The Inverse Interview

“It’s Nuclear.” House of the Dragon Season 2 Goes Bigger, and More Personal

The cast reacts to new stakes — and new storylines.

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House of the Dragon

If House of the Dragon is the series depicting the Dance of the Dragons, then Season 2 is when the tempo is turned up from a waltz to a tarantella. In the series’ first season, viewers saw Rhaenyra and Alicent grow up and evolve from childhood confidants to stepmother and stepdaughter and now, finally, bitter rivals on opposite sides of a fight for succession.

For Ryan Condal, Season 2 actually marks the third part of the series. “Part of the fun of Season 1 was that we were starting with this key event, which is the death of Baelon, Viserys' presumed heir, and his wife Aemma, and then the dismissal of Daemon and removing him as heir to the throne, installing Rhaenyra, and breaking centuries of tradition by doing so,” he tells Inverse at a roundtable attended by several outlets. “And then that's bookend one. Bookend two was the death of Viserys and the Green side usurping the throne, and Rhaenyra finding herself as the challenger to the throne that she thought she was going to inherit from her father.”

With 20 years of history covered in House of the Dragon Season 1, Season 2 is bigger, but also smaller. The war over succession has now reached a fever pitch, stretching beyond just scheming in shadows and coded banquet wear. After Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) killed one of Rhaenyra’s sons in the finale of Season 1, there’s now skin in the game, and it promises extreme battles and a brutal civil war.

Who Are the Players in Season 2’s War?

Rhaenyra and her husband Daemon are the leaders of the Blacks, one side in a brutal civil war.

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At the center of the fight are Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) and King Aegon II (Tom Glynne-Carney). Rhaenyra leads the Blacks, the term for her allies who support her claim to the throne, which Viserys initially granted her before his dying words led Queen Alicent to misinterpret his succession wishes. King Aegon II and his mother Queen Alicent are at the helm of the Greens, so-named because of the colors of Alicent’s family house, Hightower. But in Season 2, Alicent finds herself relegated to the background as her father Otto Hightower returns to the fray.

Alicent’s new role is one she is taking on reluctantly, as she’s seeing her usefulness dry up now she has seated the heir on the throne. Because of that, she begins to see herself reflected more in her daughter (and her son’s wife) Helaena. “I think Alicent's seeing a young version of herself in Helena, what she was put through that she kind of numbed herself through or probably convinced herself that she deserved, or that was entirely necessary,” Olivia Cooke says.

The Kids Are Not All Right on Team Green

Aegon is desperate to be a good king, but his ambition gets in his own way.

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Alicent’s relationship with her other children is a bit more strained than before. Aemond especially finds himself in a unique position this season — while everyone else is gearing up for war, he’s already made his big move, essentially firing the starting pistol for the entire conflict. That can make him difficult to root for, but for Ewan Mitchell, that’s just part of what makes this story so brilliant.

“I think that's one of the compelling things about George R.R. Martin's works is that one minute you can love these characters and in the next minute you can hate them,” he says. “There are no completely villainous characters in these shows. There's good and bad to both sides and which sides you pick or which sides you support, it's up to you.”

Aemond’s bloodthirsty nature raises concern in Queen Alicent.

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That’s something House of the Dragon has leaned into with its marketing, launching two different versions of the trailer featuring each side and even an AI filter to transform fans into a loyalist of their preferred side. But for Mitchell, he’s not Team Green or Team Black — he’s Team Aemond. “He was different and he was bullied for being differently. And so he went out and he ended up claiming the largest, baddest behemoth in the known world, Vhagar,” he says. “Standing in the face of adversity, that feat of courage, that 10-year-old kid claiming this dragon named after the God of War, it's certainly one of his more redeeming qualities.”

But while Aemond tries to find a way to get involved in the war again, his older brother Aegon has to deal with a bigger issue: being king. “Aemond's always been the warrior. He's always been the one who's been a physical presence, and I think now Aegon has the crown on his head and he can sit the Iron Throne, his power comes in a different form,” Tom Glynne-Carney says of his character. “The kind of role model he had was Viserys. He was a fair and widely accepted and liked king, but Aegon’s very aware that he's not Viserys in any way, shape, or form, as much as he'd like to be of the opinion that he wants to be loved and feared at the same time.”

The Blacks Seek Revenge

Team Black find themselves fractured and beset by grief in the early days of the war.

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The Blacks, meanwhile, find themselves on more of a back foot at the start of Season 2. On Rhaenyra’s side, she has her uncle/husband Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), her aunt and uncle Rhaenys and Corlys Velaryon (Eve Best and Steve Toussaint), and her children and stepchildren, including the late Lucerys’ older brother Jacaerys (Harry Collett) and Daemon’s daughters Baela and Rhaena (Bethany Antonia and Phoebe Campbell) from his first marriage.

Daemon finds himself in a similar situation to his nephew Aemond, someone he was very close to before the war caused the rift between the royal family. With his stepchild murdered in cold blood, he finds it difficult to act strategically. “Daemon feels it impossible not to exact that feeling of revenge when it's in him,” says Matt Smith. “He's not someone who can just sit on that and go, do you know what? I'll leave that till tomorrow.” Without going into spoilers, that impulse may just be his downfall.

Meanwhile, Jacaerys is dealing with his brother’s death in the exact opposite way, trying to be a loyal soldier for his mother while grieving. “I think actually it's what he's been waiting for really, because this is a chance to prove that he's legitimate for the throne,” Harry Collett says. “He's been waiting for this moment, he's been learning high Valyrian, he has been training, he's always wanted this moment, and now he's finally got it and now he wants to take the reins and take charge.

So whether you’re Team Green or Team Black, there’s always someone to root for in House of the Dragon, even if that means excusing some light treason, murder, and incest. But once you choose your loyalty, there’s plenty to get excited for. “It's nuclear,” Tom Glynne-Carney says. “It goes on a pretty wild ride.”

House of the Dragon premieres June 16 on HBO and streaming on Max.

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