House of the Dragon episode 4: King of the Narrow Sea review: love and sex and dragons

House of the Dragon episode 4: King of the Narrow Sea mixes courtly intrigue and coitus as Rhaenyra chooses her suitor

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

**Spoilers for episode 1-4 of House of the Dragon**

The dramatic third episode, Second of His Name, saw Now fantasy series House of the Dragon heat up after a fairly slow start. The war on the Stepstones was exciting and brutal in equal measure, and Daemon’s character gained new depths. Episode four, King of the Narrow Sea, is considerably less bloody, but just as captivating.

The episode began with Daemon Targaryen being welcomed back to King’s Landing by Viserys I after his successful routing of the Crabeater and his minions from the Stepstones. Daemon is wearing his own driftwood crown, and claims he is the King of the Narrow Sea, which clearly gets Viserys’ back up, but the pair embrace and the bad blood of the first episode seems to be put behind them. It’s nice to see the further character development here of both Daemon and Viserys.

We’re also treated to a Game of Thrones Easter egg, as the catspaw dagger that was used in attempted assassination of Bran Stark in season one, and which did finish off the Night King in season eight, makes an appearance. Clearly House of the Dragon will be pursuing the prophecy line that got so convoluted before ultimately coming to nothing in Game of Thrones. Maybe they’ll be able to untangle it a little more here.

Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston ColeFabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole
Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole

There’s plenty of gender politics in this episode, as Rhaenyra is presented with a line of unsuitable suitors and expresses her frustration that her father wants to sell her off. Daemon,continuing on his quest to make amends, takes Rhaenyra on a psychedelic-styled trip through Flea Bottom where they watch a show criticising her own claim to the iron throne before popping into a brothel. This is House of the Dragon’s answer to The Boys’ Herogasm episode - no-one has carnal relations with an octopus but there’s an awful lot of extra-marital activity. Daemon and Rhaenyra then begin doing what Targaryen’s do best, awkward cousin sex. It’s the classic enemies to incest storyline that we known and love - although Daemon loses his mojo soon into the act. This may be what Matt Smith was referring to when he said there was “slightly too much” sex in the show. Either way, the scene gave us a grittier look at Westeros, finally revisiting the underbelly of King’s Landing for the first time since Game of Thrones.

We’re quickly back in the corridors of power, however, and Otto is quickly being established at the Varys of House of the Dragon. He informs Viserys of Rhaenyra and Daemon’s dalliance and is sacked as Hand for his troubles. Varys would have never gone down so easily, but then again, Otto could well have a backup plan. Alicent, who has only recently reconciled with Rhaenyra questions her about the rumours but Rhaenyra wholeheartedly denies it, swearing on the grave of her mother. She was so incensed that she nearly convinced me, and I’d just watched her get down and dirty moments before.

Rhaenyra soon realises that Daemon isn’t her type and she’d rather be with someone less… related. She seduces Criston Cole, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard - he is the complete opposite of Daemon and their liaison sharply contrasts the earlier scene in the brothel. Their romance could prove sticky in its own way as Cole, being a member of the Kingsguard, has taken a vow not to have children.

After convincing her father Viserys that she did not sleep with Daemon, the episode ends with a maester bringing Rhaenyra a pot of ‘tea’, which is presumably an abortifacient, at her the King’s request. Clearly Viserys is not as easily led as others at King’s Landing would believe.

King of the Narrow Sea was another strong episode in a first series that is shaping up to be a great entry to the fantasy genre. HBO has set out its stall over the last four episodes, and has begun to really work on developing the main cast of characters, but it will be interesting to see how this works when some of the main cast change midway through the season.

Episode four of House of the Dragon will air on Sky Atlantic on Monday 11 September at 2am, and will be repeated on the same day at 9pm. The episode will also be available to watch on Now TV after it is first broadcast.

Follow us on Twitter @nationalworldTV for updates on TV and streaming news: