'House of the Dragon' Episode 4 Recap and Review: "King of the Narrow Sea"

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HBO

"Who wrote the note? You two." If ever there was an episode of House of the Dragon that felt like it was pulled straight out of the Jersey Shore, it was this one. We're talking gossip, lying, fighting, sex, and more, this could have all taken place in Seaside Heights and not Westeros, and it probably would have still made sense.

"King of the Narrow Sea" was a bit of a slower episode of House of the Dragon that will, no doubt, set up much of what is to come in the second half of the season. Slower doesn't always mean bad, these sorts of things are necessary, but if you came in expecting more death and destruction, then you might leave a little empty-handed.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon ahead.

Return of the King

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HBO

Speaking of reality television, this week's House of the Dragon begins with what you could call Westerosi Bachelorette. Rhaenyra is in Storm's End, going through a long line of potential husbands, attempting to find a match for herself.

It's not going well.

The first choice we see, Beric Dondarrion (not the Beric from Game of Thrones, this is a different one,) is too old for her. The next choice, a young teenager from House Blackwood, attempts to sway her based on the strength of the house's army and history. He's laughed at by both Rhaenyra and the crowd, especially one of the young Baratheons. As they leave, the young man leaves the Baratheon dead on the ground from a stab wound.

We learn that it's been at least four years since the events of episode one, with Rhaenyra now about 18 years old. As she and Ser Criston Cole sail back to King's Landing, Daemon makes his triumphant return to the city as flamboyantly as possible by soaring in on the back of his dragon, nearly capsizing their ship.

In the Throne Room, the court has gathered along with King Viserys as they await Daemon's arrival. The new "King of the Narrow Sea" enters the throne room with a fresh new haircut and crown, approaches his brother, and is stopped by the Kingsguard at sword point. Daemon pulls out the hammer of the Crabfeeder, drops it, and tells Viserys to "add it to the chair."

Daemon surrenders his sword without conflict and proclaims that there is only one true king, and it is his brother, taking off the crown and taking a knee. Corlys has sailed home to Driftmark, and they left 2,000 dead Triarchy soldiers nailed into the beaches of the Stepstones, a warning to all who might try something like this again. Viserys and Daemon embrace, putting aside their conflict, for now at least.

The court, including Viserys, Daemon, Alicent, and Rhaenyra, attend a celebration in the gardens. Rhaenyra congratulates Daemon on his victory, and Alicent offers to show him the galleries with the new tapestries, but Viserys (a little deep in his cups) laughs them off.

As the years have passed, it seems as if the rift between Alicent and Rhaenyra has begun to heal. They discuss Rhaenyra's trip to pick a suitor, with Alicent admitting that she is jealous of Rhaenyra's situation. Rhaenyra casually mentions that it isn't romantic to marry and "be forced to squeeze out heirs."

Alicent admits she is lonely in her station, with few friends and no feeling of purpose. She is no longer Alicent; she is just the Queen. Rhaenyra admits she's missed Alicent too, and they hold each other's hands.

Daemon and Rhaenyra then meet near the Weirwood Tree and talk about what they both want out of their situations. It's been four years since they've seen one another, and Rhaenyra expresses frustration over the fact that she feels she's being sold off to the highest bidder, especially now that she's the heir. Her mother died being forced to pump out as many heirs as possible for Viserys, and Rhaenyra won't let that happen to her. She admits that a life of solitude may suit her better, with Daemon remarking that it is "such a lonely prospect."

Taking It to the Streets

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HBO

At a Small Council meeting, the King's new Master of Ships, Tyland Lannister, tells Viserys that Lord Coryls is choking the shipping lanes of the Stepstones as a means of retribution against the Crown. Otto informs them that Corlys intends to marry Laena to the son of the Sealord of Braavos, effectively entering the Velaryons into an alliance with the Free Cities. Otto tells him that if it were to happen, they'd need to make their marriage pact, and they all turn to look at Rhaenyra.

Juxtaposed against a shot of Alicent struggling to get her baby to sleep, Rhaenyra enters her chambers to find a package from Daemon containing a disguise and a guide to a hidden passage in her room. She gets dressed and heads through the passage, which leads her outside the castle where Daemon is waiting.

He takes her out into the streets of King's Landing in what is presumably Rhaenyra's first time outside the walls without an armed guard. No one recognizes either of them, and she is in awe of everything she sees: People having sex in the streets, fortune tellers, and more.

Meanwhile, Viserys' body continues to betray him as the sores he possesses continue to worsen, and Alicent helps him bathe. It's pretty clear that the lives of Rhaenyra and Alicent couldn't be more different.

Rhaenyra and Daemon watch a stage show that pokes fun at the situation surrounding the Iron Throne. While they avoid making fun of Daemon or the baby Aerys, they openly mock Rhaenyra, with the crowd expressing their desire to see a man on the Throne.

After a distraction involving some stolen goods, Rhaenyra runs into Ser Harwin, and they both immediately recognize one another, but he lets her go once he sees Daemon.

Alicent is woken up by one of her maidens and told that the King has requested her presence. She knows what this means and reluctantly gets herself dressed and leaves her room. Viserys and Alicent have sex, but only one of them is even somewhat enjoying it. Alicent lies there, forced to do things she doesn't want to do because it's her "duty as a wife."

Meanwhile, Daemon leads Rhaenyra to a brothel, where she is amused by all she sees. "It's where people come to take what they want, fucking is a pleasure, you see. For the woman, as it is the man," Daemon tells her as they begin to hook up. "Marriage is a duty, but that doesn't stop us from doing what we want…from fucking who we want," he continues.

House of the Dragon really loves its incest.

As they continue inching closer to having sex, Daemon stops, but Rhaenyra tries to continue. Eventually, he gets frustrated because of his, let's say, "performance issues," so he hits the wall and leaves her in the brothel alone. As she looks for him, a child spots her running and begins to follow her.

Rhaenyra returns to her chambers, running past Ser Criston at her door. As he enters her room, he takes his helmet, playfully flirting with him. He tries to return to his post, but Rhaenyra kisses him and begins to undress. The Kingsguard takes a vow of chastity, but it's clear that Criston is about to break his oath. Rhaenyra helps him get out of his armor, and he takes one last look to make sure no one is watching them, and they have sex.

Did You Sleep With Him?

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HBO

Daemon wakes up on the ground with Mysaria at his side, attempting to ease his hangover. He snaps at her, saying he doesn't need help from a "common whore." She chastises him but leaves him to his own devices, sitting in filth.

Otto meets with Viserys to discuss some troubling news. It turns out that the boy who followed Rhaenyra from the brothel was one of Otto's spies, who told him she was there. Otto tells Viserys that she and Daemon were in the brothel and "engaged in behaviors unbecoming of a princess." He tells her that, as far as could be seen, they had sex.

Hidden away is Alicent, who watches the conversation from afar. Viserys refuses to believe him, but Otto tells him he can trust his spy and that her maidens have also told him that they saw Rhaenyra leaving the castle in disguise. Viserys accuses Otto of making news up to get Alicent's child (Otto's granddaughter) on the throne, no matter the cost. Viserys throws him out of his chambers.

Ser Criston returns to Rhaenyra's chambers, telling her that Alicent wants to see her. They meet near the Weirwood tree, and Alicent demands to know what happened between Rhaenyra and Daemon. She doesn't beat around the bush and accuses Rhaenyra of sleeping with Daemon, and Rhaenyra denies it, calling it a vile accusation.

While technically telling the truth (they didn't have sex,) Rhaenyra doesn't tell Alicent the truth about them coming about as close as you can to sleeping with one another.

Let's call it a lie by omission.

Rhaenyra tells her that questioning the princess' "virtue" is an act of treason (women are expected to be chaste before marrying.) It's pretty clear that Alicent doesn't believe Rhaenyra as she tries to tell Alicent that Daemon got drunk and abandoned her for someone else in the brothel.

Swearing on the memory of her mother, Rhaenyra continues to tell Alicent that she didn't sleep with Daemon. Alicent tells Rahenyra it was foolish to put herself in that situation and that she and the King have worked hard to find her a match. If a lord discovered that Rhaenyra was, as Alicent puts it, sullied, then it could ruin everything. No mention is made of Rhaenyra sleeping with Ser Criston, which will undoubtedly be a point of contention in the future.

Daemon is dragged into the Throne Room in front of Viserys. Viserys beats him, demanding to know the truth of what happened between Daemon and Rhaenyra. Viserys is furious, saying that if they did indeed have sex, she has been ruined and that no lord will have her now. Daemon, speaking some truth, says that it shouldn't matter what some lord thinks; Viserys is the King and can demand a marriage if need be.

Attempting to rectify the situation (and position himself as King, no doubt), Daemon tells Viserys he'll marry Rhaenyra and wed her in the Targaryen traditions. Viserys tells him that's impossible since Daemon is already married, but Daemon says it didn't stop Aegon the Conqueror from marrying multiple times.

"YOU ARE NO CONQUEROR. YOU ARE A PLAGUE," Viserys angrily tells Daemon, with a knife at his throat. Viserys, finally having enough, bans him from King's Landing and orders him back to the Vale, where his wife is.

Viserys admits to Alicent that he hasn't spoken to Rhaenyra yet but that it is not in her nature to be deceitful, according to Alicent. Viserys says that no matter what the truth is, both Daemon and Rhaenyra are equally at fault. Both Rhaenyra and Daemon are chaotic and tend to bend the rules, so it would make sense that they share the same personality.

Finally, Rhaenyra and Viserys meet with one another to discuss what happened. Seeing the dagger of Aegon in the fire, Viserys pulls it out and shows her the writing in Valyrian that's etched into the steel.

"From my blood comes the prince that was promised. And his will be the Song of Ice and Fire."

He explains the responsibility of the knowledge of the coming threat from the North is bigger than both of them and, more importantly, her desires. The previous King would have disinherited her according to him, even if it was a lie. Despite not asking her for the truth, Viserys says it doesn't matter. Only the perception does.

"Were I born a man, I could bed whomever I wanted. I could father a dozen bastards, and no one would blink an eye."

Viserys knows there is truth in her words but reiterates that she is a woman and what she thinks is no longer important. Rhaenyra believes that he will strip her of her titles, but he won't because he has to hold the Realm together.

He gave her a chance to pick her husband but she will now marry Laenor Velaryon without protest. Repairing the relationship between that house and the Crown is important, and she agrees to do so. Rhaenyra confronts Viserys about Otto's true motives and says he can't be trusted and cares not for the Realm but only for himself and his family.

Otto meets with Viserys in the Small Council chambers, where he admits that Otto's ability to ascend to the Hand of the King position in five days was impressive. Expressing his gratitude for Otto's help in making him King but he finally realizes that Otto has been scheming against him the whole time. His only goal has been to see Alicent marry Viserys and get Aegon on the Iron Throne. Viserys thanks Otto for his service, removes the Hand of the King pin, and fires him.

A Maester arrives at Rhaenyra's chambers with a tea that her father sent. He tells her that the tea is designed to rid her of any "unwanted consequences."

Final Thoughts

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HBO

House of the Dragon's fourth episode was all about the gossip. Did she sleep with him? What is she lying about? What's she hiding? We, as the viewer, know the truth, of course, but it still makes for some riveting television as the various characters attempt to determine what happened.

As mentioned above, some may consider this a slower episode, but it goes deep into character motivations and sets the table for what is to come. The "Dance of the Dragons" is the upcoming Targaryen Civil War, and episodes like "King of the Narrow Sea" provide the necessary context for the conflict that will be the focus of House of the Dragon in the future.

Far too many people view House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones through the lens of its blood, gore, and sex, but it's important to remember that shouldn't be the focus. There needs to be a reason why those are present in the show, and with this episode centered so much around the exploits in a brothel, sex becomes important, not just window dressing.

As described by the writers, much of the episode's focus is on Rhaenyra discovering how much power she has regarding sex. It can be used to further her goals but has only made the target on her back much larger. She convinced her father to fire Otto and now knows that the influence she wields is stronger than anyone realized.

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