What, Exactly, Happened to Aegon in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4?

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Spoilers below.

In House of the Dragon, there are a lot of ways to die. Starvation, sepsis, poison, disease, beheadings, the list goes on. A sword through the gut seems to be the obvious threat, but even if one should evade such weapons, there are impromptu hangings to worry about, like those suffered by the king’s rat-catchers after one of them was suspected of murder. And I haven’t even mentioned whatever happened to King Viserys.

Still, even on Dragon’s skewed spectrum, there are few more horrifying fates than death by dragonflame. Particularly if that dragonflame doesn’t actually kill you. Which brings us to the reason we’ve gathered here today: Something—though we can’t yet be sure what—has happened to King Aegon II.

Look, I think it’s a truth universally acknowledged that Aegon is (was?) Not A Good Guy. (Even if, in George R. R. Martin’s fictional universe, the bar is on the floor. Maybe below it.) But by the end of HotD season 2 episode 4, Aegon seems to have recognized he’s the worst, and decides that the only way to stop everyone from discouraging/undermining/underestimating/criticizing/hating him is to…storm into the battle at Rook’s Rest without telling his own family, let alone his own army. He rides into the fray atop his dragon Sunfyre, only to clash with Princess Rhaenys and Meleys, themselves distracted by the terrible wrath of Prince Aemond and Vhagar. Aemond, Aegon’s younger brother, is not only surprised by Aegon’s intrusion; he sees it as another indicator of his sibling’s incompetence. Surely no such tactician is fit to be king.

When the three dragons and their riders meet in the sky, Aegon is sure his brother has come to his rescue. But his face falls as he realizes Aemond’s intentions are strategic, not heroic: The prince commands Vhagar to unleash fire upon both Aegon and Rhaenys, and the resulting blast erases whatever resolve remained in Sunfyre. Both the king and his mount tumble to the ground, Sunfyre’s body left broken and smoldering in the forest.

tom glynn carney as aegon in house of the dragon season 2

HBO

But it is Aegon’s body that prompts our scrutiny today. We watch as Criston Cole stumbles up the hill to Sunfyre’s crash zone, where he discovers Aemond with his sword still drawn. There, the prince scoops up Aegon’s dagger from the forest floor and uses it to point to Aegon’s unmoving body, framed by Sunfyre’s own shuddering outline—but whether that body is in fact a corpse, we aren’t told. Cole’s face fills with despair as he takes in the wreckage, but his reaction could be on account of either Aegon’s death or his disfigurement. Either way, Aegon II will not leave the battlefield of Rook’s Rest the way he entered.

For those unsatisfied with such a cliffhanger, we do have some textual clues as to whether Aegon will survive to see episode 5. In Martin’s Fire & Blood, upon which House of the Dragon is based, the usurper does indeed live—albeit with “broken ribs, a broken hip, and burns that covered half his body. His left arm was the worst. The dragonflame had burned so hot that the king’s armor had melted into his flesh.” Not fun!

Martin continues, “King Aegon II did not die, though his burns brought him such pain that some say he prayed for death. Carried back to King’s Landing in a closed litter to hide the extent of his injuries, His Grace did not rise from his bed for the rest of the year. Septons prayed for him, maesters attended him with potions and milk of the poppy, but Aegon slept nine hours out of every ten, waking only long enough to take some meagre nourishment before he slept again.”

Fire & Blood (HBO Tie-in Edition): 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (The Targaryen Dynasty: The House of the Dragon)

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In Fire & Blood, the injured Aegon remains king in name—and does eventually “rise from his bed”—but Aemond takes up the mantle as Protector of the Realm and Prince Regent, with Cole remaining Hand of the King. Sunfyre, too, survives, though “unable to fly with his injured wing,” and stranded in “the fields beyond Rook’s Rest, crawling through the ashes like some great golden wyrm.” A tragic end for such a majestic beast.

Given all that is still to come in House of the Dragon, it would be a significant deviation from source material if the series were to actually kill off Aegon so soon. But showrunner Ryan Condal has already taken a few choice creative liberties, and it seems exactly his intent to leave us guessing until episode 5 arrives. Either way, the point has been made: When dragons get involved, there’s never any guarantee of who will live or die.

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