Recap: The Dance of the Dragons Begins In ‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 4

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: July 8, 2024 (Last updated: 2 days ago)
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House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 Recap
House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 | Image via HBO

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

4.5

Summary

The best episode of House of the Dragon ever, and one of the best in franchise history, Episode 4 gets the Dance of Dragons underway with real style.

The excitement about House of the Dragon was never due to the quality of the novel it’s based on, Fire & Blood, a slightly dusty tome that intentionally reads like a dry in-universe history textbook. It was always about dragons, and the prospect of seeing them in all their expensive CGI glory when the Targaryens were at the height of their powers. Season 2 has taken its time setting up the battles to come, but Episode 4, “The Red Dragon and the Gold”, is the real payoff.

We’re talking multiple dragons here, folks, potentially two major deaths, a slew of meaningful smaller character moments, brotherly betrayal, abortion, spectral visions, beheadings both real and imagined, and age-old kingly prophecies.

Blimey. Shall we get on with it?

Two Beheadings For The Price Of One

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 Recap

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 | Image via HBO

We might as well start with people getting their heads lopped off since it’s important in both a literal and figurative sense.

First, literal: Ser Criston Cole beheads Lord Gunthar Darklyn after the Battle of Duskendale. I don’t expect those names and nouns to mean much to you, since we didn’t know the character or see the battle, but that’s not the point.

The point is that Cole is a skillful general and is conquering his way through nearby territories at quite a clip, gathering more and more loyal soldiers under the banners of Team Green. This is a good thing on paper, but not if you’re King Aegon II, who remains cooped up with a small council that doesn’t pay any attention to him and a mother who thinks he’s an idiot.

At the same time, Daemon continues to rattle around the charred halls of Harrenhal like some ghoul and meets several others while he’s there. One of them is young Rhaenyra again, whose head he cuts off in anger. His mental state isn’t helped by a mysterious concoction brewed by a mysterious witch or – one assumes – a lifetime of general sadism and familial resentment.

Let’s Talk Politics

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 Recap

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 | Image via HBO

It’s worth explaining why all this matters to both the Greens and the Blacks, politically speaking.

Cole is getting a reputation as the “Kingmaker”, which Aegon isn’t a fan of since he’s the King and wants the credit for his own rule. Aegon is beginning to realize that he’s just a puppet and that everyone else is running things on his behalf. He had no idea, for instance, that Larys controls all of Harrenhal’s finances, or that Aemond and Criston are planning things militarily behind his back.

Larys is right about Harrenhal not being of much use to Daemon, at least. Lord Grover Tully, who ostensibly runs the family, is on his deathbed, so the current ruler is his grandson, Oscar, literally a young child who doesn’t take especially kindly to Daemon’s suggestion that he suffocates his granddad in his sleep to claim his inheritance and start making decisions.

The only way Daemon can get Tully support is by aiding Lord Blackwood in defeating the Brackens, which will take some time. In the meanwhile, Criston plans to march on Rook’s Rest, a castle between Harrenhal and Dragonstone. Conquering that fort will be a win-win since it’ll cut Dragonstone off by land and leave Daemon stuck in the middle. It’ll also upset Rook’s Rest’s Lord Staunton, who is on Rhaenyra’s small council.

Family Drama

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 Recap

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 | Image via HBO

Alicent isn’t having a great episode, having to privately drink abortion tea to purge herself of Criston’s offspring and then tell fibs to Larys, who keeps snooping around looking to get a glimpse of her feet again. But she takes some of her frustrations out on Aegon, who is having an even worse episode.

Aegon is essentially told by both his brother and his mother that he’s a useless moron, which is true but probably best expressed more sensitively since his overcompensating is about to get him in serious trouble. But more on this in a minute.

Meanwhile, at Driftmark, we get a little suggestion that Alyn, the sailor who saved Corlys from drowning in his off-camera side quest in Season 1, might be his bastard son. Rhaenys seems to know this and chastises Corlys for letting him languish as a deckhand and not be raised up and honored, proving herself to be a wildly understanding and level-headed woman at a time when Team Black could use exactly those qualities.

Unfortunately, she won’t survive the episode.

The Dance of the Dragons

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 Recap

House of the Dragon Season 2 Episode 4 | Image via HBO

Let’s get to the meat of it. After her brief meeting with Alicent in Episode 3, Rhaenyra has realized that the only way she’ll win her claim to the throne is through civil war, which in Westerosi history is known as the Dance of the Dragons, for reasons that should be obvious anyway but will certainly become so by the end of “The Red Dragon and the Gold”.

So, Team Black decided to stop Team Green from taking Rook’s Rest. Rhaenyra is keen to go herself, but that would be a stupid decision, so Rhaenys goes in her stead, taking her decently-sized and battle-tested dragon Melys with her.

Unfortunately, King Aegon II also flies out on Sunfyre to join the fray, entirely without Criston’s say-so, and Aemond isn’t far behind on his ginormous cheat code dragon, Vhagar.

The battle rages on in the skies and on the ground, with Criston trying to lead a charge while screeching lizard monsters tumble through the skies above him. It’s quite the sight, and Episode 4 leans into the CGI carnage to such an extent that it feels almost provocative, like the show is saying, “Oh, you wanted dragons? Here are more dragons than you could ever need.”

Admittedly, not all of those dragons survive the encounter. Melys grabs Sunfyre by the neck like a fox grabbing a chicken, but Aemond arrives in the nick of time to… deliberately barbecue Aegon and Sunfyre and let them plummet from the skies to their deaths. After a lifetime of mockery and abuse from his brother, Aemond saw his opportunity and took it. I’m not mad at it.

Rhaenys has the chance to flee, but she instead decides to take on Vhagar, which proves to be a terrible error. In what can only be described as a jump scare, Vhagar snatches Melys out of the air and chomps her to death, leaving both the dragon and Rhaenys to fall to their fiery deaths.

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4 ends with Criston, who was knocked out during the battle, waking up to find Aemond rather unemotionally squatting over the charred remains of his brother. The King is dead, it seems, as are two dragons, Rhaenys, and a good chunk of both armies.

If this is just the start of the Dance of the Dragons, how much is going to have been lost by the end? Either way, it should be fun finding out.


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