HBO's House of the Dragon: Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen looking sad

Why Yes, Sad Boy Matt Smith WAS One of My Favorite Parts of ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 1

HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff series House of the Dragon premiered to much fanfare and a lot of screaming about Matt Smith (from me at least). Smith, who became a household name with his role as the Eleventh Doctor on Doctor Who, has played a wide range of characters and, more recently, leaned into the “dirtbag” side of things, much to my delight. At the tip of that energy is his new character, Daemon Targaryen.

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The prince of Westeros and the brother to Viserys I, he is the heir to the throne, as Viserys has yet to have a male heir. We see throughout the first episode that Viserys goes against that rule and appoints his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir. (My other favorite part of House of the Dragon is Rhaenyra. I love her.) So, we get to see how Daemon feels about being the second-born of his line and his reaction to things happening in King’s Landing (like just castrating people he deems criminals).

But what fascinates me about Smith’s performance as Daemon is that he isn’t just this cut and dried sinister character like I’d been led to believe by people who know more about Daemon Targaryen than I do. Instead, I’ve got a complicated man twisted by what he thought was rightfully his, who is clearly struggling to figure out his place and is being cast out because of his rash nature, and now I need to know a lot more about Daemon.

Just sad at an orgy

The moment I was fully into whatever Daemon’s deal was did come, however, from him sitting at an orgy, being lonely and sad. While Smith himself has talked about the sex scenes in the series and how he questioned their worth, the pilot does a hilarious thing with them in that Daemon doesn’t seem that interested the sex side of things. We see Daemon in the act of it at first, but he stops because it’s not really what he seemingly wants to be thinking about, and then later, at the orgy, he’s sitting there just looking sad.

Maybe it is because of the stark contrast to the Game of Thrones series and how characters interacted to the sex scenes there that I was shocked, but seeing that sort of vulnerability from a character I know isn’t a hero by any stretch of the imagination is fascinating and has gotten me invested in what he plans to do in the future.

The one who cares

Now, I know better than to trust a Game of Thrones property, and I know that I think this man is going to do some damage to the Targaryen name, Westeros, and probably me as a human. But what I am fascinated by is how Matt Smith chooses to play him. In the after-show part of the episode (which plays after the credits), it’s revealed that Daemon’s care for Rhaenyra when she doesn’t seem to have anyone in her family who understands her grief was completely Smith’s decision.

What we see in the show is Viserys (Paddy Considine) grieving his wife and the loss of his son in childbirth but internalizing it, even though his daughter also lost a mother and a brother. Rhaenyra sees it as constantly being second-fiddle to the throne because she was not born a son for her father, and you can see, at her mother’s funeral, that the one who seems to care about her wellbeing is Daemon.

Now, we don’t know what the future holds for Daemon or Rhaenyra (and yes, there is a book I could turn to for answers right this second, but I’m here for the ride), but I love every choice Matt Smith made in this first episode, and if they want Daemon to enter each new episode by lounging on the Iron Throne, then that’s fine by me.

(featured image: HBO)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.