One of the thoughts that went through my mind by the time House of the Dragons’ fourth episode concluded was “who am I supposed to be rooting for on this show?”. Unlike Game of Thrones, which introduces obvious a bevy of obvious yet layered and flawed heroes and villains (and plenty in-between), House of the Dragons has seemingly struggled with having a character to properly root for. This week’s episode was something of a downer bummer episode, where everyone basked in everyone else’s misery by means of sexposition.
Everyone was downright miserable on this week’s episode. Rhaenyra found herself with a parade of suitors as the show continues her plot of finding a suitable suitor. The princess doesn’t want to just become another royal female whose sole purpose is to reproduce for her husband. In terms of storylines, this is one the audience can certainly emphasize with. She calls out the double standards of gender and the show is both a look at modern politics while holding up a canvas to our own medieval history.
Prince Daemon returns to Kings Landing, sporting a new hairdo, and it doesn’t take long for things to get weird. Disenchanted, she ends up sneaking out of the castle with the help of Daemon and they make their way to the cesspool of the city. Rhaenyra’s eyes are opened to how wild things can get outside of the castle and a lot of it looks like entertainment to her, whether it be magic tricks, parlour tricks or getting it on in the local brothel. But then Daemon makes a move on his niece and the two start getting it on. The Targaryens like to keep things in the family, so to speak, so the move isn’t perse shocking in terms of it being a surprise, but it does seem out of character for Rhaenyra to be so easily swayed. The two have had, what, two scenes together so far? Plus, you know, the whole inter-family thing. But Rhaenyra may have actually been duped.
Despite eventually shacking up with Christen Cole (called it), the Princess is either way seen as “sullied” and Daemon proposed that he marry the Princess, thus saving her virtue while also claiming his spot on the Throne. It’s an interesting piece of manipulation, using gender norms of the time for position and power. The problem is the show isn’t too clear on how Rhaenyra feels about the situation. She dismisses the news as a rumour, nothing more than vile gossip, but offers no signs of remorse or regret. But did she actually want to shack up with Daemon or was she just caught up in the moment after being so frustrated with her courtship? Because of this ambiguity, it’s hard to know what to think of Rhaenyra at this moment. Should we see her as someone who is breaking away from establishment and protocol by sleeping with Christen Cole and taking matters into her own hands, or was she a tool manipulated by Daemon in order for him to secure power? Was she aware of the political consequences, if so does she even care? At the moment, I find it unclear if we’re supposed to be rooting her Rhaenyra’s taking control of her own life from a modern point of view, or feeling frustrated at her lack of judgment with Daemon’s obvious manipulation and the larger political ramifications looking at it through the lens of Westeros’ strict rules on gender and position. Regardless, this particular conundrum is certainly the most layered aspect of House of the Dragon thus far.
Viserys continues to be the only morally sound character on the show. He ultimately sacks Otto Hightower as Hand after the King deduces that he was having his daughter spied on in order to use any scandalous behaviour as leverage against the King in a bid in securing his son as the heir. I’m sure this move, despite the nobility behind it, will backfire on Viserys in some way shape or form. My guess is an assassination attempt on both the King and Princess, with Viserys being the only victim, but who knows. But we’ve likely not seen the last of Otto Hightower and his schemes. That said, the word is out now about the Princess. It doesn’t matter if she did hookup with her uncle or not (I’m not 100% sure how far they got to be honest or if he stopped due to a game or a moral compass), but what matters is what people think and how it’s perceived. Rumours can carry a lot of weight in a kingdom and the rumour is the princess was lured to a brothel by her uncle and shacked up with him there.
Because everyone seems to be scheming or indifferent, House of the Dragon is making it hard to root for any one character. Viserys is weak, Rhaenyra seems indifferent despite championing change, Otto is a scumbag, Alicent is powerless and Daemon is definitely not a leader. All in all, misery loves company.