‘House of the Dragon’ Cast on That Heartbreaking Child Funeral, Double Deaths and Missing Book Characters (2024)

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains major spoilers from Season 2, Episode 2 of HBO’s “House of the Dragon.”

The fallout from “Blood and Cheese” continues in “House of the Dragon.”

Episode 2 begins with heartbreak in King’s Landing when King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) discovers the grisly murder of his young son Jaehaerys. He blames Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) for not protecting the prince — and as we saw at the end of the premiere, Criston was too busy sleeping with Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) instead of guarding the castle grounds. Everyone in King’s Landing gathers for a somber funeral procession to pay their respects to Jaehaerys, whose head was reattached for the occasion.

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“I remember them being like, ‘Do you want to see the dummy?’ Oh goodness, it was really beautifully done,” Phia Saban, who plays Queen Helaena Targaryen, told Variety. “They wove gold thread and you could see how the head was sewn back on the body. He had all flowers and everything.”

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“It was an amazing prosthetic,” Cooke added. “It was really intense. Then you become a bit numb to the fact and we’re just singing on the back of the carriage between takes.”

Blood, Jaehaerys’ killer, is apprehended, and to take care of his partner-in-crime Cheese, Aegon orders every rat catcher in the city to be hanged. Criston replaces Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) as Aegon’s hand, they begin strategizing for war and blame Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) for the infanticide.

In Dragonstone, the news surprises Rhaenyra, since she only wanted Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) dead for killing her son Lucerys. She denies having anything to do with Jaehaerys’ death, then realizes her husband Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) must’ve ordered it. The two have a tense argument and Daemon storms away on his dragon.

Once again, it’s time for revenge. Criston plots a “Parent Trap”-style twin switcheroo to kill Rhaenyra using the identical knights Arryk and Erryk Cargyll (Luke and Elliot Tittensor). Arryk pledged his service to Alicent’s greens, while Erryk joined Rhaenyra’s blacks. Arryk disguises himself as his brother and sneaks over to Dragonstone to murder Rhaenyra without anyone realizing his true identity. Of course, though, things go wrong when he’s met by the only person who would recognize him: Erryk. The two brothers stay loyal to their queens and fight a tearful duel to the death. It’s hard to tell who has the upper hand in the sibling scuffle, but Erryk deals a mortal wound to his brother, then apologizes to Rhaenyra and kills himself out of sorrow for what he’s done.

With Variety, showrunner Ryan Condal discusses the funeral scene, the Cargyll fight, some absent book characters and if they’ll appear in the future.

Was I supposed to be afraid that Jaehaerys’ head was going to fall off during the funeral wagon ride? Because I was!

No, that was not a specific thing we were looking for. Just the danger of moving a body through a public square like that. It’s a very moving sequence. Sara Hess pitched that in the room, making a funeral procession a public show and marching Jaehaerys’ body — and showing the fact that they had cut his head off and then stitched it back onto his body — through the public square as a way of diminishing Rhaenyra and her claim, to try to create a monster out of her. A great Otto Hightower plot that obviously does have some effect to win points for the greens’ side.

In “Fire & Blood,” there are multiple accounts of the Cargyll fight and how the twins died. How did you choose specifically to stage it for the show?

We obviously spent a lot of time debating how that fight would play out. It’s very different the way all the disagreeing narrators lay out that particular historical event in the book. So we’re just trying to find one that felt true to the two characters. These are two guys that have sworn an oath and their lives over to protect the royal family. And as Erryk says to Daemon in the first episode of the season, “We don’t know what to do with this oath, because we swore to protect the royal family, and now they’ve turned against each other, and what were we to do?” It’s this tragic story of two brothers finding themselves on different sides of a conflict, in a way, a great archetype that goes back to the American Civil War and Westerns and Arthurian tales. To try to see out his oath, Arryk sails to Dragonstone to try to masquerade as his brother and infiltrates the castle and gets very close to the queen, but thankfully, Erryk intervenes. We wanted this really emotional conflict between these two brothers that deeply love each other but have found themselves as mortal enemies because of the nature of the political system they’ve committed themselves to. It was shot over multiple days, wonderfully choreographed, and Luke and Elliott Tittensor performed that and were in every shot of that sequence. They learned the fight and they executed the hell out of it.

Can you break down the difference between the violent fight between Daemon and Rhaenyra at the end of Season 1 and this fight that leads him to leave?

I think the end of Season 1 is a much more sudden and visceral outbreak of emotion, whereas that great scene in Episode 2 is a full exploration of the core nature of their relationship. It’s this fact that their relationship has been built on deceit and mistrust through all history and time. It’s just the nature of who Daemon is. Rhaenyra desperately wants to have this intimate connection where she is very close to him and can trust him. But then she finds again and again that he doesn’t open himself enough or make himself accessible enough to be trusted. She really struggles with that. It’s the same frustration that Viserys always had about Daemon, that you can let him in only so far and then he lets people down because of the impulsiveness of his decision-making. The big lingering questions coming out of that scene is, where does Daemon go? Where do his allegiances lie and what’s going to happen to this marriage? The remainder of the season is very much a study of Daemon and Rhaenyra’s marriage.

Alicent and Viserys’s other son Daeron is mentioned for the first time in this episode. What choices have you made in terms of casting him and other key characters from “Fire & Blood” who haven’t appeared or been mentioned yet, like Nettles?

Daeron has not been cast yet. I’ve said he’s a character in the show, but at this point in the story, he’s in Oldtown where he was warded off as a young child. So we don’t have a point-of-view character in that world yet and there is no dramatic reason to go there. This happened all the time in medieval times, particularly in the high nobility. You would take your youngest children and ward them off to other places, so they grow up away from court and learn things and have their own place and station in the world. We know he’s not yet a dragon rider, but he’s had a dragon born to him. So he will come to the narrative and have a role to play, just as he does in the book — we’re just not there yet in the storytelling.

And Nettles?

With that character, I’m not ready to comment yet on anything that hasn’t been established in the show just yet.

Will the season feature the Battles of Rook’s Rest and The Gullet?

Well, that remains to be seen. We’re not there yet. We are following the narrative of the book. I think there are big exciting action sequences to come that involve dragons and fire and blood.

‘House of the Dragon’ Cast on That Heartbreaking Child Funeral, Double Deaths and Missing Book Characters (2024)
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