'House of the Dragon' Season 2 Premiere: is Aegon a 'Villain?'

One of the cruelest characters in the series had some moments that were easy to cheer for in the season premiere, but giving fans conflicting feelings is a hallmark of this franchise.

The Season 2 premiere of House of the Dragon came with many surprises, but a subtle one was the skillful re-framing of the character Aegon II Targaryen. The king for "Team Green" is played by Tom Glynn-Carney, and was set up as petulant and evil in Season 1. Now, some fans are shocked to find that he is fun to watch, and even somewhat sympathetic in a few scenes.

Fair warning: there are spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 1 ahead! House of the Dragon has set the board for its own game of thrones, and it has been clear up until now that Aegon II was not a real player – just a figurehead for his mother and grandfather to prop up. Aegon had some entertaining moments in Season 1 – most notably, Ty Tennant's infamous moment in the window in Episode 6 – and he even had some nuanced characterization. We saw Aegon yearning for his father's attention and approval, and his dread at the thought of taking on real responsibility. He seemed perfectly happy to let Rhaenyra take the throne until he was manipulated into usurping her.

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(Photo: Theo Whitman/HBO)

Still, one moment from Season 1 stood out in fans' memories between seasons: his sexual assault on his maid, Dyana (Maddie Evans). In Episode 8, Dyana disclosed the attack to Alicent (Olivia Cooke), who chose to protect her son by dismissing Dyana and covering up the crime. All in all, it served to vilify both Aegon and Alicent in the story, and it colored all of Aegon's foolish behavior as more malicious and entitled.

In commentary on social media between seasons, fans generally compared Aegon to Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones – a cruel and anti-social adolescent with no redeeming qualities. However, looking back now, we had already seen more pathos from Aegon than that. That hasn't changed in Season 2 as Aegon bluntly tries to do right by the smallfolk, tries to train his son for leadership, and acknowledges the skills and wisom of others when making decisions. Aegon is still clearly selfish, stupid and entitled in these moments – he may even be as dangerous as Joffrey – but he's not cruel in the same way. He is simply not equipped to wield absolute power, and really, who is?

There's also the fact that Glynn-Carney is a great charismatic performer. In the "Inside the Episode" segment, director and executive producer Alan Taylor remarked on Glynn-Carney's comedic timing, saying that the character evolved to have more punchlines in response to his performance. Series co-creator Ryan Condal explained how he saw Aegon's hopes for Jaehaerys as a reflection of Aegon's own father issues, and Glynn-Carney himself shared some insight on Aegon's fumbling attempt to do the right thing – even if it generally goes wrong.

Now that the season premiere has aired, many fans online are struggling to recalibrate their conception of Aegon II. Some fans live-tweeting the episode hastily created memes about Aegon's attempt to give sheep back to the smallfolk, dubbing him "AEGON THE COMMUNIST." YouTuber Joe Magician joked: "Aegon is so relatable and a hero of the working class, whom amongst us would not want to return sheep and pay upfront? Truly a hero of the workers of the world!"

Still, others noted that there are many episodes left to go, and Aegon's darkest tendencies are still bubbling under the surface. One user pointed out the small council scene, noting that the maids in the background subtly went stiff when Aegon entered the room. His history of sexual violence could still come back into the story at some point. Meanwhile, another frustrated fan wondered why Aegon in particular had been the lightning rod for fandom hate online when characters like Daemon (Matt Smith) had also done cruel, violent things.

As usual, the moral gray area is the point. George R.R. Martin has worked hard to fill his works with complex characters containing different balances of good and evil, and the House of the Dragon writers have followed his lead. There have been exceptions both in the books and on TV, such as Joffrey or Ramsay Bolton, but fans expecting the same for Aegon will have to reconsider at least a few more times this season.

In 2022, some commenters called it a mistake to make Aegon a rapist, arguing it would be harder to to maintain tension between the two sides in this war going forward, as the audience would never feel compassion for him again. However, if fans find it uncomfortable to laugh at Aegon's jokes or relate to his moments of anguish while knowing he is a rapist, that can also be a powerful lesson. It reminds us that the people who carry out those kinds of crimes can still be charming at times – can even get other things right in their life – but it doesn't detract from the horror of their crimes.

House of the Dragon airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and Max. Martin's books, including Fire & Blood, are available now in print, digital and audiobook formats.