House of the Dragon – Episode 4 Review: King of the Narrow Sea

Lots of palace intrigue in the best episode of the series so far

 

Welcome back to King’s Landing. Last week, Daemon triumphed in the War of the Step Stones, and we got a reminder that we should never get too attached to anyone in the Game of Thrones universe. (Crab Feeder Darhar, we hardly knew ye.) Will anyone get the chop this episode? Only time will tell!

Picking up on the theme from last week, Princess Rhaenyra is entertaining marriage proposals on tour throughout the kingdom. A long line of suitors waits patiently at her latest stop, as the ancient Beric Dondarrion drones on about how well situated his castle is. Rhaenyra dismisses him with a rather cutting comment, asking if her great-grandmother was as pretty as they say she was, fifty years ago. Then she gets to meet the barely out-of-short pants Lord Blackwood. (And look, I get that marriages were made all the time for alliances and strategic reasons, but can we please knock it off with the child marriages and January-December romances for like a week?) The young lord is teased by Lord Bracken in the crowd as he stammers through his proposal. After an insult too many, young Blackwood draws his sword. Rhaenyra has had enough and starts to leave. As she does, Blackwood manages to gut the douchebro. And you know what? Good for him. It’s one of the small pleasures of GOT when an underdog manages to get some measure of satisfaction. (I’d wager it won’t be long-lived for the teen wonder, so savor it while you can.)

Back on her ship, heading for King’s Landing, Rhaenyra hears the familiar screech of a dragon. It’s Caraxes, Daemon’s mount, coming to buzz the ship. Despite the bump on the head she got from getting knocked into the railing, she looks happy to see him return after the war. It’s apparently a surprise visit, based on the haste with which everyone hustles into the throne room. Viserys barely has his crown on when Daemon saunters in, sword drawn, wearing a crown of his own. As he approaches the throne, the King’s Guard draw their swords. But rather than a confrontation, he offers it to Viserys to add to the Iron Throne. Daemon says that after he smashed the Triarchy (and staked a bunch of their sailors out for the crabs), he was named King of the Narrow Sea, but he knows there is only one true king and bends the knee to Viserys. 

Viserys must think he’s being punked, or whatever the GOT equivalent of a prank show might be. (Impractical Jesters?) The way Otto is staring at Daemon, he certainly does. But, after a tense moment, Viserys hugs his brother, welcoming him back from exile. Hooray! A reunion! Time for a party! 

house of the dragon episode 4

At the garden party, Viserys and Daemon are laughing it up, reminiscing about their childhood and who mom liked best. (Brothers are the same in any age, let me tell you.) Neither Rhaenyra nor Alicent have any luck separating the brothers, so they drift away to a bench on their own. (Alicent is noticeably un-pregnant this week, but there is no mention of her condition, so I can’t say if she had a successful birth or fell victim to Viserys’ cursed seed)  The two former friends actually have a nice heart-to-heart, Alicent says it must be nice to have every lord in the kingdom fawning after her. Rhaenyra snorts, saying they only want her for her Valeryan blood and want to trap her in a castle, squeezing out heirs. She realizes who she said this to, and immediately apologizes. As Alicent said, most women don’t get much of a choice on who they marry, so good on Rhaenyra for easing up on her friend. Alicent tells her that despite the KIng’s frustration with her ending courtship-palooza early, she is glad she’s back. Alicent doesn’t have many friends in court, since everyone just thinks of her as The Queen. Rhaenyra and Alicent hold hands, and that’s nice. Let’s enjoy the nice moments while they last because we all know what show we’re watching. 

Later on, Daemon and Rhaenyra get to chatting in High Valeryan. She knows he didn’t come home just to taunt Viserys, but Daemon plays dumb. He turns the conversation back on her, reminding her that marriage is just about alliances, and once you get married you can do whatever (or whoever) you want. Rhaenyra rolls her eyes. Sure, if you’re a man. Marriage is a death sentence for women. If that were true, says Daemon, then my wife should’ve died long ago. (He’s here all week folks! Try the mutton!) 

At the small council, Otto reports that although the Crab Feeder has been beaten, Lord Corlys is now terrorizing the narrow sea. It’s reported that he’s still bitter about Viserys spurning young Lady Laena, so he is arranging for her to marry a lord from Bravos, which would give him almost total control over the seas. Once again, the talk turns to Rhaenyra making a marriage alliance with Corlys’ son, the dragon-riding Laenor.  (Hey, at least they let Rhaenyra sit at the big kids table this time and not make her pour drinks)

Back in her room, Rhaenyra finds a parchment in her bag, with a map of the secret passageways in her room. After getting disguised as a boy, she follows the passage outside the walls of the Red Keep, where cool uncle Daemon is waiting for her. He’s going to show her what she’s been missing, cooped up in the castle, and takes her on a Princess Jasmine adventure. They roam through the crowded streets, filled with fire breathers, acrobats, fortune tellers, and an acting troupe. The actors are putting on a bawdy play about the succession in the court. Who should get the crown? Rhaenyra? Boooo! says the crowd, as the actor in drag playing her farts loudly. Daemon tries to tell her that what the little people want does in fact matter if you’re trying to rule, and most of the crown would rather baby Aegon, since he has a cock. 

After shoplifting a snack and running away to the shouts of “street rat” (Disney’s lawyers will be in touch), cool uncle D takes her to, sigh, the brothel, After watching what looks like a naked Cirque du Soleil as a warm-up, and giving her a fair amount of wine, he takes her into the back to what can best be described as an open floor concept brothel. (Look for it on the next season of Property Brothers.) He whispers to her that this is where people come to take what they want, and that fucking can be enjoyable for the man and the woman. And then Daemon starts to make out with his niece.

This has been hinted at for a while. (Remember episode one, where Myseria suggested bringing in a girl with platinum hair to spice things up?) Still, come on, man… Rhaenyra is drunk and dazzled by the attention, and is into it, kissing him back while he undresses her. He pulls off her pants and turns her around, but abruptly leaves her after a couple of thrusts, leaving Rhaenyra rather flustered to head back to the castle. 

This is intercut with Lady Alicent fulfilling her wifely duties for King Viserys. After putting her infant baby to bed (Hooray! No more dead babies!) she is summoned to the king’s bedchamber. She lies motionless in bed as the King grunts on top of her. Fucking is very clearly not enjoyable for the woman in this case. (And those seeping sores on the king’s back haven’t gone away. They take up half his back now.)

Still hot and bothered from incestuous interuptus, she heads back to her room, surprising Ser Christon who never saw her leave. She beckons him into her room, where she playfully steals his helmet and kisses him, then starts to undress him. (This takes a while, because dang, he has a lot of armor and laces to undo) But, after all that, she proceeds to bed him and has a much better time than Lady Alicent does. 

Now, I am quite sure that Christon is not the first King’s Guard to sleep with the person he’s guarding (be they male or female), but you do have to worry for him. He’s having a wonderful time, but keep in mind that he’s with a princess who could have him beheaded or sent to the Wall if he displeases her. This is what we call a “power imbalance” in sexual harassment seminars. 

After a night of carousing, Daemon wakes up on a straw mat in a basement, with Myseria serving him a hangover cure. I wonder what she was doing while Daemon was fighting in the narrow sea? Well, starting a network of informants that sell secrets. One of her messengers, a young boy, saw Rhaenyra leaving the brothel and went to sell that information to Otto. Daemon, I guess you shouldn’t have told her you’d marry her and then ghosted her for years. 

Otto runs straight to the king to tell him the news. “I take no pleasure in telling you…” yeah, right, Otto. You couldn’t wait to tell Viserys about his daughter and brother “coupling” in a pleasure house, clearing the way for Aegon. Viserys is understandably suspicious of his motives. Alicent overhears this from the bedroom and runs off to confront Rhaenyra.

house of the dragon episode 4

Rhaenyra is smart enough to lie her ass off to Alicent. Why no, I never fucked my uncle! He took me out for a night on the town and we drank a little too much, but then he went to the brothel and I had to follow because he was my escort, but he ditched me for some whore and never touched me, pinkie swear, Queen Bestie! Alicent believes her, happy she isn’t “sullied.”

Meanwhile, a hungover Daemon staggers back to the castle where he is dragged into the throne room and dropped at Viserys’ feet. He doesn’t even try to deny anything. Brother, we whored our way through all the brothels on the Street of Silk! Better Rhaenyra’s first time being with her cool uncle than some whore! Naturally, Viserys does not share that opinion. He also does not share Daemon’s opinion that he should marry her, in the traditions of old Valerya. (Little brothers are the worst. Can I get an amen, fellow oldest siblings?) After kicking Daemon around the throne room, he orders him back to the Vale, again. (That worked so well in episode one. Can’t imagine anything going wrong this time!)

Rhaenyra is brought to the King. He believes that Daemon told him the truth, but Alicent believes Rhaenyra, and after all, when has Daemon ever been truthful before? She says it didn’t happen, but Viserys doesn’t care since there is now a perception it could have. He tells Rhaenyra that her courtships are over. She will marry Lord Laenor, unite the two houses and that’s that. Rhaenyra agrees, but only after the King gets his house in order. She knows Otto will stop at nothing to put Aegon on the throne, and it is clouding his judgments and leading the king astray with rumors. She will perform her duties as heir, but he needs to be a king. 

He summons Otto and reminisces about how he became the hand to old king Jaeherys, Viserys’ father, Baelor was named Hand, and a hunt was held to celebrate. Baelor was dead of a burst belly five days later, and Otto was named hand in his stead. Sure was lucky for old Otto, huh? Went from just another lord in court to the second most powerful man in the realm. And then when Aemma died, sure was nice of his daughter to visit him and help him through his grief. Otto doesn’t like where this is going. Viserys tells him that he can no longer trust him, as he is consumed with self-interest in the throne. He yoinks the pin of the Hand off Otto’s jacket and thanks him for his assistance over the years, but his services are no longer required. Please leave your security pass with the King’s Guard on the way out.

And just to tie up all the loose ends, the Grand Maester brings a cup of Plan B tea to Rhaenyra’s chambers. You know, so there are no unwanted “consequences.” 

So I was worried last week that this was going to be an episode of council meetings debating the line of succession, and hoo boy was I wrong. This is the best episode so far, and it is really starting to feel like the Game of Thrones I used to love. Intrigue, plotting, double-crosses, sex, and even a dragon! And also the incest, but you knew that was coming. (Remember, GOT started a decade ago with Jamie and Cersei Lannister going at it and pushing a child out a window.) It’s a wonder these Targaryen kids don’t have six heads. 

The pace has really picked up this week, even though the episode takes place over a couple of days. There wasn’t much of a leap forward either, only a month or two. Hopefully, they can keep it up for a few more weeks. 

Next week promises a royal wedding. Hope they avoid a red color scheme. 

Rating 4.5 out of 5 

Who’s the worst:

Despite Otto trying his best to get Rhaenyra disinherited, Daemon wins easily this week, because come on. 

LINE OF THE WEEK:

Rhaenya: Your wife is fortunate you haven’t put a child inside her. 

Daemon: I doubt a child could grow in such hostile environs.

Victor Catano
Victor Catano
Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

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House of the Dragon - Episode 4 Review: King of the Narrow Sea  Welcome back to King’s Landing. Last week, Daemon triumphed in the War of the Step Stones, and we got a reminder that we should never get too attached to anyone in the Game of Thrones universe. (Crab Feeder Darhar, we hardly knew ye.) Will...
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