DISCLAIMER: This recap of the House of the Dragon episode “King of the Narrow Sea” has spoilers. Prepare for fire and blood, and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, dragonriders! House of the Dragon‘s fourth episode, “King of the Narrow Sea,” is all about sex, baby. Now it feels like a proper Game of Thrones series. We see slightly less genitalia in House of the Dragon, almost as if there’s a mite more constraint at play here. It’s not a bad thing. I’m not a fan of gratuitous nudity for the sake of gratuitous nudity.
Anyway, Rhaenyra and Daemon’s relationship ascends to the next level. I love the parallel between Rhaenyra’s pleasure-seeking adventures and Alicent’s dutiful, dull sex with Viserys. The episode continues to explore gender dynamics and the unfair advantage men get over women in this universe (well, and in this one, but we won’t go there). All in all, it’s juicy, entertaining and chaotic in the best way.
Ready to delve into “King of the Narrow Sea”? Let’s get to it.
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We open with Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) listening to a line of suitors as they make their case for her hand in marriage. It culminates in Rhaenyra departing early while a child, hoping to wed her, fillets a man from another house like a fish. While en route to King’s Landing, Criston (Fabien Frankel) believes Rhaenyra’s father won’t be pleased that she ended her tour to find a husband two months early. You mean to tell me there’s no Westerosi Match.com? It would certainly save the crown on travel expenses across the realm.
Rhaenyra spots Caraxes soaring above their ship as he zooms toward King’s Landing. Sexy uncle Daemon is home!
Viserys (Paddy Considine) stands in front of the Iron Throne, while Rhaenyra blends in with the court. Daemon (Matt Smith) makes his grand entrance, sauntering toward the Iron Throne while donning a crudely crafted crown with all the swagger of a self-made king. It’s his sworn duty as the most extra Targaryen, and I love him for it.
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We learn that after smashing the Triarchy at the Stepstones and slaughtering the Crabfeeder, Daemon was crowned King of the Narrow Sea. However, Daemon wishes to hand that crown to his brother, bending the knee before Viserys in fealty. Yes, Daemon — Viserys’s most leal servant.
Viserys welcomes his brother home with open arms and the pair embrace. He thanks Daemon for his service. I would like to thank Daemon for his new haircut. It suits him quite nicely.
Later, Rhaenyra joins her father, Daemon and Alicent (Emily Carey) for a bangin’ party. Otto (Rhys Ifans) observes from a distance, clearly more of a wallflower. Viserys imbibes heavily, while Alicent encourages her husband to give Daemon a tour of the tapestries he received from Norvos and Qohor. Rhaenyra, eager to spend alone time with her uncle, reveals she would like a grand tour.
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However, Daemon doesn’t seem all that into it, so Rhaenyra scurries off to the outskirts of the shindig. Alicent joins her, and it seems the once-BFFs have somewhat mended fences. Rhaenyra asks if Viserys is frustrated by Rhaenyra’s refusal to continue courting suitors. While, yes, he is irritated, Alicent is glad to see her again. Rhaenyra expresses her love for her bestie/stepmother. What a weird dynamic.
Then, Rhaenyra finds Daemon in the godswood. She asks him in Valyrian why he returned to King’s Landing. Daemon merely reaches for the necklace he gifted Rhaenyra that still circles her neck, all silence and googly eyes. Rhaenyra believes Daemon came back to rub his victory in Viserys’s kingly face.
Next, the duo discusses marriage. Daemon complains about his wife, Rhea Royce, while Rhaenyra notes that men have more freedom in marriages than women. For men, it might be a political arrangement, but for women, it’s a death sentence. Yay, patriarchy!
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Meanwhile, Viserys sits with his small council, and Otto informs him of Lord Corlys’s doings. Corlys returned to Driftmark following his and Daemon’s triumph at the Stepstones. Still sour over Viserys spurning his daughter Laena’s hand, the Sea Snake is now chatting with the Sealord of Braavos, planning to marry Laena to the Sealord’s son.
Later, Rhaenyra inexplicably finds a bag full of strange clothes, along with a drawing that illustrates a secret passageway behind her bed. She dons the clothes, moves the bed and sneaks outside the castle to find Daemon, who’s boasting a cloak. He set up an elaborate, wordless means of getting her outside. He leads his niece into the streets of King’s Landing.
Then, the pair watch a play, wherein the performers act out the battle for the Iron Throne. Will Rhaenyra take the crown? Or will Viserys give it to his son Aegon? Rhaenyra and Daemon observe while the crowd boos Rhaenyra, the Realm’s Delight, in favor of her little brother. Daemon urges Rhaenyra to exercise caution. She might have inheritance on her side, but Aegon is a boy.
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Next, Alicent learns that her husband requests her presence while she stares outside her window, looking the very picture of pensive. Rhaenyra and Daemon pretend the former is a thieving boy, and he chases her through the streets of the city. Harwin “Breakbones” Strong catches her but he seems to comprehend that she’s sneaking around with an escort.
Viserys and Alicent do the deed; however, Alicent is 100 percent not into it. We can see the plethora of sores dotting Viserys’s back from sitting on the Iron Throne. Ew.
Later, Daemon leads Rhaenyra into a brothel. She seems to find all the forking amusing, which is funny to me. Daemon explains what pleasure houses are and how folks come here to do whatever the hell they want. They start kissing passionately, and, honestly? Blood relation aside, it’s kinda hot. That said, I’m a fool for Matt Smith, so what do I know?
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Suddenly, Daemon pulls away abruptly and vanishes. They don’t seal the deal, which is in line with the book. Rhaenyra searches for him in vain. When she returns to her chambers, she finds Criston Cole standing guard before them. He asks if she’s hurt. Then, he threatens to go to the Lord Commander. Rhaenyra, feeling feisty and heeding her uncle’s words about taking what she wants, steals Criston’s helmet.
Criston chases Rhaenyra around her quarters while she playfully conceals the helmet from him. She kisses him, taking him by surprise. While one would think he would strive to uphold the oaths he took as a knight of the Kingsguard, Criston breaks them. He kisses Rhaenyra as she removes his armor. The process of undressing probably took them at least 30 minutes. Look at all that armor. Apparently, Rhaenyra also knows how to unfasten everything, too.
Anyway, they strip down to their birthday suits and have some fun. I think I’m becoming a Criston gal. Little does poor Criston know that Rhaenyra’s uncle got her hot and bothered before she and Criston tangoed.
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I’d like to note here that this change in character is unexpected. In Fire & Blood, Criston takes his vows seriously. There are two main accounts that detail the relationship between Rhaenyra and Criston — Septon Eustace, who’s more credible, and Mushroom, a fool who embellishes everything. That said, Mushroom isn’t always wrong. The two sides to this story are thusly: Rhaenyra makes a move, and he rejects her. The flip side of that is Criston carries a torch for Rhaenyra, but she spurns him.
I’m okay with this change, though. Given the amount of sexual tension between Rhaenyra and Criston, the show was bound to alter the details of their bond.
Meanwhile, Otto receives a tip from the White Worm, but we don’t hear what the messenger tells him. The following day, we see Daemon wake in the brothel with Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) concocting a hangover cocktail for him. He refuses it, claiming she’s merely a “common whore.” Mysaria bites back, revealing she’s no longer engaged in that line of work. If you’ve read Fire & Blood, you know what she does now…
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Otto enters Viserys’s chambers to relay what he heard from the messenger regarding Daemon and Rhaenyra. He tells the king the pair were spotted in a pleasure house. Viserys asks Otto to go into great detail. Dude, do you want a play-by-play? After Otto mutters the word “coupling,” Viserys dismisses it as a bald-faced lie.
Later, Rhaenyra meets with Alicent in the godswood, who inquires outright if Rhaenyra had sex with her uncle. Rhaenyra vehemently denies it, claiming Daemon took her to see a show, got too drunk and she went home. So, she withholds the teensy-weensy detail about making out with him in a brothel. Alicent seems to believe her, but she scolds Rhaenyra for allowing herself to fall prey to Daemon’s wiles. Hey, don’t blame the woman.
Meanwhile, Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) and his knights seize a hungover Daemon after he stumbles half-dressed into the Red Keep. They toss him before Viserys in the throne room.
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Viserys, enraged, kicks Daemon in the side and holds the blade of his sword to his brother’s throat. He’s infuriated with Daemon for deflowering his daughter. Daemon doesn’t deny Viserys’s accusation, even though he didn’t have sex with Rhaenyra. Instead, he asks Viserys if he can wed Rhaenyra. I love that the dialogue here is plucked straight from the pages of Fire & Blood. Daemon wants to marry Rhaenyra, but Viserys orders him to return to the Vale where his wife resides. The king gives his brother the boot, claiming he doesn’t want to see Daemon again. This song and dance is a replay of what transpired between them in episode one.
Next, Alicent urges Viserys to talk to his daughter. She wholeheartedly believes that Rhaenyra is innocent in all this. I mean … no. What happened in the brothel was consensual.
Later, Rhaenyra enters her father’s chambers. She admires Aegon the Conqueror’s dagger, which boasts an inscription that reads, “From my blood come the Prince That Was Promised, and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire.” Viserys reminds Rhaenyra of the duty she holds as his heir apparent and how that duty will follow her when she ascends the Iron Throne.
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Viserys addresses the Daemon of it all with Rhaenyra, who suggests her father check his sources. Otto Hightower cannot be trusted. Viserys reveals Rhaenyra will wed Laenor Velaryon, Corlys’s son, which she agrees to do without complaint.
Then, Viserys confronts Otto, accusing the latter of lying his way into power. Sure, he served Jaehaerys well, but Otto would do anything to get his blood on the Iron Throne. Viserys reveals he didn’t initially see how Otto orchestrated the meetings between him and Alicent, but now it’s crystal clear. Viserys removes the Hand of the King pin from Otto’s breast, thereby firing him. Bye, Felicia!
Meanwhile, Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch) gives Rhaenyra a tea that’s essentially the Plan B pill. Viserys wants her to drink the concoction to destroy whatever might grow in her womb. This move is surprisingly progressive for an era that despised women and treated them like property. Well, except that Rhaenyra must drink the tea on her father’s orders, so there’s that property thing, I guess?
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Milly Alcock continues to impress as a wonderful young performer who takes command of every scene. Matt Smith is charming as hell and deliciously devious. Paddy Considine and Rhys Ifans’s scenes are electric, and Emily Carey conveys so much emotion on her face without uttering a word. The actors in this series are top-notch.
“King of the Narrow Sea” sets the stage for the oncoming Dance of the Dragons. We see the complicated dynamics of Alicent and Rhaenyra’s strained relationship play out while Viserys and Daemon’s own complex bond takes a battering. So much of this series, and this episode, is about relationships, whether they’re newly formed like Rhaenyra and Criston or crumbled to dust like Viserys and Otto. I’m a sucker for political intrigue and enthralling character work, and this outing scratches that itch.
I hope we see more of the Velaryons soon and the show delves deeper into that house. The Velaryons are intriguing, to be sure. Perhaps we will since Rhaenyra is marrying Laenor. Regardless, I’m strapped in for the dragon ride.
House of the Dragon drops new episodes every Sunday at 9 pm EST on HBO and HBO Max.
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