A Son for a Son: The ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Power Rankings
Pop Culture

A Son for a Son: The ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2 Power Rankings

House of the Dragon is back, and the Dance of the Dragons is underway. The Targaryen war of succession will come down to control—who can control their impulses, their sycophants, and, yes, their dragons. With each passing episode, The Ringer will examine how Westeros’s key players are aligning their pieces on the board. As the saying goes, chaos can be a ladder. Welcome to the House of the Dragon power rankings.

1. Cregan Stark

In the opening scene of Season 2 of House of the Dragon, Cregan Stark—a.k.a. the Wolf of the North, a.k.a. the ancestor of the Starkfam we know and love from Game of Thrones—immediately comes across as the most righteous dude in all the Seven Kingdoms. Hosting disputed prince Jacaerys Velaryon at the Wall, Cregan shows him around with all the pride and extreme patience of a college senior giving a pre-frosh and their parents a campus tour: Here’s the bazillion-foot-tall elevator built by my ancestors, and over that way is basically death’s door; yes, we believe in single-sex education at this institution, our motto is “Duty Is Sacrifice,” and did you know that our admissions rate is a steady 10 percent?

After all that, Cregan also makes sure to educate the naive young Jace about the ways of the world. “Do you think my ancestors built a 700-foot wall of ice to keep out snow and savages?” he asks, explaining that the Wall also fortifies Westeros against that oldest and wiliest of foes, Death. (These taciturnt Starks sure love to bring everything back to first principles.) He remarks that, as legend has it, Jace’s Targaryen forebears once showed up flaunting their dragons—and that the mighty beasts, for all their fire-breathing power, instinctively knew not to cross the Wall. And, crucially, Cregan agrees to uphold his family’s old oath to Rhaenyra—but stresses that it’s super not his top priority right now and that the best he can do is send the “thousands of graybeards who’ve already seen too many winters,” take them or leave them.

As the Targaryens continue to bicker about who gets to sit the Iron Throne, Cregan, quite simply, just rules. Sadly, though, like all the best sigma males, the Wolf of the North will be leaving everyone wanting more. According to showrunner Ryan Condal, we’re not likely to see Cregan Stark again until some future season. Terrible news for viewers, but if the good, cold lord has taught us anything, it’s that “this is not a sentence—but an honor.” I bend the knee.

2. Larys Strong

The total opposite of Cregan Stark in so many ways! Far from being motivated by pure familial loyalty, Larys is a dirty double kinslayer. Rather than viewing King’s Landing squabbles as distractions from a broader existential crisis, Larys’s entire existence is defined by the subtle art of the throne room scheme. Whereas Cregan speaks plainly, Larys prefers to insinuate and suggest … like when he murmurs to the Dowager Queen Alicent that he knows she was “indisposed” recently. (By “indisposed,” he means that she was Ser on Criston till she Cole.) And instead of defending against Death, he orders it up: In the Season 2 premiere, we learn that Larys, seeking to root out disloyal servants, has taken the liberty of ousting members of Alicent’s previous castle staff. (By “ousting” I mean, in his words, that “they no longer breathe our air.”)

Still, while he may be a weird dude through and through, Larys’s lurker shtick does seem to be working. He has long had a certain podiatryst arrangement with Alicent (sorry), but now that he’s personally handpicked all her maidservants, he doesn’t even need to be in the room to make her feel vulnerable and violated and claustrophobic and in need of a good scrub-a-dub-dub. That’s quite some power to wield over the mother of the king! And speaking of the king, Larys is getting in Aegon’s head, too: “Otto Hightower was your father’s hand, your grace,” he tells the young monarch, ostensibly laying the foundation for a Small Council shake-up.

It can be hard out there for Larys types: In Game of Thrones, both Littlefinger and Varys, two elite-level manipulators, eventually made one too many chess moves and met their respective dooms. But for now, Larys appears poised to take a big leap: from Alicent’s wanker footman to, potentially, the hand of the king.

3. The Crime Cloak

Need to stay anonymous in some seedy crowd but don’t feel like hiding even an inch of your face? In the mood to conspire on, commit, or conceal any number of crimes? Look no further than the humble cloak, the hottest garment in Westeros.

Are you someone nicknamed “the White Worm”? Perhaps you’d like this version, which resembles crushed silk. Need to easily reach your various swords and jacket buckles? This one gives Aemond great placket access when he’s on a mission! Rhaenys rocked the cloak when she escaped the castle ahead of Aegon’s coronation, and so did Otto Hightower when he made a business proposition to the White Worm herself. But the GOAT cloaker remains Daemon Targaryen, who really is a man for all seasons. His collection includes a bulky overcloak (worn for the occasion of killing his pesky first wife) and a cloak with lovely trim (his boatwear). He has even sported (while in the midst of grooming his teen niece and future bride) a sort of Flea Bottom version of the Investment Banker Patagonia: a cloak that kind of looks like a vest, worn over a white collared shirt.

With a lewk that is part collegiate swim team parka and part Dark Kermit, and with a hood that somehow never gets blown off by a breeze and ruins the whole disguise, the Crime Cloak comes with all sorts of options to fit one’s sinister style—all while you’re blending in, lying low, and/or planning the murder of an heir to the Iron Throne.

4. The Power Couple (Corlys and Rhaenys Velaryon)

The Sea Snake and his dragon-riding bride may not be the most powerful people in the realm, but as Season 2 begins, they are each in possession of a tremendous amount of leverage. Consider:

  • Corlys is effectively and operationally in charge of what is currently Team Black’s most successful tactic: a blockade of shipping lanes in the Stepstones that “has placed King’s Landing under strain,” according to Otto Hightower. While that hasn’t necessarily been easy to maintain—Corlys mentions a pressing need for more ships—it’s nevertheless a solid head start until Team Green can find a way to bolster its Lannister and Hightower navies.
  • Rhaenys and her dragon, Meleys, are essential to this effort: “I alone patrol over a hundred miles of open sea, endlessly, to hold the blockade,” she tells Daemon.
  • Rhaenys and Meleys are also essential to another effort, Daemon says: “With my dragon and yours together, we can kill Vhagar and her rider.” (That rider being Aemond Targaryen.) When Rhaenys demurs, Daemon tries to insist: “Fly with me. It is a command.” But the Queen Who Never Was always knows what’s what. “Would that you were the king,” she deadpans back. Daemon is many things, but he isn’t the boss of her.
  • Both Corlys and Rhaenys are cooperating with Rhaenyra and Daemon despite having many, many excellent reasons not to. Like the fact that their only two children both married Targaryens and both (to their knowledge, at least) wound up dead, conveniently enabling Rhaenyra and Daemon to wed each other. (That said, I do sometimes wonder whether Rhaenys secretly knows that Leanor lives!) Or the fact that Daemon killed Corlys’s brother, Vaemond, for speaking the truth.

For now, it behooves the Velaryons to align with Team Black. But if that personal calculus changes even a little, suddenly everything from sky to sea becomes a whole different equation altogether.

5. The Royal Couple (King Aegon II and Queen Helaena)

This brother-sister, husband-wife, dalliant-dreamer, king-queen duo has always been a bizarre couple, and not just because of the whole inbreeding thing. “The queen is an enduring mystery, is she not?” says Aegon early in the Season 2 premiere, having just heard Helaena anxiously whisper something about being scared of rats. Indeed, going into this episode and this season, one thing that most excited me was finding out more about this wedded set of sibs. Like, do they have any common interests? What do they possibly talk about?!

In the wake of “A Son for a Son,” I now have my answer: It’s safe to say that they’re about to share the common interest of “avenging the gruesome murder of our sweet dead 6-year-old heir-to-the-throne child.” (Aegon doesn’t know about it yet as the episode ends, but he obviously will soon.) This is a potent motivation—particularly when it comes to Aegon and Helaena, both of whom are powerful people.

One of them, of course, is king, and not just any king: He’s (a) a young king who is (b) eager to prove himself and (c) soon to be grieving his fine boy and, oh yeah, (d) was already close to shaking up the ranks of his nearest advisers. In other words, there’s really no telling what he might do next, only that it will be something drastic. And then there’s Helaena, who has consistently, if cryptically, predicted the future. If she can start harnessing her soothsaying into more actionable thoughts and ideas, she could have a weapon as vital as any flying dragon.

6. Aemond Targaryen

Speaking of flying dragons: Aemond’s mount, Vhagar, remains Team Green’s best weapon by far at the moment. Yet: “You do not have a seat at this council,” snaps Otto Hightower to Aemond when the latter enters the Small Council room in the midst of a meeting. But Otto’s boss begs to differ: “Aemond is my closest blood and our best sword,” says King Aegon II. “I welcome him.” Aemond may be in his mother’s doghouse for that minor mistake of accidentally killing his nephew, but in the Season 2 premiere, he demonstrated that he’s more than ready for the warfare to escalate further.

“My brother is hostage to my grandsire and mother,” Aemond complains to Criston Cole as they plot paths to victory, “and they tell him that a war of dragons can yet be avoided.” Not anymore, needless to say—which means that Aemond is almost certainly about to take flight.

7. Daemon Targaryen

As Aemond positions himself to become the new Daemon, this week’s episode sort of made Daemon out to be the new Aemond: Daemon took his zest for vengeance a little too far, then everything got out of hand, now a boy is dead and war is coming, and probably thar be dragons. He has simultaneously made the world chillingly simple—tit for tat, a son for a son, repeat as often as necessary—while also complicating everything. And the scariest part, as ever, is that he’s probably pretty OK with all that he’s done.

8. Rhaenyra Targaryen

The queen in exile had only one line this episode, but it was a doozy: “I want Aemond Targaryen.” Those four words were all it took to set off the Rube Goldberg contraption of events that culminated in another dead kid. The good news: That’s some power right there! The bad news: Aemond Targaryen still lives.

9. Jacaerys Velaryon

Jace’s diplomatic visit to the Wall was a definite success. And the guy also appears to have some semblance of a moral compass, the likes of which we don’t typically see in the halls of power south of Winterfell. But that makes me nervous for him! If we’ve learned anything from Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon thus far, it’s that Westeros has a way of punishing intrinsic goodness and curdling warm hearts.

10. Mysaria the White Worm

Tired: Constantly dealing with Daemon’s bullshit.

Wired: Saying what the hell, selling secrets to Otto, and then spitting at Daemon: “You only blame me because your true enemies are out of reach.”

Inspired: Sure, Daemon may have imprisoned Mysaria, but this is the White Worm we’re talking about; this woman downright thrives in shitty situations. I completely expect her to emerge from captivity with a whole new cadre of associates and operatives.

11. Alyn of Hull

“They tell me that you are the one that dragged my body out of the sea,” Corlys Velaryon says to Alyn of Hull—a newly introduced, seemingly humble boatsman down at the Driftmark docks—in the season premiere. “I am indebted to you, Alyn,” the Sea Snake adds. Not a bad House of the Dragon character debut! Something tells me this won’t be the last we see of Alyn, who also mentions having a brother … a note that seems to pique Corlys’s interest. This situation is developing …

12. Otto Hightower

You know what, in a sick way, I almost felt bad for Otto this episode! He may be a self-involved prick, but the guy couldn’t catch a break. What’s worse: clocking your daughter and her favorite knight basking in clear post-hookup bliss, or discovering your grandson and that same knight discussing battle plans without you? Getting undermined by an amateur king who knows nothing about anything, or being plotted against by a slimy would-be usurper who knows way too much? Otto is a survivor indeed, but even cockroaches know that sometimes the only way to endure is to scatter and hide.

13. The Smallfolk

When it comes to lobbying powerful people to make decisions that benefit special interest groups, King’s Landing is a lot like New York City. You have Hugh the scorpion builder guy asking for, and being granted, better benefits for him and his fellow anti-dragon arms manufacturers, like he’s the NYPD getting funding for a bunch of new drones or surveillance vans or something. And then you have poor Jerard the Shepherd, whose simple ask—that the crown return his tithe of livestock so that he can make it through the winter!—is initially granted by Aegon the Magnanimous … only for the young ruler to get an earful from Otto and totally renege on the deal, Kathy Hochul–style. Canceling congestion pricing, it turns out, is the feeding sheep to dragons of our time. Sounds about right.

14. That One Couple (Dowager Queen Alicent and Ser Criston Cole)

We’ve all known that one horned-up secret couple that thinks they’re being all sly and surreptitious with their dalliances but are actually hooking up all over creation and fooling absolutely no one. Typically, this happens during, like, adolescence. But in the case of House of the Dragon—where very few people have developmentally normal upbringings—it’s the dowager queen GILF and her Kingsguardsman who have apparently taken to christening every damn room in the palace.

For Alicent, who spent years married to a decaying, old King Viserys and now serves at the pleasure of her firstborn failson, King Aegon II, all this carrying on seems to be a way to reclaim both her lost youth and her feeling of power. For Ser Criston, it’s maybe a bit more complex. Once upon a time, he raged at a young Rhaenyra for even suggesting a sworn-guard-with-benefits situation, but now that’s what he basically has with Alicent. It’s a direct and dishonorable flouting of his Kingsguard oaths, yet it also helps keep Criston in the room where it happens.

This is all fun and games until someone loses a head. (An eye is so Season 1.) Alicent has for years sought to avoid a truly violent conflict, but it now seems like her window of time to achieve peace has slammed shut. And even outside the Small Council, her image as a doting mother is in shambles. It’s bad enough that Alicent and Criston were indisposed while two assassins breached a royal bedroom and killed a child in front of his mother. But then Helaena walks in on her mom mid-bone? That’s the stuff of nightmares, whether you’re a dreamer or not. I expect to see Heleana posting on the r/raisedbynarcissists subreddit before long.

15. Blood and Cheese

While Alicent is banging away, the rats will play! And for a moment, this bumbling pair of Hightower-hating, Harry-’n’-Lloyd-coded creeps seems like they might be the most powerful henchmen in the land. First, they pocket the initial half of that sweet, sweet bounty money. Then they sidle straight through the throne room in plain sight, working the “walk with purpose and act like you’re meant to be there” Super Bowl scammer strategy to perfection. And before long, they find themselves with the future of the realm literally right there in their grasp.

But then they go ahead and destroy all these Ws by completing the job that Daemon contracted them to do. Well, sort of: Unable to locate their primary target, the eminently recognizable and full-grown Aemond, they settle for the next (and worst) option: cherubic 6-year-old Jaehaerys, son of Aegon and his sister-wife, Helaena. “A son for a son,” Blood and Cheese explain to a shell-shocked Helaena, making it pretty obvious who probably sent them—and ultimately removing any remaining leverage or value they may have had.

16. The Next Generation

If you’re a youngish Targaryen or Velaryon or Hightower who thinks you have your whole life ahead of you: You probably don’t!!! While “generation” has a way of losing all meaning in the context of the incestuous Targaryen family tree, it doesn’t really matter in this case who is an uncle-husband or who is a daughter-niece: Anyone young enough to have any future at all is highly vulnerable at present, and the horrors only seem to be escalating.

One day you’re monkeying around in a dragon’s cave with your cousins and/or uncles; the next, you’re getting chomped by Vhagar. One minute you’re playing with attendance balls and being promised human horseback rides; the next, you’re missing a head. RIP, little Jaeharys! I’m bummed we won’t get to see what would have happened when you inevitably reproduced with your nearly identical twin sister a decade hence.

17. Tyland Lannister

Stay gold, Pony Boy. Stay gold.

Original Source