Daemon Targaryen, frankly, does some pretty horrible shit in House of the Dragon that has left viewers scratching their heads about why other fans are still obsessed with him and his morally questionable antics.
Among Daemon’s biggest hits were murdering his estranged wife, leaving his second wife to struggle through child-birth on her own, not comforting his daughters after their mother’s death, immediately marrying the niece he’s groomed from childhood, and slapping said niece while she’s having a crisis.
Yeah. Even as someone who personally enjoys Daemon as a character, it’s pretty hard to defend Daemon because there’s really no defending the things he does in the show. And yet, Daemon Targaryen continues to baffle and dazzle and baffle and dazzle us ad nauseum.
Daemon Targaryen’s Background Makes Him Sympathetic
Daemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame, is the brother of Viserys Targaryen and the uncle of Rhaenyra Targaryen, among other things. He’s also the founder of the Gold Cloaks that serve as King Landing’s law enforcement from when they were founded up until the events of Game of Thrones.
Daemon was the second son of a Baelon Targaryen who was himself a brother of Rhaenys Targayen’s brother. This makes Daemon, Rhaenys, and Viserys first cousins through their parents. He has the fiery and unstable temper of the three, and he was noted to be the more adventurous one compared to his brother Viserys. His skill and love for dragon riding, as well as his sharp temper and indulgent tastes, come from his mother Alyssa Targaryen. The two of them share a provocative yet protective nature. Where Daemon is fiercely protective of his brother Viserys, Alyssa protected her sister Daella from a brother’s insults.
It’s this fiery temper that the two of them share that allows for Daemon and Viserys to be driven apart by politics. Daemon Targaryen, despite his clear love of power, seems to genuinely want what’s best for Viserys – even if they have completely different ideas of it. Viserys fears his younger brother’s sharp temper and taste for sadism, even though he also fiercely defends him from people who despise him, especially Otto Hightower.
You get a feeling that there’s genuine care and love between these two men even if they don’t understand each other very well. Daemon even takes on the task of creating the Gold Cloaks with enthusiasm, using them as a way of enforcing Viserys’ laws. He doesn’t trust Otto Hightower and tells Viserys as much, making it clear that everyone outside their family had every incentive to throw Viserys to the wolves – but not him.
What makes their relationship even tenser is that Daemon doesn’t understand why Viserys keeps pushing him away. In his head, working on the Gold Cloaks project was a way of helping Viserys, but just as with any interaction they have where they try to show each other how deeply they care, it devolves into misunderstanding as Viserys doesn’t, quite understandably, appreciate Daemon’s approach.
So imagine this from Daemon Targaryen’s side. Everyone hates you, but that’s okay because your blood family is all that really matters. There’s the brother you love so much and the niece you also love but not in the most family-friendly way. Either way, you do try (emphasis on operative word ‘try’) to protect them…except your brother hates everything you do. Of course, this isn’t to excuse what Daemon does but to give it more nuance, if there is ever such a thing.
House of the Dragon makes it very clear that the continued rejection from Viserys, who is understandably upset that his brother is celebrating the death of his son, spurred on the depression he tries desperately to hide.
Laena Velaryon, Daemon’s wife, points out the disparity between his actions and what he claims to feel.
And despite his constant rejection of the idea, Daemon also reveals how he really feels: “I miss Westerosi strong wine. It can be depended on for a few hours of peaceful oblivion.”
But the Way He Deals With His Problems Makes Him Dangerous
It’s no secret that Daemon Targaryen sucks at dealing with his emotions. He externalizes his grief and sadness as anger that he then directs at other people. Even when he takes the milder route of drowning his feelings in base indulgences, he ends up stringing along a young Rhaenyra who he makes out with in a brothel. Not the best place for a princess who is heir to the throne to be seen at.
While fans still debate why he killed Rhea Royce – some say it was on purpose while other fans think it was to put her out of her misery since she was paralyzed – there’s less ambiguity when it comes to the scene where he chokes Rhaenyra for talking about making peace with the Greens. Instead of explaining how he thinks that violence is the only sensible response after Luke was killed by Vhagar, he chokes Rhaenyra in an angry panic.
Even with the people he cares about the most, Rhaenyra and Viserys, Daemon doesn’t shrink from having a violent and endangering response.
Daemon and Rhaenyra Have Insane Chemistry
And yet the chemistry between Daemon and Rhaenyra is just insane. It has be considering that #Daemyra has managed to make their legions of fans ship incest between a niece and her uncle. The two are just electric on the screen and despite the way they can treat each other, as with Viserys, you still get the sense that Daemon will protect Rhaenyra from everyone that isn’t him tooth and nail.
At the same time, it’s difficult to shake off the feeling that Daemon is holding onto Rhaenyra because of the proximity to power that she provides him with. As the consort of the heir, he’ll finally have a permanent place in the court of King’s Landing and in the Red Keep. He would also have a chance to be the father of a line of kings, cementing himself in the family legacy that his second wife Laena points out he is obsessed over.
Daemon’s Bad and Good Sides Make Him Difficult to Pin Down as a Person
Okay, you probably have worse or better things to say about Daemon Targaryen but that’s what makes him such an interesting character. No matter what he does, so many of us fans can’t help but feel some empathy towards him because we see all the different ways his actions can be interpreted as morally bad or good – and when it comes to Daemon Targaryen, these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.