House of Dragon episode 4 Full Preview – King of the Narrow Sea. George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” revolves around sex (as it does in our own). Procreation feels good and is essential in a world dominated by dynasties. Game of Thrones added nudity and violence to the fantasy genre, but both felt natural to the story. Game of Throne’s prurient moments was often sloppy, unsensual, and exploitative.
In the show’s later seasons, Sansa Stark and Cersei Lannister were raped onscreen, something even the traditionally ruthless Martin would move “offscreen” or avoid. Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen, recently said she would prefer a less nude pilot.
If House of the Dragon is HBO’s chance to fine-tune and perfect Game of Thrones, then the show’s approach to onscreen sex is ripe for improvement. Episode 4, “King of the Narrow Sea” shows this refinement.
House of Dragon episode 4 Full Preview
Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) learns the joys and consequences of fooling around in House of the Dragon episode 4. It’s like a Westerosi after-school special, but a sensitive one that respects how easily a sheltered royal girl can get swept up in unfamiliar emotion. Most after-school specials don’t cover hooking up with one’s uncle. Oh, did I forget? In this episode, HotD asks, “What part of “the Targaryens are incestual” didn’t you get?”
“King of the Narrow Sea” offers much more than carnal knowledge, but let’s start there. Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) returns from the Stepstones with a driftwood crown, ready to cause his brother Viserys another political headache (Paddy Considine). Surprisingly, the “King of the Narrow Sea” hands his crown to his brother and recognizes him as king. Joy reigns as the hatchet are buried when the brothers embrace, and the throne room cheers.
That leads to my favorite King Viserys scene yet (which is saying a lot because Paddy Considine is knocking this thing out of the park). Viserys is the happiest little boy you’ve ever seen after drinking wine with Daemon, Alicent, and Rhaenyra in the Red Keep’s courtyard. His kingdom is secure, his wife is loyal, and his brother is back.
Viserys’s laughter at the thought of Daemon seeing musty tapestries is contagious. A king who is white-knuckling his way through the ceremonial parts of his job must find his family’s lack of pretension refreshing. Even though Daemon hates art, he still loves him. When everything is going well, someone’s flaws are charming. Things won’t improve soon.
Daemon may have always planned to court Rhaenyra and ruin his brother’s life when he returned to King’s Landing. I’m not sure what Daemon wanted. Daemon’s id darts between stimuli like a single-cell organism. His nervous system’s latest stimulus is his niece.
House of the Dragon showed early on that Daemon and Rhaenyra were involved. The episode reminds us again as it lingers on Daemon’s niece’s Valyrian steel necklace. Many of us expected something to happen offscreen or after Emma D’Arcy portrayed Rhaenyra. Instead, House of the Dragon goes for it, and the result is sensual and exciting.
Time jumps help. Rhaenyra is closer to adulthood now than in episode 1, though she still looks like a child. She’s spent most of her life in the Red Keep, gossiping with Alicent and reading about mythical maidens and martyrs. When Daemon introduces her to the “real world,” her awe is clear.
Daemon has already changed Rhaenyra before his ill-advised kiss. All of her boring maester education is replaced by images of Flea Bottom firebreathers, fortune tellers, and crude mummers. Daemon takes Rhaenyra to a pleasure house and kisses her.
Rewatching the scene happens faster and doesn’t go as far as you remember. Daemon isn’t so much romancing Rhaenyra as showing her the queen’s life. Take whatever…whoever. Gods are wrong if they say an uncle and niece can’t be together. Rhaenyra is left wanting as the two don’t consummate their unholy act.
Read More: House of the Dragon Third Episode Review
In the game of Thrones, many sex scenes helped coin the term “sextoposition” in which boring exposition or backstory is presented while naked people touch each other. Daemon and Rhaenyra’s relationship isn’t exposition. It’s all at the moment. No background is needed. Rhaenyra receives the only possible message. She wanted to be her father’s heir but didn’t know what a queen was. She does. Damn tradition. Contrary gods. You decide. Fuck your uncle.
Rhaenyra gets the message because she acts on her own desires in the next scene. Rhaenyra’s affair with Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) is tense. In the previous scene, Rhaenyra’s power trumped Daemon’s.
Criston and his family owe Rhaenyra everything in a previous episode. She could write “Criston Cole” into the White Book and change House Cole’s fate. Now she’s risking it. Criston’s internal monologue is a primal scream as he resists, then doesn’t, then resists again, gives in, and gently picks up his princess. Viserys and Alicent’s expressionless duty contrasts with their passion.
Rhaenyra’s sexual awakening is the episode’s climax, as was Daemon and Corlys’ battle in the Stepstones last week. The choice to highlight the scenes felt odd or uncomfortable at first, probably due to the characters’ ages and the incest. I may have been reacting to Thrones’ ghosts. It’s not perfunctory, expositional, or exploitative. Rhaenyra gains here.
As with most Flea Bottom nights, something is lost. Rhaenyra loses her father’s respect. King Joffrey won’t let her sow her oats as Viserys and Daemon did. Not Viserys nor Daemon. Girl Rhaenyra Viserys may think he’s being progressive by naming his daughter heir, but that doesn’t matter if he won’t let her act like a king.
Viserys’ position is sympathetic. He reminds his daughter and us of Aegon’s Song of Ice and Fire and reveals a hidden message in the Valyrian catspaw dagger (that will one day take out the Night King). At the episode’s end, he passively delivers Rhaenyra moontea (Westeros’ Plan B).
The episode fails after Rhaenyra’s sexual awakening. George R.R. Martin can write about rumors and gossip from a historical perspective better than House of the Dragon. Viserys’ histrionics would have been more historically astute and satisfying to watch than Rhaenyra and Daemon’s trip to Flea Bottom. House of the Dragon has a schedule. Otto Hightower must go, and the show must advance in week 5.
The show’s approach to time is double-edged. House of the Dragon does so many little things well. You wish it had more time. This week’s opening scene in Storm’s End communicates both history and a bored princess’ contradictions. The Brackens of Blackwoods of the Riverlands, Game of Thrones version of the Hatfields and McCoys, fight over Rhaenyra while she worries about marrying a boring old man or a naive boy.
Jumping forward in time means some moments must be brought to the forefront quickly rather than simmering for episodes. For posterity’s sake, only the big things matter. House of the Dragon does in “King of the Narrow Sea.”
TV SHOW: House of the Dragon Episode 4
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Run time: 1h 03min