Prince Daemon Targaryen is shown in pre-series publicity and promotional materials for House of the Dragon hugging his two daughters, Rhaena and Baela. At the time, the tight embrace in the teasers and trailers had no context.
Spoilers for Episode 6 ahead.
In the final moments of “The Princess and the Queen,” Laena Velaryon commits suicide with the help of her loyal dragon, Vhagar. Laena loved her daughters and her brother Laenor, and seemed to have genuine feelings for her husband Daemon as well. However, she chose a dignified end on her own terms, rather than waiting to bleed out after a pregnancy gone wrong.
Her twin daughters are, obviously, horrified and grief-stricken. However, House of the Dragon portrays Daemon as cold and callous even in these circumstances. Based on the promotional materials, it appears that wasn’t always going to be the case. Instead, he was going to comfort his children. Maybe he only felt obligated, but he was still slated to do it.
Daemon hasn’t been a sympathetic figure so far. He’s been portrayed by Matt Smith as a spoiled brat who cares little for his brother and who wants to seize the Iron Throne for himself, as a provocateur who steals dragon eggs and uses lovers as pawns, as someone happy to murder his wife, and as a creep who attempted to claim his niece’s virginity, among other unsavory attributes.
House of the Dragon has a long way to go, but so far we’ve seen no indication that Daemon will get any redemption, and deleting a scene that humanizes him only seems to provide further evidence that Daemon remains a villain. Perhaps HBO doesn’t want House of the Dragon’s audience to get who’s good and who’s bad confused, which is an unusual departure from the plentitude of morally gray characters that made Game of Thrones so captivating.
This scene’s deletion is especially surprising because, while in George R.R. Martin’s prequel texts Daemon is certainly a “roguish prince” capable of bloodshed and scheming, he’s also described as a sort of suave, swashbuckling antihero. He’s never painted as a pure villain, or as pathologically cruel or unfeeling. The Daemon of the books likely would have taken a few minutes out of his day to hug his daughters as they mourned their mother’s unexpected passing.
Will HBO continue taking their on-screen adaptation of Prince Daemon Targaryen in this direction? With both Laena Velaryon and Ser Harwin Strong dead, and King Viserys I Targaryen in his final moments, Daemon has the opportunity to make several big decisions that will either turn him into the story’s hero, or cement him as one of its biggest villains.
House of the Dragon Episode 7 airs October 2 on HBO.