House Of The Dragon Needs More Characters Like Daemon
Though he is undoubtedly a Republican, I found myself missing Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon's second episode.
Matt Smith's blonde-wigged creep dominated the series premiere, sitting on his brother's throne, needling Otto Hightower, cheating in a jousting match (and on his wife), murdering smallfolk, sardonically toasting his recently deceased nephew, and generally being a piece of shit. The episode ends with him being banished from King's Landing, though, and unfortunately, he was also banished from most of its follow-up, "The Rogue Prince." His absence made it significantly more obvious how uninteresting a lot of the residents of King's Landing are at this early point in the show's life.
It's not that Daemon didn't get enough screen time, per se. He was present for the episode's climactic stand-off and two shorter scenes after that. Basically, he got the amount of screen time you would expect to see Arya or Jon Snow or Jaime get in a Game of Thrones episode that wasn't primarily about Arya or Jon Snow or Jaime. The difference, though, is that Game of Thrones was filled with interesting, charismatic characters. And, at least right now in House of the Dragon, we don't have many besides Daemon.
Daemon stands out from the moment he's introduced. When we first meet him, he's sitting on the king's throne. Then, he has a conversation with Rhaenyra in High Valyrian, evincing a roguish charm that has clearly won her over. As the episode progresses, we see that he has been leading a fascist kingsguard that seems completely devoted to him. We see him handle victory and defeat, and in neither is he pleasant. From the jump, Daemon is a fully formed character.
If House of the Dragon is going to stay interesting for the rest of this season (and through the already confirmed second) it needs more characters like Daemon; characters who can be both repellant and charismatic in the same episode, or even in the same scene. Game of Thrones had plenty. Jaime is arrogant and pushes a child out a window. Cersei is cruel, and watches her brother push a child out a window.. Ramsay Bolton is a sadistic freak. Tywin hates his son through no fault of Tyrion's own. Littlefinger is slimy and conniving. And Joffrey is a childish tyrant.
All of these characters are hateable, at least at times. But through the strength of the show's writing and their actors' performances, they remain interesting to watch. Plus, the presence of fundamentally decent characters kept the show balanced. While any scene with Ramsay or Joffrey could become hard to watch on a dime, Ned Stark, Arya, Jon Snow, and Brienne of Tarth gave viewers a brief respite from the grime. At this point, House of the Dragon is largely gray, with few characters who are captivating heroes or villains. Daemon is the exception, and Smith lights up the screen with electric skeeze every time he enters a scene.
Of course, it isn't too late. One of the most compelling things about Game of Thrones was the ability of its writers and actors to give characters believable arcs. While Jaime began the show as a seemingly unredeemable bastard (in the colloquial sense, not in the Game of Thrones specific sense), he became heroic over its run. Though his final act was a transgression to his worst impulses, Brienne of Tarth eulogized him in the White Book as heroic and noble. The show was interesting because characters who seemed bad might slowly become good, and vice versa. Much of the derision directed at the final season stemmed from the show runners forcing Daenerys' heel turn without dedicating the time needed to make it fully work. This flaw was present in many of the character arcs that ended in unsatisfying ways.
Though Game of Thrones took years to develop its characters fully, when the series began, I immediately had strong feelings about many of them. I admired Ned Stark's straightforward goodness which had no place against King's Landing's backdrop of palace intrigue. I viscerally hated Joffrey. I was amused by Tyrion. I empathized with Arya's desire to be something no one believed she could be. Now, at the beginning of House of the Dragon, there aren't many characters that feel that clearly sketched out. But, Daemon is one of them.
Regardless of what happens next, I'm extremely into House of the Dragon and eager to see where it goes. I’m curious about and captivated by its world and lore. But if I’m going to be invested in its characters, we need more pieces of shit like Daemon.
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