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‘House of the Dragon Season 1’ Episode 4: The Prodigal Jerk Returns!

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If you’ve stuck with House of the Dragon so far, you may rest certain that this week’s episode is an unfailingly true picture of what you’ve signed up for and what lies ahead. Namely:

Palace intrigue (read: secret doors, trysts, spies, rumors, scandal, lies). Explicit sexual unions between cousins who are more closely related chromosomally than chronologically. The occasional distention. Bad wigs are a go-go.

That’s House Targaryen, and that’s what this program is, for the time being. Soon, although not very soon, it’ll also be about all of that, along with a plethora of dragons, which this episode does not adequately convey. The only dragon we observe in motion is one we’ve previously recorded in our Dragon Watching Log Book: Caraxes, Daemon’s dragon, performing a fly-by jostling.

The prodigal jerk returns

'House of the Dragon Season 1' Episode 4: The Prodigal Jerk Returns!

But before that, we stop by the final Rhaenyra: The White-Blonde Ambition Tour stop. Only instead of Rhaenyra singing in a cone bra for the crowds, it is a series of hopeful lords lined up in a modest, smoky royal room to stake their puny, misfortunate troths.

(By first, I believed this to be Storm’s End, the seat of House Baratheon, as Boremund Baratheon is seated at Rhaenyra’s side, guiding her through the procedure. As most of the suitors lined up in front of her are from Riverlands Houses — Frey, Mudd, Blackwood, etc. — I believe we’re at Riverrun, the seat of House Tully.)

As a shameless flirt, the old, pompous Lord Dondarrion of Blackhaven is boasting about his castle’s “deep, dry moat.”

The following character is Ser Squeaky Voiced Teen of House Simpsons. (Technically, House Blackwood is a joke.) He stutters through his pitch and is immediately insulted by a jerk from House Bracken. This is a great touch, given Blackwoods and Brackens have been enemies for decades in the novels. This enmity reignites in the royal room, and Ser Squeaky triumphs by gutting Bracken like a fish.

Rhaenyra has had enough of this sword-length competition and cancels the tour two months early. Aboard her voyage back to King’s Landing, her ship is passed by old Uncy Daemon on Caraxes, who taps her sails as he passes.

A crowd gathers at the Iron Throne to observe Daemon’s return. His new hairstyle is Jim Jarmusch by way of Johnny Bravo, and he’s wearing a crown of what appears to be bamboo and seashells. Now that he has defeated the Stepstones, he is dubbed King of the Narrow Sea, but he kneels before Viserys and surrenders his title. This item appears to have been acquired from a surf store between the driftwood seagulls and the cage of hermit crabs.

Viserys greets his return. In the godswood courtyard of the Red Keep, Viserys becomes ecstatically inebriated and offensive to his queen. Rhaenyra and Alicent acknowledge how much they’ve missed one another, but only after Rheanyra argues that the queen’s existence of “squeezing heirs” is uninteresting. Alice continues to take the blows in stride; she’s out here changing more cheeks than a cosmetic surgeon.

Following this is a scene between Daemon and Rhaenyra in which Daemon advises Rhaenyra to view marriage as a political arrangement that allows one to pursue whatever pleasures desired. When he adds “pleasures,” he doesn’t exactly raise his eyebrows at her, but that is certainly the subtext. However, the guy’s eyebrows are the same color as his skin, thus it is possible that he does move them. Even with HD, it is hard to ascertain with certainty.

The Small Council is next. Corlys Velaryon appears to be turning his back on the Seven Kingdoms by marrying his daughter Laena (remember her? the 12-year-old with the white Harpo wig?) to the son of a Lord of the Free Cities. (We see a brief image of the perennially anxious Tyland Lannister seeming much more anxious than before)

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Where did you sleep last night, and did she make it worthwhile?

House Of The Dragon Episode 4 Trailer Teases Targaryen Showdown

Rhaenrya discovers a bundle of old garments and a schematic indicating a secret entrance behind her bed in her bedroom. She dons pageboy drag, skulks through the vaults, and finds Daemon, who is waiting for her in an inconspicuous hood and a conspicuously obvious cloak.

Together, they navigate the small streets of King’s Landing, which are filled with pyromancers, tightrope dancers, fortune tellers, drunks, and peasants rutting in alleyways. It’s exotic but grimy: Cirque du Soleil meets Circus Circus.

They see a play that lampoons the royal family and the quest for the Iron Throne, and Rhaenyra, for the most part, goes along with it, even when the audience jeers the idea of designating a woman as a successor.

This is the showrunners’ method of telling us that she possesses the necessary temperament to reign. A tyrant, such as Joffrey from Game of Thrones, would order the players’ heads to be placed on pikes, while a lesser monarch would pout and stew because the people did not adore them enough. Rhaenyra, for her part, rolls her eyes and shrugs her shoulders, acknowledging that commoners want an outlet. It appears to me that this is the Goldilocks Response; it’s exactly right.

Back at the Red Keep, Alicent administers to the king’s continually increasing number of Iron Throne wounds, none of which appear to be mending. She is then summoned to the king’s bed-chamber to recline and reflect about Oldtown as he makes devoted, obedient, and yeomanly love to her.

This is in contrast to Daemon and Rhaenyra, who arrive to a brothel, remove their disguises, and then continue to remove additional articles of clothing. After much back-and-forth, Daemon is unable to lure his Caraxes out of the old Dragonpit and abandons Rhaenyra, who returns to the Red Keep. She is noticed by a street urchin, who then skulks away to inform… someone.

Rhaenyra invites Ser Criston Cole into her bed-chamber, and the removal of his armor plays out like one of those ’80s action movie montages in which the hero prepares for battle with extreme close-ups of weapons (LOCK! LOAD! SNAP! GUN! AFFIX! SNAP! ZIP! KNIFE! OTHER KNIFE! STILL ANOTHER KNIFE, FOR SOME REASON!). Only this one occurs in reverse order.

This sexual encounter is intended to be viewed as more sensitive, playful, and even loving than the one with Daemon. Plus a whole bit less V.C. Andrews, as a precaution.

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The resting place of the White Worm

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Otto Hightower is summoned to the entrance of the Red Keep, where “A messenger delivers word from the White Worm.”

Now: Book readers will be aware of who the White Worm is, but the program does not directly state this. Instead, we observe the following:

1. The urchin informs Otto about what he observed.

2. The following morning, Daemon wakes up with a hangover at his former mistress Mysaria’s residence.

3. It is revealed that they are no longer together, and he treats her harshly.

4. During their conversation, the same street urchin who had seen Rhaenyra the night before and reported her to Otto appears and hands Mysaria some cash.

5. In this scenario, Mysaria is wearing white for no apparent reason. Okay? Get it? Who’s in the rear?

Otto and Viserys meet in the king’s bedchamber, where, I only now note, the man has placed lurid tapestries on all the walls. The display paints a very unique portrait of the monarch since his enormous scale models occupy most of the space and he has given this extremely pornographic artwork pride of place.

Viserys is that weirdo in your college dorm who scored the lone single on your floor when his sophomore-year roommate dropped out unexpectedly. The one who modeled German World War II aircraft. His bed is adorned with Fun-Takked Penthouse and Hustler centerfolds. He never attended class, but you would occasionally see him tossing and throwing stars at old mattresses under the dining hall. Do you see? That dude.

Otto stutters on the news that Rhaenrya and Daemon were spotted coupling “in the depths of a pleasure den” (Reader, I chuckled). The monarch refuses to believe it and accuses Otto of plotting his ascension to the throne. This is overheard by Alicent…

… Rhaenyra is confronted in the godswood. Rhaenyra refutes the allegations and takes a strong stance of denial. As Alicent accuses Rhaenyra, she stands higher up on the hill leading to the weirwood tree, looking down at the princess. However, as soon as Rhaenyra realizes that Alicent has no evidence and launches into her affronted denials, she climbs the hill and turns on the queen, peering down on her. Seizing the moral and literal high ground.)

Here, Rhaenyra makes a decision. She might simply explain that she and Daemon didn’t … She might say “couple” and be speaking the truth. She goes even further, vowing to her mother’s memory that Daemon “never touched” her, which is a lie. Snopes.com. Four Pinocchios.

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The letter opener … of DOOM

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Daemon returns to the Red Keep and is taken before the king, who confronts him with intelligence from the White Worm. Daemon expressly does not deny that he and Rhaenyra had sexual relations. He wants Viserys to believe this because he believes it would make the king more amenable to his proposal for Rhaenrya’s hand in marriage.

The monarch… very isn’t. He banishes Daemon to the Vale so he can reunite with his lawfully married wife. (We haven’t met her yet, but we probably will next week; she’s the one Daemon alluded to previously as his “bronze bimbo.”) This man is a real charmer.

We learn that Alicent believes Rhaenyra, which persuades the king to summon his daughter to his pornographic bedchamber. He shows her a knife that originally belonged to Aegon the Conqueror, which is related to the prophecy he told her about in episode 1. In addition, it invokes the prophecy of The Prince Who Was Promised. (Game of Thrones concluded with Jon Snow as TPtwP, of course, but George R.R. Martin may take a different approach in the novels.)

Viserys orders Rheanyra to marry Laenor Velaryon, son of Corlys the Sea Snake (the young man who dracarysed all the archers in the Stepstones last week), therefore combining the Targaryen dragons with the Velaryons’ huge fleet of ships. Rheanyra agrees but asks that the king release his most trusted adviser of duties, as he is still smarting from being betrayed by Otto.

Which the monarch does, removing Otto’s Hand pin and presenting him with a gold watch and sheet cake in the break room.

Grand Maester Mellos enters Rhaenyra’s bedroom with a potion that will allow her to fit into her wedding dress in the next week’s episode.

Parting Thoughts:

Nearing the midpoint of the season, we will replace Milly Alcock and a portion of the remaining cast with performers who will portray their roles as adults. This episode gave Alcock a lot to do, and she nailed it all, especially the moment when Rheanyra realizes she can gain the upper hand while Alicent is humiliating her. I will repeat: Alcock will be missed.

I don’t understand why the series keeps returning to the prophetic bullshit. Certainly, it connects the series to Game of Thrones, but we already know how that unfolds. It just serves to remind us how much less is at risk today compared to a later episode of an altogether different program.

We were unable to attend Viserys’ wedding to Alicent; let’s hope we are all invited to a Seven Kingdoms royal wedding next week. Just the gift bags!

There will soon be a civil war, but the fissures that will blossom into the schism that sparks it is still shockingly tiny and spidery. Folks, we are in for a long trip.

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