Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, and Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in 'House of the Dragon'

There’s a Big Change in Store for ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2—and I’m Sad About It

An eye for an eye, a son for a son...

The season 2 premiere of House of the Dragon is almost here, promising even more betrayal, bloodshed, and yes, dragons, as our leads continue to hash it out for the Iron Throne. Even though the stakes have never been higher, audiences can expect to see a very different—and shorter—season this time around.

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HBO’s hit Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, based on George R.R. Martin’s 2018 book Fire & Blood, was somewhat of a gamble from the start given the, well, less-than-positive reactions to the GOT series finale. However, thanks to some truly stellar performances, a mind-boggling $200 million production budget, and a built-in fanbase, the first season of the TV adaptation was a hit, going on to snag eight nominations (and one win) at the 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards.

A sophomore season was always something of a given for House of the Dragon considering the sheer amount of source material showrunners have to work with. Plus, that cliffhanger season 1 finale left viewers pretty revved up for future installments, as fans are understandably ecstatic to see Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) go full Sicko Mode on her ex-BFF, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke). The tea is piping hot.

House of the Dragon season 2 will pick up further along in the Targaryen civil war, with the first batch of episodes—which landed on the streaming service in 2022—chronicling how we got to this point in the first place. D’Arcy and Cooke will reprise their roles for the new season, along with Matt Smith, who plays Rhaenyra’s uncle/hubby, Daemon Targaryen (it’s Game of Thrones, okay?!), Rhys Ifans (Otto Hightower), Eve Best (Rhaenys Targaryen), and more. Yeah, this is a seriously stacked cast.

It’s an intense, twisted, and adrenaline-fueled watch that puts an R-rated spin on the fantasy genre as we know it, and I couldn’t be more excited for the new season. Sadly, however, House of the Dragon is making one big change for season 2, marking a stark (da-dum-tiss) contrast from the first batch of episodes: there’s going to be way less of it. Well, kind of.

House of the Dragon season 2 will have fewer episodes, but don’t panic

Unlike its predecessor, House of the Dragon season 2 will consist of just eight episodes—two fewer than season 1. Per a March Deadline report, the decision came from the upper echelon at Max, who claimed that “the episode count trim was story-driven.” According to the report, showrunners initially planned for another 10-episode arc, but the script was edited down to make it more compact. While it’s difficult to pinpoint why exactly a “story-driven” season led to a couple episodes ending up on the cutting room floor, the Deadline report suggests that this was a strategic move that will help build up to season 3.

So, if season 2 follows in the same footsteps as season 1 and consists of mostly 55-65-minute episodes, this means we could be losing upwards of two hours of valuable House of the Dragon content. Sigh. If it’s any small consolation, though, the premiere episode, titled “A Son for a Son,” has a 64-minute runtime, with episode 2 allegedly running for a whopping 72 minutes, according to HBO’s TV schedule. In this case, it sounds like less is actually more!

It’s worth noting that plenty of shows—including Game of Thrones—tend to gradually trim down their seasons as time goes on in favor of creating longer, individual episodes. George R.R. Martin, who serves as one of the series’ executive producers, actually explained this decision in a 2022 blog post, writing, “If House of the Dragon had 13 episodes per season, maybe we could have shown all the things we had to ‘time jump’ over, though that would have risked having some viewers complain that the show was too ‘slow,’ that ‘nothing happened.'” Putting pacing first is key for House of the Dragon‘s success, given just how dense the actual content can be. Plus, it’s hard to keep track of all those Targaryens!

So, while the decision to shorten House of the Dragon season 2 could absolutely be a result of HBO’s cost-cutting initiatives, it sounds like it really did come down to showrunners’ longterm plans for the story, as well as wanting to act in the best interests of viewers. Either way, I can’t wait to return to the world of Westeros no matter how long the runtime, and if this means a third season really is on the horizon, then hey, I’m not complaining.

Fans can look forward to seeing House of the Dragon‘s eight-episode run on HBO this summer, with the premiere arriving on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

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Amanda Landwehr
Amanda is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer who lives and breathes Star Wars, Marvel, and all things pop culture. She has worked in digital media since 2021, covering the latest movie/TV releases, casting updates, fan theories, and so, so much more. When she's not rotting away behind her laptop screen, you can typically catch Amanda maxing out her AMC Stubs membership.