‘House of the Dragon’ Season 2, Episode 4: Fire in the Sky

Season 2, Episode 4: ‘The Red Dragon and the Gold’

From its sobriquet on down, George R.R. Martin’s World of Ice and Fire is largely a bipolar one. Blacks fight Greens. Starks fight Lannisters. And in the prophetic Song of Ice and Fire itself, death wars against life.

The dragons flown by the Targaryen dynasty are an exception to this rule. In the source novels, various maesters and royals speculate that dragons are neither male nor female, capable of switching sexes as needed. True, they are the fire that helps turn back the ice of the Night King and his undead minions in “Game of Thrones,” and the most magnificent and awe-inspiring living creatures in the Westerosi bestiary. But they are also death incarnate, capable of inflicting carnage amid soldiers and civilians alike at an industrial scale.

And if need be, they can be called upon to kill one another, in battles as brutal as they are beautiful. There is a reason scholars within Martin’s fictional universe refer to the Targaryen civil war as the Dance of the Dragons: The conflict is as rapturous to behold as it is repugnant, often in the same scene.

This episode’s three-way battle between Princess Rhaenys and her red dragon Meleys, King Aegon II and his gloriously golden Sunfyre, and Prince Aemond One-Eye and the colossal beast Vhagar is a case study in the dragons’ duality. The script, by the co-creator and showrunner Ryan Condal, contains a lengthy lead-up to the climactic Battle at Rook’s Rest — a trap set by the Hand of the King, Ser Criston Cole, and his primary ally, Prince Aemond, to lure Black dragons and their riders to their doom — featuring glory shots of Meleys and Sunfyre on their way to war. The director, Alan Taylor, a signature talent on “Game of Thrones,” makes it clear what kind of splendor the world will lose if these animals should die.

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