Did Aegon Die in 'House of the Dragon?' A Breakdown of Season 2 Episode 4

Impatient TV fans, here's a spoiler-filled breakdown from 'Fire and Blood.'

Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon'
(Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

Spoilers for House of the Dragon season 2, episode 4 ahead. On Sunday, July 8, House of the Dragon gave everyone what they were waiting for. From the fictional lords populating the Green and Black Councils to certain carnage-hungry fans, countless voices have been calling for the Game of Thrones spinoff to bring on the action promised for season 2, as the Targaryens and their dragons face off on the battlefield. In episode 4, "The Red Dragon and the Gold," the war truly began with the highly-anticipated Battle of Rook's Rest, which ended with both the first major death and the first major cliffhanger of season 2.

The battle begins when Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and the Green Army attack one of the castles in the crownlands close to King's Landing, as a detour on his campaign to retake Harrenhal. Ser Criston (who, despite being the worst, is a great tactician) uses the castle as bait to lure out one of the Blacks' dragons, at which point a hidden Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and his beast Vhagar will emerge and fight. When Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) and her dragon Meleys arrive to help defend the castle, Criston sounds a signal for Vhagar to storm in, but they're interrupted by King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) on his (much smaller) dragon Sunfyre. The leader of the Greens flies to battle without alerting his family, his council, or his army, and subsequently gets smoked.

Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon'

Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) sits at his Small Council and holds his dagger in House of the Dragon.

(Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

House of the Dragon had spent episode 4 (and every Aegon scene since the season 2 premiere), setting the foundation for this rash act. Even before his son Jaehaerys II was beheaded by Blood and Cheese, he was hungry for bloodshed against his aunt Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), leader of the Blacks and rival for the throne. Being a new king and a horrible strategist, Aegon had no idea what he was doing, and his entire council (including his mother Alicent, played by Olivia Cooke) chose to ignore him. Even his new Hand of the King Criston set out to battle as soon as humanly possible. So, Aegon's decision to ride into battle himself is a desperate grab for respect and deference—gone horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) has already been pissed at his older brother Aegon all season. Sure, Aemond's base state is intimidation, but it's become clear that he thinks his sibling is an imbecile. In episode 3, there was also that scene in which Aegon tormented Aemond at the brothel. So when Aemond and his beast Vhagar join the battle, Aemond chooses to attack Rhaenys and Meleys without any concern about Aegon getting caught in the dragonfire crosshairs. A fatally wounded Sunfyre crashes to the ground, and several minutes later, Rhaenys and Meleys also crash to their fiery deaths. (R.I.P. Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was.)

Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen, holding a dagger while kneeling, in 'House of the Dragon'

Aemond holding Aegon's dagger after the battle.

(Image credit: Theo Whiteman/HBO)

After that confirmed death, the episode ends with Criston searching for Aegon and finding Sunfyre's crash site. Aemond stands next to it, sword drawn. He quietly picks up Aegon’s fallen dagger and uses it to point to his brother's unmoving body, framed by the dying dragon. However, the episode ends before it's confirmed whether the king who sits on the Iron Throne is actually dead. Could the Greens have already lost their leader in the war's first major battle? The series wants to keep this a cliffhanger, but luckily for impatient fans, George R.R. Martin's novel Fire and Blood has the answer. Major spoilers for Fire and Blood ahead.

Miraculously, Aegon does survive a faceful of dragonfire at the Battle of Rook's Rest, where he suffers "broken ribs, a broken hip, and burns that covered half his body." As Martin explains, "His left arm was the worst. The dragonflame had burned so hot that the king’s armor had melted into his flesh." Ouch.

Sunfyre also survives(!), but he's grounded for a long while, due to Meleys breaking one of his wings. The dragon stays near Rook's Rest to recuperate, with Ser Criston stationing men to protect Sunfyre and sending him sheep to eat, and eventually, the dragon recovers enough to fly again. However, he's a little off, with one historian later describing him as "a great golden fire-breathing chicken."

Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon Targaryen, standing at the Small Council table, in 'House of the Dragon'

Aegon presides over a Small Council meeting.

(Image credit: Ollie Upton/HBO)

So, while not dead, Aegon's down for the count. Per Fire and Blood, he remains on bed rest for over a year, sleeping "nine hours out of every 10" and suffering from burns that "brought him such pain that some say he prayed for death." He remains king in name, but Aemond takes over as Prince Regent and Protector of the Realm, with Cole remaining as his Hand of the King.

Considering war stats, the Battle of Rook's Rest can't be considered a win by either side; the Greens (temporarily) lost their king while the Blacks lost their MVP and biggest dragon. The question going forward is whether having Aemond on the throne will turn the tides in either direction.

Of course, there is the dangling question of whether HBO's televised version of the Dance of the Dragons will decide to kill Aegon off after all. It would be the biggest change from Fire and Blood yet, but House of the Dragon has already made some big book-to-film changes in season 2 so far. Also, the major House of the Dragon spoilers that were included in Game of Thrones are vague enough that the prequel series could meet its canon conclusion with or without Aegon. Still, for the sake of some major story twists going forward, the series adaptation will hopefully decide to keep its plot close to the book.

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.