The House of the Dragon Showrunner Responded to Daenyra Shippers
House of the Dragon may be a series about kings and queens, medieval violence, and flying dragons, but George R.R. Martin‘s fantasy epic has also become synonymous with its controversial sex scenes. Like the royal families of old, incest made up for some of the most important relationships in Game of Thrones—a tradition that the prequel series, House of the Dragon, seems hellbent on carrying on.
In Episode Four, the young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and her uncle, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), get hot and heavy in a brothel. Fans at home were shocked by the event (of course), but not everyone found the scene so awkward to see as we did. “Strangely enough, [Matt Smith and I] were just kind of mates. So, it was quite comfortable,” Milly Alcock told the New York Post. “We had an intimacy coordinator, and we worked with her through the rehearsal process and blocked it out months before.”
“Clare Kilner, our director, made sure that we hadn’t seen any of the brothel stuff until we were shooting,” Alcock continued. “So, that was our first time walking through the brothel, and he’s guiding her through the room with all of these other bodies. So, that was quite shocking. You’re like, ‘This is kind of weird and silly.’ There were extras who we had just met who were like, 69-ing for 12 hours. It’s pretty gnarly. We felt pretty overdressed because everyone else was nude.”
Some fans joined Alcock in making light of the steamy situation. While viewers nearly gagged at sex scenes from Game of Thrones between siblings Cersei and Jaime Lannister, or aunt and nephew Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, many are supporting Rhaenyra and Daemon’s taboo affair. “We all were judging the Lannisters for 8 seasons but now rooting for Rhaenyra and Daemon within 4 episodes,” one Twitter user wrote. Does no one hope to see a romantic, love-at-first-sight relationship with someone they’re not related to on this show?
Though the series has since put Daemon and Rhaenyra (now played by Emma D’Arcy) in different cities, they are soon to reunite. Fans are also eagerly awaiting their return, shipping #Daenyra on social media as if it were any other TV romance. “I mean, nothing surprises me these days,” showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety. “It sort of is taboo in a way and in our modern sensibility. It’s even pretty taboo as far as Game of Thrones goes… because it’s different generations. But, yeah, it’s amazing what a great performance can do to make people accept things about a character. That’s a credit to Matt and Milly, and soon, I think, to Matt and Emma, because you’ll see they also have a complex relationship.”
When we last saw the two, Daemon was banished from the realm for the second time in just four episodes. Otto Hightower had informed the King of Daemon and Rhaenyra’s “coupling,” as he nervously called it, even though she actually slept with Ser Criston Cole. “I guess people are OK with it, or the original series did enough groundwork to normalize Targaryen mating rituals that we don’t have to worry about it,” Condal continued, explaining that “what Daemon does to young Rhaenyra is, in modern terminology, an act of abuse. And, as a traumatic event would, it shapes who Rhaenyra becomes.” Now, Rhaenyra is married to Laenor and had three children with the late Ser Harwin Strong as well. How will things pan out if the court learns about all her secret trysts? Well, for fans of the books who are aware of a certain spoiler that is not to be named, Rhaenyra’s story ends up trending in quite a different direction.
“This is essentially a grooming scenario,” Emma D’Arcy told The Independent. By House of the Dragon’s fourth episode, Rhaenyra is around 18 years old and Daemon is 34. “The idea that a teenage girl is in any way able to consent to that sexual interaction is a mess. There is no way that power can be equally distributed in that relationship.” Since D’Arcy will be playing Rhaenyra from here on out, they obviously know a little more than they let on here. “I know what happens!” they warned with a smirk. “Best to leave that to the fan-fiction writers.”
Young Rhaenyra actress Milly Alcock previously described to the Post that she was “not quite sure where it lands [with Daemon],” after her tenure as the Targaryen princess, or “how to behave with it and navigate it.” Clearly, fans are not sure how to behave with it and navigate it either. “Daemon did nothing wrong. They should rule together!” another Twitter commenter boldly declared. Buckle up, boys and girls, because we’re only a little more than halfway through the first season of House of the Dragon. This unholy train is just picking up steam.
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; his work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.
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