Rhaenyra the Cruel: A Recap of HotD’s Shocking Episode 2

This episode ramped things up a notch. Keep reading to learn what happened in the jaw-dropping second episode of House of the Dragon’s second season.

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A man and a woman with faces close to kissing. They both have very fair hair and regal outfits on. It is a close up. It is very red-tinted, and there is a cartoon grave at the bottom that says "RIP".

This House of the Dragon episode, titled Rhaenyra the Cruel (ouch) showcases just how dangerous it is when two conflicting houses fight from different kingdoms. I don’t know about you, but I just want to put all the major characters in a room together and force them to just talk it out. Maybe bring some snacks, some PR reps, and just do some damage control. A girl can dream, I guess.


A Family, Broken

This episode opens with King Aegon smashing his room to bits, furiously angry about the murder of his son. The whole episode is dedicated to the characters’ reactions to the dead prince, ranging from devastation to indifference. Alicent is, unsurprisingly, one of the only characters who seems to suffer emotionally from his death, crying “The child is dead, his pain has ended! But what they’ve done to my girl-” and then breaking down. It’s an incredibly emotional scene, promoting empathy for Alicent that some viewers may not have previously had.

A woman with red hair and a green elaborate gown looks down, crying. We can only see from her mid-chest up.

Aegon’s reaction seems to be driven more by anger, as seen by his opening scene’s outburst of violence. During the small council meeting, Aegon displays emotions akin to a grieving father and a betrayed king. Each council member is in full belief that Rhaenyra was behind the death of Jaehaerys, as some form of sick and twisted revenge. The royal family’s grief and anger lead them (encouraged by Otto Hightower) to have a funeral for the late prince, declaring openly in front of the entire kingdom that his death was Rhaenyra’s doing. This is unfortunately a smart move; announcing Rhaenyra’s cruelty vastly diminishes the number of her supporters in King’s Landing.

Several knights and people wearing black surround a carriage with two women in it. They are wearing dark green and black, and have black veils on. There are flowers on the floor of the carriage.

Who Killed Jaehaerys?

The next scene leads us to the dungeons, where they have finally caught Blood, a gold cloak who worked with Cheese during the murder of Jaehaerys. Blood IMMEDIATELY folds, ratting out both Cheese and Daemon in a matter of seconds, which is honestly kind of funny. Meanwhile, Helaena begins to unravel during her son’s funeral procession, foreshadowing what could be the complete downfall of the queen.

In the next scene, Rhaenyra realizes that Daemon was behind Jaehaerys’s murder. Feeling hurt and betrayed, she accuses him of loving no one but himself, and of marrying her only for the throne. At first, he steadfastly denies it, but after they fight and wear each other down, Daemon finally snaps. He spits out that the only reason Viserys left the throne to Rhaenyra in the first place was to spite Daemon. It’s safe to say that Daemon’s character is taking a massive turn in this season, and may even become a huge source of conflict for Rhaenyra.

A man and a woman, both with bright blonde hair, stand face to face. The woman has her hands on the man's chest, looking there. The man is also looking down. They both look solemn.

As you may recall from the last episode, the royal family’s sworn protector, Criston Cole, was busy having sex with Alicent while Prince Jaehaerys was murdered. In what seems to be a twisted method of penance, Criston accuses Sir Arryk of taking part in the murder and sends him off to kill Rhaenyra. I guess he thinks that Rhaenyra’s death will cancel out his sins. Weird logic, but okay.

From here, we get a couple of scenes focusing on lesser characters, like Addam of Hull (a fisherman who definitely looks like he’s seen an iPhone) and his brother, as well as some poor townspeople. We also get a couple of Baela and Jacaerys bonding scenes, which might spell something more for the future. After this, Aemond appears in a brothel, stating that he “regrets that business with Luke”. Too little too late, buddy.

Two men face each other, one with a pile of black dreads and the other bald. They are both dressed in gray tunics and we can only see from their waist up.

In what feels like a desperate attempt at retribution, Aegon orders every rat catcher he employs to be hanged. This, understandably, greatly upsets Otto, who believes this act sullies the King’s image that they are so desperately trying to keep up. “With your child’s blood, we bought their approval,” he says. Yikes. Of course, Aegon is not a fan of the backlash he’s receiving, and subsequently fires Otto as the hand, giving the job to Criston Cole instead. What could go wrong?

A stern looking man wearing a brown vest and tunic. He is looking slightly off to the left. He has reddish brown hair and a greying beard.

A Devastating Third Act

As the climax approaches, Arryk (posing as his twin, Erryk) attempts to kill Rhaenyra, getting to her bed chambers before the real Sir Erryk discovers him. In a dirty and ruthless fight, Erryk and Arryk clash swords for Rhaenyra, ending in a heartbreaking tragedy. In the end, Erryk runs his sword through Arryk, turns to Rhaenyra, apologizes, and then takes his own life. This scene gives you a feeling of helplessness; just like Rhaenyra, you can only watch in horror as both of these knights destroy each other.

A man rests his face on another man's shoulder, crying. It is a close up, and we can't see beyond the two men's silver armor covered in grime and blood.

This episode showcases the pain and anger that each family has, causing a combination of empathy and disgust for their actions. It’s a great episode; it’s well written, well acted, well scored, and overall a compelling beginning to this season. What did you guys think? Are you frustrated with the men in this episode like I am (come on Criston, Daemon, Otto, and Aegon, you can do better), or mad about the distinct lack of dragons? Let us know on our socials! (Instagram, Facebook, and X)

Need to catch up? Check out our recap and analysis of the HotD season 2 premiere.

If you are also tired of fictional men messing things up, check out our bookshelf of dark sapphic romances. No men here!