House of the Dragon Season 2 is set to arrive in the 2024 TV schedule, with fewer episodes than the first season delivered back in 2022. Yet all signs point toward plenty happening in the second season, particularly if you're a reader of George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood book on which the HBO series is based. Now, HBO has released two new looks at what's on the way for the twisted Targaryen family tree, and one of them seems to foreshadow a major tragedy on the way that could change viewers' minds about who they support.
Before I get into spoilers from Fire & Blood, take a look at the new poster released of Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower:
Alicent may not be a rider of one of the dragons of House of the Dragon, but she'll certainly be involved in the Targaryen civil war known in George R.R. Martin's source material as the Dance of the Dragons. First blood in the war was drawn at the end of the Season 1 finale, when Alicent's son Aemond led Rhaenyra's son Lucerys to his death. All bets could well be off in Season 2, and that leads me to what I see as foreshadowed in this Alicent image.
Warning: HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD for George R.R. Martin's Fire & Blood are ahead. Turn back now if you don't want a clue of what comes next!
A Foreshadowed Tragedy From Fire & Blood
The expression on Olivia Cooke's face in the new poster may be striking – especially compared to her expression in Season 1, like in the image above – and the embers falling around her point toward plenty of fire in Season 2, but the element of the poster that immediately struck me as foreshadowing as soon as I saw it was the tagline of "BLOOD FOR BLOOD."
That line appearing on an image of Alicent might suggest that she'll be the one calling for blood for blood on behalf of the Greens (a.k.a. supporters of the Hightower branch of the Targaryen dynasty) against the Blacks (a.k.a. the supporters of Rhaenyra and Daemon's side). A line from Fire & Blood – which is arguably one of the most iconic lines from the entire book – makes me think otherwise.
George R.R. Martin wrote this of what happened in the wake of Luke's death:
Now, House of the Dragon has already taken some major liberties with the source material, and events from the Season 1 finale already debunk the precise sequence of events from the above passage of Fire & Blood. Daemon was on Dragonstone to deliver the news to Rhaenyra himself, and Rhaenyra didn't collapse. But "An eye for an eye, a son for a son" from Daemon in the book and "BLOOD FOR BLOOD" on the poster lead me to suspect that we're in for something despicable pretty early on in Season 2, courtesy of Matt Smith's character: Blood and Cheese.
Blood And Cheese In Season 2
Last chance to turn back if you don't want details about a huge twist that's probably coming!
If you're a fan of Daemon Targaryen, you're in for a very rough ride in what I assume will be early Season 2 due to the Blood and Cheese storyline, which is named for two men who do something pretty awful on Daemon's orders. I'll spare the gruesome details here, but the two men trap Alicent, Helaena, and Helaena's three kids with her brother/husband Aegon in a room and force the young queen to choose which of her sons will die, or else her young daughter would be assaulted.
And I really don't see House of the Dragon cutting Blood and Cheese or even softening it from what it is on the page. Blood and Cheese is arguably Fire & Blood's equivalent to A Song of Ice and Fire's Red Wedding, insofar as the event itself is horrific but has to happen to move the story forward. Plus, House of the Dragon did introduce (albeit briefly) Helaena and Aegon's young twins, and there's no reason to believe that their second son hasn't been born either. The slight changes about Daemon's location and Rhaenyra not collapsing definitely don't lead me to expect that Blood and Cheese won't happen.
Why I Think Some Fans Will Switch Sides
Even as somebody who is Team Black for Rhaenyra on the show just as I was in Fire & Blood, I have no problem admitting that Daemon arranging Blood and Cheese is absolutely horrifying no matter which way you look at it. Sure, the Dance of the Dragons never would have happened in the first place if the Greens didn't steal Rhaenyra's throne, and it might never have escalated to a civil war that would rip the dynasty apart if Aemond hadn't killed Luke, but Blood and Cheese is inexcusable.
And I think that will be enough to push any lukewarm supporters of the Blacks over to the Greens, particularly in light of how I still think House of the Dragon Season 1 went the extra mile to make the Greens look way better than they did in George R.R. Martin's book. This was largely due to the show making Daemon look worse than he should have been at that point in the timeline and making Alicent and Aemond look better. (No, I'm still not over HOTD Daemon killing his first wife.)
Since Daemon already looked like a villain with just a redeeming quality or two, I can easily see Blood and Cheese pushing anybody – book reader or not – over to the Greens, especially since the show's version of events had Aemond accidentally leading Luke to his death instead of deliberately killing him like in the book. A lot may depend on how the show treats Aemond's war crimes as well as how Rhaenyra reacts to Blood and Cheese. If she knew what Daemon was going to do before it happened... well, even I might have to jump ship.
Am I making a lot of assumptions here about Daemon ordering Blood and Cheese based on three words in a poster, when we last saw him in House of the Dragon delivering the news of Luke's death to his wife as gently as he's done anything? Maybe, but Alicent's poster definitely has me thinking about the awful event that pretty much can't be cut from Fire & Blood to HOTD. As for Rhaenyra, I'm just hoping she doesn't know about Blood and Cheese before it happens, but the poster of Emma D'arcy doesn't include clues on that front:
"FIRE TO FIRE" could be a reference to one of Rhaenyra's only advantages over the Greens: the sheer number of dragons, which could increase if House of the Dragon further explores what Daemon was up to with Vermithor on Dragonstone. It could also just refer to the fact that Season 2 is going to be Targaryen vs. Targaryen. For now, HBO has not yet announced the precise date for House of the Dragon's return for Season 2, but you can always revisit the first season as well as all eight seasons of Game of Thrones streaming with a Max subscription.