House Of The Dragon,Eepisode 4 Recap: Sex is Always Political

House of the DragonThe fourth installment plunges headlong into the quagmire of sexual politics that has haunted the series thus far, but has remained largely off-screen and subtextual. “King of the Narrow Sea” yanks Rhaenyra into the rugged city, dragging us all into a confrontation with age and consent issues, power dynamics and, of course, incest.
Basically, there’s a lot of sex going on, but it’s hard to name a lot of it completely consensual. If the show has been so far succession with dragons, we could say this episode was a touch Euphoria and a touch, er, Game of Thrones.
Note: This article contains spoilers for: House of the Dragon“King of the Narrow Sea.”
“King of the Narrow Sea” offers little plot, but that doesn’t detract from the importance of what’s happening on screen. The episode’s title refers to the nickname given to Daemon (Matt Smith) after his successful conclusion to the battle of the Stepstones. With credit for his efforts restored to the king’s court, he wastes no time resuming his eccentric courtship with his niece. Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has just returned from a miserably failed “tour” organized by her father, in which she listens to an increasingly absurd series of attempts by the lords of the realm to compete for her hand in marriage. We see two suitors at both ends of this scale, one a drunk, wandering twenty-seven-year-old and the other a nervous boy delivering his rehearsed proposal in a voice barely past puberty.
Disgusted, she returns to King’s Landing, where Daemon soon lures her out of the castle like two children at play. But of course they are not two children, and as much as Rhaenyra enjoys dressing as a boy and stealing from street vendors, this is no aladdin-like palace escape. Daemon has several goals to introduce her to the dusty farmers of King’s Landing.
One goal is to introduce her to the citizens and their true feelings about her potential reign as queen, which comes through gross play. That ancient keeper of wisdom, the panto, makes clear that the mob sees Rhaenyra as a “weak” future ruler compared to her strong, masculine younger brother, even though Aegon is barely out of bed. Rhaenyra, just as she has from the beginning, rejects their opinion, but Daemon has one more lesson to teach her about the way the world works.
This time he takes her to a brothel. There he reveals to her many twisting permutations of lovers; this, he explains, is where people come to “take what they want.” At first glance, he wants to reassure her that she can fulfill her obligation to get married, but still sleep with whoever she wants – but we know better by now, don’t we? They kiss for the first time, with Daemon pushing her against a wall and partially undressing her. Things go on until Daemon, apparently having a momentary pang of conscience about wanting to have sex with a) a teenager b) his underage niece c) whom he’s been caring for since childhood and d) shamelessly using it as a power grab, stops himself and, with a enigmatic smile, disappears to be completely wasted.
At first glance, this scene looks like a kind of sexual freedom; in the annals of storytelling, a teen’s first trip to a brothel, often accompanied by their first meeting with a veteran older partner, is usually framed as a magical coming-of-age moment. Here it’s intense but barely revealing: the direction of the scene is claustrophobic, almost too dark to see at some points, filmed against a backdrop of primal drums and wacky strings. And crucially, it is interspersed with a grotesque sex scene counterpart where King Viserys (Paddy Considine) shows us what marital rape looks like, while his wife Alicent (Emily Carey) lies passively beneath him, trying to break free from the experience.
It may seem as though these two scenes are intended to present contrasting ideas of pleasure, juxtaposing Rhaenyra’s new sexual awakening with Alice’s forced marriage to a man three times her age, to whom she feels no sexual attraction and with whom sex is a dreaded act. is a forced act.
But this framework also makes it clear that none of these encounters are really consensual – and that’s the thread running through this episode. From the opening moments, where our poor prawn boy has to ask Rhaenyra for her hand despite her being way too young to get married and having never seen her before, we see sex as a political game over desire. Even when Daemon presents sex to Rhaenyra as a pleasure, he does it for political reasons. She is far too young to fully understand how Daemon has manipulated her emotionally, to understand that he has nursed her for years as a pawn for exactly this purpose.
Both Alicent and Rhaenyra have been manipulated throughout their lives by the men around them; Alicent understands her own situation all too well, but so far has had no opportunity to resist or act outside of her predetermined role as queen. The King, when not using her for sex and childbearing, openly undermines Alicent – a casual disdain that grows that much greater when you’re essentially a sexual prisoner who has to act like you’re not. Neither situation allows for real consent, and while Alicent’s miserable marital rape is much more obvious, Daemon’s near-seduction of Rhaenyra is equally about power and control.
Horny and frustrated, Rhaenyra returns to the castle and immediately seduces Ser Criston Cole, her personal guard and the man she’s been in love with since episode one. Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel) clearly sees her as the annoying brat to babysit, and he’s extremely reluctant at first to take what she’s offering. First he asks her to stop, but Rhaenyra, never one to stop, presses him some more. After a long hesitation, Criston gives in and kisses her, but there’s a lot going on in that pregnant pause that signals to us that this is also sexual coercion, not real temptation.
Self-interested above all else, Rhaenyra has a hard time looking outside of herself to recognize how other people are affected by the political and sexual games they have to play. She certainly doesn’t see her own attempt to seduce Criston as a blatant abuse of power, nor does his reluctance register with her or give her pause. The ensuing sex scene, which emphasizes her pleasure, reinforces the feeling that Criston is acting automatically rather than enthusiastically. The next day, he shows up eager to resume his role as her servant, pretending the night before never happened and immediately negating any fleeting romantic fantasies she’s had.
Meanwhile, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), who knows a thing or two about sexual coercion, reveals that she has become a spymaster, trading secrets with the highest bidder. The former sex worker, now Daemon’s on-again, off-again,-on-the-fly love, has been nicknamed “the white worm” for her propensity to dress in white and weave her way into the possession of secrets. She knows all the Daemons, and now one of Rhaenyra’s. When Daemon refers to her as “an unusual whore,” she laughs it off, perhaps because she’s already sold him to Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). Otto gets the news and pauses to (one imagines) inhale the intoxicating scent of gossip and victories before going straight to the king.
However, the king does not have it; for once, Viserys puts Otto in his place with a rather satisfying comment: “Are you so sick of ambition?” while reprimanding him for his blatant expediency and for spying on the princess. However, the revelation that Viserys isn’t as easy to manipulate as he appeared to be loses weight, as Otto is telling the truth in this case: the princess has associated with her uncle and risked tarnishing her reputation. The ensuing fallout sees Daemon asking Viserys to graciously save Rhaenyra’s good name by getting married — a power play that Viserys completely rejects, banishing Daemon, and ending his short-lived good favor at court.
While confronting Daemon, Alicent confronts Rhaenyra, who tells her (somewhat) truthfully that nothing happened to Daemon, while omitting that everything happened to Ser Criston. (It’s really hard to read Alicent’s anger and pain in this scene as anything but hurt jealousy, though Alicent’s motive is ostensibly pure concern for Rhaenyra’s reputation; Rhaenicent shippers, maybe you’re onto something.) They repeat. however, this later both lie to Viserys. Viserys is as tired of Rhaenyra as Daemon and Otto. When she snaps that he’s using her as a prize to ease his political headache, he snaps: to be my political headache!”
Viserys orders her to marry Laenor Velaryon, who we heard in the previous episode is both an ideal political match, the son of the sea serpent Corlys, and a really hot dragon rider. This conversation takes place in Viserys’ mancave, his private sanctuary where he houses his giant model of Old Valyria. This wall-to-wall room has gigantic bizarre tapestries of gaudy orgies in a confluence of sex and power; when Rhaenyra protests that if she were a man her sexual achievements would have been seen as an asset, it’s hard to see her growing up surrounded by images of Targaryen conquests as explicitly sexual and martial. Indeed, the show that suddenly presents us with the need to protect Rhaenyra’s feminine virtue almost feels out of place in a society as sexually brutal as King’s Landing’s; but if it feels shocking and exaggerated to us, it must feel even more like a ham-fist as a point of contention for Rhaenyra herself.
Still, her roughly 18 hours of sexual freedom hammered home the point: Sex is transaction above all else. So for the first time she does what everyone else has done: she uses herself as leverage. She agrees to marry Laenor if Viserys fires Otto Hightower. The king, doing so almost alone, accepts and removes a puzzled Otto from his position as hand, giving me an excuse to once again praise Rhys Ifans for conveying Otto’s constant internal calculations so vividly, always passive, silent and executed entirely. in microexpressions. (We love good micro-expression in this house.) Viserys, who in this scene discusses his late father’s death with Otto, opens the door to the possibility that Otto killed Viserys’ father, Baelon, to save him. replace as the king’s hand and remove him as a contender for the throne. But while that’s perfectly plausible politically, it would be a true 5-D chess game, and a shock considering Baelon officially died of appendicitis.
Still, it’s barely beyond the long strategy that Otto plays, and now that both he and Daemon have been removed from power, with Corlys Velaryon in the wings, the game has begun for Rhaenyra. Realizing it or not, she’ll soon have an even bigger target on her back as an heir — and the crime she’s just learned to play, using sex as a path to real power, is about to get much more serious. become.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.