There’s not really a good reason to like Daemon Targaryen, on paper at least. The devious younger brother on House of the Dragon has been kind of banished from the realm by his older brother, the king. He seduced and then married his teenage niece after helping stage her husband’s death and shipping him off to gay paradise. He has various dragon-related strikes against him, ranging from “flies his dragon while doing a cocky little ‘look, no hands’ thing” to “his wife committed suicide by dragon at least in part to get away from him.” And yet, here I am, rapidly approaching the season finale and one week out from declaring that I wanted to see him get “walloped with a mallet once or twice,” coming around on him completely. I might even step in front of that mallet to protect him. It’s weird.
Part of it is this cool little trick the show does, a piece of character-based misdirection that I’m really starting to appreciate. It goes something like this: They’ll introduce a despicable character, a devious and morally bankrupt little goblin, and you’ll spend a solid episode or two hoping a dragon drops a sack of bricks on their heads from the clouds, but then a new character — or an aged-up, time-jumped version of a previous one — will strut into some castle and reveal themselves to be more devious and despicable by a factor of six or seven, and you’ll re-focus so much of your brick-sack-dropping wishes in that direction that the other character seems almost charming by comparison. A sweet little smirking rascal.
Another part of it is that my beloved Viserys died this week after a long battle with… some sort of illness that ate his flesh and eyeball and left him looking kind of like how Gus Fring looked in Breaking Bad after an explosion blew off half of his face. This created a void that needed to be filled by someone. It helped that the king’s wife and her father were jacking him up with opium all hours of the day and ruling the kingdom as he drifted off – this is the “introduce someone worse” thing I just mentioned – and Daemon was the one to quite literally sniff it out and help inspire his triumphant little march to the throne. Which was cool. I shouted a tiny bit.
I think the biggest part of my sudden turn, though, is my growing respect for the man’s deep and endless love of drama, which was on display beautifully during this week’s episode. First, during the hearing where Viserys dragged his saggy mess of rotting flesh into his throne, the one where one of the Valaryons started dancing around an accusation about the validity of the princess’s kids. Which led Daemon to whispering this…
… which was all the nudging my guy needed to shout in front of god and the dragons and everyone that the kids were bastards and that the princess — the king’s daughter and Daemon’s wife — was a whore. His words, not mine. And that, as will happen in a time of kings and queens where most of the people carry swords, led to… well…
There are two things I enjoy about this particular piece of business:
- The little smirk he does after lopping off the dude’s head diagonally in front of a room filled with lords and ladies and children, like he’s amused by it, like he’s a mischievous little scamp with a blood-soaked sword
- The fact that he goaded the man into this and then murdered him for it in a way that seemed to imply he was just getting bored and wanted to mix things up under the guise of defending the honor of his niece/wife
It was really quite fun, as far as shocking decapitations via sword go. And it wasn’t even his messiest moment of the week, somehow, at least not on my scorecard. That honor goes to this scene from later in the episode, the one where Aemond — his nephew who snuck in and stole his dead wife’s dragon from his daughter and got an eye sliced out by his stepson, which is a heck of a thing to see all typed out in one aside like this — also called the children’s validity into question during a toast.
Chaos ensued. A fight almost broke out. And then Daemon stepped in and looked at Aemond like this.
Which I loved. Look at his face. Just the biggest smirking sigh you’ve ever seen, kind of a cross between begrudging respect for the needless introduction of drama and utter joy that he gets to be in the middle of it all. Again, for the second time in the episode, someone —correctly, but still — called his stepchildren bastards and questioned his wife’s morality in front of a large group of her friends and family, and he reveled in the anarchy it created. A little bit. He didn’t chop anyone’s head off this time, though. It’s nice to mix things up.
He did smirk, though. Lord in heaven did he ever smirk. It was a little hard to see because the show insists on lighting every scene by candle despite having a budget the size of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ payroll, but it’s there. Look closely. Look at the little glance he shoots off as he walks away.
I genuinely do not think he can help it. He just loves chaos. The room he is sitting in could be engulfed in real and/or metaphorical flames and I suspect he would be sitting in a chair smack in the middle of it with a diabolical grin on his face, one of those cartoon ones like the Grinch does that gets so wide it makes his cheeks start to spiral into little curls. And I regret to inform you that I simply cannot get enough of it right now. Again, I did not see this coming. One hour of television ago I wanted him to get the smirk sliced off of his face via swordplay. But now, here we are, a full 180 later, with me fully in the tank for this platinum blond weasel. It’s a little incredible, really.
Things can change quickly on this show. I’m aware of that, as I should be seeing as I just wrote this whole thing about my opinion changing overnight. Daemon could do something irredeemable in the first 30 seconds of the next episode and I might just go ahead and retract all of this like a coward. But for right now, in this moment, with all of its decapitations and smirks fresh in my mind, I’ll go ahead and say it…
All hail Daemon, a prince by birth but an unapologetic king of drama. I hope he lives forever.