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Why Did Daemon Stop With Rhaenyra on ‘House of the Dragon’?

New era, same questionable decisions.

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO Milly Alcock, Matt Smith HBO House of the Dragon Season 1 - Episode 4

Almost every episode of Game of Thrones left viewers with a lot to unpack. The spin-off House of the Dragon has kept up that tradition, especially with episode four. “King of the Narrow Sea” gave us more insight into the relationship and emotions behind the main female characters Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). And we got Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in all his dramatic glory sporting a sassy new haircut.

Daemon’s war on the Stepstones finally came to a bloody end in episode 3, but his grand return to King’s Landing happened in this episode. His brother, King Viserys Targaryen, thinks war changed Daemon into a new man. The feuding brothers mend their hurt feelings over wine before Daemon makes amends with his niece, Rhaenyra. Then Daemon made it apparent he may not have changed all that much in his time away from the Iron Throne.

Just some harmless uncle and niece bonding … right?!

At first, Daemon consoled Rhaenyra over her terrible marriage tour (I guess the guys in Westeros were really lame 200 years before Game of Thrones took place). He assured her that marriages for their family were political, she only needed to secure a husband and then do whatever she wanted with whomever she wanted. Obviously, she had her doubts as that usually is a privilege reserved for men. To bolster Rhaenyra’s spirits, Daemon helped her pull a Princess Jasmine to spend some time away from the pressures of castle life. Wearing dirty laundry like common folk, they drank, ate, and partied with the people of King’s Landing completely unnoticed. Cool bonding time for the elites, right?

When Daemon pulled an intoxicated Rhaenyra into a brothel and removed the coverings hiding their signature white hair, I started to feel like Padmé in that infamous Star Wars meme (they are just going to hang out, right? Right?!). But this being a Game of Thrones show, and the characters being Targaryen, I knew we were in store for another weird incest scene. Daemon showed Rhaenyra people having sex around them for obvious pleasure, not just for duty. Since Rhaenyra saw her mother go through tremendous pain (and eventually die) from trying to produce another heir, “coupling” wasn’t on the top of her to-do list. However, watching people get it on was intriguing to her.

Then Daemon kissed her. And she was very much interested in that. The uncle and niece got steamy fast. Clothes flew off and Rhaenyra gave back to Daemon as good as she got. It was kind of a strange moment because they are obviously related, in a semi-public space, but neither one seemed to care. Out of nowhere, Daemon stopped letting Rhaenyra kiss him, getting angry and hitting the wall before storming out. This left Rhaenyra to fend for herself and make her way back to the castle.

What’s the deal, Daemon?

Viewers, like Rhaenyra, may have been a little confused by Daemon leaving in a fit of rage. As clarified on House of the Dragon Inside the Episode, the answer is two-fold. They showed one reason back in episode one when Daemon had problems finishing in the bedroom with Mysaria. Daemon struggles with impotence. This may also be why he has fathered no children with his wife. When Rhaenyra was aggressive in their encounter, Daemon’s loss of control changed his handle on things. Also, he may have realized the gravity of the situation (he was about to become very intimate with his niece in a brothel) and felt some sort of guilt and shame. These things mixed together, making Daemon physically and emotionally unable to complete what he set out to do.

Or did Daemon still succeed without actually going all the way down the rabbit hole with Rhaenyra? The next morning King Viserys knew very early from Otto Hightower that witnesses saw Daemon and Rhaenyra “coupling” in the brothel. When Viserys confronted his brother, Daemon did not correct the story. Instead, he tried to leverage the possibly ruined reputation of Rhaenyra by suggesting all would be fine if Viserys let them wed. A marriage between them wouldn’t be out of the norm for the Targaryen clan and it would ensure Daemon had a clear path to the throne after being pushed aside for Rhaenyra.

Of course, the ploy within a ploy is all par for the course in Westeros. But the entire plot underlined the persistent patriarchy Rhaenyra is up against. Not only is she the first woman to be named heir to the Iron Throne (and people are not happy), but every move she makes is held to impossibly higher standards than the men around her. She even told her father that if she were a man she could have fathered many children by now and no one would be bothered, yet she is a woman and must remain “pure” until marriage. She assured her father nothing happened with Daemon (although it totally happened with Ser Criston Cole). The king said he believed her, but the maester brought Rhaenyra a Plan B tea in what looked like the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. All of this proved what a steep hill women have to climb to ascend the Iron Throne.

(feature image: HBO)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.