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HOUSE OF THE DRAGON 2×04 “THE RED DRAGON AND THE GOLD” is an answer to every fan who complained about House of the Dragon being too slow. It finally has one of those glorious battles between dragons that has been promised since Season One. There’s going to be some complaints from the fans about tactics, undoubtedly, and how some of the scenes don’t make too much sense but I am overall satisfied with the results. A lot of things change on the game board of thrones and we sadly lose a character who has been with us from the beginning.

The premise is that the Blacks are in dissaray from the abandonment of Rhaenyra during their critical hour of need with Daemon having also taken off to raise his own army. This doesn’t do much to paint Rhaenyra as a good queen candidate since you think it would have been fairly obvious to appoint someone in charge while she was gone or to take over should something happen during her ill-conceived peace initiative. It doesn’t paint a particularly flattering opinion of her son and heir either since he clearly did nothing to take over either.

Daemon’s attempts to garrison Harrenhal are shown to be a comedy of errors as the castle is a broken ruin with Lord Larys Strong having emptied its treasury. Harrenhal is basically depicted as Castle Ravenloft and the only thing it is lacking is a vampire lord. His hallucinations and dreams are very well done. We also get some more depiction of Alys Rivers who brings some nice First Men magic and surreality. One of the big weaknesses of Hot D is the lack of Starks and their strong contrast to the Targaryens.

One of the scenes that bothered me this episode is Daemon meeting with Oscar Tully, the heir of House Tully. Basically, Grover says that he can’t help Daemon because his grandfather is incapacitated and won’t usurp his authority. The thing is, I’m pretty sure that when your liege lord gives you an order, you can’t take a sick day. That’s treason and worse than the Late Lord Frey’s hesitation.

House of the Dragon has the weird attitude that if you don’t have the lords in charge that they just sit around on their bottoms, waiting for someone to come back. Chains of command exist in feudalism just like they do in the modern age. The show is really not suggesting any of the factions have much organization or initiative. At least Rhaenyra tells her son the Song of Ice and Fire since otherwise it would have died with her.

Alicent Hightower takes some moon tea to either prevent herself from becoming pregnant by Ser Criston Cole or to abort a pregnancy she might have already had from him. It’s a reminder her character is only about 35 in-universe (the actress being 30) and pregnancy is less likely but hardly impossible. Certainly, while possible of passing off another child as her husband’s (lich as he was at the end), the Dornish features would have been a dead giveaway.

Alicent seems to have done a bit of a circle in terms of her characterization as she was a lot more ambitious, manipulative, and brutal after the initial time skip in Season One. Now, after finding out that Viserys never wanted his son on the throne, she starts going back to that attitude. I hope they keep this change as I found that Alicent more interesting as a contrast to Rhaenyra. One of her best moments in the series is Alicent shutting down her son and saying she should rule in his stead.

The actual dragon battle is a triumph of CGI and something we’ve been waiting for the entire time. We see Meleys, Vhagar, and Sunfyre duke it out over Rook’s Roost. A small castle that ends up becoming one of the most important battles of the war. The fact they let Duskendale fall without providing much of a defense is something that doesn’t make much sense in the show. I’ve complained about how the Blacks haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy feudal lords but they finally do lend themselves to living up to their obligations. Sadly, the cost is tremendous. I also love the twist with Aemond finally taking the steps that Daemon, himself, wasn’t willing to.

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