House of the Dragon Season 2 Recap: Episode 4 - The Red Dragon and the Gold

“You must send me.”

SPOILERS AHEAD!

When House of the Dragon was first announced, it was sold on a simple premise - a bloody civil war with lots of dragon-on-dragon action. We’d had a taste of dragon fights before, at the end of last season with the aerial scrap between Aemond and Lucerys (RIP), and even in the latter moments of Game of Thrones, when Daenerys and Jon took on the Night King’s zombie ice dragon. But this week’s episode properly delivered on the promised spectacle, and it was glorious.

First things first, though - the episode opens on Daemon (Matt Smith), still going steadily mad in the desolate crags of Harrenhal. He seems to be finally feeling some guilt over his treatment of his wives, past and present, and is almost certainly under the influence of some old, dark magic.

The castle’s resident witch, Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin), practically tells him as much, revealing that the stronghold was built on the flattened remains of a magical forest and, perhaps even more egregious, the bed Daemon is sleeping in was made from those same felled Weirwood trees. Honestly, it’s like they’ve never seen a haunted house movie…

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) learns that his council - specifically his brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) and Hand Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) - have been coordinating the war without him. Outraged, he does what all wise and noble kings would do, and runs to his mother.

Unfortunately, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) agrees that her son is basically useless, and offers no support. So Aegon decides to take matters into his own hands. A decision that will come back to bite him by the end of the episode, quite literally.

In Dragonstone, Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) returns from her secret visit to the Westerosi capital last episode and learns of the coming attack on Rook’s Rest, a high-value castle in the Crownlands. She wants to go deal with it herself, but is quickly talked down. Her son, Jace (Harry Collett), offers to go in her place but, not wanting to risk another beloved son (and heir), Rhaenyra refuses him.

That leaves only one dragon-rider left in the room - stalwart Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) who, perhaps a little resignedly, demands that she be sent to deal with the Green army instead.

And so we get to the good stuff.

Rhaenys shows up to roast the Green footsoldiers laying siege to Rook’s Rest - which is exactly what Aemond and Cole were hoping for. But before they can spring their carefully laid trap, Aegon blunders right into it.

He blindly attacks Rhaenys, and it quickly becomes clear that he is outmatched by the princess and her larger, more experienced dragon. At the last moment, before Rhaenys can deliver a killing blow to the king, Aemond shows up on Vhagar, the biggest, baddest dragon around, and blasts them both out of the sky.

Aegon is toast - literally - but Rhaenys manages to slip away. She might have made it, too, but decides to turn and fight, and that’s her undoing. She’s clearly a better rider than Aemond, but Vhagar is just too big and too mean, and Rhaenys eventually succumbs to the monster’s sheer power.

What. A. Fight. Finally, the Dance of the Dragons begins in earnest!

Death Count: Aside from whole swathes of the warring Black and Green armies - most turned to crumbling ash by the battling dragons above - it seems like we’ve seen the last of Princess Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys. RIP, the Queen That Never Was.

Shout-Outs:

  • I’m absolutely loving Daemon’s spooky sojourn into a full-on gothic horror movie. There’s a witch, a doppelganger, dark, crumbling hallways, and guilt-ridden hallucinations. Not to mention an ominously out-of-place black goat. It seems like this story thread is going to send everyone’s favourite renegade prince into Jack Torrence territory, and I’m totally here for it.
  • In this episode, we meet young Oscar Tully (Archie Barnes), grandson of Grover Tully, and if you check out the Tully family tree, there’s also an Elmo and a Kermit in there. Yes, George R. R. Martin is on record that these guys are all named after Muppets. Brilliant.
  • It seems like Aegon might have survived being flame grilled by his brother’s dragon, but in what condition? I doubt he’ll be up to much in the coming episodes, which is a shame because I was really enjoying Tom Glynn-Carney’s performance.
  • Episode MVP is clearly Eve Best as Rhaenys. She’s always been a solid, reliable presence in the show, but this week she got to really step it up - not only in that barnstorming finale, but in the quieter moments with her husband and his newly-discovered bastard, Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim). Legend.

Verdict: An absolute banger of an episode, and easily the highlight of the season so far. Maybe even the highlight of the whole series. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

House of the Dragon airs every Monday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic, and can be streamed from 2am the same day.

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