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‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 4 Recap: The Battle of Rook’s Rest Leads to Death and Betrayal

Warning: Spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon season 2, episode 4, “A Dance of Dragons.” Don’t read on until you’ve watched!

House of the Dragon continued the vicious “Dance of Dragons” on Sunday with a pivotal battle seeming to claim the lives of even more central characters. 

After episode 3’s reveal about the late King Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) true choice of heir, the brutal battle between the splintered Targaryen dynasty culminated at episode’s end when Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) continued his epic streak of questionable decisions. After taking Rosby, Stokeworth and Duskendale for the greens, Ser Criston and his army arrived at Rook’s Rest, preparing to take the next stronghold on their march towards Dragonstone.

The blacks know that they need to respond with force, but Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) refuses to let her son, Jacaerys (Harry Collett), lead the charge — instead sending Rhaenys (Eve Best) and her dragon, Meleys.

With Gwayne Hightower (Freddie Fox) questioning his command upon Rhaenys’ arrival, Ser Criston reveals his secret plan. Out of the woods rises the Targaryens’ most formidable dragon, Vhagar, and his rider, Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). 

However, a wrench is almost immediately thrown in the plan as a drunken and reckless King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) also shows up on dragon back — eager to prove himself after a disquieting conversation with his mother, Queen Regent Alicent (Olivia Cooke). 

King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Queen Regent Alicent (Olivia Cooke) discuss the war ahead in ‘House of the Dragon’ season 2, episode 4.Ollie Upton/HBO

Sunfyre and Meleys begin to spar, however, when Aemond takes flight on Vhagar, he aims his dragonfire indiscriminately, declaring “Dracarys!” towards both his enemy and his brother, the king.

Vhagar blasts a flame at both of his fellow dragons and their riders, knocking Aegon and Sunfrye into a patch of smoking woods, while Rhaenys and Meleys continue to fly. The two remaining dragons lock in a death spiral and fall to the ground, knocking out many of the advancing troops — including Ser Criston himself. 

However, as Rhaenys and Meleys return to the sky, surveying the battlefield, Aemond and Vhagar take them by surprise once again, with the Queen of All Dragons snatching and beheading her smaller counterpart, causing Meleys and Rhaenys to plummet to their deaths.

Unlike Vhagar’s killing of Lucerys Velaryon and his dragon, Arrax, in House of the Dragon’s season 1 finale, it’s clear that this slaying was intentional on Aemond’s part as he flies away, smirking. But to what end?

Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) looks on as the warring Targaryens battle on dragon back.Theo Whiteman/HBO

That question is left open-ended as a newly-conscious Ser Criston hikes away from his assumed victory at Rook’s Rest and towards the still-smoking area of the forest where Sunfyre fell. Upon arriving, he sees Aemond drawing his sword, only sheathing it when he calls out his name. 

“Where is His Grace?” the Hand of the King asks Aemond, who points to the fallen dragon — curled around the king’s body.

So, how does this episode compare to the characters’ fate in George R. R. Martin’s series of books? And what does it all mean?

The Battle of Rook’s Rest plays out in largely similar fashion in Fire & Blood with one notable difference being that Aegon was part of Ser Criston’s secret plan of attack all along. In the show, the surprise when he arrives seems to indicate that Aegon took it upon himself to fly out and participate in the battle.

Aemond’s betrayal is also made more explicit in the show — particularly the moment Ser Criston observed, where he brandished a sword over his fallen brother and king, perhaps meaning to finish the job?

In Fire & Blood, Aegon does not die from the battle, but is left gravely wounded, leaving Aemond to take over as regent for many months while his brother recovers. Was that the younger brother’s plan all along?

Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell) schemes in ‘House of the Dragon’ season 2, episode 4.Ollie Upton/HBO

Rhaenys’ fate, however, seems to be set, as the Battle of Rook’s Rest is also where the Queen That Never Was dies in the book series. When ET spoke with Best ahead of the season, she obviously couldn’t tease anything about her date, but did hint at the intense moments to come, sharing, “There’s quite a lot of dragon riding that I was not at all prepared for physically or emotionally.” 

At House of the Dragon‘s season 2 premiere, showrunner Ryan Condal told ET how the show’s creative teamed planned to stay as faithful as possible to Martin’s history of House Targaryen as they explored the family dynasty that ruled the seven kingdoms of Westeros hundreds of years before the events of Game of Thrones.

“There are different demands in the show given that it’s an adaptation of a history book,” he said. “But the plan is to faithfully render George’s history as it’s been given in the text.”

New episodes of House of the Dragon season 2 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. PT/ET on HBO and streaming on Max.

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