House of the Dragon has delivered its steamiest and weirdest episode yet, picking up roughly where last week’s left off. Discussions about whom Princess Rhaenyra will marry continued, with potential suitors ranging from literal children to literal grandfathers. Over the course of the episode, we see a scene from the marital bed of Rhaenyra’s best friend, Alicent Hightower, and Rhaenyra’s father, King Viserys, interspersed with an uncomfortably hot encounter between Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon (a validating day for Dr. Oz, surely) getting it on in a pleasure house. When the encounter between Rhaenyra and Daemon is cut short by Daemon’s mysterious change of heart, Rhaenyra returns to the castle, seduces the hunky knight who stands guard outside her rooms, and enthusiastically surrenders her virginity to him. A turn of events!!
Someone is going to hell for this episode and its deeply weird sex scenes. However, I am not too proud to admit I loved them—but allow me to explain, lest I inadvertently come across as a willing supporter of the Targaryen tradition of incest. The sex scenes of this episode present a surprising and very welcome departure from Game of Thrones’ flashy, often purposeless sex scenes that consisted primarily of random groping and thrusting. Meanwhile, in this week’s House of the Dragon episode, sex, sexuality, and the extremely bizarre juxtaposition of Alicent and Rhaenyra’s teenage sex lives fulfill important aspects of the plot.
The message here is pretty stark: Alicent’s rise to power as queen (and mother to Viserys’ long-awaited infant son) is a source of tension between Alicent and Rhaenyra. This episode, we flash between scenes of Alicent tending to a screaming newborn, and scenes of Rhaenyra and her (sigh) hot uncle frolicking about town; between scenes of the middle-aged Viserys summoning his exhausted teenage wife to his bed at night, and her best friend engaging in a twistedly sensual encounter with her uncle at a brothel before going home to have sex with Ser Criston Cole. Rhaenyra’s scenes—playful, intense, unabashedly centered around her sexual awakening—are in obvious contrast with Alicent’s. It’s a reminder that Alicent’s elevation to queen didn’t come without sacrifices. And however bleak Rhaenyra’s life may be—she is now regarded by many as a useless, secondary heir (a fact of which we’re reminded by a ribald tavern play about royal succession)—there are still plenty of avenues for her to find pleasure.
Excited as I may be about scenes centering a young woman’s sexual empowerment—from the Game of Thrones franchise of all places!—I do have questions. Namely: King Viserys is neither young nor particularly healthy, yet he somehow lasted seemingly a whole night, a time period that encompassed not one but two of his daughter’s sexual encounters with much younger men. I am...grossed out but impressed?? How??
Another question: Why did Daemon ditch Rhaenyra?? The internet, of course, has theories, including that, as Vulture suggests, Daemon struggled with yet another bout of ED, as we saw with him and Mysaria (the sex worker-turned-apparent-spymaster) in the first episode. If that’s the case, I wonder how Daemon’s potential impotence will serve the show’s plot, considering that he has several children (with Rhaenyra!!!) in George R.R. Martin’s books. My personal theory is that their sexual encounter prompts Daemon to realize the true depth of his feelings for Rhaenyra, and he doesn’t want their first time to take place under these circumstances. (Maybe I’m just a romantic!!) In any case, I am—again—not proud of how much I cheered on this scene, but I blame Milly Alcock and Matt Smith for having such palpable sexual tension, which is intensified whenever they intimately speak to each other in High Valyrian.
Even Alcock appears to ship Rhaenyra and Daemon—or at the very least understands her character’s deep attraction to him: “I think that she genuinely likes him,” Alcock said of Criston Cole. “But I don’t think she would pick him over Daemon.”
My last question is inspired by modern political realities: In the final scene, we see a knowing Viserys have the medieval equivalent of Plan B delivered to his teenage daughter, despite her protestations (lies) that she did not have sexual intercourse that night. Is emergency contraception more accessible in the fictional, ancient world of Game of Thrones than IRL in 2022?? Thanks to years of conservatives inaccurately identifying Plan B as an “abortifacient” and post-Roe hoarding, there are perhaps now more barriers to the morning after pill—which has already been locked in glass cases in drugstores for years—than ever. Do women of Westeros have an edge over modern Americans in terms of birth control options?
Perhaps if a future House of the Dragon episode focuses as heavily on sex and sexuality as this one, I’ll finally get some answers to these questions. Until then, I’m content to speculate about whatever medieval, performance-enhancing drugs Viserys is taking and launch into a Twilight-esque shipping war between Team Daemon and Team Criston.