House of the Dragon: Why did the show ever want us to doubt how evil Matt Smith’s daemon is?

When the latest episode of house of the dragon opened I was shocked to see a glimpse of the green. We’ve spent so much of the show’s inaugural season in dusty King’s Landing, with only War for the Stepstones’ somber coastal theater for visual respite. house of the dragon is so far a show about power-crazed blondes in their sepia-colored castle.

My relief was short-lived, of course. It quickly becomes clear that we are in the Vale, home of Daemon’s neglected wife, Lady Rhea – or, as Daemon calls her in Episode 1, “my bronze bitch”. He greets them wordlessly from under a hooded cloak, looking more like Luke Skywalker in his soul-searching days than the hero who defeated the crab eater. Rhea taunts him: she won’t sleep with him, he’s been grabbed by a tiny little girl, even his own brother hates him, etc. It’s rude, but Daemon’s response is… disproportionate. He startles Rhea’s horse, which violently throws her to the ground. When the fall doesn’t finish the job, he crushes his wife’s skull with a nearby rock.

It was difficult to figure out where Daemon Targaryen – The crown‘s Matt Smith – hiding under a halo of milky white hair – falls on the scale from a little sinister to downright evil. One could argue that other characters in HBO’s extravagant sequel too game of Thrones – Daemon’s niece Rhaenyra, his brother King Viserys – have behaved even worse. But after last night’s brutal murder, it’s hard to say that Daemon is even a man with a guilty conscience.

And yet, just last week we (almost)! After taking his niece, Rhaenyra, out for a night of drinking and debauchery, Daemon refuses to have sex with her – a move that could have benefited him regardless of the consequences. If Viserys found out and forced her to marry, Daemon would be powerful through association with the queen. If news of their dalliance shattered Rhaenyra’s reputation, he would have been one step closer to claiming the Iron Throne. I realize I give a grown man whose real name is “Demon” a lot of credit for not sleeping with his own teenage relative, but that says more about Westeros than me.

Listen, nobody looks good playing Game of Thrones. But it’s the manner in which Rhea is killed that pushes Daemon far beyond redeemability. Her death is mistaken for a hunting accident, but there are many ways to make a murder appear random. Daemon wants Rhea to know it was him. He wants the power to scare her. He even pauses long enough for her to realize why he’s there – to make room on his ring finger for his niece – before he attacks.

His villainess isn’t exactly surprising. We were exposed to his uncontrolled ego and hair trigger early in the season when he killed a king’s messenger because he didn’t like the message. But the monstrous Daemon behaves, the more baffling it is to me that the show ever tried to portray him as a jealous little brother in any way more complicated than that.

What does it matter that his incestuous affection for his niece is real when he’s also the guy who took her to a brothel and doomed her? What’s to make of his valiant last stand in the Stepstones when he can kill his own wife without saying a word?

house of the dragon develops a bad habit of a certain type of superficial storytelling. It raises big questions that the series doesn’t want to answer. Take sexism. The show doesn’t endorse misogyny, but it doesn’t have much to say about it either. Viewers are asked to swim in its toxicity simply because it serves the plot.

Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), Daemon (Smith) and Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate)


Also what does it mean in house of the dragon that someone as evil as Daemon isn’t 100 percent evil? If he can still kill an innocent person in a way that maximizes fear and suffering, that doesn’t mean much in my opinion.

By the end of Episode 5 we can stop wondering about Daemon’s softer side – a sociopathic wife killer who was sometimes a good uncle is still just a sociopathic wife killer. But what can that mean for the fate of the empire to which he still – somehow – belongs house of the dragonThe most likeable characters of ? House of the Dragon: Why did the show ever want us to doubt how evil Matt Smith’s daemon is?


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