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House of the Dragon Teases Some Disturbing Targaryen Relationships

The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 1, “The Heirs of the Dragon,” which aired Sunday, Aug. 21 on HBO.

Going into House of the Dragon — HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff centered on the Targaryens — strange couples were expected. The Targaryens are known for their incestuous relationships and Game of Thrones was never shy about pairing adults with teenagers. But nothing could prepare viewers for the gross interactions of possible future couples in the series premiere.

After just one episode, House of the Dragon is setting itself apart from Game of Thrones. This is an entirely new era of Westeros, one where the Targaryens and dragons aren’t sparse. And the Targaryen royal family has an… interesting history to say the least. It involves incest to keep their bloodline pure as well as marrying older men to underage women who will spend their most fertile years having babies. These inappropriate and disturbing pairings come into play in House of the Dragon when the line of succession is at stake and shifts in power are most desired.

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Much like Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon never properly addresses the nature of these underage and incestuous relationships. Game of Thrones never made Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow feel weird about their aunt and nephew revelation — but in all fairness, Jon was a bit nauseated. Romantic twins Cersei and Jaime Lannister died in each other’s arms because… love conquers all? House of the Dragon does the same with some improvements by introducing the complex relationship between Daemon Targaryen and his 15-year-old niece Rhaenyra.

Rhaenyra and Daemon are clearly not a match made in heaven. Daemon’s infatuation with Rhaenyra feels like a power move on his part, taking advantage of her innocence and the giddy schoolgirl crush she has on him. Daemon is quite literally the creepy uncle that you avoid at Thanksgiving in this situation. Viserys’ rose-colored glasses for Daemon make him blind to the flirtation that’s going on between his daughter and uncle. But Viserys did marry his cousin, so maybe he’s not that disapproving of what’s happening here. And he has relationship problems of his own that are also questionable.

After indirectly killing his wife to save their baby — without her consent — Viserys is in mourning. While entirely justifiable, his grief also feels a bit hypocritical. There was a chance she could’ve lived, but an heir was more important than love in Viserys’ eyes. The Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, suggests to his daughter Alicent that she “comfort” Viserys in his bedchambers. Alicent is too smart to not know where this is going and is uncomfortable at the thought of dressing up to meet the king in his most private room.

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It’s no wonder Otto takes advantage of Viserys at his weakest to sliver his daughter in to possibly bear the new heir — he knows what makes Viserys tick and has an idea of how this could play out. He’s playing his own game of thrones, one that he’s likely spent years concocting. Having the knowledge that Viserys’ wife couldn’t healthily carry a child, how long has Otto considered Alicent as a proper substitution? It’s disturbing to think Otto might have been thinking this since Alicent was a child, let alone the fact that she still is a child.

As said before, incest and age-inappropriate relationships are to be expected coming into House of the Dragon. It’s a part of the story’s lore, but somehow never feels wrong in a show that prides itself on hyping up its female characters who are targeted by older men. Yes, these things are completely normal in the Game of Thrones world, but they’re also never once acknowledged by the show as inherently toxic. Viewers can’t be blamed if they watch these relationships play out in discomfort. Regardless, the aforementioned relationships will be an integral part of House of the Dragon‘s story — ones that drive the narrative and possibly a future conflict that will change the Targaryens forever.

House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO and streams on HBO Max.

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