Ser Gwayne Hightower and Ser Criston Cole on horseback in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4 Recap

Warning: The following recap contains major spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4.

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Hallucinations and Headaches at Harrenhal

Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4 opens in maybe cursed/definitely creepy castle Harrenhal. Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) dreams of young Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) perched on the Iron Throne. Rhaenyra accuses Daemon of undermining her rule. She also declares that her father (and Daemon’s brother), King Viserys I Targaryen, loved her more. In response, Daemon lops off Rhaenyra’s head, but the taunting doesn’t stop.

Daemon is woken from his nightmare by Ser Simon Strong (Simon Russell Beale), but not before hallucinating blood on his hands. Ser Simon brings news that Houses Rosby and Stokeworth have raised their banners for King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney). Aegon’s army, headed up by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), is now three times as big — and it’s partly Daemon’s fault. The Blood and Cheese scandal (which Daemon set in motion) helped sway both houses to side with Aegon.

Related: Are Daenerys’ Dragon Eggs in House of the Dragon Season 2?

Ser Simon warns Daemon that Ser Criston and his troops will likely make a beeline for Harrenhal. If they do, the odds of Daemon coming out on top don’t look great, as there’s no time for him to raise a big enough army of his own (plus, the castle is still busted). Hoping to improve his chances, Daemon meets with Ser Oscar Tully (Archie Barnes), the tween heir to the powerful House Tully.

Ser Oscar confirms that his grandfather (and current House Tully head), Grover Tully, is seriously ill but still very much alive. Daemon’s less than thrilled to hear this, as it means Ser Oscar can’t hand him control of House Tully’s forces. The rogue prince disparages House Tully and storms out of the meeting. As he goes, he orders Ser Simon to summon House Blackwood, as they (unlike the Tullys) proved they’re “men of action” in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 3.

Off-the-Books Offspring on Both Sides of the Divide

From here, House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4 shifts its focus to Driftmark. Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) encounters Alyn of Hull (Abubakar Salim) and observes that — based on his looks — his mother must have been a beautiful woman. It’s a slightly awkward moment that makes more sense once Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) shows up and sends Alyn away.

The conversation between husband and wife that follows heavily implies that Alyn is Corlys’ illegitimate son. Rhaenys also announces that she’s heading back to Dragonstone to support Lady Baela Targaryen (Bethany Antonia) and Prince Jacaerys Velaryon (Harry Collett) in Queen Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) absence. When Corlys grumbles about Rhaenyra going AWOL, Rhaenys retorts that the queen is the only Black Targaryen trying to avert all-out war.

Related: House of the Dragon: Who Is The Prince That Was Promised?

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Grand Maester Orwyle (Kurt Egyiawan) brings Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) a dose of moon tea. Alicent pretends the birth control potion is for another unnamed member of the royal household, but it’s clearly for her. Before Orwyle exits, Alicent asks him whether he believes Viserys truly wanted Aegon as his successor. He can’t say one way or the other, leaving Alicent to mull over the subject (and quaff her moon tea).

Cut to: Dragonstone. The Black Targaryen Small Council members are their usual ornery selves, lamenting their lack of concrete intel, resources, and leadership. Rhaenys, Baela, and Jacaerys try keeping the session on the rails, but it’s no use. However, just as things reach rock bottom, Coryls swaggers in and gets everyone back in line. With order restored, Rhaenys implores the council to trust Rhaenyra to do whatever it takes to end the Targaryen civil war.

Aegon Learns Who’s Really Steering the War Effort

Prince Aemond Targaryen in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4

In the Crownlands, Ser Criston’s army has defeated Rhaenyra loyalists House Darklyn. As Ser Gwayne Hightower (Freddie Fox) watches on, Cole invites the defeated soldiers to throw in with the Green Targaryen camp. Lord Darklyn himself refuses to bend the knee and Cole removes his head from his shoulders for his troubles. Cole then receives a raven and tells Gwayne they’re headed northeast next. When Gwayne points out that Harrenhal lies to the west, Cole agrees without altering his orders.

Back in King’s Landing, Aegon is throwing one of his now-standard tantrums during a Small Council session. The king is a bit miffed that Daemon has control of Harrenhal. The castle’s official owner, Lord Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), assures Aegon there’s nothing to worry about. Not only is Harrenhal in bad shape without any cash flow but, while Daemon focuses his energies there, Ser Criston’s forces roll through the Crownlands virtually unopposed.

Related: House of the Dragon: How Does Rhaenyra Targaryen Die in the Book?

Aegon’s partly mollified; however, he still wants to take back Harrenhal for appearance’s sake. That’s when Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) pipes up. He’s already sent Ser Criston’s army (via the raven seen earlier) to Rook’s Rest. Despite its seeming insignificance, taking the small castle would have big strategic benefits for the Green Targaryen campaign. Aegon’s not convinced, nor is he happy that Aemond and Criston are effectively waging the war without him. But after a pitifully one-sided debate between the siblings in High Valyrian, Aegon submits to Aemond’s plan.

A brief interlude follows, during which Larys pays the unwell Alicent a visit in her chambers. Larys seemingly deduces that Alicent has taken moon tea and hints that he’s aware of her affair with Criston. He also probes Alicent’s role in Aegon’s ascent to the throne, before both agree that Viserys I’s true intentions are now meaningless.

The Haunting of Prince Daemon Continues

House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4’s next stop is Harrenhal. As in Episode 3, an unseen figure lurks behind Daemon’s bed chamber door. Rattled, Daemon grabs a sword and sets off in his pajamas after this ethereal interloper. He finally tracks them down, and they turn out to be … Daemon in an eyepatch? It’s more of the trippy goings-on we’ve come to expect from this plot thread.

Rounding a corner, Daemon comes across Alys Rivers (Gayle Rankin), who shares her backstory. It turns out she’s Harrenhal’s unofficial maester, after the legit maester fled one night. She also touches on the castle’s supposed curse, recalling how a forest of ancient Weirwood trees was chopped down during its construction. Daemon’s bed is made from the same trees, and Alys puts forward the theory that this is responsible for the rogue prince’s night terrors.

Related: Who Is Alyrie Florent in House of the Dragon?

Her potted history lesson concluded, Alys then sets about psychoanalyzing Daemon. She cuts close to the bone, playing on Daemon’s fears that his actions at Harrenhal are designed to elevate him and undercut Rhaenyra. This comes with a sleeping potion to wash it down, which Daemon drains. This seems like a rash move on his part, especially given Daemon’s erratic performance at the meeting with House Blackwood the following day. Still, Daemon makes a tentative deal with the Blackwoods despite being haunted by a vision of his late wife, Lady Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell), throughout.

Back in King’s Landing, Aegon gets fed up with reports of Ser Criston and Aemond’s successes and huffs out of the Small Council meeting. He heads for his chambers, where he finds Alicent looking for Viserys I’s old history books. Aegon bitches to his mother about nobody taking him seriously. However, Alicent isn’t in a coddling mood and hits Aegon with some hard truths about his inadequacies as king. Her final counsel? Sit there, shut up, and do nothing.

The Battle at Rook’s Rest

Ser Gwayne Hightower in House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4

This brings us to House of the Dragon Season 2, Episode 4’s final third, which is devoted to the second season’s first big set piece: the Battle at Rook’s Rest. Cole orders his troops to attack the castle, over Gwayne’s objections that a daytime assault leaves them vulnerable to nearby Dragonstone’s dragons. He’s not wrong, either. When Rhaenyra returns to Dragonstone, she (eventually) dispatches Rhaenys and her mount, Meleys, to Rook’s Rest.

A montage of action across Westeros follows, accompanied by Rhaenyra’s narration about a Targaryen monarch’s purpose and duties. Aegon defies Alicent and saddles up on his dragon, Sunfyre. Rhaenys and Meleys share a tender moment (foreshadowing, anyone?). Capping it all off, Rhaenyra prepares to share the Song of Ice and Fire — the prophecy foretelling the events of Game of Thrones — with Jacaerys.

Related: Who Did Viserys Want to Succeed Him in House of the Dragon?

And then it’s go-time at Rook’s Rest. Rhaenys and Meleys arrive with the battle underway and start roasting the Green Targaryens’ ranks. Yet Ser Criston isn’t phased — because Aemond and his dragon, Vhagar, are playing possum in the forest. But before Criston and Aemond can spring their surprise attack, Aegon arrives. He and Sunfyre are no match for Rhaenys and Meleys, although Aemond and Vhagar’s intervention looks set to tip the scales.

Unfortunately for Aegon, Aemond fires (literally) indiscriminately, sending the already badly injured Sunfyre tumbling to the ground. Rhaenys, Aemond, and their respective mounts go head-to-head next, wreaking havoc on the battlefield below. Aemond and Vhagar ultimately defeat Rhaenys and Meleys, killing both. What about Aegon? When a distraught Cole locates him, he’s badly — maybe even fatally — injured. It’s a victory for the Greens, but at what cost?

House of the Dragon Season 2 is currently airing on HBO and Max, with new episodes dropping Sundays.

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Leon Miller
Leon is a freelance contributor at The Escapist, covering movies, TV, video games, and comics. Active in the industry since 2016, Leon's previous by-lines include articles for Polygon, Popverse, Screen Rant, CBR, Dexerto, Cultured Vultures, PanelxPanel, Taste of Cinema, and more.