House of the Dragon
“King of the Narrow Sea”
September 11, 2022
BADASS PRETEENS! CONTROVERSIAL HAIRCUTS! FUN DRAGTIMES! ORGIES! FUN SEXYTIMES! Less fun sexytimes. GOSSIP! BANISHMENTS! THE CATSPAW! AND DEHANDINGS!
Rhaenyra, having been assured by her father that he will not replace her as heir with her little brother, begins her search for a suitable husband. To this end, she’s on a tour of Westeros, interviewing potential matches, and we begin this episode in the castle of Storm’s End, the seat of House Baratheon who rule the Stormlands. Rhaenyra entertains Beric Dondarrion, a man so old he knew her great-grandmother, and Willem Blackwood, a boy of maybe 13 who offers her protection — even though as a heckler in the audience notes, she has a fucking dragon.
Rhaenyra, who if the way she fondles the necklace Uncle Daemon gave her seems to only have one man in mind, tires of this nonsense and announces that she’s headed home early. As she and Ser Criston Cole leave the throne room, Willem’s heckler tries to bully him, so the kid guts him.
Too bad about Rhaenyra, Willem, but do I have the gal for you:
On the boat back to King’s Landing, Rhaenyra worries about how Dad is going to take her ending Husband Tour 116 A.C., when who should swoop by overhead, nearly capsizing her ship but Dear Uncle King of the Narrow Sea Daemon on his dragon Caraxes.
In preparation for receiving his brother, Viserys puts on the whole King drag: crown, sword, robes, Iron Throne, just to remind Daemon, this pretend king, who, exactly, he’s dealing with. Everyone in court is SUPER TENSE, but also SUPER CURIOUS how this family reunion is going to go down since it’s been literally years since Daemon has set foot in King’s Landing. As Daemon enters the throne room, with his little driftwood crown and little floppy haircut, Princess Niece pushes herself through the crowd to get a better view of him and her father.
The haircut is … controversial:
— cate (@catekomatsu) September 12, 2022
— Media Mister (@Jalenswrld_03) September 12, 2022
Daemon’s haircut is very pleasing to me pic.twitter.com/tZ4rMXy4yd
— eliza 🌻 (@antaresisntmars) September 12, 2022
— Corito (@OyyyeeeCorito86) September 12, 2022
daemon's new haircut omg i didnt mean to moan like that my bad pic.twitter.com/R5vRJp99Ak
— Keith in the Multiverse of Madness 🔮 (@CHROMATIKHUP) September 12, 2022
As he approaches the Throne, Daemon tosses a sword to his brother’s feet and suggests that he “add it to the chair.” Viserys asks Daemon about his little crown, and Daemon explains that after he and the Sea Snake smashed the Free Cities at Stepstones, they named Daemon the “King of the Narrow Sea.” However, Daemon, says, he knows there is only one true king. With that, he kneels before Viserys and offers him the crown from his head.
That’s all Viserys wanted, was that so hard? With this gesture, all is forgiven, and the brothers hug it out.
Otto Hightower has a sad.
The castle throws a small feast in honor of the Great Targaryen reunion, where the brothers debate which one was Mom’s favorite, and it would seem some of the hostility between Alicent and Rhaenyra has thawed.
Alicent asks Rhaenyra about Husband Tour 116 A.C., and is like, “Oh, having every knight and lord in Westeros fawning over you, what a hardship. Someone call the wahmbulance.” But Rhaenyra corrects her: the men aren’t fawning over her, and it’s not romantic — they just want to lock her up in a castle and make her squeeze out heirs. And as soon as Rhaenyra says it, she’s like, OH DAMN, THAT’S EXACTLY YOUR LIFE, DUDE, MY BAD.
Rhaenyra asks how angry her father is with her for ending Husband Tour 116 A.C. early, and Alicent admits that he is irritated but that she personally is happy to have her back home. And then they were best friends forever and ever and that never changed, the end.
Later, Rhaenyra approaches Daemon, and in High Valyrian asks him what he’s doing back here, there’s certainly more to his visit than just taunting her father. Touching the necklace that he gave her, Daemon claims he was seeking the “comforts of home.” And he most certainly DOES mean that as a double entendre.
Rhaenyra admits that he seems matured by his adventures. And he replies that she’s matured in the past four years as well (gross), and that she’ll eventually get used to all the attention she’s been getting of late. Rhaenyra laments being sold off for the biggest castle, but Daemon replies that there are worse things to be sold for.
In High Valyrian again, Daemon explains to his niece that marriage is merely a political arrangement, but Rhaenyra points out this only applies to men; for women, marriage is a death sentence. IF ONLY, laughs Daemon, regarding his wife, or “My Bronze Bitch” as he affectionately calls her. Rhaenyra points out that they’ve been lucky: he hasn’t put a child in his wife, whereas her mother was forced to produce heirs until it killed her. Rhaenyra will not allow the same to happen to her.
Daemon agrees that what happened to her mother was tragic, but it’s a tragic world, and one can not live in fear or one’ll miss out on the best parts of living. Rhaenyra replies that she doesn’t want to live in fear; just live in solitude, and Daemon finds this a very lonely prospect.
Meanwhile, the Small Council meets again to discuss the trouble with the Sea Snake. Seems he’s still miffed that his daughter, Laena, was passed over for queen, and is making alliances with the Free Cities. If he marries Laena off to the son of the Sea Lord of Braavos, they would have to make their own marriage pact … ~cough~ Rhaenyra ~cough~.
Oh, by the way, they want us to know that Alicent has had the baby that she was largely pregnant with the last time we saw her: it was a girl, Helaena.
Anyway. That night when Rhaenyra returns to her room, she finds someone has left her a bag filled with some dirty clothes and a scroll with a map to a secret passage out of her quarters. Rhaenyra, delighted, puts on the stinky rags and slips out of the Red Keep, through the dungeons, and meets with her cloaked Uncle Daemon, who is full of Bad Ideas.
Daemon leads her through Flea Bottom and past people fighting, fucking, and drinking in the alleyways. Rhaenyra passes a fortune teller who offers to tell her how she will die … and the answer to that is always, NO THANK YOU PLEASE.
Rhaenyra and Daemon also take in a play about the drama surrounding the issue of who will be Viserys’ heir: “The brother? The daughter? Or the little princeling of three?” Rhaenyra is horrified when the crowd boos her counterpart and cheers on her brother Aegon.
This one, she gets it:
And Daemon is like, “Look, the small folk think a boy should be the heir.” Rhaenyra, however, doesn’t care: what the common people want doesn’t much matter. “It does if you want to rule them one day,” Daemon reminds her.
With that, Rhaenyra steals a sweet from a vendor and runs away with Daemon giving chase. Turning down an alley, Rhaenyra runs directly into Harwin “Breakbones” Strong, who immediately recognizes her and warns her to take care: she might not be so lucky
as to run into someone who has the hots for her and would cover for her next time.
Daemon eventually catches up with her and leads her to a pleasure house where people are getting it on in every imaginable combination. Daemon points out to HIS NIECE that fucking is a pleasure for both men and women despite what she might have heard.
With that, he removes her cap and leads her into a back room, where there are even more people writhing around. He explains that marriage is a duty, but that it doesn’t stop them from fucking who they want. Daemon begins kissing her, and she is more than happy to reciprocate. Things escalate … quickly … but before they escalate past the point of … too much escalation, Daemon pulls away, and leaves Rhaenyra there by herself with her pantaloons around her ankles.
Rhaenyra, realizing that she’s been abandoned by her uncle, pulls her pants up and hurries back to the Red Keep, unaware that she is being followed discretely by a small boy.
Someone who might disagree with the theory that both men and women enjoy sex is one Miss Alicent Hightower. Her sexy night involves bathing her slowly rotting husband before being forced to lie underneath him while he belaboredly humps her.
Rhaenyra returns to the castle in a hurry, running right past an alarmed Ser Cole. He enters her chambers to check on her, making sure she isn’t hurt, and she uses the opportunity to steal his helmet. This leads to them chasing each other around her chambers which leads to her kissing him and loosening her blouse which leads to them taking off all their clothes and armor and doing the business.
Elsewhere in the castle, Otto Hightower receives a messenger from the White Worm: the boy who we last saw following Rhaenyra out of the pleasure house.
The next morning, Daemon awakens in what appears to be a stable, but apparently is some property of his ex-girlfriend and not-baby-momma Mysaria, who informs him that she was his “protector” for the night. He spits that he doesn’t need a “common whore” to protect him, and she corrects him: she has left that life behind. As the boy messenger enters and hands her some cash, she tells Daemon that he can pay for the room on his way out.
Back at the Keep, Otto waits for Viserys to wake up to deliver some … uncomfortable news: his daughter has been seen getting it on in a whore house with her uncle. Viserys, furious, threatens to take the eyes of the person who is spreading this rumor. Otto isn’t giving up his sources but assures the King that there are plenty of servants who saw Rhaenyra sneaking back into the castle, too. Viserys is now furious at Otto for spying on his daughter and is like, “OH, I SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING: YOU’RE TRYING TO DESTROY MY DAUGHTER’S REPUTATION BECAUSE YOU WANT YOUR GRANDSON ON THE THRONE. WOW, OTTO. JUST: WOW.”
Alicent, who overhears the whole thing, sends for Rhaenyra, and asks her directly what happened with Daemon. Rhaenyra admits to sneaking out with him for some fun, but when Alicent tells her that she’s being accused of publicly schtupping her uncle, Rhaenyra is all, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” She goes on to say that sure, she and Daemon went to some taverns and maybe he took her to a sex show in a brothel, but Daemon never touched her: she swears on her mother’s grave. She then apologizes to Alicent and by extension her father for even putting them in a position where her virtue could be questioned, and she regrets everything.
(Well … not everything.)
Meanwhile, Daemon is dragged and dumped in front of his brother who is NOT AMUSED. Daemon denies nothing; in fact, he argues it’s better she loses her virginity to him than to some whore — which seems unlikely, but OK.
Viserys, furious, wonders what lord will have her now that Daemon has “ruined” her, and Daemon is like, FUCK THEM LORDS, WE’RE DRAGONS, WE DO WHAT WE WANT. That said, Daemon offers his brother a compromise: he’ll marry Rhaenyra. Viserys reminds Daemon that he is already married, but Daemon is all, “details.” Viserys finally gets it: it’s not Rhaenyra that Daemon really wants, it’s the Throne, but Daemon is all:
King Viserys orders his brother to return to the Vale to his wife … or …wherever. He doesn’t have to go home but he can’t stay here.
New haircut, humble attitude, bent the knee to his brother (the king)…Daemon is starting to change for the better.
— Ashley Gross (@Ash_Ketchum313) September 12, 2022
Viserys checks in with his wife who puts the blame squarely on Daemon: she talked to Rhaenyra and she swears she’s still a virgin (I mean … but did she?) and Alicent believes her.
So Viserys calls Rhaenyra into his chambers where he has the Catspaw Dagger sitting in a brazier. When she picks it up to examine it, Viserys reveals that the last Valyrian pyromancer hid the “Song of Ice and Fire” on the blade, and once heated by the fire, Rhaenyra is able to read it: “From my blood… come the Prince That Was Promised… and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire.”
Viserys reminds her that this is what it is all about, that the Song of Ice and Fire is bigger than her and the fire that is burning in her pants, and so she needs to HOLD IT DOWN.
Rhaenyra asks him if he’s going to ask her what really happened, but he’s like, “it doesn’t matter what actually happened, only what it looks like happened.” (True.) Rhaenyra then pouts that if she were a man, none of this would matter. In fact, she could go father all the bastards she wanted, and no one would say boo. “Yeah, but you’re a woman,” her father points out. (Also true.)
All this said, he’s not disinheriting her because that will only create more trouble. Instead, she’s to marry her cousin Laenor, the Sea Snake’s kid. Rhaenyra is VERY MAD that he’s using her to solve his political problems, and he points out that she is his political problem. (Fact check: this is also true.)
Rhaenyra then wonders what he’s going to do about his other problem: Otto, who will stop at nothing to put Aegon on the throne? She’ll do her duty and marry Laenor, but he needs to do his duty as King and get rid of the self-interested vulture who continues to undermine her.
King Viserys hears her and calls Otto in for a little chat. There, he points out that five days after his father Baelon the Brave was named his grandfather’s Hand of the King, Baelon was dead. And wouldn’t you know it, Otto was made Hand. What a coincidence! Viserys then points out that Alicent arrived in his orbit at just the absolute perfect moment to save him from his grief over Aemma. He doesn’t know how he didn’t see it until now but now he realizes that it was all a calculated move on Otto’s part. Well played! But he’s fired.
— gabi (@rhaenyraes) September 12, 2022
Finally, Rhaenyra, chilling in her chambers and celebrating her victory over her enemy is brought a tea from Grand Maester who prepared it on her father’s orders. You know, a tea. To rid her of any unwanted … consequences. YOU KNOW, CONSEQUENCES.
I mean … but literally, tho.
Me when Rhaenyra got wasted, tried to smash her uncle, went home and smashed Criston, swore on her mothers whole grave that none of it happened and gaslit her own father into firing Otto Hightower #HouseOfTheDragon #HouseOfTheDragonHBO #HOTD pic.twitter.com/T8vsX2JC1Q
— Jesus H. Christ (@JesusFaceKilla) September 12, 2022
SO THIS CRAZY EPISODE.
As I’ve mentioned before, the books The World of Ice and Fire and Fire & Blood are written by maesters hundreds of years after the events they are describing, and thus, our narrators are … unreliable at best. In the books, everything following Daemon’s return and his reunion with Viserys is a collection of rumors and base court gossip, as the narrator of Fire & Blood himself admits: “This much is known. As to what happened afterward, here we must look to our more dubious chroniclers.”
According to the books, Daemon stays in King’s Landing for six months, taking a position on the small council, and spending his days hanging with Rhaenyra. But then one day, Daemon up and leaves again, and no one is exactly sure why. The Grand Maester of the time reports that the brothers had a fight, but does not explains what the fight was about. Some say Alicent urged Viserys to send him away, but then there are two other accounts:
Septon Eustace claims that Daemon took Rhaenyra’s virginity, and the two were found in bed together by the Kingsguard. When Daemon and Rhaenyra are brought before Viserys, Rhaenyra pleads with her father to allow her to marry Daemon, but her father reminds her that Daemon already has a wife, banishes Daemon, and orders both of them to never speak of this again.
However, according to the court jester Mushroom the story is far more “depraved.” According to Mushroom, Rhaenyra had the hots for Ser Criston Cole, and her uncle Daemon offered to teach her how to pleasure a man so as to seduce the knight. Which he did. In very explicit ways, one of which included taking her dressed as a page boy to brothels to watch. However, she supposedly remained a virgin so as to offer herself to Cole, and when she finally attempted to seduce him, he was “horrified and spurned her.” The story gets out, Viserys is furious, and Daemon offers to marry her himself, because “Who else would take her now?” This pisses Viserys off, and he banishes Daemon.
So as we see on the show, the story is a little bit All of the Above: Daemon does attempt to teach Rhaenyra that sex is pleasurable and that it has its own power. But Rhaenyra does not lose her virginity to him, she loses her virginity — or rather forcibly gives it — to an almost reluctant Ser Criston Cole. Almost.
As for what happens with Daemon and Rhaenyra in the pillow room: I’ve seen some people saying that Daemon becomes impotent, and that’s certainly a possibility. They did establish in the first episode that Daemon has some performance issues. However, I think there are a few other possibilities at play: 1. It’s a power play on his part: he excites Rhaenyra sexually and then withholds from her the thing that she wants most — him. Considering she supplanted him as heir, this might be his way of dominating her. Or 2. He genuinely had a crisis of conscience and didn’t want to be the one to deflower his niece. Or 3. Having sex with Rhaenrya was never a part of his plan to begin with; all he really wanted and needed was to make a very public display of being inappropriate with his niece.
Because what is most important about all of these stories — the one actually depicted in the series, and the half-truths in the books — is that there is a singular goal on Dameon’s part: Daemon did everything he could to “ruin” Rhaenyra so that she would be forced to marry him. Whether this is out of love for his niece or the Throne (or both), it’s uncertain. But if we are to proceed on the assumption that the show’s version is the true one, Daemon makes a point of taking his niece to a pleasure house where he is well-known. There, he removes her cap, guaranteeing that everyone there knows exactly who he is with, and forcing her to return to the castle without a disguise. While it doesn’t seem as though he conspired with the White Worm to get word back to Otto about this little exploit, he knows he didn’t have to: he knew perfectly well that Otto has his spies in Flea Bottom, and that the story would get back to the Red Keep possibly before Rhaenyra herself did.
And this seems obvious to say, but Daemon — and everyone else involved — is playing within this patriarchal structure wherein a woman’s worth is based on her virtue, whereas a man’s is not. What is interesting, though, is how Rhaenyra being a young woman and the heir creates difficult questions about why this should be. After all, under primogeniture, the reason a woman’s “virtue” is so important to maintain is to ensure that she is not passing off another man’s child as her husband’s, and thus supplanting his rightful heir with someone else’s son. But with a matrilineal inheritance, this no longer becomes an issue: there is no question about whether a child a woman has given birth to is hers, and thus this whole question of bastardry is moot. Honestly, it’s reason enough that all monarchal power should go through the matriarchal line, if you think about it.
Of course, it’s not that simple in our story, as we will see, as it is still a patriarchal system Rhaenyra is living in despite her being a female heir, and this question of “rightful” parentage will become a big issue. Because in the end, men’s claims — to the Throne, and to women’s bodies — trump all else.
Oh, and before we move on, I guess I should also discuss the other obvious point in this episode, that sex and power are being viewed through these two very different female perspectives. Alicent, whose power is not her own, but stems from the man she is married to, her experience with sex is a traditional one in which women’s pleasure is not a thing that is taken into consideration. Sex is a duty to be endured so as to produce heirs for her husband. Rhaenyra, who as the heir does wield her own power, is being taught and experiencing that sex is pleasurable, sex is fun, she can choose who she has sex with — including her employees, over whom she exerts power — and that she, like the men in her world, does not necessarily have to face any real consequences for her choices. Have sex with the wrong guy? There’s a tea for that. As we will see in the coming episodes, this disparity in these two young women’s experiences with both power and sex will ultimately become a breaking point in their friendship.
OK, so now we’re going to get a little spoilery. I will spoiler-font the most spoilery spoils, but if you want to remain as ignorant as a newborn babe, you might want to scroll past the next 8 or 9 paragraphs. When you get to the picture of the Catspaw Daggar, you’ll be safe.
The episode begins memorably with Willem Blackwood killing the man who was heckling him during his presentation to Rhaenyra. The man — or rather, older boy — who is killed is Jerrell Bracken; the Brackens being a riverlands house sworn to House Tully of Riverrun.
This scene does not take place in the books. However, during Rhaenyra’s search for a husband, there is a tournament that is held in the riverlands, in which “the sons of Lord Bracken and Lord Blackwood fought a duel over her.” In the books, these sons would be Amos Bracken and Samuel Blackwood, not Jerrell and Willem, and we never learn who won the duel. However, Amos and Samuel both survive the tournament and go on to take different sides in the so-called “Dance of the Dragons”: the Brackens side with Alicent and Aegon II; the Blackwoods with Rhaenyra and her children. It doesn’t end well for anyone involved, which could be said about everyone in the Dance of the Dragons. SPOILER FONT: Amos kills Samuel in the Battle of the Burning Mill, but then Amos was killed by Samuel’s sister Alysanne (who later becomes the Lady of Winterfell after marrying Cregan Stark). They damn well better show this in the series.
And so, while this scene at the beginning of the episode feels a little throwaway, it might actually be setting up a bitter rivalry between the Brackens and Blackwoods, explaining why they take up opposite sides of the battle between Targaryens.
Also, there is some pretty blatant foreshadowing in this episode, most notably when Rhaenyra is confronted by a blind fortuneteller who offers to tell the princess how she will die:
We can leave it at that … or if you’re dying to know … SPOILER FONT: Things ultimately go poorly for Rhaenyra — again, they go poorly for everyone — and after a bunch of her kids and dragons are killed, Rhaenyra flees to Dragonstone. However, she’s betrayed, and her brother Aegon II feeds her to his dragon Sunfyre.
There are two other more subtle points of foreshadowing in this episode – so subtle that I’m not sure they were intentional, but we will discuss them anyway:
We are introduced to Princess Helaena in this episode, Alicent and Viserys’ second child. SPOILER FONT: However it is how we are introduced to Helaena that is interesting: Alicent is holding her in front of the very window from which Queen Helaena will throw herself to her death after the very Sophie’s Choice-esque murder of her child … which we are about to get to:
And this is even more dubious, and I apologize for how dark these two images are, but if you can’t see them well, the top image is of a rat inside the mouth of a dragon skull who is watching as Rhaenyra makes her way through the secret passageway, and the bottom is a rat that peeks down at Alicent as she lies in the King’s bed. Both of these images are meant to suggest that the castle ain’t as glamorous and pristine as you might think; and also on a more metaphoric level, the castle is filled with “rats.”
But there might be a more spoilery level to these recurring rat images, too, one that ties to the image directly above. SPOILER FONT: Princess Helaena becomes Queen Helaena when she marries her brother Aegon II, and they have three children together: Jaehaerys; Jaehaeyra; and Maelor. After one of Rhaenyra’s sons is murdered by Aegon II and Helaena’s brother, Aemond, Daemon seeks vengeance by hiring two men, Blood and Cheese, to sneak into Helaena’s quarters through the secret passages and kill one of her children. Blood and Cheese demand that Helaena choose a child, and she picks Maelor, reasoning that he is the youngest and won’t understand what is happening. So they kill her oldest, Jaehaerys instead, beheading him and slipping back out of the castle through the secret passageways, taking the princeling’s head with them. Blood was caught, but Cheese, who as the castle’s ratcatcher knew the Red Keep like the back of his hand, was never found. Nor was Jaehaerys’ head.
Finally — and this isn’t a spoiler — but I think it’s interesting that there hasn’t been more said about the reveal that the “Song of Ice and Fire” has been magically written on the Catspaw Dagger.
FIRST OF ALL, HOW DID I NOT NOTICE BEFORE NOW THE USE OF THE CATSPAW IN THE DRAGON’S EYE IN THE KEY ART?
Clever, art designers. Very clever.
The Catspaw Dagger, as I’m sure you remember, is the blade that a hired assassin brought to Winterfell with which to kill a paralyzed Bran. According to the books, Joffrey hired the killer in an attempt to please his father after overhearing King Robert say that Bran would be better off dead. You know, typical psychopath shit. It’s presumed that Joffrey just went into his father’s weapons, grabbed this particular blade not knowing anything of its importance, and gave it to the assassin.
However, after the assassin is thwarted in Winterfell, Catelyn Stark takes the Catspaw Dagger down to King’s Landing to show her husband Ned who is there acting as the Hand of the King. Her old childhood friend Littlefinger is all, “Oh, that’s my dagger — I won it from Tyrion Lannister while gambling.” And this is why Catelyn was so convinced Tyrion put the hit out on Bran despite having absolutely no motive to do so.
ANYWAY. Littlefinger keeps the Catspaw Dagger which does not make an appearance again until he takes it up to Winterfell to offer it to Bran … for reasons? But Bran, who is now the Three-Eyed Raven, doesn’t have use for a dagger and gives it to Arya who, ironically, uses the dagger to kill Littlefinger. (During Littlefinger’s trial in Winterfell, it’s deduced that the dagger was Littlefinger’s all along, and he was the one who hired the assassin. This is contrary to the book’s narrative, but we won’t know for sure if the book’s version will stay in place because haven’t gotten to Littlefinger’s trial and death in the books yet BECAUSE GEORGE R.R. MARTIN IS TAKING HIS SWEET-ASS TIME.)
Ultimately, this was a good thing — or perhaps it was fate — as the Catspaw Dagger was then in Arya’s possession just in time for the Long Night, and she, of course, kills the Night King with it.
Viserys tells Rhaenyra in this episode that the blade can be traced back to at least Aenar who is the Targaryen who brought his family to Westeros after his daughter Daenys had her premonition of the destruction of Valyria. And it might be even older than that.
However, it was Aegon the Conqueror who had the last Valyrian pyromancer magically hide the High Valyrian words, “From my blood… come the Prince That Was Promised… and his will be the Song of Ice and Fire” into the blade, presumably after he had his own premonition. (Your periodic reminder that the noun “prince” has no gender in High Valyrian — it means prince or princess.) What I take from all of this is that Aegon saw this would be the blade that would save Westeros, he was marking it for his heirs, giving them a clue. And this just makes me wonder what else Aegon knew or saw in his prophecy that was been lost over the centuries. Will we learn more?
House of the Dragon airs on HBO and streams on HBO Max