Tom Glynn-Carney as King Aegon II presides over the small council in House Of The Dragon season 2 episode 1

Aegon & Helaena’s Incestuous ‘House of the Dragon’ Relationship Is Nothing Like Jaime & Cersei Lannister, Thankfully

I can't believe I'm saying this, but thank goodness Aegon's not a wife guy

Game of Thrones fans knew going into House of the Dragon that the Targaryen family normalized incest to an upsetting degree. But speaking to a group of reporters at a roundtable, actor Tom Glynn-Carney remarked that the relationship between his character Aegon II Targaryen and his sister-wife Helaena Targaryen in Season 2 of the HBO series is not really salacious at all.

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Back in Season 1, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen originally proposed that her younger half-sister Helaena marry her son Jacaerys Velaryon. Joining the cousins would, in Rhaenyra’s thinking, help ensure that her father’s younger children did not feel left out and endangered when King Viserys died and she became Queen per his wishes. However, Helaena’s mother Alicent Hightower had rightful but treasonous doubts about Jacaerys’ true parentage and refused the match. Instead, in order to strengthen her own side in the upcoming battle for succession, Alicent fell back on an old Targaryen tradition and married Helaena to her older son Aegon. Yikes!

We don’t know much about the younger generation on House of the Dragon. But we’ve seen some glimpses of them through the time jumps. Aegon was not interested in ruling until his family more or less forced him to usurp, and that power is corrupting fast. Helaena, now Queen, is preoccupied by bugs and dreams and even less interested. As a married couple, they’re even more apathetic.

Aegon and Helaena are definitely more brother and sister than husband and wife.

“There’s not the love in the way that we all understand love to be between siblings and spouse. It isn’t that kind of love,” Glynn-Carney (Tolkien, Dunkirk) tells The Mary Sue’s Rachel Leishman. “He wishes well for her. I don’t want to speak for Phia [Saban] and her approach to Helaena and the relationship with Aegon, but I feel like he sees a purity in Helaena. He doesn’t quite understand it, and he’s quite happy to not understand it. They’re not having conversations about, like, working with the relationship and improving things. It’s like, ‘I know my place. You know your place. We’ve been forced into this.'”

This is especially interesting and good to remember because, 100+ years later, twin siblings Jaime and Cersei Lannister would justify their own affair by telling themselves that House Targaryen siblings married each other all the time. They must have, in a twisted way, felt seen by the Targaryen legacy. Those siblings were allowed to express their love freely and without judgement. But the truth is, they may have been romanticizing history a little bit. Not every sibling marriage in the Targaryen dynasty was what Bridgerton would call a “love match,” as House of the Dragon confirms.

Sure, the relationship between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her uncle Daemon Targaryen ranks pretty high on the incest scale. They appear to be in love. And I know that people ship Helaena and her other brother, Aemond. (More power to them.) But I’d wager that most of the time these infamous sibling marriages were passionless, awkward political matches like the one between Helaena and Aegon. It makes the story of House Targaryen depressing. There are obviously plenty of benefits and privileges to being born royal. But not every kid dreams of having an arranged marriage. Now imagine that that arranged marriage is to your sibling. You don’t even get to meet new people? You aren’t even expanding your social circle? No thank you!

It’s a detriment to both of their characters, actually. When Helaena and Aegon’s infant son Jaehaerys is murdered in the Season 2 premiere, famously known as the “Blood and Cheese” incident, they don’t comfort one another. Helaena goes to her mother, not to Aegon. “The aftermath of the whole Jaehaerys situation is heartbreaking,” Glynn-Carney says, “because all they need is to communicate and give each other some time and love and other things that we all need.” But that isn’t the kind of partner they are to each other. On one hand, it’s a relief because they are siblings. It would be (pardon my French) nasty if they acted like grieving spouses in that moment. But on the other hand, it’s tragic that they don’t have that person to lean on after such a harrowing event.

Then there’s Aegon’s other sister Rhaenyra…

Well, half-sister that is. Aegon definitely has more passionate feelings, of the negative variety, towards Rhaenyra. She’s the one challenging his claim to the throne. She’s the one who was promised the life he ultimately stole. “There’s a lot of resentment built up over the years about how Rhaenyra was favorite child,” says Glynn-Carney. “She was first. She was the one that Viserys always gave the attention to; Aegon hates that. I think if anything it strengthens the dislike and the bitterness–the fact that they are siblings and the fact that they should have had an equal amount of love and attention as children and that didn’t happen.”

Glynn-Carney notes that Aegon has a lot “bubbling underneath.” “I think I’ve tried to cut him some slack this season,” he says, “get in his head in that sense and kinda make sense of his neuroses, and insecurities, and his questionable decisions. It all stems from … it’s the question of nature and nurture, I think, unfortunately for him.” Without a support system, it’s probably not going to get any better for Aegon. Oh Keeping Up With The Targaryens, never change.

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Leah Marilla Thomas
Leah Marilla Thomas (she/her) is a contributor at The Mary Sue. She has been working in digital entertainment journalism since 2013, covering primarily television as well as film and live theatre. She's been on the Marvel beat professionally since Daredevil was a Netflix series. (You might recognize her voice from the Newcomers: Marvel podcast). Outside of journalism, she is 50% Southerner, 50% New Englander, and 100% fangirl over everything from Lord of the Rings to stage lighting and comics about teenagers. She lives in New York City and can often be found in a park. She used to test toys for Hasbro. True story!