‘House of the Dragon’: Ewan Mitchell on That Cliffhanger Dragon Battle and Why “There’s No Going Back” (2024)

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[This story contains spoilers from season two, episode four of House of the Dragon, “The Red Dragon and the Gold.”]

It’s always Aemond, isn’t it?

House of the Dragon fans were finally awarded some dragon-to-dragon action Sunday night when, in episode four of season two, titled “The Red Dragon and the Gold,” Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Team Green attempt to storm a castle in the Crownlands called Rook’s Rest.

Little do they know, Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) council would receive word of the attack and send Rhaenys (Eve Best) on her dragon, Meleys, to set ablaze Cole’s army. But as the forest leaves rustle, Aemond’s (Ewan Mitchell) dragon Vhagar — the largest of the Targaryen brood — awakes. A battle ensues. Audiences see Vhagar’s enormous teeth fatally crunch down on the neck of Meleys and Rhaenys dies in the battle — but not before Aemond takes down his own brother, King Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), who drunkenly attempted to join the fight on his dragon Sunfyre.

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The episode ends with Cole at his knees, in front of a blistered Sunfyre. Aegon lies lifeless with him. Aemond, who had unsheathed his sword before Cole interrupted, walks away. It is an escalation typical of the second son.

In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Ewan Mitchell, who plays Prince Aemond in the HBO hit, discusses where the battle leaves things as the civil war spirals further into bloodshed. He also shares who his character wants on the Iron Throne, what kind of retaliation from Team Black lies ahead and why he has never wanted to watch the show that brought him here: Game of Thrones.


Yeesh. That episode is going to satisfy some dragon-hungry fans. Rhaenys certainly met her demise, but Aegon’s fate was left a little more vague. Is he dead?

It’s a seismic event that’s changed the future going forward with these characters. Aegon’s fate remains unknown. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone. But going into episode five, you are going to see the fallout of Rook’s Rest, which I can’t wait for people to see. It’s a massive blow for Team Black. The line in the sand has been drawn, and Aemond just crossed that line. And there’s no going back. I’m sure there will be retaliation.

In episode four, Aemond is willing to risk Rhaenys’ escape at Rook’s Rest so he can attack his own brother, the king, on Sunfyre. What are Aemond’s true motivations in this war? If not loyalty, what is it that’s driving him?

I think there are many things that are driving him, but one of them that I loved to play with and explore was this idea that he wants his mum. Every time I shared a scene with Olivia Cooke [playing Alicent Hightower] around the council table, every time I looked at Alicent Hightower, I very much imagined Aemond and Alicent sitting on a Dornish beach, far from war, sipping on piña coladas … Aemond having become the war hero and managing to make his mum happy, in his eye, so to speak. Whether or not that’s Alicent’s version of happiness is another thing. But that’s how Aemond sees it. So I think that’s one of his is driving motivations.

Also, what Alicent does in episode seven of season one, that’s something that Aemond doesn’t forget. When they’re all arguing about where Aemond had heard this illegitimate [child of Harwin] Strong [rumor] from, Alicent went back to the idea that this kid had been physically damaged and changed for life. She was the only voice that was backing him up in that moment.

Who does Aemond believe belongs on the Iron Throne?

You don’t necessarily know what is going on behind Aemond’s eye. You don’t know what he’s thinking, but you do know that he is thinking. He’s a very calculative person. He’s not just your one-dimensional black cat and mindless sociopath kind of character. He is thinking at all times. You see that in the first four episodes — in so much of them he operates from the peripheries. But, does he even want the throne? (Shrugs.)

Has he fallen victim to the “heir and the spare” resentment, like Daemon (Matt Smith)?

He feels that Aegon lacks the perseverance to be king. Aegon says it himself: He has no wish to rule. Whereas Aemond, he’s been studying with the masters. He’s been training with the sword, so he very much feels like he would make a worthier king, whether or not that’s what Aemond wants.

Does Daemon see himself in Aemond?

That’s a good question. I don’t know if I could answer it. Maybe it’s one for Matt [Smith, who plays Daemon]. But I think a part of Aemond would wish that Daemon saw Aemond in himself. There’s so much of his image that lends itself to that idea that Aemond is very much paying homage to a young Daemon Targaryen, with the Targaryen black and the long hair. It’s very reminiscent of the rogue prince. Aemond being Daemon’s biggest stan, he would definitely want to live in Daemon’s head rent-free.

We’re seeing a different side to Aemond this season —literally. Had you done full onscreen nudity before this?

I did, but it wouldn’t have been so apparent like it was in episode three of House of the Dragon.

What was that like?

It was a decision that we didn’t make lightly. Every scene starts with a conversation — how far are you comfortably prepared to go? Me and Geeta Patel, our director, we were very like-minded in the sense that we wanted to be true to Aemond in that moment. He’s caught in a completely vulnerable spot. His space is violated by his brother and his crew, and he is ultimately humiliated. There’s this line from Michael Mann’s Heat that I love. Robert De Niro’s character says, “Never get attached to someone you’re not prepared to walk out on in 30 seconds flat when you feel the heat around the corner.”

De Niro’s character lives by that, it helps him maneuver without getting caught by the police. And Aemond has a very similar code in that he doesn’t want to be caught and feel like the kid that he once was in season one — that neglected, bullied boy. In that moment in episode three, that code comes into play. He goes from that vulnerable, humiliated boy and that code just turns a switch, this facade comes up, and he ultimately says what he says.

We see him rather attached to one of the sex workers, Sylvi, played by Michelle Bonnard. Do you think this quote-unquote “monogamy” is something about Aemond that would surprise audiences? What is it saying about his character?

I think just seeing Aemond that vulnerable is a shock for the audience alone. I love speaking about the costumes on our show, designed phenomenally by Caroline McCall, and they’re almost part and parcel with Aemond. Those Targaryen blacks are Targaryen to the max. So to see him without his eye patch, without any of that, it’s certainly shocking.

Someone asked me the other day whether or not I thought that Aemond had mummy issues. And I don’t know if he has mummy issues so much as he just wanted to be loved by his mum a little bit more. Kids kind of need that, that unconditional love, to develop a balanced view of themselves. Aemond never received it. He had to find it elsewhere. He found it in Vhagar, this older she-dragon, which I think is quite a nice parallel. He found it in Madame Sylvi, another surrogate. And because he never really was shown love growing up, he doesn’t really know how to express it himself.

Do you think seeing Aemond in a more vulnerable light somehow makes him more frightening? It’s like the personal vendetta — whether it’s against his brother Aegon, Rhaenyra or anyone else — becomes a little sharper.

I very much wanted to portray the image of someone who had manufactured their body into a lethal weapon. This kid doesn’t need armor. He doesn’t need to be brandishing a Valyrian steel sword to appear like he could ultimately end those characters’ lives in those moments. There’s something powerful in that regard. Me and Geeta Patel, we always talked about the possibility, up to that scene, of maybe Aemond wrapping a blanket around himself as he was leaving, or maybe using his hands to cover himself as he was leaving. But we were very-like minded in the respect that this is a character who does not care what you think about him. And that carelessness, it’s quite scary. Talking about that code coming into place, he cannot be seen as weak at all costs. Love in Aemond’s world is seen as a weakness. And so he has to put duty above that. He puts strength above that.

Would Aemond be in the same danger that he is without Vhagar?

Probably not. He recognizes that he’s a young man who possesses a power that no one else has in Vhagar. He can do things that no one else can do, and she very much shapes the dynamic of any room that he walks into. He doesn’t need to be anything, because her shadow looms so large behind him. And so if he’s being threatening, it’s not because he needs to be — it’s because he wants to be.

Is it weird to see so many fans crushing on your character? They have been debating who is more “babygirl”: Daemon or Aemond.

I haven’t got social media, so I don’t see it. But one of the results of not having social media is that it produces these beautiful, badass, fun letters from people from all across the globe. To read that, I take it all as motivation, whether we’ve had a good reaction or a negative reaction. I never take it for granted. But is Aemond babygirl? I don’t know. It’s a dilemma. What’s the definition of a babygirl?

I think it’s an attractive character that people take pity on a little bit. Sensitive, a bit vulnerable. Maybe they think his heart’s in the right place.

Like maybe there is good underneath it all. I’ll take the compliment.

What’s to come from Aemond this season?

I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s going to be good.

If you could play any other House of the Dragon character, who would it be? And if you could have played any character on Game of Thrones, who would it have been?

I haven’t seen Game of Thrones. I know — blasphemy! I just wanted to steer myself away from it. I never watched it when it originally ran and then landing the part, I didn’t want it to inform my decisions and choices, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, for Aemond. I wanted to present a character who was very otherworldly, and so I took from other worlds. If I could play another House of the Dragon character … We’re all very good. I don’t want to pick a favorite.

Would you switch to Team Black?

No, no — I’d want to stay on Team Green.

And what’s to come from Ewan Mitchell? Have you got anything in the pipeline that you’re excited about?

Nothing is set in stone yet. I’m down to the last few for something that I really want and I’m not going to say what it is because as soon as I do, I won’t get it. [I’m up for] any challenge, any character. I love horror, horror is definitely a genre I’d love to venture into.

House of the Dragonreleases new season two episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and Max. Follow along withTHR‘s season coverage and interviews.

‘House of the Dragon’: Ewan Mitchell on That Cliffhanger Dragon Battle and Why “There’s No Going Back” (2024)
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