On House Of The Dragon, Daemon And Rhaenyra Are A Match Made In Seven Hells

When we all got to the end of the pilot episode of "Game of Thrones," there was a collective gasp that could be heard when Bran Stark happened upon twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister in flagrante delicto in a Winterfell tower. This was an incestuous relationship that needed to stay hidden in the shadows for no one to see, which makes sense ... considering the incest of it all.

A lesser remarked-upon moment of that "Game of Thrones" pilot is the first scene between Daenerys Targaryen and her older brother Viserys, where he disrobes her and gropes her breast. While incredibly skeevy due to the power imbalance, it was the first signal that incest within the Targaryen family was not exactly the most frowned upon thing. We come to learn that it's basically commonplace for Targaryens to engage in familial relations, and in the prequel series "House of the Dragon," that has certainly been taken to the next level.

In episode 4 of the series, we have seen the first step into the possible coupling of heir to the throne Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and her Uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), who engage in some fairly passionate lip-locking and perhaps a bit of hand stuff in a King's Landing pleasure house without a place to hide from the eyes of onlookers. Based on Rhaenyra's fawning eyes for her uncle and Daemon's whole "I f***" vibe, this seemed like an inevitability, and now that it's here, we have to deal with the strong possibility that this incestuous union could be the core relationship for the show's protagonist. A pretty bold move for a populist, brand name show.

Two people who desperately want respect

What links Rhaenyra and Daemon beyond the blood that flows through their veins is how they feel in constant need to assert that what they bring to the world is valuable. Rhaenyra is meant to be the Queen of Westeros after her father passes, yet no one around believes that a woman should ascend the Iron Throne, instead looking towards a literal infant to supplant her as heir. Daemon suffers from a strong case of look-at-me syndrome, which affects plenty of little brothers (particularly when your older brother is a king). When his brother offers aid at the Stepstones, he has to go in guns blazing on his own to defeat the Crabfeeder, and while he succeeds, it perfectly demonstrates his insecurity.

Though Rhaenyra and her uncle could not be in a more fortunate societal position, they see the scrappy underdogs in one another and feel a connection no one else can relate to. Having grown up in a family where their family members marry other family members frequently, having a sexual relationship with one another makes sense to them. It's telling that the issue in the episode is that Rhaenyra would have had sex before marriage, along with Daemon having sex with someone other than his wife, and not that they were taking the Bonetown Express with their relative.

Temperamentally, the two make decent sense as a match, if you discount the host of problematic elements about it (which you cannot really do). I would not be surprised if there were a development in which Daemon is able to uncouple from his current wife, which I imagine would be through some truly horrific means, and be able to wed Rhaenyra.

Why does Daemon stop it?

Importantly, Rhaenyra and Daemon do not have sex. Daemon gets off the train before they get to the destination. Rhaenyra attempts to keep the engine going, but it's no use. Daemon abandons her at the brothel for her to wander on home by herself. He could have pulled this move for a bunch of reasons. Does he feel remorse at possibly "defiling" his niece? Do his whims change as frequently as the wind? Or does he just struggle with sexual performance, as he did with Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) in the first episode?

I think Daemon clearly cares deeply for Rhaenyra and realized he didn't want to bring this young woman into his power play machinations. In the throes of passion, he realized this was the future queen in his hands. As he is not the gentlest of people, he extricated himself from the situation, falling into a self-destructive stupor that landed him in Mysaria's inn.

Daemon has been a bit of a mystery character these first few episodes. Part of that is by design, as he almost never is completely forthright about his intentions and feelings about anything, but part of that is simply because we have not spent a lot of time with him. In episodes two and three, he barely makes an appearance outside of the big action set piece. Deciphering what is going in that guy's head requires us to exist with him alone with his thoughts. Pinning down exactly why he pulls away from Rhaenyra is tough to gage when you don't have all the information you need to make a definitive judgment call. Hopefully, future episodes will be able to better enlighten us on the why.

Rhaenyra still wants to get down

Rhaenyra doesn't want to pull away from Daemon in the slightest. She keeps trying to kiss him and take things further. Rhaenyra is about 18 years old during this episode, and she's a young woman who has bachelors paraded in front of her daily that she couldn't care less for. Not to say Rhaenyra isn't interested in romance and sex — just not with these yokels. She's a cloistered young woman. Of course she is horny.

That night, Rhaenyra ends up having sex with the guy whom she should be romantically involved with, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). He's noble, caring, and incredibly handsome. When she comes home after an unsatisfying sexual encounter, she looks to satisfy that with Cole. This does present its own power dynamic problems since he is completely at her command, but his resistance to the encounter emerges more from his sense of duty to the King's Guard than him not being totally into Rhaenyra. Their sex ends up being earnest, passionate, and quite lovely. I particularly love the touch of them tenderly and giddily removing the absurd number of layers of clothing they each wear.

The real reason as to why these two cannot be together is one that has always been societally stupid. He comes from a low-born house that would do nothing to strengthen the realm upon their union. In this world, tradition and duty always triumph over personal happiness, so I don't expect them to end up together (though an illicit affair is not off the table). The more likely outcome in my mind is Rhaenyra ending up with Daemon, which would be the more dramatic set of events, and I look forward to seeing how explosive it all gets.