black for mourning in House of the Dragon season 2

The dude who actually is responsible for the kill, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), thinks he could get away with it, if it weren’t for his niece-wife, who knows him all too well. She calls him out, they fight, and he’s off to Harrenhal on Caraxes, in a mood. God knows what he’s going to do. Meanwhile, a sad Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) becomes the subject of an assassination plot that almost kills her in her bed, courtesy of Sir Criston and his genius plan for revenge. And King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), overcome by grief, fires a perfectly good employee and promotes an utterly useless one in his place. 

With all this and more happening in Westeros, here’s my pick of the 5 best moments from House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2, “Rhaenyra the Cruel.”

1. The Small Council meeting and Ser Otto Hightower chanelling Kris Jenner

There’s so much tension in the air amongst the people gathered at the King’s Small Council table over what’s going to happen next. Is it finally here, the war? Is the Red Keep even safe anymore? What rash thing is the boy king going to do in his anger? There’s also hidden guilt, when Aegon asks Ser Criston where he was when his son was being murdered, and Criston can only give a vague answer that he was abed, while exchanging shame-filled glances with Alicent.

But here is Hand of the King Otto Hightower already at work and marshaling ideas on how to turn this tragedy in the Greens’ favour. He wants to milk the smallfolk’s sentiments with a funeral procession, his grandson’s stitched up body on full display for people to see how cruel Rhaenyra has been.

You may hate him, but there’s no denying, after this episode, that Otto is the only one who plays the long game on that team. And without him, they’d be running around like a headless chicken!

2. Daemon’s sneaky smile when Rhaenyra asks who killed baby Jaehaerys

Rhaenyra and Daemon at Dragonstone, facing each other in House of the Dragon

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen has been such a delicious treat to watch. This episode really laid bare the toxic relationship that Daemon and Rhaenyra share, despite being shipped by most as a power couple. Their fight in private was years of pent-up frustration on both their ends being put out in the open. She realized a part of him would always be loyal only to his own whims, and that he never recovered from being passed up for her for the Iron Throne. 

But in a scene in front of Rhaenyra’s council, she wonders why the Greens would think she, already grieving the loss of her son, would kill her step-siblings’ son. Daemon just sits there, silently smirking, fielding these looks from Rhaenys, who knows it was her former son-in-law’s doing because he invited her to join the party last episode. 

Of course, Rhaenyra knows her uncle and can read that smirk. But it was still an unintentionally funny moment.

3. Aemond’s guilt and resembling the Voldemort fetus from Harry Potter

Yes, the memes are abound that in this scene, the very naked Aemond, curled up in fetal position, looks very much like that bloody baby Voldemort from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

But let’s talk about the serious stuff, please. This is an interesting scene for several reasons. For one, we see Aemond admit his guilt (albeit a bit too late) over killing Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault). He has been sticking to the story that he intended to kill Lucerys as revenge for his eye, in an effort to appear ruthless and nonchalant. But we saw what happened. The truth is that Aemond lost control of his dragon Vhagar, who then chomped on the much smaller dragon Arrax, killing Lucerys. And Aemond was not prepared for this.

Second, Aemond admits this to the woman who took his virginity when he was younger. From a conversation in season 1, we can ascertain that Aemond was not even of age when he had sex with the prostitute after being compelled to do so by his brother. This complicates his relationship with her.

And yet, it is to her that he bares it all, not just his body and his lost eye, but also his secret guilt. And she’s gentle with him, reminding him that when princes like him get angry, it is ultimately people like her, the smallfolk, that have to suffer consequences. 

4. When Ser Criston’s “Parent Trap” results in the death of two perfectly good knights

Luke Tittensor and Elliot Tittensor as Arryk and Erryk Cargyll face off in House of the dragon

This entire plan was rather brusque and funny, wouldn’t you agree? But then again, I think I did suspect that at some point, the Cargyll brothers being identical twins would be used in the plot for a Parent Trap-like scheme. Trust Criston Cole to come up with the idea, and Aegon to approve it!

The scene where Criston, trying to mitigate his own guilt, gives crap to Ser Arryk (Luke Tittensor) about his dirty cloak, while other knights of the Kingsguard steer clear of the two is hilarious, makes you hate Criston even more.

It’s all funny until it isn’t. Thankfully, the guards at Dragonstone are actually doing their duty properly, and Ser Erryk (Elliot Tittensor) soon arrives to stop his twin Ser Arryk from killing Rhaenyra. But the end of that fight, though predictable, is heartbreaking nonetheless. What a colossal waste of two perfectly good knights!

5. Ser Otto’s slow-motion head turn when he finds out Ser Criston Cole “has acted”

Ser Otto Hightower, back to the camera, looks at his grandson, King Aegon and Ser Criston Cole in  House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2

We’re two episodes into House of the Dragon season 2 and King Aegon II vs Otto Hightower has been comedic gold every time. His interactions with Aegon are bound to remind you of the exasperated efforts of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) trying to rein in the brash decisions of his grandson King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in Game of Thrones.

Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower is clearly the MVP of this episode. He might’ve finally let himself feel doubt over making Aegon king over Rhaenyra. We hear him regretfully remember the dignity with which his former friend King Viserys (Paddy Considine) conducted business and throw a few savage insults at his grandson, including calling him a fool and making him doubt that his father never actually wanted him to be king. Below the belt, that one!

His reaction to his daughter wanting to confess her sin to him is another drop in the Hightower generational trauma reservoir.

But it is the slow head turn from Ser Otto, when Aegon tells him at least Ser Criston Cole “has acted” to avenge the prince’s murder—that is a moment you must rewind and watch for the sheer beauty of it. He even calls the whole scheme “a prank!”

Bonus moment: You may be Team Green or Team Black, but it helps that every viewer out there just collectively hates Ser Criston Cole!

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.