Phew. There is much to unpack in the fourth episode of HBO’s latest hit, House of the Dragon. Luckily for readers, the purpose of this article is only to address the best and worst of all the chaos. It’s almost comical that the episode is titled King of the Narrow Sea, after the fancy new moniker given to Matt Smith‘s Daemon Targaryen, because really, this week was all about Milly Alcock‘s Princess Rhaenyra. With Paddy Considine‘s King Viserys hellbent on finding her a groom, Rhaenyra is forced to confront what it is she truly wants out of a relationship, and the answer isn’t so simple. As with any breathing human being, her Grace does not want to feel like a prisoner in her own marriage. Unfortunately, the rules of the time are the rules of the time and this type of arrangement may be a fate she’s not ever able to outmaneuver. Her restlessness ultimately leads to a, well, uncomfortable night out with her uncle, and a few realizations that make her slightly more comfortable in her own skin.
Quite a few other major developments occur, like the dramatic demotion of Rhys Ifans‘ Otto Hightower and the ongoing depressive state of his daughter, Alicent, played by Emily Carey. Yet, none of those things ever really live up to the shock value of the episode’s main plotline, which holds the honor of producing both talking points in this week’s breakdown. So, without further ado, it’s time to talk even more about superstar Milly Alcock.
Best – Milly Alcock
Milly Alcock will not be around House of the Dragon forever. In fact, she won’t even be around for the entirety of this season. But boy, oh boy, is she making the most of the time she has as Princess Rhaenyra. Alcock has been the standout of this show from the very beginning, and King of the Narrow Sea proves exactly why that is. Rhaenyra is not a simple type of character to portray, having to come off as both stubborn and charming at the same time while also maintaining a sense of regality in every action. It’s much easier to be unlikable than not in this kind of role, but Alcock manages to pull off every scene with grace, poise, and appeal. She makes the audience want to follow her down whatever path she travels, and that is a skill that simply can’t be taught.
King of the Narrow Sea deals with a lot of subject matter that won’t sit well with everyone. There are some very dark rabbit holes that Rheanyra finds herself exploring. Yet, in spite of that, Alcock remains a steadfast champion of everything that’s good in House of the Dragon. She takes the dark path, however terrible it may seem, and flips it into one that the audience is curious in exploring themselves. She sells the story, and her character, as something worthwhile, even when a person’s brain might be telling them otherwise. This show could not have found a better successor to Emilia Clarke‘s Daenerys, and fans should remain hopeful the series finds a way to keep her around even after Rheanyra hits her growth spurt.
Worst – Incest, Duh
This almost doesn’t even feel worth typing. By far the worst part of King of the Narrow Sea, and perhaps the show at large, is Daemon manipulating his teenage niece into trying to have sex with him. Inside of a brothel, no less. It’s a power move and a disgusting one at that. Yes, Daemon is, thus far, the villain of this show and at no point does the project want us to be on his side. However, that does not negate the fact that every second of that sequence was terrible enough to make a viewer’s skin crawl ten times over. The word one might be looking for is probably “icky”. This type of sexual deviancy, a phrase that feels strange to use, is becoming something of a theme for House of the Dragon. Hopefully, it’s just a phase and one that the show grows out of sooner than later.