Daemon Targaryen is a controversial character: in books or TV. Violent, ambitious, and selfish, and unsurprisingly it divides fans, directors, and writers. Never obvious, never unanimous, he is one of George R. R. Martin‘s favorite characters who calls him a rogue.
Talking about Daemon’s flaws is easy and he doesn’t care what people think of him. Of all of them, perhaps the least mentioned is perhaps the most vital: its superiority. Being a Targaryen, riding dragons, fighting well, and eventually being able to be King comes naturally to Daemon which sets him above the rest. But this arrogance exposes him to enemies because he refuses to play political tricks.
As a younger brother, he idolizes his older brother, Viserys perhaps the only person who truly feels “love”. It’s his approval, his intimacy with him, and his trust that moves Daemon and he feels wronged for never reaching them.
It’s not that Viserys doesn’t love Daemon, but the King recognized that his temper prevented him from dealing with the realm’s affairs. The one who manipulated this feeling was Otto Hightower, who understood that Daemon saw him clearly and would never let him have the influence necessary to have power. In this, he was approaching Rhaenyra, his niece and for whom he had genuine affection.
Daemon’s criticism of his brother was correct. A dreamer, Viserys had an aversion to conflict and confrontation, but the price was often to yield wealth and power to other Houses, indirectly, such as the Hightowers.
The series decided to explore Daemon’s story with few words (in one episode, in fact, he didn’t say any) and it did so thanks to the talent and charisma of Matt Smith, perfect in the role. His laziness of the flattery or obviousness of those seeking approval was comical. He is decidedly a man of action.
In his arrogance, Daemon loves to see the circus burn. He has real affection for Rhaenyra, which even approaches love, but what he likes about her is her reflection, not what Viserys taught her. The two joined together – body and soul – for the future of House Targaryen, a common goal that will come with the princess’s crown… or so they hoped.
In the book, Viserys is old, but nowhere near as finished as in the series so the Blacks weren’t ready for his death. In the series, it felt like incompetence and even innocence of them not anticipating that the Greens would try to stop Rhaenyra’s rise. Late in EVERYTHING, it’s up to Daemon to stay focused and use all his sadness for his brother’s death to try to respect his will: to see Rhaenyra queen of the seven kingdoms.
And here some fans were surprised by Daemon’s “coldness” and aggressiveness.
In his defense, times were different. Women had a 50% greater chance of dying with each childbirth, and it was up to him, once again, to uphold the Targaryen legacy. In “normal” circumstances he, who lost a wife in childbirth, could react to the new risk with detachment. Even more so with two daughters, two sons, and three stepchildren. To make matters worse, as we know, the Greens staged a coup d’état and were plotting the death of everyone in Dragonstone. If Rhaenyra died, they needed to be ready. Live, even more. So, without Ser Corlys Velaryon among them, it was up to Daemon to stay focused and plan for action.
The hanging, well, I don’t defend and it was a triple reaction of surprise, anger, and frustration. The fact that Viserys never shared the main secret of the Iron Throne proved that his brother not only didn’t see him as his successor, but he also didn’t trust him. At the same time, seeing Rhaenyra lose the impulsiveness that brought them together to adopt Viserys’ peaceful strategy was lethal for everyone.
The affection Daemon treated his stepchildren is something interesting. Unlike Otto, having his legitimate children, we didn’t see him pressure Rhaenyra to change her order of succession. That too is love. Lucaerys’ death was what he needed to “rescue” the warrior Rhaenyra, and he’s going to use that feeling to his advantage.
We’ve reached the end. from season 1 with an apparently “tamed” Daemon, having lived 10 years with Rhaenyra in Dragonstone, without conflicts. Happiness is a concept that is not in your vocabulary and it is to be expected that it still surprises us.
In the book, after the death of their son, Rhaenyra and Daemon’s relationship is no longer physical. He’s going to get back together with Mysaria and he’s going to have something special with Nettles. Let’s find out if it’s love or if she’s a bastard daughter, as some believe her to be. Be that as it may, Daemon is essential to Black’s victory. It will frighten us and make us cry in equal measure. Matt Smith will still dominate House of the Dragon.