The “Game of Thrones” universe famously loves its incest — and Sunday night’s episode of “House of the Dragon” set up the most extreme keep-it-in-the-family plot yet.
The following contains spoilers for Episode 2 of HBO Max’s new smash hit. It also contains spoilers for where the story is heading, based on George RR Martin’s book “Fire & Blood.” Turn back now if you want to stay in the dark.
[Warning: Spoilers below]
The second episode of “HOTD” — which is set around 200 years before the events of “GoT” — shows the exiled Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) being a bad boy.
In a power-grab move, he has stolen a dragon egg and seized the castle Dragonstone, which rightfully belongs to his niece, the king’s newly named heir, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock). Basically, after the last episode in which King Viserys (Paddy Considine) kicked him out of King’s Landing and killed his chances of getting the Iron Throne, Daemon is throwing a tantrum about it now. Viserys’ advisors call Daemon’s actions “sedition,” while the king is more dismissive, saying that his hotheaded younger brother is trying to “provoke” him.
Viserys sends Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) along with some soldiers to go deal with Daemon — since his s – – t-stirring behavior can’t stand, but the king also doesn’t want to kill his brother or punish him too badly.
Sure, Daemon seems like a guy who will listen to a simple “knock it off.” What could go wrong?
Otto and Daemon have a tense standoff on a bridge outside the castle, and it looks like the day might turn bloody, as their soldiers reach for their swords. . . but then Daemon’s niece, Rhaenyra, swoops in on a dragon and saves the day, getting him to stand down.
“I’m right here, uncle. The object of your anger,” she says to him. “The reason that you were disinherited. If you wish to be restored as heir, you’ll need to kill me. So do it, and be done with all this bother.”
Daemon backs off, returns the dragon egg that he stole, and stomps away, crisis averted.
[Major spoiler alert!]
In the book “Fire & Blood” that the show is based on, Daemon and Rhaenyra eventually get together romantically. So, if you watched the first episode and thought you clocked an odd vibe in the scene when he gave her a necklace and proclaimed, “beautiful,” you’re right.
This episode’s scene on that bridge doesn’t have obvious romantic undertones, but it shows that Daemon is not just another Joffrey or Ramsay Bolton type — wreaking havoc and unable to be reasoned with. Rhaenyra is able to stop him (and she’s probably the only person who can). He’s not willing to kill her, even though she stands between him and the Iron Throne he wants.
Rhaenyra actress Milly Alcock, 22, told The Post, “Me and Matt [Smith] came to a mutual understanding: that [the relationship] is charged, but it’s under the surface. It’s almost like they’re having two conversations in every scene. It’s like what they’re actually saying, and what they’re saying in their body language, and in their eyes and in their tone. It was really fun to play with.
Still, putting these two characters together is pushing the envelope, even for the world of “Game of Thrones.” Twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s sexcapades on the original show were gross enough, but at least they were the same age, so there was less power imbalance. Jon and Daenerys were nephew and aunt when they got busy with each other — but they didn’t grow up together, and they were also similar ages.
Rhaenyra has grown up knowing Daemon as her uncle. He’s a blood relative who’s around twice her age, and he’s been in her life as she’s grown up.
So, this will be the most extreme incest that the show has featured yet. And although Episode 2 is mostly about Daemon throwing a tantrum and King Viserys dramatically announcing that he’ll take Rhaenyra’s bestie Alicent (Emily Carey) as his new wife, the uncle-and-niece incest plot is simmering in the background. Get ready for it.
“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays at 9 pm on HBO.