The Spoiler-Filled Book Reader Predictions for ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2

Two of The Ringer’s ‘Fire & Blood’ scholars parse the text for a no-spoilers-barred assessment of what might await on-screen

HBO/Ringer illustration

Zach Kram: Good morrow, Lord Riley, and welcome to this council meeting, as we assemble to discuss the upcoming Season 2 of House of the Dragon. Nonreaders, beware: This is a no-spoilers-barred discussion of all things HotD and Fire & Blood. But to our fellow readers and learned maesters of the Citadel, grab a scroll, maybe a cup of wine—we have the finest Arbor vintage—and let’s dive in.

On Sunday, House of the Dragon returns after nearly two years off our screens, and I think I speak for the both of us, Riley, in saying that we couldn’t be more excited to drop back into Westeros. But what are you the most excited for in Season 2? What coming plot points or character beats get your heart racing at the speed of dragon flight?

Riley McAtee: Lord Zach! Gods be good, our long wait for Season 2—during which we’ve been bombarded with trailers, casting news, press stunts, and all sorts of rumors and scuttlebutt—is nearly at a merciful end. In just a few short days, we’ll have new footage to discuss!

As greenseers book readers, we know a lot about what will happen this season. Jacaerys will meet the Starks in Winterfell. Corlys Velaryon will blockade King’s Landing. Aegon II will fire Otto Hightower. Two scruffy vagabonds named like hors d’oeuvres will dramatically increase the temperature in this conflict. And of course, dragons will fight. I’m looking forward to all of this, but my mind recently has been on something we don’t know as much about, which is what Daemon will do in Season 2.

We know the rogue prince will take Harrenhal early this season. The show set that development up at the end of Season 1. But, get this: In Fire & Blood, Daemon takes Harrenhal on page 413. He then does almost nothing (besides planning Blood and Cheese through a go-between and taking part in the brief Battle of the Burning Mill) until he assists in the fall of King’s Landing on page 454. It’s basically 40-plus pages of him just chilling at Harrenhal! Given the pacing of F&B, that’s an eternity—all of Season 2 may cover less than 40 pages.

Daemon is perhaps HotD’s most compelling character. A monster wrapped in a cloak of charisma, his motivations are difficult to parse. His marriage with Rhaenyra is tense—the Season 1 finale makes it clear that the two don’t see eye to eye. In addition to expanding Daemon’s role in the Blood and Cheese plot and making the Battle of the Burning Mill a bigger deal, I could see the show moving Daemon around the map in Season 2. I’d bet a gold dragon that he returns to Dragonstone after taking Harrenhal this season, where his relationship with Rhaenyra can be explored more intimately and he can take a hands-on role in the effort to pair riders with unclaimed dragons in the sowing of the seeds, which would make sense given how involved he was in adding up the dragon math at the black council. (Alternatively, they could keep him at Harrenhal and give him more time with Alys Rivers, but I think it’s more likely the showrunners move him around the map.)

How about you; what’s on your mind as Season 2 approaches?

Kram: I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Daemon oversaw the sowing, especially after he seemed to lay the seeds (pun intended) for the event when he sang to Vermithor—a currently riderless dragon in a cave on Dragonstone—in the Season 1 finale. And that potential book change happens to intersect with the foremost thought on my mind, which is how the show will get Rhaenyra more involved.

In this section of Fire & Blood, Rhaenyra is almost entirely sidelined; hundreds and thousands are dying in her name, but she’s stuck convalescing on Dragonstone, after the dual shocks of her lost pregnancy and Lucerys’s death. But we know the show will give Rhaenyra a more active role; if nothing else, unlike her book counterpart, the show version is already in dragon-riding form, after mounting Syrax for a dramatic entrance in the Season 1 finale.

From both a narrative (to the extent that it has one, Rhaenyra is the show’s main character) and thematic (HotD has devoted a concerted focus to the burden of womanhood) perspective, Season 2 should make Rhaenyra a more active participant in the war than does the source text. But the how is trickier than the what: Maybe Daemon will visit her more often on Dragonstone, but with whom else can Rhaenyra share her great conversations in elegant rooms? As Season 1 closed, Jacaerys was headed north, Rhaenys was off to the Gullet, King Viserys was dead, and Alicent—her greatest friend, foe, and foil all in one—was stationed across Blackwater Bay.

I hope that Alicent, too, is more present on the show because she also disappears for large swaths of the narrative after the green council crowns Aegon II, her son. But will Rhaenyra and Alicent share a screen at all this season, when they don’t meet again in the book until the fall of King’s Landing? Every interaction the pair shared in Season 1 after the midseason time jump—which brought Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke into those roles—crackled with energy.

McAtee: I’m convinced this will happen. If I were in charge of crafting this season of television, one goal I’d have is to get Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy in a room together, regardless of how things play out in the book. Alicent and Rhaenyra are the show’s two leads, and the characters that HBO’s marketing has leaned into most, even while Aegon II is the greens’ monarch.

In the May trailer, Alicent tells Aemond that “this senseless war must end.” Aemond, in what appears to be a different scene, tells Criston Cole that “Alicent holds love for our enemy. That makes her a fool.” Recall how Rhaenyra hesitated to plunge the realm into war at the end of Season 1, and how Alicent was left out of the exact machinations of her father’s plan to crown Aegon and did not become fully convinced to do so until she misinterpreted Viserys’s deathbed ramblings. Rhaenyra has already lost a son; Alicent will soon lose a grandson. The on-screen versions of these characters share an aversion for violence, a love for their children, and a childhood friendship that is not forgotten. Given the way House of the Dragon has subtly molded the Dance of the Dragons into a tale of accidental destruction somewhat akin to a Greek tragedy, how could the showrunners possibly let this season go by without Alicent and Rhaenyra sharing the screen together? A last-ditch—and, ultimately, doomed—effort to avoid total war just makes too much sense.

As for how this will occur logistically, it wouldn’t be the first time a Game of Thrones property stretched the suspension of disbelief to bring two characters together. Remember when Tyrion met Jaime underneath King’s Landing in Season 7 of Thrones? Rhaenyra has some familiarity with the secret passages and tunnels of King’s Landing. Heck, House of the Dragon has already pulled off a similar move, when Otto himself delivered the greens’ terms at the end of Season 1, when in the books Maester Orwyle is the only major character to sail to Dragonstone.

Speaking of breaking book canon, what else do you think we’ll see on that front? Anything you’d like to see?

Kram: Watching an adaptation of a treasured tale is a joy for three reasons. First, it allows for the wider embrace and shared fandom of a story we love. (I doubt we’d be writing as many columns about Westeros if not for the HBO shows!) Second, it presents spectacle in translating wow moments from page to screen. (It would be too macabre to say I’d “like to see” Blood and Cheese, right?) And third, it offers the opportunity for the adaptation to alter certain story beats to better fit the new medium, and I’m generally open to and fascinated by this brand of necessary change.

Your Otto and Orwyle example is a shrewd one. That change is less a substantive canon break and more the result of the difference between a book and a TV show, the latter of which tends to require a tighter focus on a core group of familiar characters. (A counterexample in the negative direction is Meleys’s crash through the Dragonpit floor in Episode 9, which was a substantive canon break without any logical rationale.)

I could see a similar swap occurring in Season 2 with the Starks, who I know have your attention because you already wrote an entire article about them. Neither of us would be remotely surprised to see an expanded role for Thrones fans’ favorite family, starting with a trailer-teased trip to the Wall with Jace that doesn’t appear in Fire & Blood and potentially continuing through the war itself. The Starks don’t participate in the Dance of Dragons—Cregan Stark, lord of Winterfell, doesn’t arrive in King’s Landing until after Aegon II’s death and Aegon III’s crowning, which is where I imagine House of the Dragon, multiple seasons down the line, will end. (Apologies to all the Unwin Peake fans hoping to see his regency on-screen.)

Other Northern families do, however. I wouldn’t have a problem if Cregan took on some sort of conglomerate role of Roderick Dustin and the Manderly brothers—the Northern lords present during the war—and his Winterfell soldiers subbed in for the so-called Winter Wolves, who fight so fiercely in the Riverlands. That would be a way to further integrate the Starks without upsetting too much of the book-established timeline or turning a Targaryen tale into another Stark story. Maybe if he gets south of the Neck earlier in the show, Cregan could even fight alongside Black Aly Blackwood, his future wife, and give their relationship a head start. The Starks deserve a battlefield romance that doesn’t end in utter catastrophe.

McAtee: I completely agree that the show can and will accelerate the Starks’ entrance into the story. Doing so would tighten the narrative in so many ways—both by combining book characters and adding familiarity for casual Thrones viewers—that it feels inevitable. Even if we don’t get Cregan south of the Neck in Season 2, I expect him to make it there in Season 3.

Plus, I’m fully on board with the theory that Jacaerys will fly back to Dragonstone after treating with Jeyne Arryn in the Eyrie, both to give some emotional heft to Lucerys’s funeral and allow for an on-screen conversation between him and Rhaenyra about the Song of Ice and Fire, Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy of a coming frigid apocalypse and the hope for a Prince Who Was Promised to save Westeros. The showrunners sure seemed to love this retcon in Season 1, and this is the smoothest way to revisit it in Season 2. It’d help make sense of why preview content has shown Jace at the Wall, not at Winterfell. I’m expecting they’ll give him and Vermax some of the architecture of Queen Alysanne’s decades-earlier journey to the Wall, when her dragon Silverwing refused to fly north of it.

And before we leave the North, I’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Sara Snow. Though both Thrones and HotD have explored the tension between duty and love many times before, I would enjoy her inclusion this season as a way to add some depth to Jace. She also helps flesh out the Stark family tree. Sadly, as with Black Aly—another character I’d love to see—I didn’t see any casting news for either (though there are some actresses whose roles are unknown).

But speaking of characters who we haven’t heard any casting news about, I have to ask: Are we going to see Daeron and Tessarion this season? It would be reckless not to include them, right?

Kram: OK, I have a maybe sacrilegious theory about this: I don’t think the show needs Daeron—the fourth child of Alicent and King Viserys, who is serving as a squire in Oldtown at this point in the story—and his dragon, Tessarion. I know there are some hints otherwise, and you can get to those logical counters in a moment, but hear me out.

What exactly do Daeron and Tessarion do that is so central to the Dance that they must be included? They save the day for the greens at the Battle of the Honeywine, but that seems like an obvious candidate to be cut from the show. (There are so many battles in the story, and only so much screen time and budget, so some must be excised.) They burn Bitterbridge after young Maelor’s death, but that city sacking would have occurred with or without the presence of a dragon. They help the betrayers Hugh Hammer and Ulf the White, along with their dragons Vermithor and Silverwing, rout the blacks in the First Battle of Tumbleton—but that moment is more powerful for the other dragonriders’ treachery than for Daeron’s participation.

That leaves Second Tumbleton. Daeron dies immediately in that battle, either inside or right next to his tent, which is an incisive moment in the book—I love the detail that Daeron’s killer might not have been anybody important, but rather “some unknown man-at-arms who like as not did not even realize who he had killed”—but the same philosophy could apply to Quentyn Martell’s whole arc, and that didn’t stop previous showrunners from cutting him entirely out of Thrones. Tessarion, admittedly, is a vital character here, via her aerial duel with Seasmoke and subsequent aid against Vermithor as the trio crashes to the ground. I suppose the show could instead have Seasmoke and Vermithor kill each other, as do Vhagar and Caraxes elsewhere in the Riverlands, but this is the weakest part of my theory.

Still, I think it’s possible that we’ll never see Viserys and Alicent’s fourth child or his Blue Queen—and that leaving them out of Seasons 1 and 2 would make it even weirder if they were to suddenly appear in Season 3. The show could even explain away the absence of Tessarion in terms of green-versus-black dragon math by saying that Vhagar is so powerful that she balances the scales (pun intended) all by herself.

Now, please tell me why I’m wrong. (I want to be! Give me the beautiful dance between Seasmoke and Tessarion!)

McAtee: I like this theory and I could see it happening, but I do get a bit stuck on the dragon math of it all. It means that after Blood and Cheese (which effectively ends any chance Helaena had at riding Dreamfyre into battle) and Rook’s Rest, the greens are effectively down to just one fighting dragon. And while that dragon is Vhagar, it’s still just one dragon! The blacks could just strategically avoid Vhagar and do massive, unchecked damage to the greens’ armies. Think of how many fighting-sized dragons they’d have after Rook’s Rest: Caraxes, Syrax, Vermax, and Moondancer, plus the dragonseeds. Until Hugh and Ulf switch sides, it would leave the war looking seemingly lost for the greens.

Especially once the blacks take King’s Landing, Daeron and Ormund Hightower’s army are needed to balance out the war a bit. As F&B tells us, at this time “the greatest threat to Rhaenyra’s reign was not Aemond One-Eye, but his younger brother, Prince Daeron the Daring, and the great southron army led by Lord Ormund Hightower.”

Cooke said that “[he] does exist, apparently” in a recent video for Entertainment Weekly, though she seemed just as confused about his existence as we do, which hints that he’s not a part of Season 2. Introducing Daeron in Season 3 will be clunky for sure, but I’d rather have him—and the dance between Seasmoke and Tessarion as well as Daeron’s mysterious death—than have him cut for brevity’s sake. I have to think that Ryan Condal and Co. will come to the same conclusion.

Zach, I feel like we’re sketching out a pretty good picture of how this season will play out. But I can’t quite put my finger on where it ends. I recall that you had a clear vision that last season would end with Lucerys’s death and Daemon’s pledge to avenge him (while Daemon didn’t deliver the “an eye for an eye, a son for a son” bit of dialogue in Season 1, it’s in a trailer for Season 2). You nailed it. So what is the cutoff point in this shorter, eight-episode season?

Kram: In the immediate aftermath of Season 1, I thought I had this one nailed, too. I wrote at the time:

I predict that Season 2 will end with Rhaenyra taking King’s Landing, and meeting face-to-face with Alicent for the first time all season. This endpoint would offer a triumphant contrast to Rhaenyra’s final moment of Season 1—and represent the political peak of her story line, allowing Season 3 to depict her slow, sorry demise in the capital city.

But now I’m not so sure. We haven’t seen any indication in the trailers or preview material that the Battle of the Gullet will transpire in Season 2, and Jace’s death in that naval skirmish is what inspires Rhaenyra to action and a surprise flight to King’s Landing. Maybe the show will flip that order of events if Rhaenyra is already more involved throughout the season and doesn’t need the extra catalyst—based on her facial reaction to close Season 1, Luke’s death might have given her all the motivation she needs.

And I’m still stuck on that prospective end point because I’m not sure what else works as a season climax—especially following Season 1’s ending, which showed the series’ first act of dragon-on-dragon violence. Would the sowing of the seeds be powerful enough, with a final shot of a half-dozen dragons rising into the air over Dragonstone? Does HotD need a late-season battle if we’re assuming that Burning Mill and Rook’s Rest occur in the early to middle episodes? Would a Gullet surprise carry less weight if a second season in a row ends with the death of one of Rhaenyra’s children?

(It would be darkly funny if Luke went down to end Season 1, then Jace went down in the Gullet to end Season 2, then Joff went down at the storming of the Dragonpit to end Season 3—but instead of dying, little Aegon ended Season 4 on the Iron Throne. What a twist!)

Maybe it’s wishful thinking because I envision such a clear thematic through line to the queen’s tragic rise and fall. But how delicious would it be to have a season-ending shot of Rhaenyra, ostensibly triumphant in King’s Landing but pricked by the Iron Throne? The timeline could be tricky but ultimately worth the rearranging required.

McAtee: I was so set on this scene—Rhaenyra finally sits the Iron Throne, and it rejects her—as the ending for this season that the recent speculation that it won’t get there has thrown me for a loop. Not only would ending here make the most sense narratively, but it also solves our whole “get Alicent and Rhaenyra in a room together” problem from above!

But with all signs showing that the Gullet will be pushed to Season 3, where does that leave us as far as an ending for Season 2?

One theory I have would be that the showrunners end the season shortly after Rook’s Rest. They’d need to slow the story way down and/or reorder some happenings to do so, but there is a dramatic beat in the books that I think could work as a season ender. Imagine a burned, mangled Aegon II returning to King’s Landing. It’d be a rough development for the greens (especially if Daeron and Tessarion don’t exist, as discussed above), but they’d also get to parade Meleys’s head through the streets. Then, with Aegon incapacitated and unfit to rule or fight, we’d get this scene from F&B:

“You must rule the realm now, until your brother is strong enough to take the crown again,” the King’s Hand told Prince Aemond. Nor did Ser Criston need to say it twice, writes Eustace. And so one-eyed Aemond the Kinslayer took up the iron-and-ruby crown of Aegon the Conqueror. “It looks better on me than it ever did on him,” the prince proclaimed.

Too soon in the story to make the pacing work? Too much material left to cram into just two more seasons (as it was originally envisioned as a three- or four-season show)? Too confusing for casual viewers, who will think Aemond just usurped his brother and made himself king, even though he’s really just the protector of the realm? I know it doesn’t make complete sense—but I really don’t know what else to end the season on if it’s not the fall of King’s Landing or the Battle of the Gullet.

Kram: I suppose that delaying Rook’s Rest until later in the season would be a viable solution to this predicament. (Could the sowing of the seeds start before Meleys’s death? Even though it could create complications with Rhaenys, Corlys, and the latter’s recognition of his bastard son, Addam of Hull, I think so.) This move would potentially carry some advantages as the season takes shape as well. For instance, a longer wait for Rook’s Rest would allow more space for Aegon II to act out his best Joffrey impression before his injuries and milk of the poppy ingestion put him out of commission.

By that same coin, I’d love to spend more time with Sunfyre before the most beautiful dragon in the known world is tarnished. We never saw the king’s dragon up close in Season 1, and it would be a shame for his introduction to practically coincide with his defeat in battle.

On that note, the last wish I’ll express before retiring to my solar is that the show properly differentiates the dragons so that every viewer can easily distinguish among them. This wasn’t a huge concern given the relatively limited dragon population in Season 1, which mostly featured the titanic Vhagar and long-necked Caraxes, plus a muddle of other beasts—such as Syrax, Meleys, and Seasmoke—that didn’t receive such crystal-clear, individualized characterizations. But in Season 2, we’ll see more dragons, especially once the seeds enter the fore, and more active dragons, so these CGI designs will be much more important. On first glance we’ll need to know our Sunfyres from our Vermaxes from our Vermithors.

Do you have any final thoughts before we (unlike George R.R. Martin) finish writing our story today?

McAtee: You didn’t think Seasmoke’s bizarre goatee counted as an individual characterization? Hard disagree with you there, friend!

My only final thought is that I’m just excited to see the world expand a bit. Rewatching Season 1 really reminded me just how much the first leg of the story confines itself to Westeros’s nobility. Almost every scene took place in King’s Landing, on Dragonstone, or on Driftmark. Almost every character was related to a Targaryen or was hooking up with one (or, of course, both). By contrast, this season we’ll get so many other houses and regions on-screen. Westeros is back.

I also can’t wait to see what we’re right about and where Season 2 will surprise us. See you back here at the end of the season for another chat!

Pop Culture

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

The New York Times Best Books of the 21st Century is Moving Units
What Stories The Literary World Tells About Itself
6 Things You Can Do with Your Old and Unused Items
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Questions & Answers for 2024 (Season 23)
Deadpool & Wolverine: Is Jordan Peele in the MCU Movie?