**Spoiler warning for House of the Dragon episode 10**
Please note: this article contains discussion of abuse and grooming that some readers may find upsetting.
As one of the central relationships at the heart of the Game of Thrones prequel, we have followed the fiery connection between Rhaenyra (first played by Milly Alcock) and her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) since the premiere episode, where it was made clear they have always been close since her childhood.
So, on top of being blood relatives, there's definitely the fact that Daemon groomed her. Let us not forget that charged placing of the necklace on Rhaenyra's neck by her uncle in the opening instalment, nor their sexual encounter in the fourth episode which Daemon aborted before telling his brother King Viserys (Paddy Considine) that he hoped to marry his niece.
In fact, actor Emma D'Arcy who plays the adult Rhaenyra, described this as "essentially a grooming scenario" to The Independent, explaining: "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."
Of course, they are right.
Granted, Westeros has its own norms and customs, as do the Targaryens. Incest is not uncommon for those of the blood of Old Valyria, and age gaps and grooming are tragically common in the Seven Kingdoms, the latter especially mirroring the medieval norms of Western Europe that inspired the world created by author George RR Martin.
However, the modern viewer can take a step back and see the dark reality of the relationship, regardless of the on-screen chemistry between actors Smith and D'Arcy, which was portrayed in quite a tender fashion in the consummation and marriage of the characters in the seventh episode.
Now, the series has brought the relationship of the characters crashing down to reality just in case viewers got too wrapped up in the romance.
The finale episode saw Rhaenyra show the restraint of her father Viserys in not wishing to start a war with the Hightowers and their chosen claimant of the Iron Throne, her half-brother King Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney).
However, the warrior that is the daredevil Daemon Targaryen is not so keen to sit idly by as their enemies usurp the throne.
Yet, it is not until Rhaenyra begins to speak of the prophecies of Aegon the Conquerer, the Song of Ice and Fire and the Prince That Was Promised, that Daemon strikes out and begins to violently choke her, causing his wife to gasp for breath.
As Daemon makes clear that he wishes to show aggression and strength (in case you didn't get that already), he lets Rhaenyra go and she realises that Viserys never told him about the prophecy before his death and only she knew before he leaves her.
While this is a revelation in and of itself, this sequence also highlights the truth of Daemon and Rhaenyra - he is an abuser and she is his victim, albeit perhaps one who does not see herself as a victim.
The scene feels especially dark after the incredibly graphic birth of their stillborn third child earlier in the episode, meaning Rhaenyra is especially vulnerable. Of course, Daemon is grieving too, but his actions towards Rhaenyra are horrific.
Explaining this dramatic choice, showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety: "Daemon — while an incredibly charismatic and deeply interesting, complex character, I think — he’s also capable of great darkness. It’s simmering just beneath the surface.
More like this
"When he learns in that moment that Viserys never believed in him enough, as his actual heir to the throne, to pass this thing on that he clearly just easily passed on to Rhaenyra, it breaks him. He loved his brother so deeply and trusted him, even through all the problems that they had, and Viserys never shared it with him.
"He kept [Daemon] in the dark, and it just it breaks Daemon. Instead of reacting with grief or sadness that you see out of him later, he reacts with rage and he takes it out on Rhaenyra."
Meanwhile, Emma D'Arcy also shared their thoughts on the dramatic moment and what was going through Rhaenyra's head when Daemon chokes her.
Speaking to GQ, D'Arcy noted: "I don't actually think he's been violent to her before, although I think there's been a lot of conflict. But fundamentally, when Rhaenyra realises Daemon was never taught the prophecy, she suddenly gains legitimacy. Because she understands that it was her, she was chosen for this."
Has this actually been a sign of Rhaenyra gaining more power in their relationship?
It shall be interesting to see how the show portrays their dynamic going ahead. The married couple share two children together - Aegon the Younger and Viserys - and have five children between them from their previous relationships.
As the season closes, it is Daemon who delivers the devastating news to his wife that her son Prince Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault) is dead - which causes her grief and fury. Will this bring the pair closer together or drive them further apart?
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, visit the Victim Support website for support and information.
- How to watch House of the Dragon – where can you stream?
- House of the Dragon planned to last three or four seasons
- When is House of the Dragon set? Game of Thrones timeline explained
- Where was House of the Dragon filmed?
- What is Dark Sister in House of the Dragon?
- What book is House of the Dragon based on? Fire and Blood book changes
- Your guide to the dragons of House of the Dragon
- What is Old Valyria, the Doom and High Valyrian in House of the Dragon?
- Game of Thrones books in order: A Song of Ice and Fire and more
House of the Dragon airs on Sky Atlantic and is available on NOW – find out more about how to sign up for Sky TV. Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.
The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.