I was worried 'House of the Dragon' season 2 was losing momentum — then I watched episode 4

Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) riding Vhagar as seen in "House of the Dragon" season 2 episode 4
(Image credit: Theo Whiteman/HBO)

Warning: This article contains massive spoilers for "House of the Dragon" season 2!

Two weeks ago, "House of the Dragon" season 2 served up one of my favorite "Thrones" scenes in a long time, wherein Otto Hightower and King Aegon II went toe-to-toe in King's Landing. But that statement pales in comparison to the reaction that the show's fourth episode just drew from me. 

As much as I love all the politicking that comes with "Game of Thrones," I was starting to get a little apprehensive about when we'd finally start to see the two factions' forces go to war.

I wasn't disappointed when episode 3 skipped the Battle of Burning Mill; if anything, the hard cut from bickering youngsters to the Riverlands strewn with the corpses of forces from Houses Bracken and Blackwood was extremely impactful. That said, it did mean we were left waiting for one of Westeros' hallmark battle sequences just a little bit longer. 

After a season and a half of build-up, we were really starting to need a change of pace and to see the consequences of the Targaryens' actions outside the chambers of Dragonstone and King's Landing. We've had the odd bit of action here and there, but what we really needed was something akin to the "Battle of the Bastards". Thankfully, in episode 4, we got just that.

House of the Dragon Season 2 | Episode 4 Preview | Max - YouTube House of the Dragon Season 2 | Episode 4 Preview | Max - YouTube
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The Battle of Rook's Rest was utter carnage

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Frankly, the entire episode was a treat, but if I have to list everything I liked about it, we'll be here all day. So, we'll focus on the climax of the episode: the Battle of Rook's Rest. 

On paper, this shouldn't be a big deal. Per the council scenes in the episode, we know that it's not exactly the biggest or most important prize on the map: Aegon's still keen for Harrenhal, which Daemon has claimed, but Criston Cole and Aemond have masterminded a plan to march on the small, vulnerable settlement owned by Lord Staunton (who is a member of Rhaenyra's council) instead.

Nevertheless, forces are mustered, and Criston's army launches their attack. Rhaenys volunteers to go to Rook's Rest aid riding Meleys, and battle commences. But the reason this is so exciting is the stakes just keep rising. 

Just as Meleys starts torching Cole's men, he signals for Aemond and Vhagar to come out of hiding in the nearby woods. Problem is, the impetuous Aegon has flown in on Sunfyre, after receiving a telling-off from his mother. Cue the first dragon fight of the season!

Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) in a full suit of armor in "House of the Dragon" season 2 episode 4

Criston and Aemond mastermind a killer plan. (Image credit: Theo Whiteman/HBO)

Meleys has seen the most combat, so she overpowers the younger Sunfyre, but the soldiers stop to marvel as Vhagar enters the fray. Whether he meant to or not, Aemond calls for dragonfire while the two others are locked in combat, singing Sunfyre's wings and sending the dragon and his own brother tumbling to the ground.

To keep all eyes above, the camera throws us in with the footsoldiers on the ground and tilts skyward at the real spectacle of the day — Meleys and Vhagar continuing to duke it out before falling out of the sky in a pirouette of flames. 

As soldiers scramble to get out of Vhagar's way on the ground and Cole is knocked out cold en route to find Aegon, it looks like the two dragons might get to leave ... but then Vhagar's jaws snap shut around Meleys neck, choking the life out of Rhaenys' mount and sealing the battle as a resounding success for the Greens.

Cue a haunting shot of Rhaenys surrendering to death as the rest of Meleys' body collapses on the keep in a blast of flames. That's followed by scenes of the carnage wrought by the multi-dragon brawl and Criston picking his way toward Aegon's side. End scene. 

We've heard plenty of talk of just how powerful the dragons are thus far, but seeing it actually play out in front of us was incredible. All this excitement stands as proof that Ryan Condal and the "House of the Dragon" team know how to stage "Thrones" action, and it has left me more desperate to see the next chapter than I have been all season. 

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Staff Writer, Streaming

Martin is a Streaming Writer at Tom’s Guide, covering all things movies and TV. If it’s in the theaters or available to stream somewhere, he’s probably watched it… especially if it has a dragon in it. Before joining the team, he was a Staff Writer at What To Watch where he wrote about a broad range of shows that stretched from "Doctor Who" and "The Witcher" to "Bridgerton" and "Love Island". When he’s not watching the next must-see movie or show, he’s probably still in front of a screen playing massive RPGs, reading, spending a fortune on TCGs, or watching the NFL.