Daemon Targaryen committed an unforgivable sin in a mad grab for power in House of the Dragon episode 5, but does it work out for the Rogue Prince?
Warning: SPOILERS for House of the Dragon Episode 5 – “We Light The Way”
Rhea Royce’s (Rachel Redford) death by Daemon Targaryen’s (Matt Smith) hand in House of the Dragon episode 5 is a mad grab for power by the Rogue Prince, but does it work? House of the Dragon season 1’s midpoint brings us to the betrothal and bloody wedding of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). For Daemon, the Wedding of the Dragon is an opportunity for several power plays towards Rhaenyra, Laena Velaryon (Savannah Steyn), and for Runstone, the seat of Daemon’s late wife, Rhea Royce.
Throughout House of the Dragon, Daemon has been blunt in his disdain for his lady wife, Rhea, whom he calls his “bronze b*tch.” Prince Daemon’s marriage to Lady Royce was arranged, and both sides felt a mutual loathing. Rhea even indicated in House of the Dragon episode 5 that she and Daemon never consummated their marriage, repeating the Prince’s japes that the Vale’s sheep are more attractive than his wife. But Daemon’s return to the Vale and his murder of Rhea is shocking, even for the Rogue Prince. It’s not entirely clear if Daemon fully intended to kill his wife, but when she was thrown from her horse and injured because she feared what Daemon came to do, the Targaryen prince didn’t hesitate to bash Rhea’s head in. Although Rhea’s death was said to be an accident, at least one person, her cousin, Gerald Royce, believes Daemon murdered his lady wife.
Daemon killing Rhea Royce accomplishes several goals. As he taunted Gerald, Rhea was meant to inherit Runestone, her castle and seat at the Vale. Because Daemon and his “bronze b*tch” never had children, as her husband, he is entitled to Runestone, a claim he means to press to Lady Jeyne, the ruler of the Vale of Arryn. Daemon never consummating his marriage may have been a far-reaching, calculated move that indicates Daemon perhaps always intended to inherit Runestone in this manner. Daemon has also been banished from King’s Landing twice by his brother, King Viserys (Paddy Considine), but Runestone would give the Rogue Prince a crucial seat and power base in Westeros. This is essential since Daemon’s ultimate desire is Princess Rhaenyra, and he schemes to eventually push aside Laenor Velaryon to marry the heir to the Iron Throne and the future Queen. Yet Daemon also makes a play to seduce Laena Velaryon, who expressed her mutual interest.
Does Daemon Claim Runestone? What Happens Next In House of the Dragon?
Warning: SPOILERS for the Fire and Blood novel and possible SPOILERS for House of the Dragon
When House of the Dragon returns for episode 6, a 10-year jump will have occurred, necessitating the recasting of many key characters, including Emma D’Arcy replacing Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra and Olivia Cooke taking over the role of Queen Alicent from Emily Carey. While Matt Smith will return as Daemon, audiences should learn that in the unseen decade, the Targaryen Prince did travel to the Eyrie and press his claim to Runestone to Lady Jeyne — and he was denied. This results in Daemon marrying Laena Velaryon and leaving for the Free Cities in Essos with her. House of the Dragon episode 5 didn’t follow up on the storyline that Laena was promised to be wed to the son of the Sealord of Braavos, but regardless, Laena does marry Daemon and bear him two daughters, Baela and Rhaena Targaryen.
Ultimately, Runestone is just a means to an end for Daemon that he is denied. But the Rogue Prince is resourceful and calculating enough to adjust to his loss of a power base in the Vale in order for Daemon to position himself to be closest to Rhaenyra, who Daemon will eventually marry after Laena. Daemon’s greatest role will be to lead the forces defending Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne in House of the Dragon, although Daemon’s ties to the Vale do play a role in his favor in the upcoming Targaryen Civil War.