Matt Smith on Daemon Targaryen and Criston Cole’s Rivalry

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen

One of the most violent moments in “House of the Dragon”‘s first episode comes when Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) face off in a joust. Cole comes out on top in the battle, but the show sets up the pair as rivals for the foreseeable future. Smith and Frankel speak to POPSUGAR about the dynamic and where it might be going.

“I think there’s a sort of strange similarity between them in many ways. They’re both slightly ostracized or self-ostracized by the community that they’re in,” Smith says. Daemon is the king’s brother, but he constantly sets himself apart from everyone else around him. Criston, meanwhile, is the son of a steward and is looked down on because he isn’t noble. “There’s a bubbling undercurrent between these characters . . . that I hope will play out very interestingly as we go on,” Smith says.

Frankel explains the ways Criston doesn’t quite fit into the world of the Red Keep. “You have this world that is set up that is full of riches and characters who have great ambition and volatility. And Criston is not from this world at all,” he says. “He’s the son of a steward. He fought in the Dornish marches. He’s a soldier. He’s a real soldier. He’s not kind of a pretend soldier, like a lot of these guys who think they’re tough, wearing their beautifully decorated swords and shields and armor.”

The difference between Criston and the fighters is clearly visible during the tournament. “His armor doesn’t have a sigil on it. He has a cheap shield, and yet he still manages to best one of the great fighters in the show,” he says.

“He does initially,” Smith adds, perhaps hinting that though Criston beats Daemon in their first face-off, he won’t always. Frankel says they had “a lot of fun” filming their brutal joust. Smith says, “We’re quite energetic people. We’d spent all these weeks learning it, and we got to expend our energy scrapping it out with each other. So it was a good laugh.” It took them three weeks to learn the fight choreography.

Smith says both characters are “quite complicated creatures,” and while Daemon is ambitious, he doesn’t think power is exactly the thing he’s after. “I think as opposed to power, well, I think Daemon is interested in the obstruction of power, really,” he explains.

Frankel says Criston is “very led by his heart” and “instinctive,” partially because of his experience as a soldier. “When you’re dealing with life or death on a battlefield, I can’t imagine that many things are cerebral. I think you feel things out in your body and react accordingly,” he says.

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