Who Lived and Who Died in The Battle of Rook's Rest

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Episode 4 of House of the Dragon Season 2.

Anyone who thought House of the Dragon's second season was moving slowly was in for a welcome surprise in the final 20 minutes of Episode 4.

As Sunday's installment, the midway point of Season 2, careened toward a wild finish, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) arrived at House Staunton's seat of Rook's Rest with his rapidly expanding army—and prepared to spring a trap. Cole's scheme was simple: lay siege to Rook's Rest and force Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) to send one of Team Black's dragons to defend the small and weakly fortified castle. Then, signal to Aemond (Ewan Mitchell)—who would be hiding a short distance away with his behemoth of a dragon, Vhagar—that it was time to attack.

Unfortunately, Rhaenyra fell for the ruse and, after being convinced not to go herself, allowed Rhaenys (Eve Best) to fly to Rook's Rest with her dragon, Meleys. Everything was going according to plan for Team Green. However, Cole had not accounted for the fact that his king, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), would suddenly show up on the back on his own dragon, Sunfyre, and begin battling Meleys.

Meleys quickly got the upper hand on Sunfyre and it looked like Rhaenys might actually come out on top. But then, Vhagar showed up.

What happened to Rhaenys?

Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) rides her dragon Meleys in <i>House of the Dragon</i>.<span class="copyright">Ollie Upton—HBO</span>
Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) rides her dragon Meleys in House of the Dragon.Ollie Upton—HBO

Although Aegon was at first relieved to see his brother riding in, Aemond apparently had no intention of getting him out of the mess he had created. In fact, Aemond's shout of "Dracarys"—the High Valyrian command for a dragon to breathe fire—seemed purposefully timed so that Vhagar's flames would hit Aegon and Sunfyre head on, sending them both crashing to the ground.

Despite then having an opportunity to retreat back to Dragonstone, Rhaenys chose to turn Meleys around and re-enter the fray. But while the Red Queen and her rider were able to get a few blows in, the size difference between the two dragons ultimately proved to be too much to handle when Vhagar got her jaws around Meleys' throat. After helplessly watching the life drain out of her dragon, Rhaenys fell to her death on Meleys' back. And thus the Queen Who Never Was met her end.

“I'm so proud of what I did in the last scene that I shot of the season because it was intensely physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding," Best told Collider in June. "Every job you feel like is the hardest one you've done until the next, but it felt like more so than any I've ever done. I got through it, and I didn't indulge myself. I didn't let my own feelings get in the way of the job I had to do, which I feel is exactly what Rhaenys does. She just gets on with it."

Is Aegon dead?

Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon II Targaryen in <i>House of the Dragon</i> Season 2.<span class="copyright">Ollie Upton—HBO</span>
Tom Glynn-Carney as Aegon II Targaryen in House of the Dragon Season 2.Ollie Upton—HBO

When the dust settled and Cole came to from being knocked out, he stumbled into the forest to find Aemond standing over Aegon's body with his sword drawn—seemingly preparing to finish the job he had started with Vhagar.

Cole's arrival clearly made Aemond rethink what he was about to do, but his apparent desire to see Aegon dead squares with what we've seen of Aemond's contempt for his brother throughout the show. "Aegon is very brash and lacks perseverance to be king," Mitchell told Comic Book Resources in June of Aemond's perception of Aegon's capacity to rule. "Aegon kind of squandered his inheritance and even said he didn't want to be king."

As for Aegon's fate following that cliffhanger ending, we know from George R. R. Martin's Fire & Blood, the A Song of Ice and Fire companion novel on which House of the Dragon is based, that despite their near-fatal injuries, both he and Sunfyre survive the Battle of Rook's Rest. But that doesn't mean it's not going to take a pretty significant amount of time for him to heal, creating a window of opportunity for members of his court to weasel their way into more power.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.