For most fans, Matt Smith is likely the most recognizable star in House of the Dragon, but his new character is a far cry from Doctor Who. Smith is playing Prince Daemon Targaryen, a central figure to HBO's first Game of Thrones spinoff which premieres in two weeks. Here's a spoiler-free introduction to the character for those excited to see him on screen.
House of the Dragon is set about 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, at a time when House Targaryen was arguably at the height of its political and military power in the Seven Kingdoms. Part of the conflict here is that there are many Targaryens alive, which leads to complications with the plan for who will inherit the Iron Throne. Westeros does not always follow consistent rules when it comes to succession, and some lords have political motivations to see one Targaryen or another in control. Many support Daemon and Daemon may be the most ambitious of them all.
Daemon's supposed "right" to the Iron Throne is tenuous at best. He is the son of Baelon Targaryen, who was named heir by his father Jaehaerys I but died before he could be crowned. Jaehaerys then named Baelon's eldest son Viserys I (Paddy Considine) his heir. Daemon is Viserys' younger brother and is also a son of Baelon. Since Viserys only has a daughter and no sons, Daemon believes he should inherit the Iron Throne after Viserys is gone.
However, both the source materials and the trailers for House of the Dragon make it clear that legal technicalities are not the real reason Daemon believes he has a right to rule. In the first teaser, Smith intoned the lines: "Dreams didn't make us kings, dragons did." This is emblematic of Daemon's character — a proud, ruthless warrior who believes that strength supersedes all else.
Most of Daemon's traits at the beginning of the show fall under the umbrellas of pride and ruthlessness. When fans meet him on the show, the king's younger brother will be a knight in prime fighting shape. He is a battle-hardened warrior and a dragonrider whose mount is Caraxes, arguably the second most fearsome dragon in Westeros at the time of this series. Daemon is certainly a political player, but not a schemer like Littlefinger or Varys. He is most analogous to Jamie Lannister in the original series.
Characterization for Daemon comes mostly from Fire & Blood — George R.R. Martin's most recent book. It is an "imaginary history book" that covers the first 130 years of House Targaryen's rule over Westeros from the perspective of a maester, reciting Daemon's deeds from a detached perspective along with the rest of the story. The TV show will likely flesh out Daemon in new and interesting ways, and answer some burning questions fans have had since the book came out. Since author George R.R. Martin has said that Daemon is his personal favorite Targaryen character, we can expect the show to focus heavily on his development.
Fire & Blood is available now in print, digital and audiobook formats. House of the Dragon premieres on Sunday, Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.