Man, we’re already on Episode 4 of House of the Dragon, but already I feel like we’ve been on an exciting journey full of political intrigue, interesting characters, and some pretty great action — to say nothing of the strong helping of stomach-churning gore.
Last week we saw Daemon the Badass single-handedly destroy the Crabfeeder’s army as a spiteful response to Viserys’ delayed military intervention. However, the fact that we didn’t actually see the Crabfeeder die leads me to believe something else is at play here. Perhaps Daemon cut a deal with the evil pirate. After all, his goal remains the Iron Throne, and the only thing standing in his way are Viserys and Rhaenyra, whom he refuses to kill … but maybe this is a Sneakers-like situation where he cannot kill his friends, but wouldn’t mind someone else doing the dirty work for him.
Also, Viserys just told Rhaenyra to follow her heart and choose the suitor she feels will make her happy. He also refuses to relinquish her claim to the throne, a decision that will likely piss off just about everyone not named Rhaenyra in the Seven Kingdoms, including Alicent who expects her son Aegon — you know, Viserys’ kid — to eventually wear the crown.
Otto, the Hand of the King (and Alicent’s father), also figures into this as he likely wants his bloodline to achieve royalty. That’s why he set Alicent and Viserys up in the first place. Duh.
Anyway, let’s get to Episode 4, which is creatively titled, “Episode 4.”
What Happened in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 4
The episode opens with our favorite princess Rhaenyra impatiently listening to potential suitors. She casts aside creepy old men who are older than her father before listening to the big of a very young boy from the Blackwoods — an ancient house with a formidable army, we’re told. The young man recites his pitch but is put off by a heckler. Eventually, swords are drawn, prompting Rhaenyra to call lunch. (At the end of the scene, we see the young man slice the heckler through. He then gags when his opponent starts spitting up blood.)
Later, Rhaenyra stands aboard a ship on her way back to King’s Landing. Dialogue between the Princess and Criston Cole helpfully informs us that several months have passed since the last episode. Apparently, she’s been on a tour of sorts, visiting different locales in search of the perfect match. Since her love of freedom hasn’t dissipated or changed course, she decided to cut the tour short. Viserys is gonna be pissed.
Before more intel can spew from our characters’ mouths, a dragon — Caraxes, methinks — flies overhead and rocks Rhaenyra’s ship en route to King’s Landing. She gives a warm smile.
Everyone, including Rhaenyra, gathers in the throne room. Daemon enters looking all badass. There’s a great shot of Rhaenyra shadowing her uncle as he approaches the Iron Throne. He drops the Crabfeeder’s weapon and suggests adding it to the throne. Viserys notices his crown. Daemon explains that he’s now “King of the Narrow Sea,” which causes the surrounding extras to murmur. “But I know there is only one true king, your grace,” he continues, kneeling in respect.
Viserys is like, bruh. Otto looks suspicious, as always.
Daemon pledges his tacky crown and the Stepstones. Viserys offers a mawkish smile. “Where is Lord Corlys,” he asks. Well, he sailed home to Driftmark (sure) and left the Stepstones to the sea (uh-huh). Even composer Ramin Djawadi knows something is up.
Viserys, ever the kind-hearted soul, embraces his brother. The crowd claps. All is well. For now.
Later, everyone continues to gush over Daemon. Rhaenyra approaches and both Viserys and Alicent look extremely pissed off to see her, so she goes and sits by herself. Alicent mocks Rhaenyra’s pain, noting that not every Princess gets a chance to find the proper suitor. Rhaenyra shoots back, “Well, sorry if I don’t want to be anything more than a breeder,” or something along those lines.
Alicent practically coughs up blood after taking that low blow. She doesn’t have it much better. The poor kid has few friends and might as well be sewed to Viserys’ side. No one gives a damn about her aside from the whole Queen thing. So, take that Rhaenyra. At least you get to fly dragons on your days off.
After this heart-to-heart, Rhaenyra tracks down Daemon and finds the dragonrider lurking beneath a Weirwood tree. He’s awfully quiet. Disturbingly so. What’s up, Rhaenyra asks pointedly, seeing through his humble guise. Nadda, he replies. “Just missed the comforts of home.” (Sure.)
They chit-chat about life, love, and politics. Daemon thinks marriage is little more than a political move, while Rhaenyra calls it a death sentence. She notes that his wife, Lady Rhea Royce, methinks, is lucky to not have his child inside her. “I doubt a child could grow in such hostile environs,” he replies coldly. Zing!
Rhaenyra does not wish to follow her mother’s tragic fate; the poor woman bred heirs until it killed her. She wishes to live in isolation, which is probably the most rational thought anyone on Game of Thrones has ever had.
Back with the King, he’s told that all is not well at the Stepstones. The Crabfeeder may be gone, but Corlys, the Sea Snake, has taken over the island chain likely as a rebuke for Viserys’ decision to marry Alicent over his 12-year old daughter. What’s more, Corlys plans to wed said daughter to a Sealord at Braavos’ son. The crown needs to seek their own marriage pact to counter Corlys’ move. All eyes are on the Princess.
Later, Rhaenyra happens upon a piece of parchment stowed away in a bundle of clothes in her room. On the paper lies a map revealing a secret door next to her bed. Ever the adventurer, she wonders through the passage, follows the path past the giant dragon skull tucked away in the bowels of the Red Keep, and eventually meets up with her waiting Uncle. Together, they steal off into the night, adorned in disguises. He takes her through the city streets which run rampant with sex, violence and booze. They even watch a play that pokes fun at Viserys’ decision to name a “girl” heir to the throne, even after Aegon’s birth.
Daemon watches her reaction closely. The commoners want Aegon, he says. To hell with that, she replies before stealing some snacks and high-tailing it through the streets. Daemon eventually catches up with her and the pair share a laugh. “Enjoy that did you,” he asks as they walk away holding hands.
Next stop? A brothel, or something along those lines. Daemon is giving Rhaenyra a taste if the adult life, or maybe even the life of a commoner. (This puts Herogasm to shame, though one or two shots may have been all we needed.) Somehow, Rhaenyra finds all of this romantic and decides now is the best time to make a move on her Uncle. The pair kiss and, well, he takes her to Pleasure Town … or tries to. At some point, the situation weirds him out and he vanishes.
Back at the Red Keep, the King’s bizarre skin condition has grown worse. A few online theories suggested this was dragon scale, but this doesn’t seem right given how slowly the disease has spread. Alicent takes charge, dismisses the servants and gets on her knees to wash her husband’s body. Later, she hops in bed (in a room decorated with, ah, very sexual paintings) and is just about to go to sleep when a servant walks in. “I just want some f***ing sleep,” Alicent says. Ah, but the King is calling. “Shit. At this hour?” She endures sex with her husband and you can see the wheels turning in her brain. What the hell am I doing here?
The Princess arrives back at the Red Keep, surprising Criston. She’s still very much in the mood and decides to take her desires out on him. They slowly remove his armor … you can see him thinking … ah, what the hell, he seems to decide.
Nearby, Otto speaks to a young boy who saw the princess leave the brothel with Daemon. Uh oh. The next morning, he relays the boy’s info to the King. “Daemon and Rhaenyra were seen together in the bowels of a pleasure tent,” he says. “Coupling.” Viserys is beside himself, going so far as to tell Otto to bring the gossiper to him so he can pluck out his eyes. He’s also weary of Otto, who clearly wants to secure his grandson’s place on the throne … but even he seems disenchanted by the news.
Alicent hears all of this, of course.
Back in her room, the Princess happily combs her hair when Criston arrives looking grim. “The Queen wants to have a chat,” he states.
Rhaenyra heads to the Weirwood tree where Alicent awaits. She cuts right to the chase: “Did you f**k Daemon in a pleasure house?” Rhaenyra freaks out and calls the vile accusation idle gossip. Now, technically, she didn’t have sex with Daemon … so … Otto’s declaration could be seen as treason, I suppose.
Rhaenyra claims she and Daemon drank and went to a brothel where he abandoned her for “some whore.” “Daemon didn’t touch me, I swear on my mother,” Rhaenyra says. (Somewhere, Criston Cole is freaking out.)
Daemon arrives at the entrance, hung over from the night’s proclivities. He’s taken by some guards and tossed on the floor in front of the Iron Throne. Viserys arrives and doesn’t seem as mad as he should be. Daemon doesn’t deny the claim that he “ruined” Rhaenyra — and if he did, so what? Viserys is the King. His word is law.
Daemon offers a solution: “Wed her to me.” Who cares if he already has a wife. Aegon the Conqueror had a few of his own.
“You are no conquerer,” Viserys snaps, pulling a knife and placing it at Daemon’s throat. “You are a plague sent to destroy me.”
Ever the coolheaded cat, Daemon replies, “Give me Rhaenyra to take to wife and we will return the House of the Dragon to its proper glory.” He doesn’t really care about Rhaenyra (or does he?), Daemon just wants the Iron Throne. At least, that’s what Viserys thinks. For the second time in four episodes, the King casts his brother out, knowing full well the chaos he can create if left unleashed. (As I said last week, I like Viserys. He’s a good dude, but man is he a bad King. Daemon knows this all too well.)
Later, Alicent tells Viserys what Rhaenyra told her and swears by Rhaenyra’s innocence. Technically, Rhaenyra is innocent of the crimes presented, but she has had some fun with another man — which could be very bad if she ends up pregnant.
Viserys decides to speak with Rhaenyra. There’s some discussion about a dagger that once belonged to Aegon the Conquerer — it was Aenar’s before that. Before Aegon’s death, his song was engraved in the steel: “From my blood come the Prince That was Promised and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire.”
We all know this is bullshit, but the prophecy is a burden Viserys shares with Rhaenyra. In other words, it’s their responsibility to bring about the Prince That was Promised; a task they cannot take lightly.
“If I were a man, I could sleep with whoever I wanted and no one would blink an eye,” Rhaenyra says.
“Sure, but you’re a woman and that’s that,” Viserys shoots back. “Oh, and you’re going to marry Ser Laenor Velaryon. Boom.” He drops the mic. This will unite the two most powerful houses in the realm, combining the Air Force (dragons) and Navy. “We’re gonna kick so much ass,” he says.
Great, Rhaenyra says, but what about that sleaze bag Otto? He clearly just wants the throne. “Everybody wants the throne,” Viserys explains. “That’s just the way it is.”
Rhaenyra, clearly pissed at being followed and having her character dragged through the mud, offers a compromise. “I’ll wed the son of the Sea Snake, but you must first do your duty as King,” she says.
Later, Viserys meets with Otto. The King recalls how it only took Otto five days to go from being a nobody to the Hand of the King after a series of unfortunate circumstances made it so. He then drops a truth bomb: Alicent was a calculated distraction, a move made by Otto to plant his seed on the Iron Throne. Our Hand tries to pull off his typical calming, reassuring act, but then Viserys reaches out and plucks the Hand of the King badge off his person.
“I can no longer trust your judgment,” he says.
Otto looks downright dejected.
We cut to Rhaenyra reading peacefully by the fire. One of the maesters wanders in and places a fancy cup on the table in front of her. “Sorry I’m late, but here’s this thing,” he says. “I did my best.”
She’s confused. “What is that?”
“Well, it’s, ah,” he starts, “a, uh, thingy to make sure you don’t have any unwanted thingys. Getmydrift?” He then peaces out, leaving Rhaenyra alone with her “tea.” Good times in the realm, as always.
Final Thoughts on House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 4
Okay, so that was Episode 4. Good stuff. So far this season has done a terrific job balancing action with strong character work. Everyone has a purpose and/or a point to make. Everyone deserves the throne, and everyone deserves not to have the throne. I love that. Even Rhaenyra, for all her wit and cunning, makes mistakes that drastically impact the realm. Her storyline feels like something plucked from The Crown, another series that deals with the absurd duties and responsibilities that go hand in hand with royalty; duties that are bestowed upon members of the royal family whether they want them or not.
Rhaenyra is stuck in a position she never asked to be in but must endure for the good of the realm.
As Viserys stated, their lives are not about truth, but perception. Neither of them asked for this responsibility, they inherited it; but it’s they must look as though they’re perfectly fine with their roles, otherwise the kingdom would fall apart. I find that interesting.
Still, I don’t envy Rhaenyra. She makes a lot of valid points in this episode. Why can’t she choose which life she wants to live? Why can’t she marry whom she deems worthy? Why can’t she be a Queen? Why can’t she ride dragons into battle? Why can’t she sleep around? Why can’t women enjoy the same privileges as men?
There’s a sharp contrast between Rhaenyra’s free-wheeling night with Daemon and Alicent’s much less inspiring session with Viserys. Yet, Rhaenyra’s focus is based almost entirely on what she wants, while Alicent’s is focused on doing her duty for the realm. I’m sure there’s a compromise somewhere between those two lines of thought.
Now, about Otto … I do think his intentions were selfish. He wanted to put an heir on the throne and hitch his family to royalty for time and all eternity. I don’t blame him. Westeros sucks. There’s a clear divide between the haves and the have-nots. Who wouldn’t give up their firstborn in order to live a comfy life in a castle with servants and food; as opposed to that father and daughter who starved to death in Game of Thrones?
As the great Creed once said, “The only difference between me and a homeless man is this job.” I think Otto would agree, which is why he willingly sacrificed his daughter to gain an upper hand, so to speak.
Alicent is an interesting character. I’m starting to think she makes some sort of move on the King out of spite, hate, anger, or all of the above. She’s clearly not happy with her lot in life and sees herself as little more than a baby maker. Her character hasn’t figured prominently in the story thus far, but the show consistently reminds us that she’s there, lurking in every scene. Here we have a young girl who never got to choose which path she wanted to take, forced into a relationship with a much older man to whom she plays second fiddle. She has no friends and now her father is getting the boot. Keep an eye on her.
As for Daemon, I’m not sure what to think of him. Maybe he did indeed kill the Crabfeeder. Maybe he really did just miss home. Or maybe he arrived at King’s Landing with the intention of riding off with Rhaenyra. His moves are calculated, but he’s far too emotional and impulsive to carry them out. At this point, I’m not sure how much I trust him; or even if I like him. All I know is that he looks badass atop a dragon.
Anyways, that’s it for Episode 4. Personally, I loved it. Since this is Game of Thrones, I’m still waiting for that shocking twist that ultimately leads to the death of every major character we’ve grown to love. Even if that moment never arrives, I’m still happy to follow this group around King’s Landing for another six episodes.