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Home of the Dragon, episode 4 recap: Intercourse is at all times political

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Home of the Dragon’s fourth episode dives headlong into the quagmire of sexual politics that to date have haunted the sequence however remained largely offscreen and subtextual. “King of the Slim Sea” yanks Rhaenyra out into the gritty metropolis, and yanks all of us right into a confrontation with age and consent points, energy dynamics, and, after all, incest.

In brief, a complete lot of intercourse will get had, but it surely’s troublesome to name a lot of it absolutely consensual. If the present to date has been Succession with dragons, we’d say this episode was a contact Euphoria and a contact, er, Sport of Thrones.

Word: This text incorporates spoilers for Home of the Dragon, “King of the Slim Sea.”

“King of the Slim Sea” serves up little plot, however that doesn’t diminish the significance of what occurs onscreen. The episode title references the moniker given to Daemon (Matt Smith) following his profitable shut of the battle for the Stepstones. Restored to the king’s court docket with honors for his efforts, he wastes no time resuming his oddball courtship of his niece. Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) has simply returned from a woefully unsuccessful “tour” organized by her father through which she listens to and rejects an more and more absurd roster of makes an attempt by the lords of the realm to vie for her hand in marriage. We see two suitors at both excessive finish of this scale, one a drunken, rambling septuagenarian and the opposite a nervous younger boy delivering his rehearsed proposal in a voice barely previous puberty.

Disgusted, she returns dwelling to King’s Touchdown, the place quickly Daemon lures her out of the fort like two kids enjoying hooky. However after all they aren’t two kids, and for all Rhaenyra delights in dressing as a boy and stealing from road distributors, that is no Aladdin-esque palace escape. Daemon has a number of functions in introducing her to the dusty peasants of King’s Touchdown.

One objective entails acquainting her with the citizenry and their true emotions about her potential reign as queen, which come through coarse play. That age-old keeper of knowledge, the panto, makes it clear the rabble view Rhaenyra as a “feeble” would-be ruler in comparison with her sturdy, manly youthful brother, regardless that Aegon is barely out of his crib. Rhaenyra, simply as she has carried out from the beginning, dismisses their opinions, however Daemon has one other lesson to show her about the way in which the world works.

This time, he takes her to a brothel. There, he reveals to her scads of writhing permutations of lovers; this, he explains, is the place individuals come to “take what they need.” Taken at face worth, he needs to reassure her that she will be able to fulfill her obligation to marry however nonetheless sleep with whoever she needs — however we all know higher than that by now, don’t we? They make out for the primary time, with Daemon pushing her in opposition to a wall and partially stripping her. Issues proceed till Daemon, apparently having a momentary spasm of conscience about eager to have intercourse with a) a young person b) his underage niece c) who he’s been grooming since childhood and d) shamelessly utilizing as an influence seize, stops himself and, with an enigmatic smile, vanishes to get utterly wasted.

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On the floor, this scene seems to be like a form of sexual freedom; within the annals of storytelling, a teen’s first journey to a brothel, usually involving their first encounter with an skilled older accomplice, sometimes will get framed as a magical coming-of-age second. Right here it’s intense however hardly revelatory: The scene’s course is claustrophobic, practically too darkish to see at some factors, filmed in opposition to a backdrop of primal drums and crazed strings. And crucially, it’s juxtaposed in opposition to a grotesque counterpart intercourse scene through which King Viserys (Paddy Considine) reveals us what marital rape seems to be like, as his spouse Alicent (Emily Carey) lies passively beneath him, making an attempt to disassociate from the expertise.

It might sound as if these two scenes are supposed to current contrasting concepts of enjoyment, putting Rhaenyra’s newfound sexual awakening alongside Alice’s coerced marriage to a person thrice her age, to whom she feels no sexual attraction and with whom intercourse is a dreaded compelled act.

However this framework additionally drives dwelling that neither of those encounters is really consensual — and that’s the operating theme of this episode. From the opening moments, the place our poor shrimp of a lad has to ask Rhaenyra for her hand regardless of being far too younger for marriage and having by no means laid eyes on her earlier than, we see intercourse as a sport of politics over need. Even when Daemon is presenting intercourse to Rhaenyra as an act of enjoyment, he’s doing it for political causes. She’s far too younger to totally perceive how Daemon has manipulated her emotionally, to understand that he’s spent years grooming her as a pawn for precisely this objective.

Each Alicent and Rhaenyra have been manipulated by the lads round them their complete lives; Alicent understands her personal state of affairs all too effectively, however thus far has had no alternative to withstand or act exterior of her predetermined position as queen. The king, when he’s not utilizing her for intercourse and childbearing, brazenly undermines Alicent — an informal slight that turns into a lot larger whenever you’re basically a sexual prisoner who has to behave as if you aren’t. Neither state of affairs permits for actual consent, and whereas Alicent’s depressing marital rape is far clearer, Daemon’s near-seduction of Rhaenyra is equally about energy and management.

Sexy and annoyed, Rhaenyra returns to the fort and instantly seduces Ser Criston Cole, her private guard and the man she’s been crushing on since episode one. Ser Criston (Fabien Frankel) clearly sees her because the annoying brat he has to babysit, and he’s at first extraordinarily reluctant to take what she’s providing. First, he asks her to cease, however Rhaenyra, by no means one for stopping, presses him a bit extra. After an extended second of hesitation, Criston offers in and kisses her, however there’s rather a lot occurring in that pregnant pause signaling to us that this, too, is sexual coercion, not actual seduction.

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Rhaenyra, self-interested above all else, has a troublesome time seeing exterior of herself to acknowledge the way in which different persons are compromised by the political and sexual video games they must play. She definitely doesn’t see her personal try and seduce Criston as a blatant abuse of energy, nor does his reluctance register together with her or give her pause. The next intercourse scene, whereas emphasizing her pleasure, reinforces the sense that Criston is working mechanically fairly than enthusiastically. The subsequent day, he reveals up desirous to resume his position as her servant, pretending the evening earlier than by no means occurred and immediately dashing any fleeting romantic fantasies she could have had.

In the meantime, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), who is aware of a factor or two about sexual coercion, reveals that she’s turned spymaster, buying and selling secrets and techniques to the very best bidder. The previous intercourse employee, now Daemon’s on-again, off-again lover, has gained the nickname of “the white worm” due to her tendency to decorate in white and burrow her method into possession of secrets and techniques. She is aware of all of Daemon’s, and now that features one in every of Rhaenyra’s. When Daemon refers to her as “an unusual whore,” she laughs it off, maybe as a result of she’s already bought him out to Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). Otto will get the information and pauses to (one imagines) breathe within the heady cologne of gossip and victory earlier than going straight to the king.

The king, nevertheless, isn’t having it; for as soon as, Viserys places Otto in his place with a fairly satisfying, “Are you so sick with ambition?” as he chides him for his blatant opportunism and for spying on the princess. The revelation that Viserys isn’t as simply manipulated as he’s gave the impression to be loses its heft, nevertheless, provided that on this case, Otto is telling the reality: The princess has been dallying together with her uncle and has risked tarnishing her status. The next fallout sees Daemon asking Viserys to let him graciously salvage Rhaenyra’s good identify by means of marriage — an influence play that Viserys rejects utterly, banishing Daemon and ending his short-lived good favor at court docket.

Whereas he’s confronting Daemon, Alicent confronts Rhaenyra, who tells her (considerably) in truth that nothing occurred with Daemon whereas omitting that all the things occurred with Ser Criston. (It’s actually troublesome to learn Alicent’s anger and damage on this scene as something however wounded jealousy, although ostensibly Alicent’s motive is pure concern for Rhaenyra’s status; Rhaenicent shippers, chances are you’ll be onto one thing.) They each later repeat this mislead Viserys, although Viserys is as fed up with Rhaenyra as he’s with Daemon and Otto. When she snarks that he’s utilizing her as a prize to assuage his political complications, he snaps, “You are my political headache!”

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Viserys orders her to marry Laenor Velaryon, who we discovered final episode is each a perfect political match, because the son of the Sea Snake Corlys, and a very sizzling dragon-rider. This dialog takes place in Viserys’s mancave, his personal sanctum the place he homes his big mannequin of Outdated Valyria. This chamber, wall to wall, sports activities big weird tapestries of garish orgies in a confluence of intercourse and energy; when Rhaenyra protests that if she had been a person her sexual exploits would have been seen as a value-add, it’s onerous not to think about her rising up surrounded by photographs of Targaryen conquests as explicitly sexual in addition to martial. Certainly, the present instantly presenting us with the necessity to defend Rhaenyra’s womanly advantage feels nearly misplaced in a society so sexually brazen as that of King’s Touchdown; but when it feels jarring and superimposed to us, it should really feel much more ham-fisted as some extent of competition to Rhaenyra herself.

Nonetheless, her 18 hours or so of sexual freedom have hammered the purpose dwelling: Intercourse is transactional, above all else. So, for the primary time, she does what everybody else has been doing: She makes use of herself as leverage. She agrees to marry Laenor if Viserys fires Otto Hightower. The king, near doing that on his personal, accepts and removes an astonished Otto from his place as hand, which provides me an excuse to reward Rhys Ifans as soon as extra for therefore vividly conveying Otto’s fixed inner calculations, at all times passive, silent, and performed fully in microexpressions. (On this home, we love a great microexpression.) Viserys, discussing his late father’s demise with Otto on this scene, opens up the door for the chance that Otto could have killed Viserys’s dad, Baelon, so as to exchange him because the king’s hand and take away him as contender for the throne. However whereas that’s fully believable politically, it might be a real sport of 5-D chess, and a shocker provided that Baelon formally died of appendicitis.

Nonetheless, it’s hardly past the lengthy technique Otto is enjoying, and now that each he and Daemon are faraway from energy, with Corlys Velaryon ready within the wings, the sport for Rhaenyra is afoot. Whether or not she realizes it or not, she’ll quickly have an excellent greater goal on her again as inheritor — and the offense she’s simply discovered to play, utilizing intercourse as a pathway to actual energy, is about to get rather more critical.

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