House of the Dragon has been telegraphing Daemon and Rhaenyra’s attraction ever since he clasped that Valyrian steel necklace around her neck in the premiere. And anyone familiar with what Game of Thrones showed us about the Targaryens knows that intrafamily romantic relationships — in this case between an uncle and his teenage niece — are par for the incestuous course for this silver-haired, dragon-loving family.
So this week’s major development isn’t a surprise so much as it is an icky inevitability: Daemon gets hot and heavy with his brother’s young daughter, and afterward, there are consequences aplenty.
Read on for the highlights of Episode 4. (And make sure to check out my deeper dive into some of the episode’s more salient points.)
GUESS WHO’S BACK, BACK AGAIN | Since last we saw Rhaenyra, Viserys has sent her on a “Take Her to Wife… Please!” tour, in which potential hubbies in several locations line up to We open on Rhaenyra in a large hall full of males who would like to be her husband. The first is an old man, the second a young boy. Rhaenyra mocks them, then decides that she’s outta there. As she and Ser Criston leave the room, one very young suitor from House Blackwood sticks his sword into the abdomen of an onlooker who’d heckled him during his presentation. Even though they’re not supposed to sail back to King’s Landing for quite some time, she orders the knight to have her ship readied.
They’re very close to King’s Landing when a dragon buzzes the boat, knocking everyone down but not doing any real damage. And the look on the princess’ face when she stands up is more than a little excited: The dragon is Caraxes, which means Uncle Daemon is in town.
Everyone hastily files into the Throne Room, where Viserys stands in front of his sharp-edged seat. Despite her attempts to blend into the crowd, the king quickly notices the early return of his obstinate daughter, and he’s not pleased. But now is not the time, because Daemon is walking down the aisle toward his brother wearing a crown made of… is that bone? Driftwood? Bleached crab legs? Anyway, he’s also holding out the Crab Feeder’s sword. “Add it to the chair,” he says, dropping the weapon to the floor with a clang.
Viserys asks about Daemon’s unique headwear. “Once we smashed the triarchy, they named me King of the Narrow Sea,” he replies. “But I know that there is only one true king, Your Grace.” AND THEN HE KNEELS. “My crown, and the Stepstones, are yours.” Well, that was unexpected. Daemon adds that Corlys has sailed home to Driftmark and that they left 2,000 of the Crab Feeder’s men staked to the sand to warn anyone who might try to take over the area again.
There’s a long, tense moment in which Viserys takes Daemon’s crown, and Daemon shares a loaded look with Hightower. But then the king says, “Rise,” and embraces Daemon as everyone applauds. I should note here that Daemon spent some of his time away at the salon, because he’s sporting a new, short haircut that reminds me of when This Is Us’ Rebecca decided to be impulsive.
And at a party to celebrate the prodigal’s return, a drunk Viserys is acting as though he and his brother haven’t been estranged for literal years. Rhaenyra, however? Dead to him. Alicent takes pity on the princess and teases her about how romantic she imagines it is to have thousands of men line up for the chance at her hand. But Rhaenyra scoffs, “How romantic it must be to get imprisoned in a castle and squeeze out heirs…” realizing only afterward that she’s just perfectly described Alicent’s reality. (She apologizes.) The girls share a very sweet moment during which they acknowledge how much they’ve missed each other, and I’ve read enough of Fire & Blood to know that I should savor this while it lasts.
THE ICKY PART | Now let’s get into the part of the episode that I really, really am not looking forward to: Rhaeynra and Daemon nearly making the dragon with two backs. She seeks him out to ask why he’s really returned, but all he’ll say is that he missed the comforts of home. She notes a new maturity in him. “You’ve matured yourself, these last four years, Princess,” he says, eyeing her in a way that is decidedly un-avuncular.
They slip into High Valyrian to discuss Daemon’s wife and how much he hates her, and how marriage may not be a life sentence for men, but it frequently — thanks to the risks of childbirth — is a death sentence for women. “You cannot live your life in fear, or you will forsake the best parts of it,” he counsels her as only someone who has never had to face the concept of fatally hemorrhaging from a very precious orifice could. She says she doesn’t want to live in fear, “only solitude.”
At the small council meeting, Otto has word that Corlys — who’s still cheesed off that Viserys didn’t choose his daughter, Laena, as a wife — has allied with the Sea Lord of Braavos by promising Laena to the Sea Lord’s son. And if he does that, “we would have to seek our own marriage pact,” Otto says ominously.
Returning to her quarters for the evening, Rhaeynra finds that someone has left her a bag of commoners’ clothes and a map indicating a secret door in her bedroom wall. So she puts on the drab outfit — which, I should note, includes pants and a cap to conceal her hair — and sneaks out. The secret path leads her to Daemon, who is similarly dressed except his ensemble includes a hooded cape, like some effed-up Obi-Wan. They take a stroll through King’s Landing’s seedy underbelly, which includes both public sex and (checks notes) tightrope-walking? They pause to watch a farce about the fight for the Iron Throne; the crowd is vocally anti-Rhaenyra. When Daemon points out that the people want Aegon to succeed Viserys, she’s unbothered. “Their wants are of no consequence,” she says. “They’re of great consequence if you expect to rule one day,” he counters.
As a lark, she steals from a vendor then takes off, with Daemon promising the man he’ll find the “boy” that robbed him. Rhaenyra runs into a knight who recognizes her, but when he sees Daemon, he merely says, “Take care, boy,” and lets her go.
They wind up at a brothel, where all manner of nudity and sexual act is on easy display. “What is this place?” she wonders, looking at all the writhing bodies. “It’s where people come to take what they want,” Daemon answers. As he explains in a creepy whisper that marriage doesn’t have to keep a person from doing what — or who — they want, he starts kissing her, right there in the middle of the fleshy, fleshy room.
Things get very heated — at one point, her shirt is undone and they’re up against a wall, but Daemon seems to come to some internal decision and pulls back abruptly. Then he leaves Rhaenyra there, alone, with her pants around her knees and no idea of what’s happened. At some point along the way
she also doffed Daemon removed her cap, so the princess is very recognizable as she wanders the hallway, calling for her uncle by name… and a boy sitting on the stairs takes particular notice.
Meanwhile, back at the Red Keep, Alicent spends her evening bathing Viserys and his many wounds, drinking by herself and then having a maid wake her in the middle of the night to let her know that the king requires her presence. Ugh, the scene of his old, lesioned self thrusting and grunting while she stares, dead-eyed and unmoving, at the ceiling is nearly as horrifying as everything else that’s going on in this episode.
KNIGHT TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME | Rhaenyra somehow makes it back to the Red Keep and her room, where Ser Criston is shocked to find out that the royal he’s been guarding all night wasn’t actually in her chambers. She grabs his helmet and plays keep-away with it in order to get him in her chambers, then she kisses him. He doesn’t encourage, but also doesn’t stop, her as she starts removing his armor; when she gets to his white cloak — the symbol of the vows, including not to marry, that he has sworn— he pauses a long moment, staring at it. Then, apparently, he’s all in. Eventually, they’re both as naked as their name days, and pretty soon, Princess Rhaenyra is a maiden no more.
Unfortunately for Rhaenyra, that little boy who saw her at the brothel finds Otto Hightower and tells him what he knows. Oh, and would you look at that — he works for Mysaria! Early the next morning, Otto goes to Viserys’ chambers to let him know that Rhaenyra and Daemon were at a pleasure house and “engaged in behaviors unbecoming of a maiden, of a princess.” Viserys asks for clarity, and he gets it: “Coupling.”
Of course Viserys thinks it’s all lies, and attacks Otto for destroying Rhaenyra’s reputation in a bid to have his grandson sit the Iron Throne. He orders his Hand from the room, and Alicent overhears all. So she calls for Rhaenyra and asks her point-blank if what Otto said was true. Rhaenyra denies it. “I am the princess. To question my virtue is an act of treason,” Rhaenyra says, her voice climbing an octave.
When Alicent says she’s only trying to help, Rhaenyra calms a bit and gives a highly sanitized recounting of their evening. “I was only a spectator. I didn’t do anything!” she claims. And when Daemon got too drunk, he “abandoned me for some whore,” she says. Alicent seems a little relieved. “So you did not…” she trails off. “Must I truly refute that?” Rhaenyra asks. And just when I think she’s the cagiest little thing I ever did see, she goes too far: “Daemon never touched me,” she point-blank lies. “I swear this to you, upon the memory of my mother.” Then Alicent dresses her down for even the possibility that she might be “sullied,” and a contrite Rhaenyra apologizes.
HERE’S YOUR DRAGON, WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? | Elsewhere, the kingsguard grabs a hungover Daemon and hauls him before the Iron Throne. Viserys accuses his brother of defiling Rhaenyra, and Daemon doesn’t deny it. In fact, he has an idea! “Wed her to me,” he says, still laid-out and sweating Dornish red all over the flagstones. He cites historical and familiar precedent. He makes a case for returning “the House of the Dragon to its proper glory.” But Viserys merely banishes him to The Vale for good.
Later, Alicent and Viserys discuss the matter. She thinks that Daemon lied, and Rhaenyra is telling the truth. “She swore to me that she remains a maiden, and I believe her,” the queen says. So Viserys summons his daughter to his room to announce that she will marry Ser Laenor Velaryon, which will unite the dragons and the naval fleet. She points out that Otto is a liability who only wants Aegon to be king, and he’s the real threat to the realm. She agrees to do her duty and marry Laenor, “but you must first do yours as king.”
So Viserys calls Otto to the small council room, calling Hightower out for orchestrating Alicent as a distraction in the dark days after Aemma’s death. “Your interests no longer align with those of the realm. Your judgment has been compromised,” Viserys spits. Then he removes Otto’s Hand of the King pin, tells him he can lon longer trust his judgment, then turns his back on his former adviser.
Rhaenyra is reading in her room that night when the master shows up with some tea, ordered by the king, that will “rid you of any unwanted consequences.” Looks like Dad’s not buying what you’re selling, princess!
What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!