Matt Smith Deserved Better Than Morbius and Now Has It with House of the Dragon

Elsewhere Edgar Wright’s dangerously seductive flirtation with ‘60s nostalgia, Last Night in Soho, made great use of the actor’s charm and ability to menace as “Jack,” a playboy in swinging London circa 1965. He seems too good to be true. It was another villain role, and one in a distinctly British film (although Soho was produced by the NBC-Universal-owned Focus Features), but it left an impression, much like Smith’s turns as Martin Bright in Official Secrets (2019) or as Charles Manson in Charlie Says (2018). 

Studios have sought Smith out for things like Morbius, in part, because of his name-recognition with genre fans. But they never bothered offering a franchise role worth sinking a quirky talent’s teeth into. That just changed with House of the Dragon.

The Game of Thrones spinoff arrived on HBO last month with much cautious excitement and trepidation (sounds familiar). Here was the long-forthcoming prequel to one of the most popular television shows in this century. There was expectation, but also weariness after how Game of Thrones’ ending divided fans. Smith was among the very first actors cast in the spinoff, but as Prince Daemon Targaryen, he would receive the most scrutiny from fans of George R.R. Martin’s source material novels upon which Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon are based.

On the show, Daemon iss “the Prince of the City,” a notorious scoundrel who is remembered in Westerosi history as thus: “In his day there was not a man so admired, so beloved, and so reviled in all Westeros. He was made of light and darkness in equal parts. To some he was a hero, to other the blackest of villains.”

Three episodes into House of the Dragon that duality comes shining through in a character who visibly loves his family, and a second son who remains unmistakably wounded whenever in the presence of his older brother and king, Viserys I (Paddy Considine). And yet, ambition and avarice twinkles in the eye whenever Viserys looks away. He may covet his brother’s attention, but he covets his throne even more.

In the most recent House of the Dragon episode, Daemon even foregoes waiting for relief from King Viserys’ army and navy after a three-year long war the prince has been fighting on a desolate collection of rocks has resulted in a stalemate. Instead Daemon courts death on a seeming suicide run against a pirate captain to win the war, and thereby all the glory, practically by himself.

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