The “Not Matt Smith” movement among Game of Thrones fandom never made much sense. Why not bring an actor with a huge, loyal fan base on board? Smith nailed it as The Crown’s Prince Philip, a role that has more than a little in common with Daemon Targaryen. Of course, he’s best known as the 11th Doctor, a role that also shows some of the darkness he’s bringing to House of The Dragon. It’s easy to forget while he’s eating fish fingers and custard, but there is a reason entire alien races fear The Doctor. Daemon Targaryen has a similar penchant for switching from fun and flirtatious to “time to wreck everything and everyone in sight.”
Sigh. Was it maybe that Smith unfairly caught flack for the failure of Morbius? There were far more problems with that than Smith or any other actor could have fixed. Of all the characters in Spider-Man’s universe, was anyone really clamoring to learn more about Dr. Michael Morbius? It appears the answer was a resounding no. Sony and Marvel’s spider-sharing being such as it is, the character hasn’t even been on screen with Spider-Man yet. The “living vampire” was a running gag for good ol’ comic publication Wizard Magazine as the definition of a D-list character. Ironically, one of the characters also used in that gag was Loki’s Mobius M. Mobius, now a fan favorite thanks to Owen Wilson’s portrayal. It’s a testament to how much Marvel Comics have permeated pop culture in such a short time.
Even the shirtless dancing Matt Smith meme from that film shows how much he belongs in King’s Landing. Like any prince gifted with more money and power than common sense, Daemon Targaryen loves a good party. He’ll be doing a whole lot of shirtless dancing, even when he should be leading or mourning the loss of family members. An actor spending the next 7-10 years of their career riding dragons and leading an army called Gold Cloaks had better be able to embrace the Dungeons and Dragons – ness of it all.
In fairness, Smith himself wasn’t sure if he wanted to take on the role. He told The Hollywood Reporter that he feared GOT would be a tough act to follow. He’s right. There is immense pressure on everyone involved, and it was that way before the final season left fans disappointed. There was never any guarantee this project was going to work just because it’s a huge franchise.
But Smith had always wanted to work with Paddy Considine, who plays the well-meaning but ineffective King Velarys. One episode in, the partnership is already paying off. Considine nails the understandable frustration of defending a younger brother who is constantly screwing up. Smith’s Daemon is outwardly confident to a fault. But deep down he appears to hate himself as much as his enemies do.
Both men are driven by the impending dangers all around them. Daemon sees a council ready to prey on his brother to seize power for themselves. He doesn’t even know about the prophecy foretelling the end of the world, because only those in line for the throne get to hear it. But Velarys is fully aware that whoever sits on the throne has the future of not just King’s Landing, but mankind itself to worry about. Being responsible for one’s loyal and (disloyal) subjects is enough of a head trip. Having the fate of humanity weighing on you could drive anyone insane, Targaryen blood or not.
Make no mistake, this multimillion-dollar sandbox is all the better because Smith is playing in it. Even reviewers that hate House of The Dragon agree Smith’s gloriously over-the-top Daemon is the best thing in it. Whether it’s HOTD or The Real Housewives of Poughkeepsie, TV shows need characters the audience loves to hate. George R.R. Martin himself has called Daemon his favorite Targaryen. Every time the camera catches Matt Smith, more people join Martin in that fan club.