The second season of House of the Dragon was reviewed

The Guardian

King Viserys is dead.
But the storm clouds of Targaryen civil war are gathering — one side fighting for King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), the other for Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy).
Despite the success of House Of The Dragon’s first season, both in terms of its burnished worldbuilding and its broadly positive critical response, the second arrives with much expectation that it can do better.
Above all else, House Of The Dragon remains a spiky, acidic human drama.
But Condal is hardly rushing into the fray, and where Season 1’s flaws have been addressed, its strengths continue to be shine.
(Dragons are mainly a form of travel and something for the smallfolk to be scared of in these early episodes.)
All shrieking and feathers!” Otto’s pining for the more judicious and dignified style of the departed King Viserys has the side-effect of making us miss the presence of Paddy Considine, Season 1’s MVP.
A confident and elegant improvement upon the first season, having settled into its cast, characters and era.

POSITIVE

Viserys the King has passed away. However, the storm clouds of a Targaryen civil war are gathering; one side is fighting for Queen Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), while King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) is the other.

Though the first season of House of the Dragon was well received by critics and had excellent worldbuilding, many were expecting more from the second season. Even its biggest fans could find something to complain about, be it the large time jumps, the frequent casting changes as characters grew older, or the relative lack of social and geographical scope. The news is good on all those fronts. Season 2, which is now directed by Ryan Condal alone after co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik stepped down, is less actor-jittery and more chronologically focused, with an eye toward the world (and social classes) outside of the aristocratic Targaryen court.

It returns us, for a little while, to Winterfell, where we meet Lord Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor), who pledges to lead a Northern force in the impending war. The opening scene is a comfortingly familiar musical theme and setting. Additionally, it allows us to see how the internal conflicts among the nobility affect those who work beneath them by taking us inside the homes and daily lives of some of the “smallfolk” of King’s Landing and Driftmark.

House Of The Dragon is still, above all, an acidic, spiky drama about humans.

We can safely predict that the Dance of Dragons will intensify now that the wedge has been firmly driven between House Targaryen’s Green and Black contingents, led by Olivia Cooke’s troubled Alicent and Emma D’Arcy’s mourning Rhaenyra, respectively. Although Season 1’s shortcomings have been addressed, Condal is not rushing into the conflict. In fact, its strengths are still apparent.

Above everything, House of the Dragon continues to be a sharp, caustic drama about human nature; a perceptive, topical, and masterfully executed examination of how power and wisdom are frequently incompatible with one another and of the disastrous results that arise when the former is used without the latter. In the early episodes, dragons are primarily used as a means of transportation and are a source of fear for the local populace. Aemond One-Eye’s murderous blunder in the Season 1 finale turned out to be just the first shot in a string of early-episode storylines that could be summed up as “impulsive, powerful men reacting in stupid ways.”. The outcomes are strikingly violent, featuring a decapitation in a nursery and a spectacular duel between identical twins. It is up to the more grounded characters to just shake their heads in shock and hope they can get by. Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) laments his heedless peers with grace, saying, “They are but peacocks.”. Feathers and all shrieking!”.

Otto’s longing for the wiser and more refined manner of the late King Viserys has the unintended consequence of making us long for Paddy Considine, the standout character of Season 1. However, Fabien Frankel (as the menacing Criston Cole), Tom Glynn-Carney, Ewan Mitchell, and the equally brilliant Cooke and D’Arcy—not to mention Ifans and Matt Smith—are able to spread their wings in juicy roles while Cooke and D’Arcy do the heavy lifting. With such volatile and disruptive characters, who needs dragons to blow the whole world apart?

After settling into its cast, characters, and era, the second season is a self-assured and graceful improvement over the first. Although it’s not quite as much of a “adventure” as Game of Thrones, the political and personal drama is still razor-sharp.

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