Let's Unpack That Complicated Daemon-Rhaenyra Scene on “House of the Dragon”


If you’ve read the book “Fire and Blood,” then you’ve known from the beginning where “House of the Dragon” would eventually end up: with two Targaryens fulfilling the family tradition of incest. The fourth episode of the series, called “King of the Narrow Sea,” features the first explicitly romantic (if you can even call it that) encounter between Princess Rhaenyra and her uncle, Prince Daemon, and the sequence raises a lot of questions about what, exactly, Daemon was planning and what the nature of his feelings for Rhaenyra truly are at this point.

What Was Daemon’s Plan in “House of the Dragon” Season 1, Episode 4?

At first glance, Daemon’s plan seems pretty simple: take Rhaenyra to scandalous places in public, “ruin” her, and force Viserys to agree to let them marry, thus making Daemon the husband of the heir to the throne. His actions once they’re in the brothel, particularly in deliberately discarding their disguises, would seem to support this theory, as would his calm request to marry Rhaenyra when Viserys comes to confront him. In hindsight, however, it seems like there’s more at play than a simple power play.

Why Did Daemon Stop Hooking Up With Rhaenyra?

Daemon decides not to go through with sleeping with Rhaenyra at the last second, taking pause when Rhaenyra begins to enthusiastically kiss him back, ultimately punching the wall in frustration before deserting her at the brothel without going through with his plan. Later, he doesn’t seem as bothered as he should be when Viserys banishes him for his misbehaviour.

As far as the actual moment in the brothel, it turns out that Daemon halted the hookup for a very particular reason: his own “failure to perform.” “His impotence in this scene is a reflection of the fact that he knows, deep down, what he’s doing isn’t right,” showrunner Miguel Sapochnik explained in the episode’s official behind-the-scenes featurette, confirming Daemon found himself physically unable to go through with it, not just emotionally.

“He thinks it’s shocking to [Rhaenyra], but she doesn’t just get shocked, she gets excited by it,” adds the episode’s director, Clare Kilner. “And when that happens, he has nothing, and he basically can’t handle not being in charge or in control.”

Is Daemon Using Rhaenyra For Political Reasons?

Daemon’s general nonchalance, when confronted by his brother Viserys over what did or didn’t happen with Rhaenyra, certainly seems to support the theory that his ultimate goal is the throne. Viserys even calls him out on it, accusing him of “lusting for” the throne, not Rhaenyra.

Does Daemon Have Real Feelings For Rhaenyra?

Daemon is a character who is very good at keeping his real feelings and motivations close to the chest. The possibility that he feels guilt over using Rhaenrya as a means to his own ends would seem to suggest some kind of real feelings or affection for her, buried beneath the scheming.

Did Daemon Orchestrate Otto Hightower’s Dismissal?

There’s also the bigger picture to consider beyond just Targaryen family politics. The whole fiasco ends with Daemon banished, but it also ends with Otto Hightower, the scheming Hand of the King, being removed from his post. Otto reporting Rhaenyra’s “adventures” to Viserys helps the king realise that Otto has always been out for himself, from manipulating Viserys’s marriage to Alicent to trying to take down Rhaenyra, all so that Otto can put his own grandson, Aegon, on the throne.

The spy who tells Otto about seeing Rhaenyra and Daemon also happens to work for Myseria, Daemon’s former mistress and now a spymaster. Could the whole plan have been to get Otto to push far enough that Viserys would finally realize his true nature, with Rhaenyra merely as collateral damage? Daemon and Otto have long been at odds, and it’s easy to imagine Daemon going to any lengths to increase his own power and knock Otto down.

Because Daemon is such an enigmatic character, it’s hard to get a sense of his motives, but we suspect we’ll be getting much more of his plotting – and his complicated relationship with Rhaenyra – as the season goes on.

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