House of the Dragon Episode 4 review: The Targaryens are at it again

Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon Episode 4HBO

House of the Dragon Episode 4 takes Rhaenyra on an odyssey that may be the straw to break the monarchy’s back, losing the show’s momentum in favor of letting the dragons dance.

What’s a princess to a king, if not a queen to another? This question lies at the heart of House of the Dragon’s latest episode, ditching the one-man-army spectacle of last week’s bloody chapter to focus on King’s Landing’s crumbling foundation.

So far, the drama hasn’t been anything beyond the norm in Game of Thrones: Daemon (Matt Smith) resents his brother, King Viserys (Paddy Considine) not naming him heir, so he went off and took the seat at Dragonstone, even teaming up with Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) to fight the Crabfeeder.

Meanwhile, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has been forced to swallow her anger after her best friend, Allicent Hightower (Emily Carey) – the daughter of the King’s Hand (Rhys Ifans) – married her father and gave him a son.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 4 to follow…

House of the Dragon Episode 4: Rhaenyra endures her own Take Me Out

Episode 4 opens with Rhaenyra at the end of a “tour” organized by Viserys, with scores of young men pitching themselves as optimal husbands for the princess. This includes a young chap from House Blackwood, which earlier aided Aegon the Conqueror in battle. Unsurprisingly, she has no interest in any of them.

Rhaenyra and Criston Cole in House of the Dragon Episode 4HBO
Rhaenyra and Criston Cole take the next step.

Soon, Rhaenyra returns to King’s Landing – this imagery mirrors Daenerys sailing to Westeros – as Daemon breaks through the skies on Caraxes, returning home to see his brother after defeating the Crabfeeder’s army and taking control of the Stepstones. Not only that, but Daemon and Corlys “smashed” the Triarchy.

Daemon swaggers in front of the Iron Throne wearing a makeshift crown from the Stepstones, having declared himself “King of the Narrow Sea”, while Corlys is nowhere to be seen, having returned to Driftmark. While the tension between the siblings is immediate, with the Kingsguard poised to slay the prince, he then bends the knee and pledges his allegiance to Viserys. With some hesitance, he forgives his brother for, well, treason.

House of the Dragon: Daemon plays a dangerous game

There is a bit of whiplash, given Daemon’s mounting hatred for his brother in the first three episodes, and his rampage on the Stepstones upon news of his aid. However, Smith is a wicked performer here, as he conveys his sniffs of a rebellion with something as minor as a smirk.

When Allicent suggests showing Daemon some new art in the Red Keep, Viserys drunkenly dismisses her. Rhaenyra says she’d like to see it, and Viserys growls at the breath leaving her mouth, angered by her tardiness in picking a husband. Then there’s Daemon, smiling away, seemingly happy to be home.

Daemon in House of the Dragon Episode 4HBO
Daemon returns home… but what is his game?

Rhaenyra and Daemon then meet under the Weirwood tree, where she discusses her frustration with the traditions forced upon her. “I have no desire to live in fear, but in solitude,” she says, in one of the episode’s best lines.

However, everyone knows a wedding is imminent, given Lady Laena – once offered to Viserys – is set to marry the son of the Sealord of Braavos, strengthening House Velaryon’s standing within the Free Cities.

House of the Dragon Episode 4: Yes, the Targaryens have done it again

Rhaenyra returns to her chambers, where she finds a scroll with instructions on how to open a secret door. She finds it, follows the passageway, and discovers Daemon at the end. Together, they disguise themselves as commoners in the “hour of the owl” to walk among people in King’s Landing, drinking wine, watching trapezists and pyro-performers wreak playful havoc on the streets.

All seems well – it’s just a young woman’s fun uncle taking her where she shouldn’t be, right? No, because Daemon wants to show Rhaenyra how feeble the close-minded support of the public can be, before it becomes Rhaenyra’s very own Eyes Wide Shut experience.

They end up in a “pleasure house”, surrounded by men and women having sex. Of course, Rhaenyra and Daemon end up “carrying on”, as Otto later puts it. “Marriage is a duty, but that doesn’t stop us from doing what we want, f**king who we want,” Daemon says, before managing to stop himself from full-blown incest – unlike Jaime and Cersei of House Lannister.

Daemon stumbles off somewhere into the streets, while Rhaenyra returns home – and seduces Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), the Kingsguard she chose in Episode 2. In the morning, Daemon is awoken by Lady Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), who made sure he was kept safe while away from the Keep.

House of the Dragon Episode 4: Forbidden fruit rots the crown

Of course, the Targaryen uncle doesn’t get away with nearly having sex with his niece. A local source reveals their behavior to Otto, who tells the king – only to be met with vicious anger and accusations of trying to take the Iron Throne.

Allicent also confronts Rhaenyra, after overhearing Otto and Viserys, and the princess swears “on her mother’s memory” that nothing happened – which is partly true, but also not really.

Daemon is summoned to an audience with the king upon his return, where he’s beaten on the floor. Viserys tells him he’s ruined Rhaenyra, as there won’t be a suitor who’ll “wed her in her condition”, but Daemon says he shouldn’t care what anyone thinks, and tells him he wants to take Rhaenyra as his wife and restore House Targaryen to its former glory. Viserys, naturally, tells him to get lost.

Rhaenyra then meets with Viserys, where he reminds her of the burden placed upon her with Episode 1’s “Song of Ice and Fire” reveal. He then challenges her on the rumors spreading about her and Daemon, explaining that the truth doesn’t matter – only perception.

Rhaenyra will also be forced to marry Laenor Velaryon – who was introduced in Episode 3 – but she gives her Dad one condition: he gets rid of Otto, who’s clearly pining for his bloodline on the throne. Viserys agrees and strips Otto of his duties, while Rhaenyra is handed a primitive contraceptive chalice to rid her “of any unwanted consequences.”

House of the Dragon Episode 5 will be available to view on September 18 in the US and September 19 in the UK.

loading...