House of the Dragon – S1E4: King of the Narrow Sea. Reaction/Breakdown – Spoilers!!

As the episode opens we see Rhaenyra touching the necklace Daemon gave her in episode 1. I wonder, if as she touches it, does she think of her uncle? Despite the episode title, this is as much Rhaenyra’s coming out party as it is Daemon’s coming home.

Rhaenyra is underwhelmed with prospects either too old and too young, including young Lord Samwell Blackwood who is the embodiment of don’t let my age and size fool you. Despite Blackwood’s sword skill killing the older and larger Lord Bracken, Rhaenyra leaves the tour Viserys set up for her early and returns to Kings Landing. As they approach the shore, Daemon flies overhead with Caraxes, making his appearance for the first time in a year since we last saw him dragging Crabfeeder’s body.

Daemon Targaryen appears in the Throne room holding his Valyrian Steel Sword, Dark Sister, close to his hip and the hammer of the Crabfeeder in the other hand, wearing a crown. The crown is made of driftwood wrapped with metal. All eyes are on him, including Rhaenyra, whom Viserys is surprised to see back prematurely.

Daemon offers his crown and the Crabfeeder’s hammer to Viserys, giving him some relief as Viserys appeared to be trying to determine if Daemon meant to challenge him. Daemon instead kneels and when Viserys instructs him to rise, the two embrace and Daemon lays his head onto Viserys’ shoulder in a meek manner.

Viserys and Daemon head over to the welcome back party and chat about old times growing up in the Targaryen household when Princess Alyssa favored Daemon over Viserys. Alicent offers to show Daemon the new tapestries from Norvos and Qohor and Viserys rudely tells her that Daemon isn’t interested. Viserys is declining more each episode and drinking more at each event. He now embarrasses his wife in public in a poor attempt to entertain Daemon who is much more interested in what his now 18 year old niece has been doing. Rhaenyra jumps in stating that she would be interested in seeing the tapestries and walks away from the party.

Alicent joins Rhaenyra and the pair engage in conversation of a different tone than we’ve seen since episode 1. A year has passed since we saw them vying for position in the God’s wood in episode 3 and tempers seemed to have calmed significantly. Enough so for Alicent to appear vulnerable and envious of Rhaenyra’s seemingly romantic life. Rhaenyra says “how romantic it must be to be imprisoned in a castle and squeeze out heirs”, then apologizes for noticing that she described Alicent’s life in describing her fear of the future. Alicent appears discontent this episode compared to at the hunt/feast confessing she has no friends and is losing herself. Rhaenyra confesses missing Alicent. The reconciliation feels unexpected and surprising. There is a whiff of foreshadowing for another grander rift between the two.

Rhaenyra joins her uncle in the God’s wood where she questions why Daemon has returned and notes he has matured. He says she has also matured, offering her wine and advice on how to separate the pleasure of sex from duty and marriage.

Marriage being Rhaenyra’s most dreaded item of her to-do list at present, the small council discusses Corly’s attempt to betroth his daughter Laena to the son of the Sealord of Braavos. Otto informs the council of this news as Rhaenyra is present and we know that all are thinking Rhaenyra will need to marry his son. Rhaenyra marrying Laenor will bring Lord Corlys back into good graces with Viserys or at least dissuade him from joining alliances with the free cities.

As the castle prepares for bed we get a reminder that Alicent is overwhelmed with motherly duties and may even be experiencing some post-partum depression. Her facial expressions are blank as she tries to calm the young Princess Helaena.

Rhaenyra bids Ser Criston goodnight and enters her bed chambers to find a bag with common clothing and a map to a secret passage from the castle. Eagerly she joins Daemon for a night out on the town in flea bottom during the hour of the owl. I don’t recalling seeing the city this alive in the Game of Thrones but I could be mistaken. There are street performers on tight ropes. pyromancers, sex in doorways and a play in the center of the city. A stark contrast to Alicent back at the castle bathing her aging and scabby husband.

The play is reminiscent of the propaganda we got at the Purple Wedding and the plays Arya sees in Braavos. It openly mocks the crown and the matter of succession. The players describe people and events from an opposing point of view than we are given by those involved. Rhaenyra heckles them as they outright call her feeble, walks off and steals food from a vender and runs off into the night bumping into Ser Harwin Strong who allows the incognito adventure.

As Daemon and Rhaenyra enter a brothel he continues his lesson about the pleasures of sex and the difference between it and the duty of marriage. The more he explains and she sees, the more excited she becomes until the two begin kissing passionately. The scene is juxtapose with Alicent laying in a trance as Viserys is on top of her with all of his visible bruising and wounds. Alicent remained awake picking her fingers after Viserys finished, which we did not see her do in episode 3 when she appeared to be enjoying her role as queen.

Rhaenyra moves from being curious and excited to aggressively kissing Daemon who is now unable to take it any further and leaves without explanation. We see Daemon unable to finish with Mysaria in episode one as well suggesting he has too much on his mind once again. It might also suggest that he has a moral dilemma with Rhaenyra’s relation to him despite Targaryen custom. Lastly, its possible Daemon took her out for the rumor to be spread. The pair has shared a close bond that seems to be one of respect but there is sexual tension between them since the start of the story. There will be more to this between them as well as fall out from this unfinished interaction. Especially as we see a little bird gather this information.

Abandoned by Daemon and sexually aroused, Rhaenyra heads back to the castle and seduces Criston Cole. She removes his armor piece by piece and he at first reluctantly but then willingly takes it a step further than Daemon. The showrunners are definitely sending the message that Rhaenyra is in control of several parts of the night’s events.

Daemon wakes on the floor of an Inn or a brothel to Mysaria attempting to help him with his hang-over to which he refuses. It’s the first time we’ve seen her since Dragonstone. Seems like she just knows where and when Daemon will be or has many connections in the city. A little boy gives her money but I can’t tell if it’s the same one who gives Otto news.

Back at the castle, Otto has reluctantly made his way to Viserys to give him the intelligence he collected. Otto hints at what occurred and Viserys demands he uses the words. Hesitantly, Otto tells Viserys that he was told Daemon and Rhaenyra were spotted “coupling” in a pleasure house. Viserys immediately denounces the information as lies and slander and kicks Otto out as Alicent emerges from her hiding spot.

Paddy Considine absolutely owned this scene, possibly his best thus far this series. Viserys calls Otto out for ambition and though it is clear he knows there to be some truth in the information he is outraged at Otto for bringing him the information as truth. As a hand without selfish motives, Otto would have sought to contain this rumor rather than tattling to get Rhaenyra in trouble. Even if he brought the information to Viserys it should have been in an attempt to dispel the rumors regardless of authenticity. It’s the most kingly we’ve seen Viserys in his interaction with Otto.

Ser Criston comes to Rhaenyra’s room to deliver a message from Alicent. Rhaenyra smiles when she see’s him and he avoids her gaze as to not engage in conversations about what happened the night before.

Alicent immediately confronts Rhaenyra as she enters the God’s wood with what happened last night. Rhaenyra is unsure what Alicent knows and is calm in her responses until Alicent divulges what she knows. Rhaenyra does not lie to Alicent about not having slept with Daemon but she also does not tell the whole story. She also does lie about how she and Daemon parted and Daemon not touching her. Rhaenyra goes as far as to call Alicent sister in her attempt to clear her name. Alicent says she only wants to help Rhaenyra but she is upset about the situation. Almost as though there were some jealously involved. Possibly over Rhaenyra, Daemon or the excitement of it all. Either way she is out of her depth in this conversation that Rhaenyra controls.

Still drunk from the night before, Daemon is dragged into the Throne room where Viserys awaits. Daemon lays on the floor as Viserys stands over him kicking him and accuses Daemon of defiling Rhaenyra. Daemon does not deny having sex with Rhaenyra but instead suggests that he did and requests that Viserys let her be Daemon’s 2nd wife. Daemon is trying to sow seeds of failure in Viserys while also trying to gain the upper hand by aligning with Rhaenyra. Daemon also is trying to strengthen the house by Fire and Blood as opposed to Viserys’ diplomacy. Viserys never sees the cards and strings Daemon plays. In contrast to his welcome at the beginning of the episode, Daemon is exiled, again.

Viserys consults with Alicent who believes Rhaenyra and believes that Daemon only confirmed to reduce Viserys. Viserys disagrees that Rhaenyra was corrupted by Daemon as they share the blood of the dragon and for once Viserys is closer to the truth than Alicent’s naïve or gullible perception of Rhaenyra’s role in the situation. She says that Rhaenyra swore to her that she remains a maiden, which is a misinterpretation of her conversation with Rhaenyra.

Rhaenyra is escorted to meet with Viserys in his chambers. The model Viserys is working on seems bigger than we’ve seen it. In the center of the model a fire burns with the Catspaw dagger rested in the flames. Viserys lifts it and Rhaenyra reads Aegon’s prophecy shown on the heated Valerian steel blade. As she reads the prophecy, Viserys reminds her that the sovereignty of the realm is more than just ruling, the future of men are at stake and her desires are to remain in check. Viserys is wearing his big boy pants, he disregards Rhaenyra’s gripes about gender inequality and the truth of the rumor and commands her to wed Laenor Velaryon as a solution to this problem and his Corlys problem. Rhaenyra says she will on one condition, get rid of Otto, who has been a snake from the beginning.

Viserys removes Otto’s hand pin as he seemly suggests that Otto may have killed Baelon to rise as hand. He also calls Otto out for placing Alicent in his path on the night of Aemma’s death. Otto does his best to plea with Viserys to no avail. You almost feel sorry for him, Almost.

In the final scene, Grand Maester Mellos brings Rhaenyra a night cap of Moon Tea, reiterating that Viserys believes Rhaenyra and Daemon had sex in the pleasure house. It is the corrective action that could have saved Otto his job if he went this route when he received his intel. Instead we get more of an understanding of Viserys’ damage control skills in his rule.

Thoughts & Ratings

I enjoyed this episode, it was better on my re-watch. I’ll have to give this episode to Viserys. He is stronger here than we’ve seen him thus far. Daemon has been conflicted the entire series and at times it is blatant that they want him to appear as the bad guy and others as the badass, clearly he is both. I’m glad Otto is gone but I suspect he will still have some way to pull Alicent’s strings from outside. The gods help him when his brother finds out he was fired.

The trailer for episode 5 seems like more action than we got this episode. I’m looking forward to an episode with more action. The 1 year time jump did not bother me this time but this episode was a little slow albeit packed with character building and plot development. I believe the re-watch of the entire season will feel better than the pace has felt episode to episode

There were released photos from the wedding between Viserys and Alicent that I initially thought I didn’t need to see those scenes but then I read that the wedding occurred in between the scenes when Viserys announced the wedding at the small council meeting and when we see daemon and Corlys’ meeting. I think that might have changed the feel of ep 2 and 3, and it might have given some more contexts with which to frame the relationship pieces between Rhaenyra and Alicent in episode 4. 

Overall I give this episode an 8. I’d probably rank them 2, 3, 4, 1. Episode 3 only because of the battle scene.

Let me know how you liked Episode 5. What did I miss? Who is your favorite and most disliked characters so far? How do you rank the episodes?

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