House of the Dragon – Season 2, Fourth Episode Review

Curse of Harrenhal

As I wrote in the previous episode, Daemon’s story is just beginning to take shape. They are trying to deeply establish the foundations for the decisions he will make in the future. While at Harrenhal, they are using the mystical history of the castle he is in. Harrenhal is known for its curse, where ghosts are believed to roam at night. The whispers of dozens of people burned alive by Aegon the Conqueror still linger in its walls. Since Daemon arrived, he continues to see dreams and messages about the future. One of the reasons for these images is the presence of Alys Rivers. Alys, who openly declares she is not human, is trying to prepare Daemon for his future while also confronting him with his past.

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Amidst all this confusion, Daemon is also trying to bring in players to the already ongoing war. I appreciate the show’s stance on this matter. The war has begun, Cole has united his armies and is on the move, but Daemon, still grappling with his personal ambitions, is unable to take the proper steps to change the course of the war.

In this part, we met Oscar Tully, whose name we will hear again in the future. The show felt the need to skip over and briefly mention Grover Tully’s part. According to the book, Grover Tully wanted to support the greens. Having Riverrun on the greens’ side would have been a significant advantage, but his old age prevented him from taking action. Therefore, the decision-making fell to his grandson Elmo and Elmo’s son Kermit. The show bypassed Elmo and Kermit and focused on the Tully lineage through Oscar, showing that Riverrun is currently neutral. Although Daemon himself looked down on him, Oscar will reappear with his sword in future seasons.

The second character we encountered at Harrenhal is William Blackwood, who does not actually appear in the book. The young boy who courted Rhaenyra at Storm’s End in the first season has grown up and taken over the Blackwood household. He is ready to mobilize his house for Rhaenyra. However, because Daemon cannot focus on the matter, the key players on the black side are late to everything.

Incompetent King

For three episodes, the show has repeatedly demonstrated that Aegon does not deserve the throne and that the illustrious throne of a hundred years has fallen into the hands of rats. However, we, the viewers, were aware of this incompetence. Good morning. Now, the king himself is also aware of his incompetence. Aegon’s inability to direct the ongoing war, Aemond’s scheming behind his back, and the people’s approval and continuation of this showed us that the king is nothing more than a son sitting on the throne. Aemond’s speech to Aegon in Valyrian and Aegon’s Duolingo beginner-level response was the final point in the illustration of incompetence. Although Aegon II is the one wearing the crown, he is significantly lacking in knowledge and experience compared to everyone at his table.

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As a son sitting on the throne and complaining to his mother, Aegon II received a harsh response. We see that Alicent has changed her stance after Rhaenyra told her the truth. By saying, “You don’t know what I’ve sacrificed for you to sit on the throne,” she officially admitted that she usurped Rhaenyra’s throne. But it’s too late now. A war has begun, and it must continue. For this, Aegon must shut up, sit down, and listen to his elders. Even though Alicent says this openly and harshly, ignorance persists.

In the previous episode, I had particularly highlighted this. Although Aegon’s impatience and ignorance constantly made him feel the need to act, those around him managed to keep him within the castle for three episodes. He is so ignorant and far from the knowledge that he felt the need to remove all his father’s history-filled books. But the arrow that will leave the bow is certain. Aegon, disregarding everyone, once again felt the need to prove himself, and he mounted the beautiful Sunfire and set off for Rook’s Rest.


Conflict Among the Blacks

At the beginning of the season, control was actually in the hands of the blacks, and the greens were the struggling side. However, we see that things have turned around. While the greens have gained momentum with Criston Cole’s iron fist, the blacks have fallen behind due to Rhaenyra’s policy of avoiding war. Of course, one of the reasons for the blacks’ setback is also Daemon chasing eyepatch-wearing ghosts at Harrenhal instead of gathering an army.

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Council members are in favor of taking action and finally using the dragons they have. Although Rhaenyra’s absence created chaos in the council, decisions became clear upon her return. A response needs to be given to Criston Cole, who is advancing towards Rook’s Rest. Therefore, one of the dragons must come out of its lair. This unfortunate candidate turned out to be Rhaenys and Meleys.

The council sequence is essential. We have seen the reality that the blacks are not handling things correctly at the table. No one at the table could figure out why Criston Cole was heading towards Rook’s Rest. They all clearly fell into the trap of the hate-filled Criston. I want to correct this part. In the book, the war sections don’t have much depth. The reason for Criston’s choice of Rook’s Rest is not specified. But the show nicely prepared the groundwork for the war. Thus, we learned why Rhaenys and Meleys left Dragonstone. However, this departure resulted in a fatal mistake.


Rook’s Rest

Criston Cole has been relentless since he seized power. He now has an air reminiscent of Tywin Lannister. As I mentioned in the last episode, he is bent on forcing the neutrals to choose sides. He tries to crush anyone standing in his way. His first stop was the Crownlands. Rosby and Stokeworth have fallen. By capturing Duskendale, one of the key castles of Blackwater Bay, and publicly beheading Gunthor Darklyn, who sided with the blacks, Cole showcased his power and instability.

While Daemon waits for his enemies in the west at Harrenhal, Criston is moving along the eastern coast, blocking the dragons from Dragonstone. As the blacks block the sea route with Corlys’ ships, Criston tries to secure the beaches and land routes. However, he has another idea in mind, which is not mentioned in the book: to trap the blacks.

Rook’s Rest is one of the book’s most striking parts. Three dragons engage in a battle that will be recounted throughout history. Of course, in the book, we don’t learn why these dragons came there. The show provides us with a foundation for this. While Rhaenys and Meleys set out to stop Criston Cole and his soldiers, Aegon sets out with Sunfire to prove himself. But what is Aemond doing there? Ryan Condal and his team have brilliantly filled this gap.

Criston Cole was sure that an attack on Rook’s Rest would draw someone from Dragonstone, visible from the shores. Therefore, he planned with Aemond to ambush any approaching dragon. It worked as he expected, except for one problem: Aegon also showed up. This was a problem for Criston, not for Aemond.

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When Rhaenys arrived with her dragon Meleys and began the classic tactic of burning armies, Aegon, with audacity, emerged to attack her. It’s no surprise that Meleys overpowered Sunfire. After all, the size of dragons generally determines their level, and size disadvantages can be compensated by the rider’s skills. Aegon has none. While Rhaenys battled Aegon, Aemond appeared with his dragon Vhagar, leading to an entirely new event not found in the book. Aemond, regardless of the fact that his brother was on the battlefield, tried to burn them both. Although Rhaenys escaped this attack with her skills, Aegon did not. Crashing hard to the ground, Aegon would henceforth be known as Aegon the Crippled.

Aemond then attacks Rhaenys, and we witness the famous dragon lock. As the two dragons, locked by their legs, fall through the sky, they breathe fire, trying to burn each other. We see once again how skilled a dragon rider Rhaenys is. With one last maneuver, she brings down the massive Vhagar. Despite the hard fall, Vhagar rises again, cruelly seizing Meleys by the neck in mid-air and taking her last breath. Just as it is written in the book:

“Princess Rhaenys made no attempt to flee. With a glad cry and a crack of her whip, she turned Meleys to her enemies.”

The queen, who never was, chooses to fight rather than flee and ultimately falls victim to Vhagar. The final look of Meleys before her death, and Rhaenys letting go and falling freely, will be one of the unforgettable scenes in the show’s history.

While the book pits three dragons against each other, the show felt the need to have a one-on-one between Meleys and Vhagar. This choice was made both to show how quickly Aegon was defeated due to his incompetence and to give Rhaenys an honorable death.

Although the show disappointed me with the Blood and Cheese and Cargyll brothers’ sequences, the Rook’s Rest part left me breathless. It was much more impressive than I anticipated, embedding the horror of dragon warfare into my very bones. The soldiers reduced to ashes by Criston Cole’s touch were merely a small reflection of what Aegon did a hundred years ago. The war has begun with all its brutality, and it will continue for a long time.

Some Beautiful Details

At the beginning of the third episode, when the young Blackwood and Brecken were clashing, the audience thought the young Blackwood was Benjicot. In this episode, we hear Benjicot’s name during William Blackwood’s speech. He is still a child and alive. However, I don’t understand this part. The show might bring Benjicot into the storyline later, but according to the book, Benjicot was supposed to have died at the beginning of the third episode in the Battle of Burning Mill.

The three dogs and the black goat that Daemon saw at Harrenhal represent House Clegane and Vargo Hoat. Gregor Clegane and Vargo Hoat will be the ones to take control of Harrenhal in the coming years. We can say that Daemon is seeing not only images of the past but also of the future.

We see Alicent drinking Moon Tea, which we encountered in the fourth episode of the last season. It seems that Alicent is pregnant by Criston and wants to prevent this pregnancy.

Rhaenys knows that her husband Corlys has bastards. When she meets Alyn, Rhaenys thinks he should be treated as he deserves rather than living in hiding. This part was one of the show’s investments for the bastards who will soon come together.


Ukrainian Creative Director | Motion Picture Writer | Horror Freak

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