House of the Dragon stars promise a 'heinous' march to war in season 2

The cast and crew of House of the Dragon tease more action, characters "unleashed," paranoia, drama and the horrific Blood and Cheese incident.
Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2
Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon season 2 /

The second season of House of the Dragon premieres next month, and the cast and crew are out hyping us up. "Season 2 is the march to war," showrunner Ryan Condal told Entertainment Weekly in a new interview. “It's really a cold war because each side is trying to undeniably win the throne for themselves without going to all-out dragon war. We do that through plotting and backstabbing and assassination and spy games and all the things that you would see in a classic James Bond Cold War thriller."

As we saw in the recent trailer, the two sides may be unsuccessful in preventing an all-out dragon war. The fire-breathing beasties will get plenty of screentime this season.

Perhaps that's inevitable. At the end of season 1, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) and her younger half-brother Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) were on the edge of war after their father King Viserys (Paddy Considine) died, and they both claimed his throne as theirs. But we reached a point of no return when King Aegon's brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) killed Rhaenyra's son Luke (Elliot Grihault). Now, revenge will beget revenge, the blood starts spilling and the dragons take wing.

One of the brutal acts of revenge will come early in the season. Those who have read George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood will be familiar with a pair of characters named Blood and Cheese, whom Rhaenyra's husband Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) dispatches to the Red Keep to exact a brutal act of revenge in Luke's name. I'll spare you the spoilers, but things get nasty, and the cast and crew agree with me.

 "God!" explained Olivia Cooke, who plays King Aegon's mother Alicent Hightower. "I'd just say, it is Game of Thrones, expect the worst. Expect the very worst possible, and then double it. I dunno what else to say without heavily spoiling it, but it is heinous."

Condal weighed in as well: "A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones have really conditioned people to expect the unexpected and expect the horrible. But, yeah, that one's pretty horrific. We'll see what people make of what's to come."

Airing this June!

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon season 2 /

Alicent and the Greens

A brutal war like this can bring out the worst in people, which is particularly bad for characters like Aemond, who were pretty vicious already. "You're going to see Aemond in full throttle," Ewan Mitchell teased. "You're either with him or you're against him."

And yet this is still a Game of Thrones show and an HBO drama, so finding the nuances is key. Tom Glynn-Carney admits that his character, King Aegon, is "a living, walking nightmare" and "great fun" to play, but pushes back against comparisons to King Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones, who is still held up as an example of irredeemable villainy. "We saw him not wanting to be made king and rejecting the responsibility, but we see Aegon recognize the way he's seen externally from his peers, his family, everyone from King's Landing," the actor said of his character. "And we see him try to combat that."

More complicated still is Alicent Hightower, who has less to do during this stretch of Martin's book. Because Alicent was a large focus in season 1, the writers wanted to continue that here, which meant filling in some of the gaps in the narrative, albeit in ways that producer Sara Hess assures us doesn't go "against anything that's in the book."

Towards the end of season 1, Alicent found herself shut out of some of the political decision making in King's Landing and tried to take matters into her own hands. Based on the trailer, it looks like she's still trying to be the voice of moderation on the Green Council, the name given to the faction which supports Aegon's claim to the throne. "Who can she trust? There's no one around her," said actor Olivia Cooke. "Everyone, it seems, has been spying on her. It's this sense of peak paranoia within her own home. That had to really permeate throughout my performance. All of a sudden she's of no use to anyone. She's done what she was supposed to do — put her son on the throne — and now she's discarded. Who is she if she can't be the person to implement wisdom?"

However, in a way, her new role is freeing: "Oh, I could do whatever the f--- I want and no one cares. All of a sudden I'm not important. I'm not a player," Cooke said. "In a very giddy way, that's really novel and exciting."

House of the Dragon season 2 /

Rhaenyra and the Blacks

Meanwhile, Rhaenyra and her Black Council plot to take the Iron Throne back from King Aegon from their stronghold on Dragonstone. Actor Emma D'Arcy promises that the second season "absolutely hits the ground running" after the finale with Luke's death. "Rhaenyra is a person devastated," D'Arcy said. "She's rigid with grief. Grief can be a really dislocating force. It can separate us from our family, from our friends, from our allies, almost as if the bereft person remains with the dead. And, of course, she's going to have to find some way of traveling back to the world of the living in order to fight for her inheritance."

D'Arcy, ever eloquent, describes Rhaenyra as existing between two poles, "one of chosen moderation and one of fire and volatility. I certainly think that Rhaenyra is somewhat unleashed this season and is able to have more fluidity between those poles. In season 1, for reasons of her position, she was constantly moderating her desire. This season really investigates rage and maybe in particular a woman's rage."

"In season 1, a lot of Rhaenyra's power came from her ability to manipulate her male peers. Here, she begins to distance herself from the men of her council and, to some extent, she kind of goes AWOL. When she returns to court, she's looking to new power structures, to consolidate female power, to different methodologies, as opposed to trying to fit into a male praxis."

And at bottom, Rhaenyra wants the Iron Throne so she can honor the wishes of her late father King Viserys. "To wear his crown is to keep him alive in some way," D'Arcy said. "So the political desire becomes a personal one. For me, that's when the show really starts to live." But what lines might Rhaenyra cross trying to achieve those goals? "Support women's rights and women's wrongs," D'Arcy quipped.

The second season of House of the Dragon premieres on HBO and Max on Sunday, June 16.

Next. Watch a brand new trailer for House of the Dragon season 2!. Watch a brand new trailer for House of the Dragon season 2!. dark

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