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‘House of the Dragon’: Daemon and Rhaenyra’s Sexual Chemistry Evokes the Twisted Romances That Drove ‘Game of Thrones’

House of the Dragon Episode 5 “We Light the Way” is technically about Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) finally consenting to marriage. She lets her father Viserys (Paddy Considine) pair her up with cousin Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). Rhaenyra successfully pitches her groom on the idea of an open marriage, but her paramour Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) is devastated by this arrangement. But for all the focus on Rhaenyra’s relationships with Ser Criston and Laenor, the real fireworks are between the princess and her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). House of the Dragon continues to push Daemon and Rhaenyra as each other’s match, which is both weird and titillating in a way that sums up the twisted romances that drive much of Game of Thrones‘s drama.

The first time we meet Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon, he is idly sitting on his brother’s throne for kicks. Rhaenyra confronts him about his arrival in King’s Landing and he not only gets off the Iron Throne with zero protestation, but he gifts Rhaenyra a Valyrian steel necklace. This scene is oddly charged because it seems this isn’t a strictly platonic gift between uncle and niece. The Targaryens are infamously incestuous and there is a dangerous flirtatious vibe as Daemon places the Valyrian steel chain about Rhaenyra’s neck.

A few years later and the subtext of their relationship has become full-blown text. In House of the Dragon Episode 4, Daemon sneaks Rhaenyra out of the castle and into the underbelly of King’s Landing. He takes her to a pleasure house where he explains that while marriage is a duty, “fucking” is for pleasure. And as they are of the dragon, they can take whomever they want wherever they want. The two make out and begin to initiate sex, which Daemon halts at the last second. Still, Daemon and Rhaenyra carried on enough in a public place to tip off a spy. Rumors spread, Viserys is horrified, and Daemon offers to marry his niece. Viserys scorns this offer as Daemon is already married.

Rhaenyra and Daemon in House of the Dragon Episode 4
Photo: HBO

Which brings us to House of the Dragon Episode 5, which starts with Daemon murdering his wife Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford) and ends with Rhaenyra marrying Laenor despite Daemon’s last appeal. (Though she seems far more intrigued by Daemon’s offer than Ser Criston’s…)

Daemon sees Rhaenyra dancing with Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) and cuts in even though he’s not there for dancing. In High Valyrian, he asks Rhaenyra if this wedding is what she really wants, going on to explain that Laenor will bore her. “This is not for you,” he says. Rhaenyra challenges him to cut through her father’s Kingsguard and to carry her off to Dragonstone, where they can be married. At this point, Daemon takes Rhaenyra’s cheek in his hand and appears to want to kiss her in front of everyone. Viserys is fixated on them from across the room, but then all hell breaks loose. Ser Criston Cole is busy murdering Ser Laenor’s beloved Knight of Kisses, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod).

So did Prince Daemon kiss Princess Rhaenyra on her wedding day? House of the Dragon makes it purposely unclear, but the more important point is that Daemon and Rhaenyra continue to be drawn to each other like no one else. They are each other’s matches, in terms of wit, soul, and passion. No one else can read Daemon like Rhaenyra — not even Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) — and Daemon is the only man who seems able to tempt Rhaenyra. She has consistently called Daemon out on his bullshit and Daemon has always inspired Rhaenyra to be her most Targaryen self.

That’s the thing about Daemon and Rhaenyra: they’re Targaryens. They are silver-haired incest weirdos with psychic connections to mammoth monsters with wings. They do not think they have to play by the rules of normal people because they do not consider themselves to be normal people. In fact, as far as they’re concerned, there’s no one else in the world quite like the two of them. It’s their similarities that make them so different from other people and it’s their similarities that pull them to each other with magnetic force.

House of the Dragon is selling us on Daemon and Rhaenyra as soulmates because there’s nothing else they can be.

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