If Aegon the Conqueror can take two sister-wives, is it so bad for an uncle to take his niece as a bride?
In the fourth episode of “House of the Dragon,” titled “King of the Narrow Sea,” Daemon Targaryen gloriously returns to King’s Landing, having defeated the triarchy and Prince Drahar in the Stepstones. He boasts a crown on his head that he gives to his brother, King Viserys Targaryen, declaring victory in the name of the crown.
As the two brothers embrace and share stories of their youth during an outdoor reception, viewers might believe they’ve finally ended their squabbles.
That is, until Daemon tempts Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen with a night out in the city’s underbelly. Rhaenyra has recently unceremoniously returned to King’s Landing, cutting short a tour in the seven kingdoms, where suitors flocked to her for a chance at her hand in marriage.
But the Iron Throne heir has an ick for all of her prospects — who are either too crass, too old, too young or simply not Ser Criston Cole — and vents to Alicent Hightower during the reception, “They only want my name and my Valyrian blood for their offspring.”
The queen replies that the suitors’ efforts are “rather romantic,” but Rhaenyra interjects, telling her friend-turned-stepmother, “How romantic it must be to get imprisoned in a castle and made to squeeze out heirs.” Ouch.
So when Rhaenyra receives a disguise and map from Daemon, she’s emboldened by her rebelliousness and led astray by her naiveté. In perhaps the most shocking scene to those unfamiliar with incestuous Targaryen history, Daemon lures Rhaenyra into a brothel and kisses her; she returns his kiss. He abruptly leaves Rhaenyra before they carry on further, though not before one of Otto Hightower’s trusted spies spots them.
Before the scandal makes its way through the castle, Rhaenyra charms Criston into bed. She’s bold enough to make her own decisions regarding her body, initiating a sexual encounter with someone she’s attracted to despite pressures to uphold the pristine image of maidenhood — a burden that, as she makes clear, men do not carry.
The Princess’ streak of defiance ends when Otto breaks the news of Daemon and Rhaenyra’s “coupling,” as he so timidly puts it, to her father. Viserys berates Otto for spreading the rumors, while a shocked Alicent confronts Rhaenyra with what she’s overheard, delivering an understated, “You Targaryens do have queer customs.”
Rhaenyra lies, denying “upon the memory of her mother” that Daemon touched her. However, in a tense confrontation between Daemon and Viserys, the rogue prince lets his brother believe he has taken Rhaenyra’s virginity. His solution to the problem is simple — marry Rhaenyra to him. (Yes, she’s his niece.) It’s a hard pass from the king.
A sickly Viserys — who, perhaps, is just now realizing how vicious the game of thrones is — moves to end the “political headache” Rhaenyra brought on him by arranging a marriage with Lord Corlys Velaryon’s son, Laenor. And that’s not the end of his political maneuvering.
After Rhaenyra accuses Viserys of ignoring the “vulture” — Otto — who perches on his throne, Viserys fires the Hand of the King, claiming Otto’s only interest is to see his grandchild, Aegon, sit on the Iron Throne.
But even with Otto gone, the vultures continue to circle Rhaenyra, who might have lost some of her father’s trust. In the last scene, she’s handed a tea for “unwanted consequences” signaling that even if Viserys believes her story in public, privately the seeds of distrust have taken root within the house of the dragon.