In the “House of the Dragon” recap, Daemon returns to King’s Landing and Rhaenyra is forced to defend herself against a terrible rumor….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
If you haven’t figured out by now, there’s a whole lot of misogyny baked into just about everything that happens in “House of the Dragon” by way of the patriarchy that decides who will rule the realm.
That’s been the main story throughout the first four episodes, especially after King Viserys I Targaryen named his daughter Rhaenyra as the rightful heir to succeed him on the Iron Throne — a move that was immediately questioned by other leaders and lords under his reign. As Princess Rhaenys so wisely stated — the men ruling the realm would rather have it burn to ashes than see a woman sit on the Iron Throne.
Still, Rhaenyra’s claim has only strengthened thanks to her father’s resolve to see her succeed him even after he was granted a son by way of his new marriage to Alicent Hightower. In tradition, King Viserys would name his son Aegon II Targaryen as the heir to the Iron Throne but he already gave that honor to his eldest child — she just so happens to be his daughter.
The only problem haunting Rhaenyra now is that she must marry to produce more heirs to strengthen her own claim that way when King Viserys eventually dies, she will have a long line of children ready to succeed her one day in the future.
The latest episode of “House of the Dragon” showcases rather acutely the differences between how men and women are treated — particularly when it’s regarding the power structure in Westeros. As Rhaenyra notes late in the episode — kings can fuck whoever they want, sire a hundred bastards and nobody bats an eye but if a woman takes control of her own sexuality, she’s spoken about in whispers and rumors swirl that question her purity.
That ends up being the main story along with the return of Daemon Targaryen after he finally won his war in the Stepstones thanks to a suicide mission where he didn’t die but rather Craghas Crabfeeder ended up dead and the Triarchy backing him defeated.
With that said, let’s get to our latest recap for “House of the Dragon” with the episode titled “King of the Narrow Sea”…
A King For a Queen
The conclusion of last week’s episode saw King Viserys give his daughter Rhaenyra the chance to choose her husband rather than essentially marrying her off to any given lord of his choosing. The attempt was made to marry Rhaenyra to Jason Lannister — Lord of Casterly Rock — but she wasn’t exactly happy with the idea that she should have no choice in the matter of who becomes her husband.
King Viserys eventually relented and gave Rhaenyra free reign to find and select a husband from any of the great houses in Westeros, who would then help her continue the Targaryen bloodline by producing any number of potential heirs to the Iron Throne.
This week picks up with Rhaenyra in Storm’s End — the ancestral home of House Baratheon — where she’s seated next to Lord Boremund Baratheon as he presents to her numerous potential suitors who would attempt to win her hand in marriage. The lords from these houses all hail from the Stormlands where the Baratheons rule.
The first person up is Beric Dondarrion — and if that sounds familiar, it’s the same name as the man who led the Brotherhood Without Banners in “Game of Thrones” and he dies several times yet constantly brought back to life by his friend and red priest, Thoros of Myr. In “Game of Thrones,” Beric Dondarrion gives his life in a battle against the White Walkers at Winterfell.
This Beric Dondarrion that we’re meeting in “House of the Dragon” is his ancestor — the Lord of Blackhaven and leader of House Dondarrion. He’s an older man, who is attempting to woo Princess Rhaenyra into marrying him but she can’t help but notice his advanced age. Despite urging from Boremund not to discount any of the suitors, Rhaenyra quickly brushes him aside to move onto the next candidate in line.
The next person asking for Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage is the boy Lord Samwell Blackwood, who rules over House Blackwood of Raventree Hall. Rhaenyra again scoffs as the suggestion that she should marry a child as Samwell extolls his virtues as a suitable companion for the princess.
While Samwell is speaking about his family’s loyalty and service to Aegon the Conqueror in his quest to rule over the Seven Kingdoms, he’s mocked by a member of House Bracken — another potential suitor at the court and longtime rival to House Blackwood. When Rhaenyra declines Samwell’s proposal, she decides that it’s time to return home to King’s Landing after another failed attempt to find her a suitable husband.
As she leaves with Ser Criston Cole by her side as her sworn protector, Samwell ends up gutting the member of House Bracken in combat as proof that he may be a boy but he’s still a fierce warrior.
Rhaenyra then orders her ship prepared to sail back to King’s Landing despite still having two more months scheduled on this tour of the Seven Kingdoms in an attempt to find her a husband.
On the journey home, Rhaenyra wonders how her father will take the news that she’s called off the search but her curiosity is interrupted when she hears a dragon’s roar overhead. A moment later, her ship is besieged by a great gust of wind from a dragon’s wings as Caraxes flies by with Prince Daemon Targaryen on his back.
Rhaenyra is understandably shocked to see her uncle returning to King’s Landing, especially after he’s been estranged from her father for several years.
Back in the Red Keep, King Viserys prepares for his brother’s arrival as he places his crown on his head and readies Blackfyre — the Valyrian sword that once belonged to Aegon the Conqueror — at his side. Rhaenyra manages to sneak into the gallery to watch the proceedings without allowing her father to kno she’s returned.
When Daemon enters the Red Keep, the men of the Kingsguard draw their swords because it’s unknown why he’s returned to King’s Landing after so many years away. Rather than look for a fight, Daemon explains that the crown of crabs he’s wearing was bestowed upon him after he killed Craghas Crabfeeder and broke the backs of the Triarchy army supporting him.
The War of the Stepstones ended with Daemon Targaryen victorious and the Triarchy defeated. As a result, Daemon was named King of the Narrow Sea and he drops the Crabfeeder’s weapon at his brother’s feet while telling him to add it to the Iron Throne as another kingdom conquered.
Unexpectedly, Daemon doesn’t attempt to challenge his brother or mock him with the victory — instead he kneels before King Viserys and tells him there’s only one true king in the Seven Kingdoms.
“My crown and the Stepstones are yours.”
~ Daemon Targaryen
King Viserys tells his brother to rise before thanking him for his service to the realm as they finally embrace and the entire gallery rips up in applause.
Later in a celebration to mark Daemon’s return, King Viserys tells stories to his new wife Alicent about his brother and his many victories including numerous tournaments that he conquered. There are smiles all around when Rhaenyra makes her presence known as he congratulates Daemon on his victory while King Viserys looks none too happy to see that his daughter has returned without a chosen husband by her side.
Rhaenyra and Alicent eventually leave as King Viserys and Daemon continue to chat over many cups of wine. The two old friends sit together, perhaps chatting for the first time in years, as Alicent reminds Rhaenyra of the great gift she’s been given with her father allowing her to pick her suitor to become husband — it’s not a wish granted to virtually any other woman belonging to the great houses in Westeros.
Despite the favor from her father, Rhaenyra still sees it as duty rather than love and more importantly she doesn’t want to become a woman whose only job is sire heirs to the Iron Throne. Of course that’s exactly what Alicent has become in her new role as queen, which earns her an apology from Rhaenyra after realizing that her former friend was selected as her father’s new wife for exactly that reason.
Alicent admits that she’s felt painfully alone these past few years as her only job is to give King Viserys more children but because she’s still sitting in such a powerful position as queen, it’s nearly impossible for her to maintain any friendships.
From there, Rhaenyra finally gets some alone time with her uncle as he notices she’s still wearing the Valyrian steel necklace he gave her as a gift in the debut episode. Speaking in High Valyrian, Rhaenyra confesses that she knows Daemon’s return to King’s Landing was as much about sticking it to her father as anything because ultimately he conquered the Stepstones without any assistance from the crown.
Daemon doesn’t exactly deny her allegations but he also claims he was happy to return home, although once again Rhaenyra knows her uncle isn’t exactly fond of King’s Landing either. She admits that perhaps he’s matured in the last four years since they saw each other on Dragonstone and Daemon says the same to his niece.
Rhaenyra then begins to lament again about her marital situation as she tells Daemon about her father’s plans to marry her off to whichever lord has the biggest castle. Daemon reminds Rhaenyra that marriage in Westeros is just about political power and it has nothing to do with love.
He suggests she get married and then Rhaenyra will be free to do whatever but she knows that luxury is only afforded to men rather than the women. Of course, Daemon wishes that were true because if so, he could have rid himself of his “Bronze bitch” — a not so kind nickname he bestowed upon his wife, Rhea Royce, who we haven’t seen yet but is expected to appear in the series at some point.
Daemon was betrothed to the Lady of Runestones and the head of House Royce by his queen mother Alysanne, although the match wasn’t exactly celebrated by either of them. Daemon despised the Vale of Arryn — the kingdom that we first visited back in “Game of Thrones” season 1 when Tyrion Lannister was captured and accused of making an attempt of the life of Bran Stark in Winterfell. Tyrion ends up hiring Bronn to serve as his proxy in a trial by combat where he defeats one of the Knights of the Vale and tosses him out the moon door to help gain their freedom.
As a result, Daemon does just about anything possible to avoid spending time with his wife or returning to her kingdom in the Vale.
As for Rhaenyra, she isn’t interested in having a husband she can ignore or any husband at all — she just wants to live in solitude until becoming queen.
Back in the meeting of the Small Council, King Viserys receives a report about Lord Corlys Velaryon, who failed to return to King’s Landing with Daemon and instead went back home to his castle and kingdom in Driftmark. Four years later, Lord Corlys is still upset that King Viserys passed over his daughter Laena as a wife in favor of Lady Alicent.
As a result, Lord Corlys teamed up with Daemon to conquer the Stepstones and now according to reports, he’s actually planning to marry his daughter Laena to the son of a sealord from the Free City of Braavos. It seems Lord Corlys is seeking to build a bond with the powerful city of Braavos after his invitation for King Viserys to marry his daughter was rejected.
Hearing this news prompts The Hand of the King, Otto Hightower to mention that Lord Corlys marrying his daughter to the son of a sealord from Braavos would only create further complications for the Seven Kingdoms. It would mean that the King would likely have to form a pact of his own with a powerful family from Braavos — perhaps even his own daughter.
The Street of Silk
Following a day spent with her father, her queen and the procession of being princess, Rhaenyra returns to her chambers where she begins unpacking from her journey home. Inside her bag, Rhaenyra finds a note written in High Valyrian with a map that shows her a secret exit from her room that leads down to the tunnels beneath the Red Keep.
Rhaenyra eventually runs into the author of the map — none other than her uncle Daemon Targaryen, who invites her to join him in a secret trip down into the city where she would normally never been allowed to travel by herself.
They walk through the streets where people are enjoying themselves in all sorts of ways as you might imagine and eventually Daemon and Rhaenyra come upon a play being enacted about the successor to the Iron Throne. She hears as the crowd boos when her name is mentioned as the heir to her father’s kingdom as Daemon can only laugh at the portrayal of himself on stage.
Rhaenyra eventually tires of the play and decides to venture back out into the marketplace where she actually steals a bit of food before running away, forcing Daemon to give chase after her. Along the way, Rhaenyra runs into Ser Harwin Strong — better known as Harwin Breakbones, widely considered the most powerful knight in all the Seven Kingdoms.
She begs him not to reveal her identity or take her back to the Red Keep and he can only laugh and send her along while also noticing Daemon trailing directly behind her. As referenced in last week’s recap, it’s good to keep an eye on Harwin because he should become a central part of the series in future episodes.
The journey eventually leads Daemon and Rhaenyra to a house of pleasure where the princess watches men and women enthralled in all sorts of sexual endeavors. As they walk through the various rooms, Daemon tells Rhaenyra that fucking should be a pleasure for both sexes — it’s something they both want and shouldn’t be denied while marriage is nothing more than a duty.
The encounter eventually leads to Daemon drawing Rhaenyra close to him before they finally kiss.
They get rather steamy while kissing and beginning to remove each other’s clothes but just as they are about to have sex, Daemon stops and pushes Rhaenyra away. It seems despite his greatest desires — and perhaps the ultimate revenge on his brother — Daemon has gone impotent from the encounter because he may realize that he can’t just use Rhaenyra as a tool at his disposal.
For better or worse, Daemon actually cares about Rhaenyra, which is something he wouldn’t say about most anybody else who’s ever known him.
Daemon turns to leave the brothel as Rhaenyra gets dressed and gives chase after him as he flees from the Street of Silk — the famous area in King’s Landing where the best pleasure houses reside — as she attempts to catch up. When it’s clear that Daemon has escaped, Rhaenyra covers up and begins her journey back to the Red Keep but she fails to notice a little boy has seen both her and her uncle and recognized them for their true identities.
As she returns home, Rhaenyra goes back to her chambers where Ser Criston Cole is still waiting outside — admittedly shocked that she somehow left and came back again without his knowledge. In her room, Rhaenyra is still charged from the experience and decides to open her door again where she snatches Criston’s helmet to lure him inside.
The flirtation eventually gives way to Rhaenyra starting to remove his armor but as much as Criston wants to resist due to his vows as a member of the Kingsguard — they’ve taken a vow of abstinence along with a promise to never marry nor have children in servitude to the King — but he’s drawn to the princess. They end up having sex together as Rhaenyra finally does something just for herself and she finds pleasure in it.
At the same time all this is happening, a lonely Alicent is left by herself yet again with no one around until late that night when she’s summoned to the King’s chambers. Despite the late hour, Alicent is essentially commanded to his room where she proceeds to have sex with King Viserys with all the enthusiasm of going to a doctor’s appointment.
The two scenes together prove a valuable point — Alicent is the wife of the King, bound by duty to give her husband as many heirs as possible. Sex is nothing more than part of her job
Meanwhile, Rhaenyra has rejected those vows and instead decided to enjoy the pleasures of sex just for herself. It’s Rhaenyra’s defiance that has continued to make her different than any of the queens that came before her but also proof that she refuses to bow down to the patriarchy that continues to rule around her.
As Alicent commits to her duty as queen and Rhaenyra enjoys her night with Ser Criston, Otto is called into the courtyard where the boy outside the brothel has arrived with some news for the Hand of the King. The kind of news that some along with a disturbing rumor about the princess.
The Fairer Sex
The next morning, Daemon wakes up in a ratty bed somewhere in King’s Landing after a drunken night out. He finds that his paramour Mysaria has gathered him up and given him a place to stay after he was found stumbling through the streets where anyone could have ended him. Instead, Mysaria cared for him before revealing that she’s no longer the whore that used to serve him and other men in King’s Landing.
Instead, Mysaria has started to build a reputation of her own, collecting powerful friends and allies throughout the various brothels and taverns in the city. Daemon seems none too impressed as he scoffs at advancement since they were together at Dragonstone and he leaves to return home to the Red Keep.
As for Otto Hightower, he takes it upon himself to call on the king to discuss with him the news he was told by the boy from the brothel. He informs King Viserys that his daughter Rhaenyra was seen inside the brother, taking pleasure along with the rest of the patrons, except her suitor was none other than her uncle, Daemon Targaryen.
King Viserys lashes out in denial that his daughter would ever be sullied much less by his brother while also accusing Otto of seeking power that he would fabricate such vicious rumors about Rhaenyra. Otto attempts to tell the king that his sources are impeachable but Viserys wants to hear none of it.
Neither of them notice that Alicent is standing nearby to hear the entire conversation and she soon calls on Rhaenyra to meet her in the courtyard where they discuss what happened the previous night.
Rhaenyra admits that she went out into the city with her uncle Daemon but denies having sex with him. Instead, she claims they visited several taverns and eventually ended up in a brothel but only because Daemon was her escort and she couldn’t leave without him.
She then tells the queen that Daemon got drunk and ended up leaving with whore, which then required Rhaenyra to find her own way home again. Rhaenyra swears to the queen that she’s still a virgin and nobody, much less her uncle Daemon, has sullied her maidenhood.
Queen Alicent may or may not believe the princess but she then reminds Rhaenyra about her duty as the next heir to the Iron Throne. She needs to marry and produce future heirs — and this kind of behavior could make her untouchable to any of the lords seeking to serve as her husband.
As for Daemon, he stumbles back to the Red Keep after his drunken night out and he’s immediately grabbed by the Kingsguard and taken into the throne room where he’s tossed to the floor. King Viserys arrives and kicks his brother while accusing him of having sex with Rhaenyra thus sullying her honor, which means she won’t be betrothed to a husband from any of the great houses.
More than anything, King Viserys is angry that Daemon would hurt him this way — by going after his daughter.
In response, Daemon tells his brother that he should allow him to marry Rhaenyra and carry on the tradition of the Targaryen bloodline. Throughout history, the Targaryen family was bound by incest with brother marrying sister to keep the Valyrian blood strong. Daemon also reminds his brother that he’s the king — the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms bow down to him so he can make whatever ruling he wants about who his daughter is going to marry.
When King Viserys reminds his brother that he’s already married, Daemon offers Aegon the Conqueror as the example of a Targaryen who not only had two wives but both were his sisters. Yes, Aegon I Targaryen — the man who rode on the back of Balerion the Black Dread and conquered the Seven Kingdoms was married to both of his sisters.
It’s said that Aegon married his older sister Visenya out of duty through Targaryen tradition to carry on the family bloodline but he also sought out to marry his younger sister Rhaenys because he truly fell in love with her. It was Aegon and his sisters on the backs of their dragons that ultimately brought the various lords of Westeros under their control.
It’s safe to say that King Viserys isn’t interested in Daemon’s proposal of marriage before telling him to return to the Vale where his wife resides. King Viserys commands his brother to leave and never return.
Later that day, the King meets with Alicent, who reveals the details of the conversation she shared with Rhaenyra in the courtyard. Alicent defends Rhaenyra against the allegations but condemns Daemon for trying to bring shame upon his brother with his return to King’s Landing.
Like so many, Alicent believes that Daemon only came back to hurt Viserys as he’s continued to do while lashing out ever since he was passed over as heir to the Iron Throne.
Finally, King Viserys calls his daughter into his chambers where they talk for the first time since Otto Hightower told him about the filthy business from the brother involving Rhaenyra and Daemon. Before chatting about that subject, King Viserys first points Rhaenyra towards the dagger he usually holds in his belt, except now it’s currently sitting in a pile of burning hot coals.
The Valyrian steel blade should look familiar — it’s first seen in “Game of Thrones” as the dagger that once belonged to Tyrion Lannister and later used in an attempt on the life of Bran Stark at Winterfell. That dagger indirectly helps to initiate the War of the Five Kings once Eddard Stark is killed and his son Robb declares war on the crown.
In this instance, King Viserys reveals that the dagger once belonged to Aegon the Conquerer and dates back even further than Aenar Targaryen — the man who took his family out of Valyria and relocated them to Dragonstone after his daughter had a prophecy that the great city they called home would soon crumble. That event was The Doom of Valyria and the Targaryens were the only dragonlords to survive the ruin of their home thanks to Aenar removing them 12 years before the devastating event wiped out everything and everyone they had ever known.
King Viserys knows the dagger has deeper origins than even that but in this particular instance, he’s using the weapon to teach his daughter a lesson. In extreme heat, the blade reveals a message inscribed on the Valyrian steel. It was a message inscribed on the steel by Aegon’s pyromancers prior to his death.
“From my blood come the prince that was promised and his will be the song of ice and fire”
It’s the prophecy that’s been handed down from one Targaryen monarch to the next but in this instance, King Viserys reminds his daughter about the duty she now maintains as his heir when it comes to this prophecy being realized.
As a quick reminder — the entire prophecy relates to the White Walkers eventually attempting to kill the living and conquer the known world with an army of the dead. We know that battle won’t happen for nearly 200 years but every Targaryen king has believed he would be the one needed to stop the forces of darkness from descending upon Westeros.
It also must be noted now that we know Aegon inscribed the prophecy on that blade — remember that’s the exact dagger that Arya Stark eventually uses to kill the Night King and end the invasion of the dead into the world of the living. The prophecy itself was never fully realized, although the translation was eventually changed to where it said the prince or princess that was promised, which means that perhaps Arya was the savior spoken about all those generations ago.
She did use that exact dagger to strike down the Night King and end the war with the dead.
Right now, King Viserys wants to remind his daughter about her sworn duty and how the rumors about her dalliances should cost her the crown. If this was King Jaehaerys, he would have already disowned her for sullying her virginity by sleeping with a man out of wedlock.
In this instance, King Viserys is bound by his declaration that Rhaenyra would succeed him to become queen and removing her in favor of her brother Aegon would only serve as further division in the kingdom he’s attempting to rule.
Even when Rhaenyra protests with her version of the story — because while she did have sex with somebody, it wasn’t Daemon Targaryen as she’s being accused — King Viserys says none of that matters now because the rumors have already spread like wild fire.
That’s why King Viserys is putting an end to the search for a husband while telling Rhaenyra that she will marry Ser Laenor Velaryon — eldest son of Lord Corlys Velaryon, who we met in last week’s episode as the dragonrider that helped defeat the Triarchy army.
King Viserys knows “The Sea Snake” has never recovered from his daughter being passed over as the choice for the next queen in favor of Alicent Hightower but this marriage will hopefully rebuild the bridge that’s been torn down between the two Valyrian families. By marrying Rhaenyra to Laenor, the Targaryens and Velaryons will once again combine together, fusing the two most powerful houses for another generation.
This time, Rhaenyra doesn’t protest but she then reminds her father that if she’s going to give up her claim to marry a husband of her choice that her father needs to finally do some housecleaning of his own by looking at the man who helped perpetuate the rumors about her in the first place. She reminds King Viserys that it was his Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, who was spying on her and making those scandalous claims because ultimately he seeks control — and putting his grandson Aegon on the Iron Throne would guarantee he remains the second most powerful person in all the Seven Kingdoms.
With that, King Viserys calls Otto Hightower into a meeting where he reminds the Hand of the King how he first received that title while serving under King Jaehaerys.
It was only after King Viserys’ own father — Baelon Targaryen, better known as Baelon the Brave — died just five days after he was named Hand of the King by his older brother King Jaehaerys. A noble and honorable warrior, Baelon died of a burst belly (appendicitis) and it was Otto Hightower who succeeded him as the new Hand of the King.
While King Viserys gives Otto credit for helping him learn how to become king, he realizes now that his Hand has also been serving his own self-interests, especially when it comes to the line of succession with the Iron Throne. Only now does King Viserys realize that in the first days while grieving the loss of his beloved wife Aemma that it must have been Otto who ordered his daughter Alicent to provide him comfort.
Otto attempts to deny the charges but King Viserys already knows the truth.
Otto Hightower used his daughter to gain a position of power with the King and now Alicent has given him numerous children including a boy that his current Hand would love to see sitting on the Iron Throne one day. Now that he’s realized Otto’s treachery, King Viserys can no longer keep him by his side.
“Your interests no longer align with those of the realm. You judgment has been compromised. You were a faithful servant, Otto. The crown and the realm both owe you a debt that can never be repaid. But I can no longer trust your judgment.”
~ King Viserys
King Viserys then removes the Hand of the King pin from Otto’s lapel as he removes him from service to the kingdom. As this is happening, Rhaenyra receives a visit from the maester with a special tea he’s brewed at the King’s suggestion.
It’s a tea meant to stop any potential pregnancy that Rhaenyra might have after her night out with Daemon — or more importantly the night she actually spent with Ser Criston Cole. The tea serves as proof that her father doesn’t believe that she didn’t lose her virginity but it’s also a reminder that King Viserys is sticking with Rhaenyra as the chosen heir to the Iron Throne as she’s now set to wed Laenor Velaryon in a union between the two most powerful houses in Westeros.
“House of the Dragon” will return with a new episode next Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.