Daemon says "What the fuck is this?" on House of the Dragon.

Why Do People Not Get the Appeal of Anti-Heroes and Complex Characters?

Here we are again with another entry in the world of “not everything is black and white,” and this time, it’s of course about the internet’s love of Daemon Targaryen. One of the frustrating things about the House of the Dragon writers is that they don’t seem to understand that fandom loves complicated characters. We love an anti-hero and to root for the guy that isn’t perfect and probably has done some bad things.

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In a frankly frustrating interview with The New York Times, Ryan Condal, who is the showrunner for House of the Dragon, was asked about the internet and their reaction to Daemon Targaryen—but more specifically, the problem many of us had with writer Sara Hess’ comments on Daemon being the internet’s new boyfriend. First of all, the journalist speaking to Condal said that we all wanted Daemon to be wearing a white hat or a black hat, which is false. So not only is the question misleading and false but it then led to a frustrating answer from Condal that seems to misunderstand how people reacted to characters in Game of Thrones while also ignoring the love of anti-heroes and villains that exists within fandom space.

“To me, Daemon is the antihero of this story,” Condal said so already labeling his appeal. “He’s a character with a real darkness to him, who’s dangerous and charming in equal parts. I knew people would be fascinated by him and latch onto him, but I figured they’d do it in the way they did with Jaime Lannister or Bronn or the Red Viper. I did not think they would oddly apply this sort of super-fandom to him and try to justify every single thing he’s done as being intrinsically heroic. It simply isn’t. It’s not the case. Nor will it be in the future.”

Condal goes on to explain how he and Hess worked together to make complicated characters, and while all of this stems from being led to believe fans think one way about Daemon that is not true, it is a frustrating look into how there seems to be a complete misunderstanding when it comes to the appeal of the anti-hero or a more complicated character.

Misunderstanding the appeal of Westeros

To start, I want to breakdown what Condal thinks happened with Jaime Lannister and Oberyn Martell because, my guy, we’re all still talking about our love for those characters. But then again, Condal seems to think that we don’t understand what an anti-hero is to begin with, so I guess this makes sense.

Condal said that he thought people would find Daemon fascinating in the same way that they did Jaime and the Red Viper, as though that was somehow a contrast to how we’ve reacted to Daemon, and I need to know how he thinks we reacted to those characters. I’m asking for the Oberyn Martell Funko that is sitting in my room right now.

What fans of Game of Thrones and Westeros do is tend to love their trash boys and recognize that these men just that by real-world standards. But since it is a fantasy show, we can go ahead and love the Jaime Lannister types and laugh about the fact that he threw a child out a window. But also, acting like the internet isn’t still obsessed with Jaime and Oberyn tells me that Condal and company have no idea what fandom does with these characters.

Anti-heroes are more fun

All of this reaffirms that people do not understand the appeal of an anti-hero, especially one who they’ve deemed bad. For fans, it’s more fun to follow along and see what crimes Daemon is going to commit or to love a character like Loki or Wanda Maximoff because they’re not perfect. As much as I love characters like Steve Rogers and Clark Kent, they’re the good boys you can count on. Give me the anti-hero that you never know what they’re going to do next. Those are the characters I want to spend my time with.

So sorry to Condal, but this is just … showing me that he does not understand how anti-heroes work in the grand scheme of fandom, and it does make me nervous for season 2 of House of the Dragon for Daemon.

(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.