House of the Dragon – Season 1 Episode 4 “King of the Narrow Sea” Recap & Review

King of the Narrow Sea

Episode 4 of House of the Dragon starts with Rhaenyra listening to a number of different suitors as they step forward and pitch their claim to be her husband. Whether too young or too old, the suitors chosen aren’t exactly perfect marriage material.

When a fight breaks out, Rhaenyra has seen enough and sets sail back for King’s Landing. With two months still to go on their tour, and Rhaenyra outright rejecting every suitor, the group contemplate how Viserys is going to take this.

Daemon swaggers into the main throne room, shrugging off the King’s Guard who appear with swords drawn. He drops one of his own, “Add it to the chair.”

Daemon wears his own crown, as he’s been dubbed “King of the Narrow Sea.” However, he drops the crown and lowers down to his knees, claiming that Viserys is the true King. It’s unclear right now what sort of game he’s playing (if any), and you could cut the tension with a knife. The pair do embrace though, with Viserys telling Daemon that the realm owns him a great debt.

In the aftermath of this, Daemon and Rhaenyra talk about their changed fates in this world, including the latter’s numerous suitor proposals. Of course, none of this is in the name of love, it’s all about power and titles.

Speaking of power, Viserys gathers the small council in the throne room where they have bigger problems afoot. Lord Corlys has engaged in negotiations with the Sealord of Braavos. He plans to wed his daughter Laena to the Sealord’s son. So why is this bad? Well, if Velaryon entered into an alliance with the Free Cities then they would be forced to seek out their own marriage pact to strengthen their borders. And that “marriage pact”, of course, comes from Rhaenyra.

That night, Rhaenyra sneaks out with Daemon. The pair wander through the bustling streets, eventually stumbling upon a stage play re-enacting the birth of her brother, Aegon. It seems even here she can’t escape the politics of the throne.

Back inside, Alicent is summoned to see Viserys in the middle of the night, but it seems his back injuries are far worse than they were several episodes back. This could have ramifications going forward in the story.

Anyway, Viserys eventually ends up having sex with her. It’s certainly not making love, given how bored and docile she looks, but it juxtaposes beautifully with Daemon and Rhaenyra who show up at a pleasure house full of naked men and women.

Soft moans echo through the hallways, as Daemon tells her “fucking is as much a pleasure for the woman as it is a man.” And with that, we see the true Targaryen destiny come into focus, as Daemon and Rhaenyra end up kissing… for a while anyway. Daemon eventually skips away, leaving Rhaenyra alone.

Rhaenyra takes Daemon’s words to heart though and ends up back at the palace again with Ser Criston Cole. This is who she ends up sleeping with that night.

Otto receives word from a messenger, feeding back exactly what Daemon and Rhaenyra have been up to. Otto eventually tells Viserys what’s happened, while Alicent confronts Rhaenyra and demands an explanation. Of course, it wasn’t actually sex, just kissing, and Rhaenyra is quick to point out that these rumours are slanderous and not true.

It especially doesn’t bode well for Daemon, who’s carried into the throne room in the morning and dumped on the floor. Viserys kicks him and demands the truth. Daemon tells Viserys he should let him and Rhaenyra marry, and in doing so it would turn the House of the Dragon over to its former glory.

Viserys sees this as a play to get the throne and wipes his hand of Daemon, telling him to leave and get out of his sight.

Alicent sticks up for Rhaenyra that evening, pointing out to to her husband that she believes her friend after their chat in the courtyard. Viserys is conflicted over what to do and eventually brings Rhaenyra in to see him so they can talk.

Viserys calls her his “political headache” and goes on to decide they should set up a wedding to Ser Laenor Velaryon. That would unite the two most powerful houses together. Rhaenyra is quick to point out Otto is the real vulture and opportunist here, as he’s trying to put Aegon on the throne.

Viserys shrugs it off, until Rhaenyra throws an ultimatum his way – get rid of Otto Hightower as Hand and Rhaenyra will marry.

Viserys makes a big decision. He reflects on how Otto has wormed his way in, calculating all of this with Alicent and Aegon. He takes the title from the Hand, pointing out he can’t trust Otto’s judgment anymore, leaving the man shocked and incredulous.

As the episode closes out, Rhaenyra receives a tea from the King, intending to “rid her of any unwanted consequences.”


The Episode Review

Usually with TV shows, sex scenes add absolutely no context or are just there to fill time. But not in House of the Dragon. The juxtaposed kissing/sex between Viserys and Alicent against Rhaenyra and Daemon / Criston Cole is so beautifully done. It’s a way of showing the difference between duty and pleasure, as well as how stifling and passionless some arranged marriages can be.

It’s actually refreshing to find a show that doesn’t waste a single scene either, squeezing as much as it can into its run-time while leaving plenty of ambiguity in its dialogue. Unlike something like Rings of Power, which repeats the same information repeatedly and sacrifices good storytelling for good visuals, HOTD is easily winning this “fantasy war”.

The show has a really nice ebb and flow too, managing to blend politics, drama and fantasy together without ever compromising on its storyline or pacing. The real test here will be whether the show can survive its upcoming time-jump. We shall have to wait and see!

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