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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Elizabeth Gregory

House of the Dragon season 2: everything there is to know

House of the Dragon season one spoilers below

The release of the second chapter of House of the Dragon is now just two weeks away, and the tension is boiling over.

In the series’ most recent trailer, which we’ve popped at the top of the page, rival factions the Greens and the Blacks (those who support Alicent Hightower and those who support Rhaenyra Targaryen in their bids for power) prepare for battle. Knights flee on horses through forests; there are explosions, strategy meetings, fraught show downs and the dragons are once again patrolling the skies, bigger than ever.

The Game of Thrones spin-off show, which premiered in August 2022, had big shoes to fill: David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ television adaptation of George R. R. Martin's novels became one of the world’s biggest TV series, running for eight seasons and picking up 59 Emmy awards.

But House of the Dragon lived up to every expectation, pulling in a whopping 29 million viewers per episode worldwide. On its release, it became Sky’s biggest US drama launch, and was Sky Atlantic’s most successful series premiere, with four million UK viewers tuning in.

Critics were thrilled with the spin-off, too: “It has the same sweep and ambition, the same lavish attitude to casting and effects as its predecessor. The cinematography is as good, the yellow-white wigs just as bad. Guess I’m hooked again,” said The Standard.

Now there’s not long to wait until House of the Dragon season two lands on our screens, here’s everything we know so far about the forthcoming season.

What’s season two going to be about?

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in season two (© 2023 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.)

The finer details of the plot of House of the Dragon’s second season is still being kept under wraps. But we can speculate with a reasonable amount of accuracy.

Given that the spin-off series is based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood, which details the Targaryen civil war (aka the Dance of the Dragons), there’s no doubt that season two will continue to deal with the run-up to this war, and, judging by the trailer, will include some of the book’s bloody battle scenes.

When the last season finished, Aegon II, Rhaenyra’s half-brother, had been crowned King of the Seven Kingdoms, and tensions were high as the Greens (House Hightower, House Baratheon, House Lannister, Lord Larys Strong, Ser Arryk Cargyll and Rhaenyra’s spurned lover, Ser Criston Cole) and Blacks (House Targaryen, House Velaryon, Ser Erryk Cargyll, some members of The Dragonstone court and potentially House Arryn) prepared for an almighty battle.

As the finale ended, Rhaenyra’s son, Luke, had just been killed by the dragon Vhagar, ridden by Aemond. That shocking act will likely propel the next season forward, as Rhaenyra seeks revenge.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in October 2022, Emma D’Arcy, who plays Rhaenyra, explained: “The moment that she receives the news of Luke’s passing, that attempt at mediation crumbles... I don’t think there is any longer the bandwidth to suppress and repress her nature.

“I am excited to discover what happens when Rhaenyra does less navigating and more acting on her instincts and desires. For so many very legitimate reasons, she has her hands tied practically throughout season one. I have a feeling that the reins might be off for season two.”

Who is in the cast?

Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower & Olivia Cooke as Queen / Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower in season two (© 2023 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.)

Season two will see D’Arcy return alongside Matt Smith, who plays Rhaenyra’s uncle and husband, Prince Daemon Targaryen. Rhys Ifans will return as Ser Otto Hightower and Olivia Cooke as his daughter, Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower.

Steve Toussaint will also return as Lord Corlys Velaryon, and Eve Best as his wife Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. Fabien Frankel will also be back as Ser Criston Cole.

Reportedly there won’t be any flashbacks to the past in season two, which means that Milly Alcock, who played the younger Rhaenyra, and Emily Carey, who played the younger Alicent Hightower, won’t be in the show’s next chapter. It’s a shame, as both were commended for their on-screen presence. “Can House of the Dragon Survive Without Milly Alcock and Emily Carey?” asked Esquire when the cast changeover first happened last September.

But season two does promise some exciting new cast members: according to Variety, Gayle Rankin (GLOW) is signed up to play sorcerer Alys Rivers, who joins team Greens in the book.

Simon Russell Beale (Penny Dreadful; The Death of Stalin) will play Ser Simon Strong – Lord Larys Strong’s great-uncle. Given that Larys devised the death of his father and brother in the first season, Ser Simon needs to watch his back. In the books, the old man surrenders Harrenhal as soon as he sees Daemon’s dragon, Caraxes – it will be interesting to see whether the character stands his ground in the upcoming series.

According to Variety, Freddie Fox is signed up to play Ser Gwayne Hightower, Alicent’s brother. In the books, once the civil war begins he becomes number two of the City Watch of King’s Landing.

Abubakar Salim (Jamestown) will play Alyn of Hull, an admiral and at one point Master of Driftmark, and head of House Velaryon in the books.

Finally, Danish actor Amanda Collin (Raised by Wolves) has joined the cast as Lady Jeyne Arryn, the head of House Arryn. Given that Rhaenyra is Aemma Arryn’s daughter, Lady Jeyne Arryn could prove, as she does in the books, an important ally to the Black team.

Who is behind the production?

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen and Emma D'Arcy as Princess / Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen in season two (© 2023 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. HBO® and all related programs are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.)

American screenwriter Ryan Condal, whose credits include the films Hercules and Rampage, returns as the showrunner of House of the Dragon.

The show’s music will once again be scored by Ramin Djawadi, who composed Game of Thrones’ award-winning score, and novelist Martin is onboard as co-creator, although he isn’t involved in all decisions about the show.

Explaining Martin’s role to Deadline in October 2022, Condal said: “It’s really hard for him to engage with us at the pace that we would need him to, to weigh in on every single little decision. The train is moving too fast.

“But he always knows what’s going on. That’s the thing that I promised him from the beginning: I might not always do exactly the thing that he wants me to do, but we will always talk about it. We will always have the discussion, and I’ve honoured that.”

Award-winning film director Miguel Sapochnik, who was season one’s co-showrunner, will not return for season two. He is replaced by Emmy-winning director Alan Taylor, whose credits include episodes of The Sopranos, Mad Men and Game of Thrones.

Sapochnik, who directed some of Game of Thrones’ most memorable episodes, including Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards, reportedly stepped back to work on other HBO projects.

According to Variety, season two will comprise eight episodes, whereas season one comprised ten.

Is there a release date?

Yes, finally: House of the Dragon will be released on June 17.

House of the Dragon was one of the few TV shows that wasn’t shut down by last year’s Hollywood writers’ strike, which meant its release date wasn’t delayed, as was the case with some other major TV shows. This was because House of the Dragon’s key actors, who are British, are part of a UK union, rather than the US SAG-AFTRA union which was striking.

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