Right off the bat, Daenerys Targaryen’s Game of Thrones story was underscored by the importance of political marriages, as her brother Viserys saw the need to gain Khal Drogo’s army for his cause. However, while Dany grew to love Drogo, his death marked a point where she put love behind her as she focused on conquering the world. When Dany was finally able to engage in a romantic relationship with another person, she chose Michiel Huisman's Daario Naharis, the commander of the Second Sons, though this affair would occur while she was married to Hizdahr zo Loraq and still being pursued (from afar) by Jorah Mormont. While Dany and Hizdahr had no romantic feelings for one another whatsoever, her affair with Daario caused issues with Jorah, who had long been in love with the Mother of Dragons.
Interestingly, the end of the affairs by Dany in Game of Thrones and Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon would soon see them both finding their most significant loves of Jon Snow and Daemon Targaryen. Both affairs beforehand were extremely important to Daenerys and Rhaenyra’s stories, but the latter’s love triangle had much more dire consequences for her battle for the Iron Throne than Dany’s, which can make the usage of this plot device much more captivating in House of the Dragon. Daenerys and Daario’s Game of Thrones storyline was important for her character growth, but Rhaenyra’s affair will make for far better dramatic twists in House of the Dragon.
Following Khal Drogo’s death, it seemed Daenerys was solely focused on conquering Westeros and the Free Cities, which left little room for her more personal journeys and character growth along the way. However, once Daario Naharis began pursuing her, Daenerys had a more emotional storyline to contend with in Game of Thrones seasons 4, 5, and 6. Daario was soon established as Daenerys' lover and concubine, which allowed her to become much more of a three-dimensional character outside of her main political stature. Her romance with Daario returned Daenerys to a more human storyline, as she wasn’t simply being portrayed as a political powerhouse whose only goals and wishes were in terms of conquering and governing. While Daenerys would enter a political marriage with Hizdahr zo Loraq, there was no love or emotional attachment, so Daario was one of her only escapes to something that was just hers for pleasure rather than strategy.
Daenerys’ romance with Daario humanized her story far more outside of freeing the enslaved people in Essos, and contributed much more to her personal journey. It also began a growing rift with Jorah Mormont, who had loved Daenerys romantically, but the Targaryen queen would never reciprocate those feelings. Thus Daario and Jorah would be seen in conflict with one another both as the queen’s protectors and romantic interests, though Daario would always be the clear winner for the latter battle. While Daenerys developed feelings for Daario, she knew that she could never marry him for political reasons, so when Tyrion advised her to end the relationship, she agreed. This then proved that although Daenerys had the same human desires as the rest of the Game of Thrones characters, her mission to sit on the Iron Throne would always come above any personal attachments.
Before Rhaenyra engages in the Dance of the Dragons with her half-brother Aegon II, she’ll be raised in anticipation of ascending the Iron Throne, which means she’ll have plenty of knightly suitors. One such romantic interest will be with the House of the Dragon character Ser Criston Cole, who was previously named Rhaenyra’s personal sworn shield. The accounts differ as to what actually happened to cause Criston to become bitter toward Rhaenyra, but the stories say that either Rhaenyra tried to seduce Criston and he rejected her or vice versa. Later in House of the Dragon's timeline, after Rhaenyra was strategically betrothed to Laenor Velaryon, who she believed to be gay, certain accounts suggest that Criston had snuck into Rhaenyra’s room to confess his love for her, but she rejected him (or the other way around). Rhaenyra then took solace in the arms of Ser Harwin Strong, which would lead Criston Cole to become her bitterest foe rather than most loyal protector. Following this change in allegiance, Rhaenyra left for Driftmark with Harwin Strong as her sworn shield.
As Criston Cole’s bitterness toward Rhaenyra grew, rumors abounded about Rhaenyra having an intense affair with Harwin Strong. Harwin then took Criston’s place as Rhaenyra’s fiercest supporter ahead of House of the Dragon’s Civil War, where he would even be present at the birth of her second son. Since Rhaenyra’s sons were said to look nothing like the princess or Laenor, her three Velaryon children were rumored to be fathered by Harwin Strong, with Queen Alicent’s son, Aemond, even calling them “Strongs” before a massive brawl broke out. Harwin would then die in a fire at Harrenhal nearly a decade before the Dance of the Dragons began, with his death being theorized as due to Harrenhal’s curse, murder by Daemon Targaryen, revenge on behalf of Laenor’s father Corlys Velaryon, or death by King Viserys I for bringing dishonor onto House Targaryen. After the death of Harwin, Rhaenyra’s affairs and concubines would come to an end, as she would be married to her uncle Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) until the end of her life.
While Daenerys’ love triangle was important for her personal growth, Rhaenyra’s affairs will have far more dramatic consequences for her story in House of the Dragon. While Daenerys and Daario ended their affair amicably, Rhaenyra and Criston Cole’s spurned ending will amplify their hostilities in House of the Dragon’s Targaryen Civil War. Daenerys’ suitors may have been slightly aggressive toward one another, but Rhaenyra’s will fight one another for blood and contribute to the growing animosity between herself and Queen Alicent Hightower, which is the most important underlying conflict in House of the Dragon’s Targaryen war.
Not only will Rhaenyra’s love affairs give her another compelling emotional plotline in House of the Dragon for her character growth outside of her battle for the Iron Throne, but it will also make her personal story far more dramatic. While Daenerys’ love triangle caused some aggression between her sworn swords, Rhaenyra Targaryen’s will directly affect her claim to the throne in House of the Dragon. It may be a better example of what would have happened if Jorah Mormont had gone over to Cersei’s side when Daenerys banished him, as Criston Cole will leave Rhaenyra’s side for Alicent’s, with Criston helping conspire against Rhaenyra to put Aegon II Targaryen on the throne instead. While Daenerys’ affairs better humanized her, they were fairly inconsequential to her larger story in Game of Thrones, whereas Rhaenyra’s will have a noted impact on her political alliances and dramatic familial tensions throughout House of the Dragon.