Fire and Blood

House of the Dragon's Odd Pacing is its Greatest Weapon

Conflict doesn’t follow a schedule.

A man with long white hair and intense expression, wearing medieval-style armor, stands in a dimly l...
House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon Season 2 started with a bang. Episode 1 followed Rhaenyra as she coped with the loss of her son Lucerys and Daemon’s flawed attempt to get retribution that ended with the murder of King Aegon II’s son, Jahaerys. The assassination was shocking, especially since, despite being one of the most brutal acts in the entire Thrones universe, it unfolded in the season’s very first episode.

While the epic Dance of Dragons will be the focus of Season 2, Episode 2 slowed things way down by turning to the fallout of Jahaerys’ demise. We see Queen Alicent and Queen Helaena’s different approaches to grief, King Aegon’s drive for vengeance, and Rhaenyra’s anger at plans going awry. It all comes to a head with the duel between Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk. The twin knights on separate sides of the conflict slay each other, proving in a very on-the-nose way that this conflict pits brother against brother.

Team Green’s Parent-Trap-esque scheme ends in the Cargyll twins dying.


This was a nondescript outing compared to Episode 1's bombshell, but that change of pace is what keeps House of the Dragon interesting. It’s a little more restrained than Game of Thrones; not every episode needs a staggering twist, and sometimes, the smallest betrayals mean the most to the plot, even if they lack the same shock value.

Game of Thrones, for all its epic conflicts, usually followed a pattern. One family would attack another, the target would respond in kind, and the conflict would slowly escalate to a shocking penultimate episode followed by a season finale full of reflection. So far, House of the Dragon Season 2 is doing the opposite by coming out hot out of the gates, then retreating back into the shadows to let each side plan their next move.

A critic could call this poor pacing, as the second episode loses all the momentum of the first. But House of the Dragon is showing how its stakes have changed, not with more wild developments, but through little moments of humanity. Not every episode needs to reach the shock level of the first to move the plot along. Ultimately, emotional stakes matter more than pure action spectacle.

Sometimes you just have to talk things out.


After Jahaerys’ sudden demise, both sides are caught on the back foot. King Aegon and the Greens have lost the heir to the throne, leading to the harebrained Cargyll plot. At Dragonstone, Rhaenyra and Daemon must deal with the fact they’ve fumbled their opportunity for revenge, and lost public approval along the way.

So much of the conflict is found in conversation, not combat. Aegon getting upset with Otto Hightower, Rhaenyra lashing out at her husband, Helaena reaching out to her mother, and Mysaria trying to reason with the Targaryens would all be normal fodder for a Game of Thrones season premiere, but in House of the Dragon, it all comes directly after the show’s most shocking murder yet.

House of the Dragon has tried to set itself apart from Game of Thrones, and this pacing switch-up is a subtle way to tell the story of an epic battle from a different perspective. Everything is on the table now, from diplomacy to dragonfire.

House of the Dragon Season 2 is streaming on Max.

Related Tags