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Scene Breakdown: Rhaenyra Confronts Daemon in ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 2

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 2 Spoilers Ahead

Rhaenyra Targaryen and Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 2
©HBO | Warner Bros.

Honestly, who wouldn’t get excited about a scene with two Targaryens facing off?

I know I’m not the only person who was giving a standing ovation in my living room after Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) confronts her uncle, Daemon (Matt Smith), in Season 1, Episode 2 of House of the Dragon, so it just needs to be written about, okay? It just does because everything about this sequence is brilliant.

House of the Dragon Episode 2: The Setup

Daemon, freshly angry at being spurned as his brother’s heir, has flown to Dragonstone, stealing a dragon egg from King’s Landing to add insult to injury. Daemon’s niece, Rhaenyra, has been named heir in his place by her father, King Viserys. In the show’s timeline, Daemon has been fuming about this for six months now. Keep in mind that he’s essentially squatting at Dragonstone while at it, but the castle, much like his previous position as heir, now belongs to Rhaenyra.

Otto Hightower, the incredibly slimy hand of the king, has come to retrieve the dragon egg and warn Daemon off. After all, how would it look to the rest of the realm if the king’s brother is openly defying him? The Targaryens are in a precarious position. Viserys is only the king because of a decision made at the Great Council. His heir is now a young girl. A queen regnant is completely uncharted territory for Westeros. The dynasty is in danger, and preventing infighting and the appearance of weakness is of the utmost importance.

But as we are learning, Daemon Targaryen really is that guy: the guy who does not give a single damn if he’s not getting his way. I mean, his name is one letter away from the word “demon.” This detail can’t be a coincidence. He draws his sword on the hand of the king, like the true mad lad he is. 

And this is when the magic starts.

Daemon and Otto’s factions are at a standstill. Neither appears to be willing to relent. The haze surrounding the characters is thick, almost like smoke. Caraxes, Daemon’s massive, red dragon, finally makes his appearance, and the hand’s faction is forced to put away their weapons. Wouldn’t you, if a Targaryen pointed their angry, enormous dragon in your direction?

But Otto has not retrieved the stolen dragon egg. He knows he is going to have to return to the king without having done his job. Daemon has bested him, just by virtue of being crazy enough to order his dragon to roast the lot of them.

But then, through the haze, Syrax appears with Rhaenyra on her back. Rhaenyra—you know, the princess and current heir, who definitely is not supposed to be here facing the uncle she supplanted. We know her relationship with Daemon was close from their interactions in Episode 1. Daemon brought her a necklace made from Valyrian steel, and they spoke to each other in High Valyrian. Clearly, they are close. Or rather, were.

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Like the future queen that she is, Rhaenyra lands her dragon, and her uncle looks…perturbed. Very nice work here by Matt Smith. It’s obvious that Daemon’s expression is not one of hatred necessarily, nor does he seem particularly confused or angry to see Rhaenyra. He looks like he expected this from her. It shows, once again, that the two were close prior to the succession altering. He seems to know her well enough to know she’d take this action in response to him.

The hand’s men part to make room for Rhaenyra to walk past them and straight to her uncle. Otto tries to stop her, but she reminds him of the obvious—that there is a dragon behind her who is protective of her, and just pushes right on past. Otto Hightower was found dead, face in the dirt, courtesy of Rhaenyra Targaryen. It’s giving badass queen, and I’m loving every moment of it. Daemon’s relationship with Otto is very openly antagonistic, so the way Rhaenyra deals with Otto while he is in her way is just another way that Daemon and Rhaenyra are alike.

The Confrontation

Rhaenyra, a 15-year-old girl, then marches straight up to her uncle (while his massive dragon is behind him, mind you) and speaks to him in Valyrian (a language the viewer can assume Otto and his men do not know). In this tense situation, what could she say to diffuse things?

She goes for, hey, you’re living in my castle. Milly Alcock’s delivery here is ice cold, completely unafraid. Basically, everyone is afraid of Daemon because nobody can predict what he might do. But Rhaenyra is not.

In fact, she looks almost sympathetic when her uncle complains that his original, legal wife wasn’t his choice, which is why he intends to remarry and why he took the egg. She understands what duty means to them and why he might feel upset about not having his own choice. She feels it, too. She is one of the only people who can truly understand how important their duty as Targaryens really is. But she is only sympathetic for a moment. She speaks then, almost mocking, asking whether that required him to steal the egg. She sounds as though she’s looking down on him, and finds him immature, not because he resents his duty, but because of how he chooses to handle it.

And Daemon hates it. How could someone so proud not hate his young niece for making him feel immature? He gets sharp with her in response—he only wants this because it’s the same she was afforded as a child, he says. He wants the egg for his child’s crib. Of course, his new wife isn’t pregnant. He wants it for the future. Mysaria, Daemon’s intended, walks away then because, unlike the others present, she understands Valyrian. She sees now why both the princess and the hand of the king have come.

As Mysaria walks away, Daemon almost manages to look guilty. But since he’s Daemon, not quite. He looks uneasy, like Mysaria’s leaving has given up the game, and Rhaenyra knows it. This isn’t about his potential child at all. He’s just angry about Rhaenyra being named heir instead of him. And Rhaenyra looks completely unsurprised like she has known this was the issue all along. That’s why she came—Daemon’s quarrel is with her.

Crucially, the conversation moves to the common tongue now so that everyone can hear and understand. She says, without even an ounce of fear or trepidation, “I’m right here, uncle. The object of your ire. 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’s response here is part of the magic of this scene. He looks alert—not surprised that she would do this. No, he would expect this bravery from her. He needs to decide how to play this.

He lowers his head just barely, nearly imperceptibly, to meet her eyes. It carries a sense of pride—a sense of knowing, of being intrigued. And more importantly, a sense that Daemon knows he can’t argue with her. She’s right, and there’s no getting around that.

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On the one hand, he seems to be proud of her for doing this because, honestly, who else would or could? Not even his own brother is brave enough, strong enough. On the other hand, he is learning. In the same way, as we saw him eavesdropping on the small council, he is listening and calculating. He is trying to figure out how to bring about the best outcome for himself.

Rhaenyra seems surprised that he takes a moment to respond. All anyone has ever told her about her uncle is how reckless he is, how little he cares for others, and how his ambition will tear them apart. But he doesn’t kill her. He barely moves. And she’s surprised because she thinks it’s out of character for him. She can see he is plotting but doesn’t know to what end. For now, she just wants to get the egg and bring it back, to truly show her father she is worthy of better than the silly tasks he has her perform. She wants this victory. She didn’t truly ever believe Daemon would kill her. And yet…she is still surprised when he doesn’t.

Daemon turns his back on her and tosses the dragon egg to her with his signature reckless abandon. She smiles, just barely, as he walks away. She has done what the men her father sent could not and retrieved the egg without bloodshed, as she said was her goal. How has she bested this man who terrifies everyone?

She takes one last look before getting back on her dragon and flying away.

This sequence in House of the Dragon Episode 2 honestly leaves me with a thousand questions, but it has also answered a lot of questions. Does Daemon care about his niece? We don’t know yet. He respects her, though—that much is clear. But there are other motives for letting her live—reasons he was certainly calculating as he looked at her, and truly, since he’s a Targaryen, has probably been calculating for some years now. Ew. Let’s not think about that one for now.

Does Rhaenyra care that Daemon openly covets her position? This scene tells us she is unafraid. She will not yield her birthright, not even to a male of her own blood. She didn’t even react to the fact that his dragon was a lot larger than hers. It clearly didn’t make her feel threatened. If it came down to a fight against her uncle, would she fight him? Nothing in this scene suggests she would not.

At the same time, one can’t help but wonder more about their bond and Rhaenyra’s level of sympathy for Daemon’s situation. One can’t help but wonder what Rhaenyra might do when she finds out about the manner of her mother’s death or who her father has chosen to marry. Would Daemon take advantage of Rhaenyra’s reaction, of any rift between her and her father? Like I said, I have so many questions.

But one thing is certain—these characters understand and respect one another more than anyone else around them. As this scene has established, they are the only ones on each other’s level. They have only known being Targaryens, only known being special. So as this clash between a cold, calculating, incredibly ambitious man and a proud, intelligent, fearless princess unfolds, one cannot help but watch.

House of the Dragon Episode 2 is now streaming on HBO Max. What are your thoughts on the scene between Rhaenyra and Daemon? Let us know in the comments below.

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