House of the Dragon episode 7 was, according to many fans, the best one in the season so far. But after watching it one might wonder: does Daemon love Rhaenyra or is there something more sinister going on?
The episode culminated with a ritually bloody but otherwise surprisingly drama-free wedding, but the characters' motivations are up for interpretation.
Does Daemon Love Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon?
There are clear indications that Daemon and Rhaenyra love each other though, of course, political motives on both their parts likely co-exist with attraction.
That the two are attracted to each other was suggested from very early on in the series, and there was even a kissing scene between them, though Daemon ended up backing off.
In that same episode, Daemon had asked King Viserys to let him wed Rhaenyra though it wasn't clear if he did so to mock his brother, because he actually wanted Rhaenyra, because this move would guarantee him the throne, or a combination of all that.
Not much later, Daemon moved on to marry Rhaenyra's cousin, Laena, and the two settled in Pentos, where Daemon seemed happy enough to live idly, far from court machinations.
Even when Laena's funeral brought him back to Westeros, Daemon no longer showed interest in politics, refusing Viserys' invitation back to court.
That being said, he agreed readily enough to marry Rhaenyra and, in doing so, strengthen her claim to the iron throne.
Their rather tender scenes in episode 7 suggest mutual love though, of course, politics likely remain an important factor.
At this point, it's hard to tell Daemon's motivations in the series given how long he has spent far away from the drama.
In the book Fire and Blood, the situation is more complicated, however. After all book Daemon is a suspect for the murder of Harwin and Laenor (though not of both in the same account).
The book didn't give Laenor his happy ending, instead having him die at the hands of his lover. Meanwhile, while Larys is one of the suspects for his brother Harwin's murder, there are at least three more suspects.
Some of the accounts in Fire and Blood imply that Daemon orchestrated the death of Harwin, Laenor, or both, in which case his motivation would be to eliminate all rivals to Rhaenyra's affections.
Daemon has shown to be an ambitious and moody character and, in many cases, his motivations are hard to pin down. As such, we have to wait for later episodes to shed light on the full reason for his marriage to Rhaenyra.
As of the ending of House of the Dragon it seems that Daemon is truly supportive of Rhaenyra and her claim to the throne, though, of course, this remains entwined with his own personal ambitions.
Moreover, the finale features a violent scene between the couple, with Rhaenyra advising caution, just as Daemon prepares to go into vengeful war against her explicit reluctance.
In that scene, Daemon chokes Rhaenyra for several moments, showing a dark and troubling aspect of their marriage. The implication seems to be that as much as he has grown as a person, Daemon hasn't completely changed.
He's still capable of great darkness and violence, especially when his ambitions are threatened. During this moment of grieving his brother and daughter, while also realizing that his brother didn't trust him with key information Rhaenyra learnt early on, this darkest aspects of his characters come into focus, showing that, no matter how charming, Byronic heroes don't make good boyfriends or husbands.
House of the Dragon Episodes 1 through 10 is currently streaming on HBO channel and HBO Max with new episodes releasing weekly.