Full spoilers follow for House of the Dragon season 2.

House of the Dragon season 2 episode 2 is out now – and the hit show’s latest chapter all but answers one of its source material’s biggest lingering mysteries.

The Max show’s latest entry, titled ‘Rhaenyra the Cruel’, follows hot on the heels of its predecessor’s gruesome finale, with Houses Targaryen and Hightower dealing with the fallout of the heinous act committed in episode 1’s last scene. Unsurprisingly, that event leads to further escalations between the warring families – all of which comes to another blood-soaked head in episode 2’s final minutes.

I cannot stress this enough: I’m about to get into heavy spoiler territory for House of the Dragon season 2‘s second episode right after this paragraph. Do not proceed past this point if you’re not caught up.

The demise of Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk

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Following Prince Jaehaerys’ death at the hands of the Daemon-funded duo known as Blood and Cheese, Ser Arryk Cargyll – one of the two Cargyll Twins – is sent to kill Rhaenyra Targaryen. He’s put up to the task by a vengeful Ser Criston, who not only feels guilty over his failure to protect Jaehaerys, but who also wants Arryk to prove his loyalty to House Hightower by murdering their enemy’s commander-in-chief.

As mentioned, Arryk has an identical twin – Ser Erryk, who, despite his brother swearing fealty to the Hightowers, swore allegiance to Rhaenyra in season 1. Using the pair’s indistinguishable likeness, Arryk infiltrates Dragonstone with the aim of slaying Rhaenyra. Unfortunately for Arryk, Erryk is forewarned of his brother’s treachery by Mysaria, leading to the twins fighting to the death in Rhaenyra’s bed chamber as the usurped Queen of Westeros watches on in horror.

Considering that House of the Dragon, aka of the best Max shows, is set in Game of Thrones‘ (GoT) barbaric universe, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that plenty of blood is shed during The Battle of the Cargyll Twins. In short: both men die – Erryk ends up killing Arryk, before committing suicide in front of a stunned Rhaenyra; a decision likely born out of his grief for having to kill his twin brother.

How House of the Dragon answer a long-standing Fire and Blood question

Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk face off in Rhaenyra's chambers in House of the Dragon season 2

There are contrasting versions of events concerning The Battle of the Cargyll Twins in ‘Fire and Blood’. (Image credit: Theo Whitman/HBO)

The identity of each twin aside – there’s been confusion over which one wins the fight online – the above is pretty straightforward to follow, right? Well, it’s anything but that in ‘Fire & Blood’, George R.R. Martin’s novel that covers the Targaryen civil war.

You see, in the source material, there isn’t a canonical version of how the fatal showdown plays out. Indeed, three different accounts are written about by various individuals. The first simply states that the duo slew each other. The second suggests they professed their brotherly love for one another, battled for an hour, mortally wounded each other, and died in each other’s arms. The final account proposes that each called the other a traitor, that the fight last mere seconds, and saw a fatally wounded Erryk kill Arryk, with the former perishing from his injuries four days later.

With three narratives giving different interpretations of how events transpired, then, how did House of the Dragon co-creator Ryan Condal decide which one to base the TV adaptation’s battle around? As Condal revealed to me prior to season 2’s launch on Max (in the US), aka one of the best streaming services, all three were surprisingly used to craft the series’ take on the soul-crushing incident.

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“I was fascinated with a version of the Cargylls’ duel that was honourable, but also brutal and and very unromantic,” Condal explained. “I thought: ‘How do we take these two characters we’ve gotten to know a little bit and who are brothers that love each other, who have found themselves on different sides of this conflict and make it a satisfying and honourable conclusion for both of them?’

“I remembered in Thrones, that Sansa [Stark] often romanticized knights and chivalry before things go south for her, but I wanted to show it [The Battle of the Cargyll Twins] in a way that doesn’t romanticize the event, knowing that history will romanticize it later. 

“So this this felt like a good sort of meeting in the middle of the different accounts that are given in the history and then the way that Sansa and other characters remember it 150 years down the road. This felt like a nice synthesis of all what gives you those things and also put it right in literally in Rhaenyra’s space, so that you’re feeling the peril for the character, i.e. the target of this assassination attempt who’s at the centre of this.”

You can expect even more House of the Dragon coverage from me in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, read my review of House of the Dragon season 2 to get some spoiler-free insight into episodes 3 and 4, or find out what Condal had to say about House of the Dragon season 3’s development before the high-fantasy show’s third season was greenlit.

House of the Dragon season 2 is out now on Max (US), Sky/Now TV (UK), and Foxtel/Binge (Australia).

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