House of the Dragon 2×4 Review: The Red Dragon and the Gold

Courtesy of HBO

From my point of view, this was by far the best episode of the season. That doesn’t mean it was flawless, but it got me up off the couch, gasping out loud, and shouting “no” at the screen, which is a pretty good indicator I was emotionally moved by it. And really, an emotional investment in these characters and these stories is all I’m asking for here. Well… that and cool dragons. Because dragons, you know?

Traditionally it goes without saying that these episode reviews are going to have spoilers, but since the events of this episode were so monumental, I’m going to toss out another SPOILER WARNING as a courtesy.  If you haven’t seen the episode or at least read up to the battle at Rook’s Rest in Fire & Blood, turn back now. 

The pivotal moment was the battle of Rook’s Rest, which will obviously have a huge impact on the war.  I was aware that this battle would result in the death of both Rhaenys and Meleys going into it, but the additional moments of touching sentimentality between them both before and during the battle made it hit really damn hard. Rhaenys was looking directly into Meleys eyes as the life drained out of her, which was absolutely crushing.  

Rhaenys seemed ready to die when it was clear she’d passed. Rhaenys had lost a cousin, two children, and a grandchild in just a few short years. I can see how losing her dragon would be enough for her to accept her own death.  There was no fighting it – no desperately trying to survive the fall or scream in anguish out of fear.  Just acceptance that this was the end.  Eve Best’s acting choices for those scenes were pitch-perfect. 

Stories are meant to stir emotions of some kind, and this succeeded incredibly well here.  I was legitimately sad about it even though I knew it was coming.  It was executed well in that regard. I’m still not over it, if I’m being honest.  And probably won’t be by the time the next episode comes around. 

The sentimental moments with dragons happened on both sides of the Green and Black divide during this episode.  Aegon and Sunfyre having a cute moment before he mounted him and flew into battle was also touching, even though I’m not a big Aegon fan to begin with.  Aegon’s smile as Sunfyre bumped him gently with his nose was quite cute and made their fall all the more tragic.  We haven’t really seen their bond like we have Rhaenyra and Syrax or Rhaenys and Meleys.  I wish we’d have had more time with them before they got torn down, but I’m glad we got this at least. 

There were a lot of complaints about the Battle of the Burning Mill, which I understand completely.  It had quite a few details in the books that were glossed over in an abrupt cut in the show.  But perhaps they were saving their battle budget for Rook’s Rest.  Because WOW, what a stunning visual treat.  This was the type of dramatic dragon battle I’d been hoping to see out of this show, so overall I’d say I’m pretty damn satisfied. 

Rhaenyra Speaking of complaints I’ve had about this season, they covered a lot of ground regarding Rhaenyra’s absence as she went to King’s Landing.  I suppose her making a big deal about her war counsel not acting on their own, then immediately leaving, was an intentional choice by the writers.  Rhaenyra has always been flawed, but this was a clear error in judgment and a massive waste of time.  Even her son is furious about it and I have no doubt it’s going to cause friction in future episodes.  Hell, I’m mad at her about that and I’m just an observer. 

Meanwhile at Harrenhal Daemon is continuing to get pulled into these magical prophetic dreams and visions despite seeming like a pretty big skeptic against all that nonsense.  The deliberate choice to have his dream Rhaenyra be played by Milly Alcock instead of Emma D’Arcy is interesting.  Rhaenyra herself referred to the difference in how she viewed him young versus how she viewed him now.  He was a challenge to her then, but she had plenty of challenges of her own now.  She quite frankly doesn’t have time for Daemon’s nonsense.  Whole lot of nonsense to go around here and everyone is tired of it. 

Aemond Targaryen Since we’re on the topic of Targaryen men who are filled with nonsense, let’s talk about Aemond.  His nonsense is of the more depressing kind, however.  After being yet again humiliated by Aegon last week, something seemed to shift in him and we’re perhaps seeing the repercussions of that play out this week.  He was definitely trying to kill Aegon, though he has the plausible deniability of just carelessly disregarding his life during the battle.  He’s not going to take the bullying anymore and his revenge is potentially lethal.  

Can I be Team Black but also sort of Team Aemond? Because that’s sort of where I’m landing here.  Aemond is just too interesting to root against.  

So if we’re taking stock here, both the Greens and Blacks are on shaky ground with their respective monarchs at this point.  Rhaenyra’s son and advisors are fairly mad at her while Daemon is styling himself “Your Grace” as though he were the one ascending the throne.  And Aemond is trying to kill Aegon while all the more seasoned political minds in the Red Keep are rapidly losing control of their King.  There are civil wars within civil wars here.  It’s just civil war all the way down. 

Continuing with our scorecard of where both sides stand right now, Team Black has lost two dragons – both by Vhagar – and Team Green has only lost one.  And even then, Sunfyre is clearly still moving, so he’s not entirely out of the fight.  Just… not as mobile.  If we’re being honest about where things stand, Team Green is winning right now, even if they’re also dealing with internal chaos and a severely wounded King. 

I’m very excited to see how the actors on Team Black portray their characters’ increasing desperation in the next few weeks, because it’s pretty damn dire out there.  And they are so very talented.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They identify as queer.

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