Targaryen Civil War: 12 things you need to know about House of the Dragon season 2

Two years ago, the first season of Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon gave us a peek back into the bloody Targaryen history books: the family of brutal blondies was full of hate and dissent, but King Viserys (Paddy Considine) tried his best to keep everyone united. Now that he’s gone, and duelling queens Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) are properly at each other’s throats, the time has come to choose a side.

Here’s everything we know about the fiery second season of HOTD, from where our complex fave characters stand to new faces (and new dragons!) to expect. All we ask? You gotta pick who you’re rooting for by the article’s end; the tyrannical black side, or the reigning greens.

1. We’re picking things right up from the season one finale

It’s been a while since HBO last sang this tune of old-world ice and fire, so here’s a refresher; season one of HOTD got us acquainted with King Viserys, his scheming brother Daemon (Matt Smith), and beloved daughter Rhaenyra. Uncle and niece got married, as you do if you’re a character in a George R.R. Martin high-fantasy epic, and Viserys carked it in the final episode. All the while, his wife—and Rhaenyra’s former bestie—Alicent was being coached by dastardly dad Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) to get her royal-blooded kids on the throne. The gal pals got caught up in a game of eye-for-an-eye (literally), with their kids injuring and then killing each other, wrapping up the establishing season with Alicent’s awful son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) on the throne as Daemon and Rhaenyra teamed up to wage civil war.

Whew! It was a lot to take in, so thankfully the newest season will kick off just days after the mid-air, dragon-riding death of Rhaenyra’s son Luke (Elliot Grihault). Old mate Viserys I is only a few weeks gone, and already the Targaryen empire is more divided than we’ve ever seen it; “all the wounds are fresh”, showrunner Ryan Condal has promised.

2. It’ll have less episodes than season one…but also feature the longest episode in HOTD yet

Season one of House of the Dragon ran for ten fire-fuelled episodes, but season two will only go for eight. While this might disappoint fans who’ve waited so long for the next chapter, we can take comfort in the fact that the latest episode will be an hour long, and then season two’s second episode sprawls to a luxurious 72 minutes. That still doesn’t beat the 81-minute heft of the third episode of GoT‘s final season, appropriately titled “The Long Night”—but it’s certainly getting up there.

3. Season two might feel slower…and that’s not a bad thing

“I think the pace will feel more like building momentum”, showrunner Condal has said of the new season, a change in pace from season one’s hurry to introduce us to the entire cast of scheming Targaryens with confusingly similar names. Although Variety‘s writer promises that the new season doesn’t want for shocking and violent moments, with a body count that continues to stun, the creator explains that there is a necessary difference in the pacing of both seasons. “Season one felt breakneck because you were jumping time periods, whereas season two feels like you light a fuse in episode one and watch it go”, Condal reveals. “And at points, little charges go off.” Now that we’re familiar with all the perilous parties involved, a more methodical feel could be just what the show needs.

4. Duelling teaser trailers ask us to pick a side: green or black?

HBO had the clever idea of bisecting their teaser trailers for House of the Dragon‘s second season, allowing us to check out what the “green” Hightower team is up to while the “black” true Targaryens, Viserys’ brother and daughter, plot away. In the Black trailer, everyone’s harping on about the oath sworn to the dying former king, and Daemon doesn’t mince words when trying to recruit allies. “Denounce the false king”—Alicent’s nasty sprog Aegon, that is—”and bend the knee to the queen. Or your house burns.”

In the Green trailer, Ser Otto over in King’s Landing seems to be taking a more democratic tack, denouncing that Rhaenyra and co. “wish not for the good of the realm but for the satisfaction of vengeance. We will prevail and bring forth peace.” Of course, he does end this dictum with “…but accept violence”, before Aegon chirps happily; “to war, then!” Nobody’s purely righteous here, so whichever house colours you rep are sure to come with some dark consequences.

5. Emma D’Arcy says “the reins are off” for Rhaenyra in season 2

Once Princess Rhaenyra came of age, the role graduated from Aussie performer Milly Alcock to D’Arcy, a standout actor who goes by they/them pronouns. They’ve described the momentous emotional shift Rhaenyra faces at her son’s death at the end of season one, suddenly giving up on any attempt to collaborate with her former friend Alicent: “that attempt at mediation crumbles”, D’Arcy told Entertainment Weekly, continuing to say that “I don’t think there is any longer the bandwidth to suppress and repress her nature” in season two. “For so many very legitimate reasons, she has her hands tied practically throughout season one. I have a feeling that the rein might be off for season two.” You know what they say about Targaryens; when one of them is born—or, when one of them faces the burning grief of losing a child, the gods flip a coin…

6. Prepare to meet five new dragons!

Showrunner Condal revealed at an industry event in Los Angeles that season two of House of the Dragon would more than live up to its name, introducing five new scaly spectacles for fans to gawk at. This article from The Ringer is a great guide to the dragons you know and love, and some of the fresh fire-breathers we haven’t met yet; sweet lil babies Moondancer, Stormcould, Morghul, Shrykos, and Tyraxes are still juveniles and haven’t been shown with Targaryen riders in the series so far. But with major time-jumps taking up much of the first season, a few of them could be battle-ready by these new episodes. Rhaenyra’s black faction still wins when it comes to dragon quantity, with five dragons to the green team’s four—but then again, the greens also control Vhagar, the realm’s most powerful dragon, who we last saw snacking on poor Lucerys.

7. Matt Smith thinks Daemon would “probably make a terrible king”

“We definitely meet Daemon at a point of crisis in this situation, and in many ways, it’s a different version of him,” the former Doctor Who star told Variety of his character’s growth since season one. A standout rogue of the series so far, Daemon “starts to unravel” as his bride/niece/ew Rhaenyra tries to rally an army of allies. While the actor himself doesn’t rate his character as a potential leader, Daemon himself certainly keeps his eyes on the Iron Throne, still suffering a serious case of that whole Scar v. Mufasa complex—the agony of being born just a tad younger and more evil than your noble older bro. Asked whether he accepts Rhaenyra as his queen and ruler, Daemon is tellingly quiet in the new season’s full trailer; he’s not a great follower, and might just sabotage his wife’s plans for the top spot.

8. Four new cast members play a witch, the guardian of Harrenhal, Alicent’s brother, and a Velaryon sailor

GLOW star Gayle Rankin makes her debut as a witchy resident of Harrenhal; the healer Alys Rivers, who will go on to be a powerful ally to the Green faction. Harrenhal’s guardian is Ser Simon Strong, and he’ll be played by Tony-winning stage legend Simon Russell Beale. The Hightowers keep building their numbers with Freddie Fox as Ser Gwayne Hightower, Alicent’s brother and Otto’s youngest son—a character we haven’t met up to this point. And Alyn of Hull, a sailor in the Seasnake Lord Corlys Velaryon’s fleet, will be played by Abubakar Salim—finally, somebody new for the Black team!

9. The show didn’t suffer from any Writers or Actors Strike suspensions

House of the Dragon remained in production throughout the entirety of its second season shoot, despite the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of 2023. This is because, as showrunner Condal claims, all the series’ scripts were completed before the Hollywood strikes began, and all the actors were governed by British performers union Equity rather than the protesting American unions. This meant that the cast and crew would’ve had no legal protections if they were to join the US strike in solidarity, a fact which made star D’Arcy “pretty uncomfortable”. To be knee-deep in an HBO project—and thus essentially an American show—whilst overseas and far away from picketing colleagues was difficult for the actor, who said the series’ staff “spoke about it all the time” on set.

10. The season will feature two major battles—and GoT nerds have a strong sense of how they’ll turn out

In conversation with Den of Geek, Condal hyped up “two of the largest sequence we’ve ever filmed on House of the Dragon“, both of which “outstrip anything that we did in season one”. Fans reckon the first of these melees will happen at Rook’s Rest, with Ser Criston Cole leading the greens whilst Rhaenys Targaryen battles (her nephews-once-removed? I think?) Aegon II and Aemond on their dragons. The second epic battle that may conclude season two is likely the Fall of Kings Landing, a turn of events that some think could rival GoT‘s Battle of Blackwater, with the Velaryon fleet taking the Hightower’s sanctuary by sea as Daemon and Rhaenyra rain down vengeance from above. Maybe don’t look into this any further or read Martin’s books unless you want some spicy spoilers.

11. George R.R. Martin is already onto seasons 3 and 4 in December 2023

If George R.R. Martin is gonna do anything, it’s spending his time on earth planning new TV shows and writing in his personal blog, rather than ever giving literary fans the GoT conclusion they’ve been begging for. In December of 2023, the acclaimed fantasy author wrote that he “spent two days locked in a room with Ryan Condal and his writing staff (Sara Hess, Ti Mikkel, David Hancock, and Philippa Goslett) talking about the third and fourth seasons” of the prequel show. “They were lively, fun discussions, and we got some good work done…though two days was not nearly enough”, the author went on to say. While Martin’s particular input to the ongoing show can’t be determined, he’s still an executive producer on the series…which seems to take up far too much of his valuable writing time.

12. We know exactly what cocktail you should pair with the season two premiere

A Negroni! Sbagliato! With prosecco ;). Have some sweet vermouth, Campari, and sparkling wine on hand for the new episodes of House of the Dragon; your queen Rhaenyra demands it. Ever since D’Arcy uttered that seductive cocktail recipe to their co-star Cooke in a promo interview, this particular Targaryen brew is the only appropriate beverage to down while watching Westeros civil war go down.


D’Arcy admits they found the video’s viral attention to be “a perfect cocktail of surprising, bemusing, and intensely flattering…I don’t have anything illuminating to say on it because it’s very hard to know how to react when you become a meme.” You react with another drink, of course. A tipple fit for a Targaryen.