At very first glance, Daemon Targaryen seems positioned as a single of the heroes of Property of the Dragon, though that impact doesn’t final for extensive. He is played by Matt Smith, arguably the most very well-recognized actor in the first solid, and he’s slotted into the role of “character who snarkily deconstructs the things in which every person all around him is invested,” producing him the closest issue the collection has to a character like Activity of Thrones’ supporter favourite Tyrion Lannister. Subsequent occasions have considering the fact that manufactured it distinct that the Rogue Prince is a lot more rogue than prince, with Daemon consistently exiled by his brother, pushing boundaries with his niece, and normally functioning afoul of everyone else.
But if he’s not the hero of Dwelling of the Dragon, Daemon has in no way been its villain, either. Which is not to say he has not completed some horrible factors in the training course of the collection. Finally, he falls somewhere between “morally ambiguous” at greatest and “morally reprehensible” at worst. But whilst loads of Daemon’s actions could be counted as “villainous” on the surface area, the collection has been incredibly careful to manage a specified amount of ambiguity, to pull away and avert the comprehensive depiction of Daemon’s steps from getting revealed to the audience. In executing so, a length is produced between his villainy and the audience, the far better to shield his esteem in our eyes. We hear about Daemon undertaking lousy factors, but not often do we see him doing individuals points. And even when he does execute an act of villainy on monitor, it’s normally offered in a sympathetic way, the better to continue to keep him from tilting into a total-on villain in our minds.
For case in point, at the conclusion of “Heirs of the Dragon,” the series’ premiere episode, Daemon appears to be the collection central villain: subsequent stories of his toasting his useless toddler nephew as the “heir for a day,” Daemon is disinherited and banished from King’s Landing by King Viserys (Paddy Considine), soon after which Viserys appoints his daughter, Rhaenyra, as his heir. As Daemon skulks off into exile, the episode concludes with a conventional hero shot confirming Rhaenyra as the protagonist of the story.
However pointedly, we by no means truly see Daemon utter the words and phrases “heir for a day.” When identified as on it, Daemon neither confirms nor denies getting reported “heir for a day” (in fact, his response to Viserys’ interrogation — “we ought to all mourn in our individual way” — suits the cadence and rhyme of Daemon’s toast as relayed previously in the episode, suggesting it may well be what Daemon really stated that night time). It is a telling selection: Although Residence of the Dragon’s resource materials, the e book Fire & Blood, is intended to be a subjective telling of Targaryen historical past published down by an in-universe creator drawing from a collection of minimal (and biased) resources, the producers of the display have claimed the tv display signifies an goal accounting of these situations.
Irrespective of whether or not Daemon spoke the words and phrases doesn’t finally matter the essential takeaway below is the ambiguity. In this purportedly aim account of history, we don’t know for positive if Daemon dedicated the sin which at first cast him in the position of collection villain. And it is a system the sequence will carry on to utilize to handle the seemingly goal gaze of the camera as it keeps Daemon from slipping into outright villainy. When he steals the dragon’s egg in “The Rogue Prince,” it also happens off display screen, pointedly focusing only on the reaction to it and his enthusiasm for performing it in the first position. It is not the action of a villain wanting to hurt or trigger difficulties, but the action of a brother and uncle to get the consideration of his ostracized spouse and children. Even when he kills one of Viserys’ messengers at the base of episode 3, the second is a prelude to his most customarily heroic action of the sequence, jeopardizing himself (by means of an motion sequence shot to placement Daemon as the hero) and ending the instant danger of the Crabfeeder. That victory is what sticks in the minds of the audience, not the previously assault on somebody only for delivering news he did not like.
When he confronts his lawful spouse, Rhea Royce, in “We Light-weight the Way,” it appears crystal clear that murder is on Daemon’s thoughts. Nevertheless their face is filmed in these types of a way that it is unclear if Rhea’s horse reared as a immediate consequence of Daemon’s steps or not. And when Daemon approaches the now-paralyzed Rhea with a significant ol’ rock in his hand, the final result is very clear, even if the digicam cuts absent.
That cutaway is noteworthy, sparing us the sight of Daemon caving in his wife’s skull. We know it transpires, but not demonstrating the act retains Daemon from staying noticed as far too a great deal of a remorseless villain. Review this to afterwards in the exact episode, when the digicam is fewer fascinated in defending our see of Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), as we see him pound Joffrey Lonmouth’s facial area into pulp. Clearly, the creators have no problem inciting a visceral response in the viewers to Criston’s steps — they want us to be off-put by the severity of what he does to Joffrey, and to not like him as a final result (the far better to cement his changeover from a intense Rhaenyra ally to a staunch foe). Nonetheless Daemon, who does considerably the identical factor to Rhea previously in the episode (though seemingly acting with malice and forethought compared to the inflamed passion of Criston Cole), receives the much more complimentary edit — simply because he’s not actually the villain of the story.
This sympathetic framing of Daemon in the experience of what are, on paper, atrocious functions, is evidently a distinctive selection in a sea of morally ambiguous figures, even when he does things that may offend sensibilities of the audience. The crackling fourth episode, “King of the Slender Sea,” could be described as “the a single exactly where Daemon seduces his niece.” But although which is technically precise, the presentation of their actions is a lot more complex. Their actions in the “bowels of a satisfaction den,” as Otto Hightower phrases it, aren’t offered by using the performances or way as tawdry or illicit. Milly Alcock portrays Rhaenyra as having fun with herself all through their bodily interactions, and their scenes of bodily intimacy are not shot in an exploitative way or in a way which indicates what they are carrying out is incorrect. Daemon’s abrupt departure and obvious inner thoughts about the circumstance are right at odds with the villainous detail he’s accused of. The rumors of their encounter direct to substantial issues for Rhaenyra (and one more banishment for Daemon), but the moment all over again, steps that surface to be outwardly villainous on paper are introduced in a much more nuanced, ambiguous way to the viewers.
It’s all the better to set up his arc in episode 7, when he’s reunited with Rhaenyra and the two choose to wed. Once again, he’s mainly on the outskirts of the main action of the episode, but his enthusiasm — and the way the audience is being instructed to understand him, even in the facial area of incest — is so significantly much more rooted in his emotions as a character than an archetype to which he’s adhering. Here, it results in being apparent why the display has constantly retained the viewers at a eliminate from Daemon’s villainous steps. We are at a level in which the battle lines have been drawn, and it is come to be clear that Alicent, not Daemon, is the main antagonist to Rhaenyra. The decision of Rhaenyra and Daemon to wed cements that he’s been her ally, not her rival. In purchase for the audience to settle for that, there requires to be some distance in between them and Daemon’s a lot more morally questionable actions, and so the collection has been watchful from the beginning to present Daemon in a sympathetic fashion, even when he’s performing points the audience would usually jeer at as the actions of a very clear terrible dude. For Daemon to be the husband or wife to Rhaenyra he’s been destined to be, he experienced to be saved at a remove from his baser actions.
The end consequence of all that obfuscation is very clear: Daemon Targaryen is not a very good guy. But he’s also not the villain of this story, and the collection has been telling us that all together.