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House Of The Dragon Season 2 Repeats A Huge Season 1 Mistake

It's fair to say that, like "Game of Thrones" before it, "House of the Dragon" — the show's first major spin-off and its prequel — has a lot of characters. As Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), descendent of the Targaryens seen in the prequel, says at one point in the original series as she considers the enemies she must overcome to claim the Iron Throne, "Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell: they're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground." Speaking of Stark, one finally showed up in the Season 2 premiere of "House of the Dragon," but he's barely in the episode ... repeating a similar mistake the show's first season made with another major yet underrepresented character.

During the opening moments of the premiere, "A Son for a Son," the eldest son of self-crowned Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy), Jacaerys "Jace" Velaryon (Harry Collett), travels to the ice-cold Wall to try and curry favor with House Stark — specifically, Cregan Stark (Tom Taylor). An ancestor of the Starks we ultimately see in "Game of Thrones," Cregan explains to Jace that the Northern house is already committed to helping the Night's Watch protect the realm from what lies north of the Wall (specifically, the White Walkers, though that situation doesn't escalate until the "Game of Thrones" timeline), but that they will swear fealty to Rhaenyra and Team Black's cause. 

So what's disappointing about this? In George R.R. Martin's novella "Fire & Blood," upon which "House of the Dragon" is based, Jace and Cregan are great friends and spend a lot of time together; "A Son for a Son" only gives us a brief scene. Sadly, this sort of sidelining has happened before on the series.

Ser Harwin Strong is a really important character in the overall story of House of the Dragon — but got sidelined in Season 1

A similar issue — of pushing a pretty important character aside — happened a couple of times in Season 1 of "House of the Dragon," but according to fans on Reddit, the most egregious example was Ser Harwin Strong, played by Ryan Corr. It's revealed, after the time jump that happens in the sixth episode "The Princess and the Queen," that Ser Harwin is the actual father of Rhaenyra's three eldest children — including Jace himself — due to the fact that Rhaenyra and her husband at that time, Laenor Velayron (John Macmillan), have a secret open arrangement between them (Laenor is queer and closeted). With this in mind, it feels like he'd be featured a bit more, but he's not ... and at the end of "The Princess and the Queen," he's murdered when his brother Larys (Matthew Needham) burns down the family home of Harrenhal, also killing their father. 

Fans definitely felt that loss. In a Reddit poll asking which Season 1 characters deserved more screentime, Harwin won out over a handful of other lesser-seen characters, and fans weighed in about his short time on-screen. As u/SleepyxDormouse wrote, "Harwin would have also been interesting. He fathered 3 of Rhaenyra's kids. That's a big deal and a long relationship between them. We should have gotten a little more content that showed what kind of relationship they had." On a different thread about underutilized characters, u/thatgal7777 pointed out, "Ser Harwin and Rhaenyra dont have a fling, its a decades long relationship with 3 children, why couldn't we get a few scenes to set the context."

Will House of the Dragon Season 2 keep introducing major players — and then sidelining them?

Both "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon" take place in the sprawling world known as Westeros, and it feels pretty certain that new characters will continue to arise during Season 2; whether they'll be quickly discarded remains to be seen. There are also characters from Season 1 who might get more to do in Season 2, like Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, the daughters of the late Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) and Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), played respectively by Bethany Antonia and Phoebe Campbell. As the only living trueborn heirs of the Velaryon family, Baela and Rhaena will hopefully get more screentime in the second season of the show chronicling the Targaryen civil war, but after seeing them briefly in Episode 1, that remains to be seen.

Still, there's something to be said for the fact that "House of the Dragon" has already tidily compressed decades of movement and action in Westeros into just one season of television; the time jump previously mentioned in Season 1 is due to the fact that the inciting events of the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons take years to fully pan out. Minimizing characters like Harwin Strong and Cregan Stark is definitely a blow, but perhaps it's one that we need to accept in order to keep the adaptation moving at a decent pace. Still, Cregan could still return in Season 2 ... and take on a bigger role.

"House of the Dragon" airs on Sunday nights at 9 P.M. on HBO.