Daemon Targaryen Is in Fact an Awful Person and That’s Okay
There is nothing inherently wrong with liking a villain. Especially when said villain is played by a charismatic actor who is great at playing the nuances and complexities of that character. Yet it is still important to recognize when they are, indeed, the worst. This is the case with Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith.
***Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season One Finale***
As a book reader coming into the show, I already had very little love for Daemon. He is one of the many characters in this universe who believes in securing his own power at any cost. Before the time jump and the older actors playing Rhaenyra and Alicent come on, we see Daemon be glib at the death of his own nephew, groom his young niece, murder his wife, and treat people around him like shit. Does he have moments of pathos, humor, and truth-telling among all those qualities? Yes. Otherwise he’d just be Joffrey.
But among all those things is someone who makes choices based on power and has used every woman in his life as a stepping stool for power. First was Mysaria, who he lied to the court about being pregnant in order to try and goad his brother into conflict, putting Mysaria’s life in danger. Lady Rhea Royce was his “bronze bitch” that he murdered for the crime of being mouthy. He molested his teenage niece in order to damage her reputation. He married Laena Velaryon and due to the time jumps, all we saw of their marriage was him being distant and ignoring her desire to have a baby at home.
Now we have Rhaenyra, his niece-wife who he ignores as she gives birth to their only daughter, a stillborn child. He doesn’t comfort Rhaenyra on screen and is more concerned with securing allegiances than comfort. Even when Rhaenyra calls out to him. Even his step-sons and daughters seem to have no connection to him. This is particularly heartbreaking because we know how much trauma Rhaenyra already has about childbirth and death.
His reaction and territorial behavior to the Iron Throne is another reminder that Daemon feels robbed of the ability to rule it himself. I believe he loves Rhaenyra, but as we see from him choking her once she disagrees with him—his love is violent. Due to the fact that Matt Smith has played Daemon consistently it is easy to forget that Daemon is only four years younger than his brother, and, at least by the book ages, sixteen years older than Rhaenyra. This is not a match of equals. Daemon is older and is using his privilege of age and gender in order to push his will. Rhaenyra also revers her uncle and sees him as a rock, which is why she has so much loyalty to him. It reminds me of Daenerys and Viserys’ twisted dynamic that doesn’t change until another man becomes that rock for Dany.
Recently, creatives behind House of the Dragon have been expressing their bafflement about the widespread lusting over Daemon online. They clearly underestimated white women’s ability to stan. Yet they are the ones that deleted scenes of Daemon comforting his daughters. They decided to ignore the fact that Daemon, Rhaenyra, and Laena all cared for each other. Daemon is not a monster. He is, however, a bad guy. The same way Otto, Littlefinger, and many other self-important men on this show and in this franchise have been. You can love the character, but the shock of Daemon crossing that line with Rhaenyra does highlight how some parts of the fandom have willingly ignored that part of him. The part that is the dragon. The part that would rather murder first and ask questions later. A trait that will only lead to more issues as we head into season two.
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