A slower episode creates greater drama in the succession
The “Heir for a Day” Baelon Targaryen’s passing, which created a power vacuum in the House of the Dragon, occurred at least four years ago. The eldest son and first-in-line to the throne by gendered tradition, the Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) has since given birth to a son and is currently nursing another kid. King Viserys I (Padddy Considine) is aging and developing obscene-looking legions over his back and arms, which is a clear sign that the kingdom is ill and on the verge of civil war.
In episode four, Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), who is now roughly 18 years old, continues the story in the year 116 AC. (The upcoming episodes of the series are anticipated to forward the timeline by an additional fifteen years.)
The story develops in a way akin to an incestuous bildungsroman (a coming-of-age saga). The literary genre frequently depicts the protagonist having their first sexual experience, which shapes the overall tone of the novel and frequently alludes to losing one’s innocence and entering the adult world. While the forced marriage of Daenerys to Drogo in Game of Thrones was characterized by sexual brutality, the celebration in House of the Dragon is distinguished by, well, whatever is going on between Rhaenyra and Daemon. Was that an act of power? Was it a craving? Was there… consent?Yes? Yes? No?
Let’s get into things.
When Daemon’s dragon approaches her ship as she is returning to King’s Landing, it knocks her to the deck and indicates that she and the King’s brother will continue to be at odds (although she looks up somewhat taken aback by Daemon’s strategy). Daemon gives Viserys the Crabfeeder’s axe in the Throne Hall as proof that his troops had vanquished the mercenary leader of the Free Cities. The years of tension—and Daemon’s almost insurrection—are suddenly put to a stop as he bows to Viserys and she hugs him.
Later, when they talk about the difficulties of marriage and childbearing, Rhaenyra and Alicent appear to resolve their own dispute. Rhaenyra asserts that Alicent’s sole responsibility is to provide the King heirs.
She then doubts Daemon’s decision to return to King’s Landing as they talk about the same fear. (Rhaenyra believes Daemon is mischievous.) Says informs Daemon that she does not want to get married, a declaration that is promptly pressed in the subsequent scene during a small council meeting.
Instead of going back to King’s Landing, the Sea Snake, Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), has maintained authority over the islands and pretended to wed his daughter to a nobleborn resident of the Free Cities, a move that would weaken the Targaryen reign. Viserys must reverse his decision to refuse to wed Corlys’ daughter, it becomes evident. He has to settle things with Corlys.
She’s the Man
Late one night, Rhaenyra receives a message in her chamber telling her to meet outside the Red Keep. There, disguised as a page, she finds Daemon, and the two of them travel incognito into King’s Landing where a Renaissance-like festival is being held.
The two watch a mock royal succession drama with actors portraying Rhaenyra and Daemon in the audience. Rhaenyra’s character draws a negative response from the audience, illustrating how unpopular she is with them. She rushes out, saying Daemon she can control the people without their consent. (This belief might be crucial for the upcoming civil war.)
Then, after being pursued by Daemon (there is an unpleasant predatory flirtation going on during the festival episode), Rhaenyra follows him to a brothel. Men and women perform the most prohibited acts in the room closest to the door. Daemon kisses Rhaenyra in this picture. The two then start undressing one another, with Daemon leading Rhaenyra to a wall and turning her around while she is still wearing her pants. Rhaenyra, on the other hand, turns around and chases Daemon, who starts to find the situation uncomfortable and storms off. Crosscuts show Alicent having an uninterested relationship with the King out of duty. Rhaenyra and Daemon appear to be kissing with passion, an indicator that neither wishes to do what is expected of them to strengthen the crown. They both want what they want.
(It’s not clear if Daemon made the move out of desire or out of desperation. He knew they were being observed and that word would spread throughout the city. or either. Rhaenyra herself appears to be pursuing Daemon in return. Again, it’s unclear whether this is being done for pleasure or for some other reason.)
Rhaenyra returns to the Red Keep after Daemon has left, where she seduces a man before completing her night’s mission with Cole, one of her Kingsguards. (The two had flirted with each other throughout the past few episodes.) Once more, the incident appears to show Rhaenyra eschewing duty in favor of her personal desires.
Otto Hightower’s spies spread word that Daemon and Rhaenyra were “coupling.” Viserys learns from Hightower and accuses his Hand of exploiting the information to harm Rhaenyra’s reputation and support his grandson’s claim to the throne.
When asked by Alicent if she had slept with her uncle, Rhaenyra tells a falsehood.
The occurrence is significant because to…traditions. Rhaenyra’s virginity is necessary for her marriage to a noble family. Viserys goes so far as to say that it doesn’t matter if Rhaenyra had sex with Daemon because her chances of being married are somewhat compromised if people think otherwise. (Her effect of her choice seems to support the notion that Rhaenyra took this decision to sabotage a future marriage.)
However, it appears that Rhaenyra’s deception of Alicent was the more egregious crime, since it sets up a potential bombshell revelation that might put an end to their friendship and force the Queen to support a different potential heir.
Later Viserys has Daemon dragged into the Throne Room, where he once again banishes him from King’s Landing—but not before Daemon proposes a marriage between himself and Rhaenyra.
Viserys informs Rhaenyra that she will wed Laenor Velaryon, the son of the Sea Snake, because he is tired of everyone telling him what to do. (Someone else advised him to do this in the previous episode.) Then, acting as instructed by Rhaenyra, Viserys removes Otto Hightower from his position as Hand because, in his opinion, he is overeager to push his family’s own royal claims.
The maester gives Rhaenyra a medieval Plan B potion as the program comes to a close.