Season 1, Episode 4: ‘King of the Slender Sea’
“You Targaryens do have queer customs.”
That was Alicent on Sunday evening, profitable the Understatement of the Week award. The abiding weirdness of the Targaryens, on TV, dates again to the early days of “Recreation of Thrones,” once we heard chatter a couple of Mad King and noticed a special Viserys pawing his nude sister earlier than marrying her off to a barbaric horse lord. At any time when a brand new one was born, we heard greater than as soon as, the gods flip a coin.
In Sunday’s “Home of the Dragon,” the cash saved flipping for those who’re already right here. Daemon returned as a conqueror with a brand new haircut, seeming redeemed till he took Rhaenyra on her despoliation tour of the soiled previous city. Rhaenyra once more gained our sympathies in the course of the unhappy suitor parade earlier than shedding them by blithely risking her closest companion’s life, luring Ser Criston into her chambers for a sport of hide-the-helmet. Viserys was magnanimous in his preliminary forgiveness of Daemon after which demanding in his suppurative midnight lust. (“The hour is kind of late …” Alicent protested, however the king will get what the king needs.)
All of it culminated in seeing a bodily rotting ruler kick his hung over brother within the ribs for sleeping along with his daughter in entrance of all people in a brothel — and seeing stated brother reply by asking to marry his niece within the identify of household custom.
So … yeah. Queer customs.
Admittedly, my untrained eye couldn’t make out how far the incestus interuptus obtained earlier than Daemon had a disaster of conscience. However the truth that I’m even parsing one thing like which means, with the Crabfeeder now lifeless and the Sea Snake pouting in Driftmark, we obtained the Full Targaryen this week. Whereas there have been Hightowers getting kicked round in numerous methods — Viserys started the episode down two fingers and by the tip had misplaced a complete Hand — your complete hour-plus was dedicated to dragon-flavored psychodrama.
That is, roughly, what we have been promised. Earlier than the season, the showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik (Sapochnik has since departed) indicated that “Home of the Dragon” can be a extra easy melodrama in comparison with the peripatetic, realm-hopping “Recreation of Thrones.” (To date, I miss the construction of “Thrones” virtually as a lot as I miss its humor, talked about final week.) Sunday’s episode was pure cleaning soap opera — illicit liaisons, secrets and techniques, household betrayal, literal palace intrigue. True to the maximalist tendencies of “Thrones” storytelling, the technique appears to be that should you’re going to make a cleaning soap, you may as effectively make it as operatic as doable.
Return to Westeros in ‘Home of the Dragon’
HBO’s long-awaited “Recreation of Thrones” prequel sequence is right here.
Many scenes have been onerous to look at, however look, let’s simply give a disclaimer now that applies to this week, earlier weeks and all of the weeks to come back: These things is objectively gross. Uncles “coupling” with nieces is gross; sore-covered previous males bedding youngsters is gross; intercourse slavery is gross; youngster brides are gross. For all of the squeamishness the age differentials and so forth encourage, we’re all checking fashionable ethical requirements on the door, to a sure extent, if we need to go together with this story.
However the grossness can be partly the purpose. Whereas Targaryen rulers imagine themselves to be nobly motivated by Aegon’s prophesy in regards to the darkness to come back, talked about within the premiere (extra on this in a minute), “Home of the Dragon” is in the end in regards to the decline of a convoluted, deeply inbred clan whose energy is enabled by their entry to the world’s most fearsome weapons. Whereas I doubt the present will take us all the way in which to the start of “Recreation of Thrones,” this story is headed in the end towards a king who’s insane to the purpose that he needs to burn everybody and is killed for it. He’s adopted a few a long time later by a daughter who ultimately traces an analogous path.
So it’s in regards to the lengthy collapse of a dynasty (pending no matter Jon Snow, née Aegon Targaryen, does in his deliberate sequel, although empire constructing doesn’t appear to swimsuit him). And issues that undo dynasties embody ineffective leaders, infighting and ethical corruption allowed by unchecked energy. The inbreeding is vital to the downfall as in all probability the first explanation for the Targaryen insanity described by the coin-flipping maxim. (On the very least, it retains the insanity within the household.) In order that downfall is what we’re watching, blow by icky blow.
Rhaenyra’s hour-of-the-owl adventures compelled her to lastly bow to her personal dynastic duties. She’s going to apparently be marrying Laenor Velaryon, whom we noticed torching Crabfeeder troopers final week, thereby bringing extra dragons into the household and presumably shoring up the rift along with his father, the Sea Snake, who has been taking part in footsie with the Free Cities.
“I is usually a treatment to your political complications,” Rhaenyra sneered to Viserys.
“You are my political headache!” he responded. (Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock, previous performing veteran and relative newcomer, have a terrific dynamic onscreen.)
A last indignity arrived within the type of a cup of morning-after tea, ready by the Grand Maester. It was a bitter reminder that even when Rhaenyra isn’t being compelled to “squeeze out heirs,” as she put it awkwardly to the heir-squeezer-in-chief, Alicent, her womb nonetheless belongs to the realm.
As for Daemon, he took the king’s kicks and insults in stride, in all probability as a result of it’s what he expects for himself. Daemon arrived within the throne room this week as a conquering hero, the King of the Slender Sea, because the court docket honored his success within the Stepstones. However respectability matches him like a nasty bone crown (or driftwood, or no matter it was product of). By episode’s finish he was facedown in the identical room, battered, banished and possibly nonetheless half-drunk, which appeared like a return to the pure order of issues.
I don’t care the place you go, “so long as you might be gone from my sight for good,” Viserys stated. We’ll see how lengthy that lasts.
However the largest loser this week was Daemon’s everlasting rival, Otto, the Hand who lastly overplayed himself. (Final hand pun, I promise.) The Targaryen Brothers don’t take unhealthy information effectively, as we have been reminded when Daemon bludgeoned the messenger within the Stepstones. On Sunday, it was the Hand who had his head handed to him.
Otto has been steadily working to marginalize Daemon and Rhaenyra to be able to set up his grandson Aegon as inheritor. Besides, he clearly knew it was a dicey enterprise to share his White Worm intel with the king — it’s one factor to malign a person’s degenerate brother, however insult his daughter’s honor at your peril.
Certain sufficient, Otto’s “discomforting reality” blew up in his face, because the gambit opened the king’s eyes — helped by Rhaenyra’s demand that he be let go — to the extent to which his Hand had been jerking him round. After Aemma’s loss of life, Alicent had been “a calculated distraction,” Viserys stated. “I solely now understand how effectively calculated it was.”
All that remained was for the king to take away the pin and ship his father-in-law on his approach. (The following household nameday social gathering ought to be enjoyable.) Which meant that for all her ill-advised sneaking, consuming and fornicating, Rhaenyra survived one other week as inheritor to the Iron Throne.
The query is, will stripping Otto of his duties neutralize the risk he poses as an inveterate plotter? Or simply give him extra time to fine-tune his plotting? Everyone knows in regards to the bother that may come from idle Fingers. (OK that was undoubtedly the final one. …)