Long may he (cough, sneeze) reign
To reinforce Rhea’s death, we smash cut to a fish’s head getting chopped. The king and his entourage travel by sea to Driftmark to propose to Lord Corlys a royal nuptial. The king is seasick; he loses his lunch over the side of the ship. To add to his misery, Viserys isn’t even greeted by Corlys and Cousin Rhaenys upon arriving. Only the son Laenor and his friend Joffrey (not to be confused with Evil Joffrey from “Game of Thrones”) are at the gates. The new Hand of the King, Lyonel Strong, thinks this is absurd. Lady Laena, aged up a few years since last we saw her, appears, saying her father is waiting for them. Like a boss.
Viserys has a long walk across some imposing architecture to get to Corlys. Corlys bends the knee, but it’s the coughing, exhausted Viserys who is looking submissive. Rhaenys enters, excited to see her cousin. But when she grabs the king’s hands and notices he’s missing fingers, she asks, “Are you well?” If he were any closer to death, he’d be Montgomery Burns. The couple conveys word to Viserys that Lady Rhea died. She was thrown from her horse and crushed her head and neck even though she was an expert rider. The subtext is they all know who’s really responsible. Viserys changes the subject to why he’s here: a marriage between Rhaenyra and Laenor. Corlys calls the offer generous. But he has questions on succession protocol. Viserys explains that the couple’s firstborn child, regardless of gender, will be next on the Iron Throne. Corlys asks if they’ll follow tradition and have the child take the father’s surname, making the heir a Velaryon. The king says yes, at birth, but the Targaryen name will be in their title upon taking the throne. The in-laws agree to the compromise.
Back at King’s Landing, Otto Hightower is vacating. Daughter Alicent tells him she regrets her role in the debacle over what happened the night Rhaenyra was spotted kissing Daemon. He’s pretty salty about her choosing Rhaenyra’s word over his. She blames Otto for being so relentless trying to get Aegon on the throne. Otto looks at her, the queen, like she’s the kingdom’s biggest idiot. He speaks his truth: The king will die, the kingdom won’t accept Rhaenyra, war will come. Otto believes Rhaenyra will put Alicent’s children to death to strengthen her hold on the throne. That’s dark, man, but given Rhaenyra’s recent lies and her lineage (Daenerys, anyone?), it’s possible. Alicent cries. Her father hugs her, then rides off in the rain. Later, in the Godswood, the queen is met by Larys Strong, the man with the club foot, who looks like a sickly Mikey Day “Saturday Night Live” character. Larys drops the bombshell: He saw a potion being delivered to Rhaenyra by the Grand Maester on orders from the king. He allows Alicent to connect the dots: Her stepdaughter did have sex, requiring the Morning-After Potion. But Alicent believes the impregnator was Daemon. Larys is a gossipy little schemer, his cane full of ambition.
Walking along the beach fully clothed, Rhaenyra and Laenor compare notes on their inevitable union. Rhaenyra introduces the ghastly metaphor of preferring roast duck to goose because she finds goose greasy. Laenor catches her drift (mark) and says it’s not for lack of trying. Did our princess just compare her future husband to a greasy goose? She proposes that they do their duty with the marriage but “continue to dine as we see fit.” Laenor smiles. An open marriage it shall be.
Meanwhile, Laenor’s parents worry. Rhaenys shoots down Corlys’ hope that the two cousins are becoming “familiar.” “You know his true nature,” she tells her husband. Clearly they’re discussing Laenor’s sexual orientation. Corlys thinks his son might outgrow it because bedding a woman, to him, is just awesome. That’s not what Rhaenys is worried about; she thinks knives will come out over the succession and that their family is a target. She’s not sure money and power are worth it. Corlys reminds her that she should have been on the Iron Throne in the first place. Rhaenys says she’s moved past that. Even when they’re disagreeing and hashing things out, Corlys and Rhaenys speak passionately and hold each other, unlike the other couples on this show.
As if to confirm the talk of Laenor’s sexuality, we next see him lying in some tall grass along the beach with Joffrey. Laenor is glum, but Joffrey’s happy with the outcome: They can continue their romance, with Rhaenyrs’s blessing, even. The two begin to wrestle, but that turns into kissing, which seems dangerous outdoors while visitors are still on the island.
‘House of the Dragon’ recap, Episode 4: Desire and pants on fire
On the boat ride home, Sir Christopher Cole approaches the princess. He wants her to run away with him, marry for love and start over with new identities — a supremely dumb plan given her fame and the king’s resources. Rhaenyra entertains the idea before deciding her role is too important to abandon. She reveals her understanding with Laenor, that she and Cole can continue their relationship. “So you want me to be your whore,” he says, offended. Cole whines about his vow of chastity. He thought he could restore his name if they were married. You mean if you went off and pretended you were someone else? Cole is left upset that Rhaenyra chose the throne over him. Well, it’s a pretty awesome throne.
Back home, Cole is summoned by Alicent. He is questioned about the night Rhaenyra slipped out. Because Alicent never mentions Daemon by name, Cole thinks this is about him and quickly confesses to having sex with the princess, a shock to Alicent. He’s prepared to die for his sin, but Alicent, still reeling, thanks him for his honesty and dismisses him without punishment. Maybe Cole should take a vow of silence before spilling more secrets.
Frail King Viserys gets leech treatments and a potion for sleep; he’s in a bad way. He ruminates, asking Lyonel if he’ll be remembered as a good king. Your Highness, you’ll be lucky if you’re remembered at all. Viserys laments that he’s had no great triumphs or defeats, nothing you’d write a good song about, not even a “Weird Al” parody. Lyonel, diplomatic, says that ruling over a period of peace could be considered good fortune. The goblet is half full, you see.
Time passes. Dragons fly. Ships arrive at King’s Landing for the royal wedding. Inside, Rhaenyra sits with her father in the big hall. Her hair’s up and bejeweled, her dress white with gold accents. Their table is stacked with pies and seafood for the welcome feast. The queen is absent. Rhea’s cousin Gerold from the beginning of the episode shows up. The king and Rhaenyra offer condolences, but they’re interrupted by the Velaryon family’s thunder-stealing entrance. Laenor takes his place at the table with Rhaenyra. When Joffrey bows to them and gives Laenor a pointed look, Rhaenyra figures out whom Laenor craves. As everyone sits, Daemon strides confidently to no applause whatsoever. He approaches a scowling Viserys, who nods that a chair be brought for his brother waaaay at the end of the table. The king starts speaking but is interrupted by Alicent, who enters wearing a dark green dress. Everyone rises awkwardly. We learn that green is the color that House Hightower uses in its beacon to call the banners to war. She’s expressing rage. Alicent congratulates Rhaenyra while giving her the dirtiest look possible. The king speaks of uniting the houses and promises seven days of pre-wedding tournaments and feasting.
But first: dancing! Laenor and Rhaenyra perform a dance of seduction as everyone, from Joffrey to Cole to Alicent and Daemon, watches closely. Gerold accuses Daemon in front of Viserys and Lyonel of causing Rhea’s “accident.” Daemon says he’s next in line to take over Runestone, Rhea’s home castle, since he and Rhea had no heirs. When Daemon says maybe he’ll see Gerold there, it likely means he’ll be killing or evicting the Royce family when he takes over. The threat sends Gerold away, intimidated. Viserys, angered, stays silent.
‘House of the Dragon’ recap, Episode 3: Angry crab versus weary dragon
A bunch of mini scenes play out over music and dancing. Daemon flirts with Laena, who thinks he’s dashing. Joffrey has intuited Cole is the person that Rhaenyra plans to continue sleeping with. He fills Laenor in and says it’s good; they know her secret now. As partygoers dance to the Westeros remix of “Hip Hop Hooray,” Joffrey goes to confirm his hunch; he overplays his hand, unaware of Cole’s highly emotional state. As the king watches, Uncle Daemon pulls Rhaenyra away from a dance partner and makes one last move for her, speaking in Valyrian. He says Laenor will bore her, and by the way, his marriage is “dissolved.” She says the hours grow short; if he’s going to make a move, he can fight through the Kingsguard and kidnap her. “Take me to Dragonstone and make me your wife,” she dares. He draws her face close in both hands. Incest blindness: Nobody in the room watches them except Viserys.
Before anyone can witness an unfolding scandal, there’s a scream. It’s not the Red Wedding, but a fight is happening. Cole and Laenor exchange blows while Joffrey lies on the ground, his face bloodied. Attacked by Cole, Joffrey draws a small dagger, but it’s not enough. Cole screams and punches the prone Joffrey repeatedly as guests, who were cheering, grow horrified. Joffrey is dead. A gratuitous shot of a face full of ground beef is shown as Cole realizes what he’s done. The room, improbably, is completely silent. Laenor, who was knocked down during the fracas, sees his lover dead on the floor. He crawls over and starts wailing. So … seven more days of this, huh?
Actually, no. The wedding, somber and private, happens hastily a short time later next to the long table of rotting leftovers — quite the metaphor. The room is empty. Only the king, his hand, Alicent and the officiant witness the union. The tearful couple kiss awkwardly on the cheek.
This sad little wedding scene is intercut with Cole entering the Godswood alone. He removes his weapons with plans to kill himself. He points a dagger to his belly, intending to make Cole slaw all over the grass. Alicent is there. “Ser Criston,” she called, stopping him.
It’s unclear if the Godswood bit happens before or after the wedding because the next thing we see is Viserys collapsing next to Alicent. Everyone bends to help, but it’s probably too late. The camera retreats down the aisle to reveal a pool of Joffrey’s blood at the entrance. A rat, maybe the one Alicent saw above her bed in the last episode, drinks from it as the final note of a mournful song, perhaps about the unremarkable reign of Viserys, plays.