While I consider Episode Three to be the weakest of House of the Dragon so far, Episode Four “King of the Narrow Sea” is definitley the best.
Directed by Clare Kilner, the episode certainly starts off strong, with Rhanerya hearing suitors at Storm’s End, the castle of the Baratheons.
Unfortunately, Rhanerya proves herself to be quite terrible at making allies again, as she insults multiple suitors, despite the attempts of Boremund Baratheon to get her to appease them.
Eventually a young Blackwood boy gives his pitch for her hand, only to be heckled by a Braken man.
This was a nice touch since, in the books, the Blackwood and Braken families have been feuding for generations.
The feud continues in the episode’s opening, with the two rivals coming to blows, leading to Blackwood boy killing the Braken man with his sword.
Rhanerya uses this as an excuse to return to King’s Landing with Criston Cole, however, their return is interrupted by the return of Daemon from the Stepstones atop Caraxes.
Marching into the Throne Room, Daemon wears a crown, announcing to Viserys that Lord Corlys named him “King of the Narrow Sea.”
However, he still bends the knee to Viserys, and is welcomed by him.
In all honesty, this scene was much grander in Fire and Blood, where Daemon flew down on Caraxes in the middle of a tourney to present Viserys with his crown but it still works here.
Celebrations are held for Daemon’s return, where we do get a funny moment between the two brothers where Viserys laughs at Alicent’s suggestion that Daemon of all people would enjoy tapestries.
To my surprise, we then get a moment between Rhanerya and Alicent, where they seem to have made up in the years since Episode Three, wanting to ammend their friendship.
I figured Rhanerya would just stay mad at Alicent for marrying Viserys but it is nice to see their relationship is not as simple as that.
Once the celebration is over, Rhanerya and Daemon have their own discussion, in High Valyrian again, where we have a lot of great lines from Daemon, such as, “You cannot live your life in fear, or you will forsake the best parts of it.”
That night, Daemon leaves a note in Rhanerya’s room, revealing a secret passage to her that leads to the two meeting.
Rhanerya going past the skull of Balerion the Black Dread made me think a lot of Arya.
Daemon shows Rhanerya the streets of King’s Landing, with the two eventually seeing a Shakespeare style play, depicting the current matter of succession.
Rhanerya is portrayed pretty poorly in this play, which was a surprise to me, considering she should be considered “the Realm’s Delight” at this stage.
They even call her this in the play, so it is kind of a weird discrepancy, although nothing major.
After accidentally stealing, Rhanerya makes a break for it, only to run into Ser Harwin Strong, who lets her go upon recognising her and Daemon.
Daemon then takes Rhanerya to a brothel, where he quite clearly organises events so the two of them are noticed.
It appears he planned to seduce Rhanerya and have word spread, sullying Rhanerya’s name in the process, forcing Viserys to marry them.
His plan goes well at first, as Rhanerya is receptive to his advances.
Their passion is intercut with the passionateless reaction of Alicent in King Viserys’ bed chamber, with her having to bed a man who seems to be quite literally rotting, due to numerous cuts from the throne.
This, once again shows the difference between Alicent and Rhanerya’s courting lives, as Rhanerya is pursuing who she wants while Alicent was ordered to seduce the king by her father and bear his children.
Back with Daemon and Rhanerya, Daemon’s plan goes awry, when Rhanerya becomes more assertive, causing Daemon to leave her alone in the brothel.
Why he did this is kept vague.
I have heard theories that he left because he felt guilt about what he was doing and also that he was turned off when Rhanerya became more assertive.
He also may be somewhat impotent, considering he had problems performing with Mysaria in the first episode.
It could really be any of these, or even a combination of them.
What’s so fascinating about Daemon’s character is how much of an enigma his motivations often are.
As for Rhanerya, she returns to her room in the Red Keep but from the outside, leading to a quite hilarious reaction from Criston.
A sexually frustrated Rhanerya then playfully teases him into the room and convinces him to have sex with her.
The two then share a passionate scene which, unfortunately for Criston, he seems to be putting more into emotionally than Rhanerya.
She does not seem to actually love him, at least not in a romantic way.
Meanwhile, Otto recieves word of Rhanerya and Daemon’s escapades in the brothel from a source known as the White Worm, revealed to be Mysaria.
She has a scene with Daemon, where she temporarily helps him recover after a night of drinking.
While it is nice to see how Mysaria’s character is progressing, I am sorry to say that the accent her actress is going for is still terrible.
I honestly have a hard time understanding what she is saying at times.
Back to Mysaria snitching on Daemon, though, Otto does seem a bit saddened by having to reveal Daemon and Rhanerya’s actions to Viserys, even though it is a ploy to get Aegon on the throne.
Otto reports to Viserys that Daemon bedded Rhanerya, something which did not happen but is probably what was reported to him.
Viserys is enraged by this but more so at Otto for spying on Rhanerya, rightly calling him out for trying to get his own blood on the Iron Throne.
Alicent overhears this argument and confronts Rhanerya over the rumors she slept with Daemon.
Their interaction here is one of the most interesting moments of the episode.
Rhanerya tells the truth that she did not sleep with Daemon but lies about her just being a spectator and does not not admit to sleeping with Criston.
Alicent’s demeanor is far more interesting, however.
She seems to be both scandalized by the rumors, concerned for Rhanerya’s image, and jealous of her friend’s sexual freedom.
In the end, Rhanerya manages to convince Alicent that Daemon was entirely at fault and that she did nothing.
Viserys is not convinced, however, and has Daemon brought to him in a drunken state.
Daemon does not deny the accusation, again, all as a ploy to get Viserys to marry Rhanerya to him but this only enrages Viserys further.
One ironic moment is when Viserys says Rhanerya is “just a girl” as if he did not marry a girl her age.
Pot calling kettle, Viserys.
After refusing Daemon’s proposal, Viserys banishes him once more and later summons Rhanerya, showing her the catspaw dagger from the original series.
Aegon the Conqueror had the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised hidden on the blade, something which never panned out in Game of Thrones.
Much like in Episode One, these references to the White Walkers only drag the show down by reminding us of the letdown that was Season Eight.
However, these are also small moments so they are not that big of an issue.
During their following discussion, Viserys informs Rhanerya that she will be marrying Laenor Velaryon, to which Rhanerya agrees, so long as Viserys gets rid of Otto for spying on her.
Viserys calls Otto to the small council room and both praises him for serving the realm well and admonishes him for acting in his own interests, betraying his king.
He has also finally realized that Otto instructed Alicent to seduce him for his family’s power, and removes Otto from his position.
The episode then ends with the Grand Maester giving Rhanerya a drink that will prevent any pregnancies from her night with Critson, which they believe was with Daemon.
The Grand Maester says it was from Viserys but there is the chance Otto told him to do it to create further division.
Either way, the episode ends ambigiously in regards to whether Rhanerya drinks it or not.
Overall, “King of the Narrow Sea” was a fantastic episode of House of the Dragon, with interesting development for Daemon, and especially Rhanerya and Alicent.
Next week is the last episode Milly Alcock and Emily Carey play these two, which is sad to see because they are doing such a good job.
Hopefully, the wedding with Leanor can provide some chances for great acting from the both of them.
Ah, a wedding in Westeros.
What could possibly go wrong?
Book Spoilers Section:
One thing I especially enjoyed about “King of the Narrow Sea” was all of the subtle building blocks to future events.
For one thing, there is the foreshadowing for Rhanerya’s death later in the story, when the fortune teller asks her if she wants to know how she will die, before the shot cuts to dragon flame.
Then there is the settup for how Criston and Alicent will truly become Rhanerya’s enemies.
Like I mentioned, Criston clearly thinks his night with Rhanerya meant more than it did.
He literally gave up his vows of chastity for her, risking his life, so to learn that it was all just a fling to her could cause hatred.
Learning that Rhanerya lied and slept with Criston, along with her being the reason Otto was banished, could cause Alicent to hate Rhanerya as well.
Coming back to Criston, I also wonder if Rhanerya is pregnant with his child at the end.
We know her children are believed to have been fathered by Harwin Strong but what if Jacaerys was actually fathered by Criston?
We do see Harwin in the episode, allowing Rhanerya and Daemon to pass in the streets of King’s Landing, so I like how the show is keeping him in the back of the audience’s mind, so they can later reveal he is the father to some if not all of her children.
I am intrigued to see if either Criston or Harwin is the father of Rhanerya’s first child and how the hatred for Rhanerya from Criston and Alicent will truly form.