Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for Episode 4 of HBO’s House of the Dragon, called “King of the Narrow Sea.”
House of the Dragon raised the stakes even higher in Episode 4, even without any epic battle sequences like last week or major dragon scenes. After another time jump (although less significant than the last), Alicent had already given birth to her second child with King Viserys, Rhaenyra was on a royal tour to find a husband before deciding to cut it short, Otto was scheming as much as ever to get his grandson on the throne, and Daemon returned to King’s Landing from the Stepstones complete with a crown, a haircut, and pretty much only a day to go before bringing chaos to the Red Keep.
A lot happened over the course of the fourth episode to set the stage for what remains of Season 1, and almost certainly beyond. So, let’s look at what happened that we should keep in mind as the first season continues, starting with the event that will probably have viewers talking for the foreseeable future.
Daemon Led Rhaenyra Out Of The Castle To A Brothel
As expected, “King of the Narrow Sea” answered the scandalous question from George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood about what happened between Daemon, Rhaenyra, and Ser Criston Cole that resulted in Daemon’s second exile. He didn’t take his niece to a brothel to teach her the art of seduction to use on Ser Criston, and they weren’t found in bed together, as two sources claim in the book. Instead, after learning Rhaenyra’s feelings about marriage, he more or less took her out for some fun on the town… before going to the brothel, which was to teach her that women can have sex for pleasure as well as men. (Alicent clearly never got this lesson from Viserys.)
Things got hot and heavy between them in the brothel, leading Daemon to stop before things went too far and leave her there, but not before she was recognized. Rhaenyra, apparently too hot and bothered from the brothel to just go to sleep when she returned to the Red Keep, instead drew Ser Criston into her chambers and slept with him.
The damage was done, however, as Ser Otto got word from his spies and told Viserys about Daemon and the brothel. It was an episode full of many bad decisions being made, and Rhaenyra is the one who has to pay for them. (Although Viserys may not have fully thought through sending Daemon back to his wife... right after pointing out that his wife meant he couldn't marry Rhaenyra. R.I.P. Rhea Royce?)
Daemon Decided To Lie To Viserys About Rhaenyra
Daemon was dead to the world while word was getting back to Viserys about his outing with Rhaenyra, and wasn’t much better when the Kingsguard dragged him into the throne room to be confronted by Viserys. He sobered up enough to lie to Viserys and let him think that he had indeed – as Viserys put it – “defiled” Rhaenyra. But why?
Now, the easy argument is that Daemon thought Viserys would let him marry Rhaenyra if he believed that Daemon had ruined her, which would bring him one step closer to the throne. But Daemon was advising Rhaenyra about ruling the smallfolk when they were out on the town, which doesn’t suggest that his eyes are still on ruling.
He also could have come clean to help clear his own name once Viserys shot down the proposal about wedding Rhaenyra. Daemon made his own life more difficult by not telling the truth, and arguably Rhaenyra’s as well, even though the damage was already done thanks to the spies. Only two people know the truth about what happened, and both Daemon and Rhaenyra have lied about it.
Rhaenyra Is Starting To Play The Game Of Thrones
While “King of the Narrow Sea” wasn’t exactly Rhaenyra’s most responsible episode, it did end with her standing up to her father, making a concession that would be good for the realm as well as her own claim to it, and lying straight to Alicent’s face. She arguably didn’t have a choice about agreeing to marry Laenor if she didn’t want Viserys to disinherit her, but she didn’t speak a word against it. Instead, she used it to leverage her father into dismissing Otto Hightower as Hand.
She also pulled out all the stops to Alicent when the queen came to confront her about the rumors. Milly Alcock delivered a great performance as Rhaenyra overperformed to proclaim her innocence, appealing to the queen as “Alicent,” “Your Grace,” and “sister” while denying the “vile accusation” that she – to quote Alicent – ”fucked Daemon in a pleasure house.” She even swore on the memory of her mother that Daemon never touched her. While it seemed a bit of the lady protesting too much, Alicent believed her. Rhaenyra is officially in the game.
The Smallfolk Of King’s Landing Prefer Aegon
Daemon and Rhaenyra stopped on the way to the brothel to watch street performers putting on a play about the succession, and it was clear which candidate the people of King’s Landing were pulling for. They booed the idea of Rhaenyra as queen, and cheered for Aegon to become Viserys’ heir. Rhaenyra dismissed the idea that their desires mattered, which Daemon disputed. She may be the Realm’s Delight and Viserys’ named heir, but her path to the Iron Throne isn’t clear no matter how much her father stands by his decision. A lot may depend on who has their loyalty in the end.
Mysaria Can’t Be Trusted
Mysaria was firmly on Team Daemon in the first two episodes, but her actions in “King of the Narrow Sea” indicate that her loyalty is now to whomever can pay the best in exchange for information. Fire & Blood readers knew that she was the source of the information about Daemon and Rhaenyra in the brothel as soon as the name “White Worm” was uttered, and her involvement was confirmed in her scene with Daemon. She still seems to feel some attachment to him, but she betrayed him all the same, and it’s easy to imagine that she could do the same again to any who decide to trust her.
Ser Harwin Can Be Trusted
Rhaenyra was identified by somebody in a position to ruin her well before Daemon even took her to the brothel, as she ran straight into Ser Harwin Strong. He recognized her, but after seeing that Daemon was with her and hearing her say “Don’t,” he left them to their own devices, and even called her “boy” in a nod to her disguise as a page boy. Harwin easily could have caused a commotion after finding her (and Daemon), but he evidently kept her secret safe. Could this be only the beginning?
Ser Criston Cole Is A Complication
The main player in the whole mess who seemingly had no idea about Daemon and Rhaenyra for most of the episode was Ser Criston Cole. Although he initially tried to resist Rhaenyra and seemed to feel a pang of his conscience when taking off his white Kingsguard cloak, he fell into bed with her. For viewers who had watched everything that had happened with Daemon and his niece in the brothel, it probably seemed pretty clear that Rhaenyra was looking for somebody to finish what Daemon started, and Criston was convenient.
Criston seems bound to be more of a complication than a convenience when the story continues. Whether it’s because of Daemon/Rhaenyra or because he gets in the way of Rhaenyra marrying Laenor, it seems that the princess may come to regret her night with the knight.
Rhaenyra And Alicent Were Getting Closer
For a brief interlude during “King of the Narrow Sea,” it seemed that maybe Rhaenyra and Allicent could at least somewhat repair their friendship after the considerable damage of Alicent marrying Viserys after secretly visiting him for half a year. They were both lonely, and had a nice moment together outdoors early in the episode. Their second moment outdoors was less sweet, as Alicent demanded to know if she’d slept with her uncle because of the “queer customs” of the Targaryens. Still, it seems like they could be friends again with Otto out of the picture, assuming nothing goes horribly wrong.
Considering that this is the Game of Thrones universe (and the chaos that is clearly coming in the trailer for next week), something will probably go horribly wrong in the not-too-distant future, but they were at least on the road to reconciliation this week.
Viserys Fired Otto Hightower As Hand
Otto Hightower is officially out as Hand of the King after the events of “King of the Narrow Sea,” after Viserys saw the truth of what Rhaenyra said about him pursuing his own self-interests over those of the realm. This means that Viserys will need a new Hand, and Alicent may be able to make decisions on her own with her father out of power. Otto clearly underestimated Viserys’ determination not to supplant Rhaenyra. The king showed more spine in “King of the Narrow Sea” than any of the episodes before (although his fingers still aren’t doing well), including sending a maester with a special tea for Rhaenyra to guarantee that she’s not pregnant.
See what happens now that Rhaenyra is playing the game after the fallout of her night out with Daemon with the next new episode of House of the Dragon on Sunday, September 18 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, or streaming with an HBO Max subscription. For some more viewing options in the coming weeks, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).