House of the Dragon episode 3 review: Matt Smith steals the show as Bollywood-style action star
House of the Dragon season 1 episode 3 review: Matt Smith emerges as the shining star of the episode in just the final few minutes.
House of the Dragon is slowly emerging as one of the better things on television (or OTT, depending on where you are reading this) right now. Three episodes in, the series is shining brighter in its performances, attention to detail, building suspense, dialogue-writing, beautiful visuals and gorgeous allegory. The latest episode also serves as a vehicle for Matt Smith (Prince Daemon Targaryen) to prove wrong all those who doubted his casting a few months ago. In the final few minutes, he delivers an almost totally silent yet memorable performance that also marked the first of (hopefully) many action and battle scenes to come. But let's talk about the end when we are done talking about the rest of it. (Also read: House of the Dragon episode 2 review: After a violent pilot, show takes a necessary slow break)
While Matt Smith clearly stole the show with his short, silent and stunning bit, the episode belonged to Paddy Considine almost just as much. The show takes a short time leap and we witness King Viserys living the life he had always wanted and still it is not enough. Heavy is the King's head and Paddy makes sure his dilemma come through in every second he spends on the screen. King Viserys is tortured by his stubborn daughter, her many eager suitors, the uncertainty about the next ruler of Westeros, his prince brother gone rogue, the unsolicited advices raining in from every corner.
Sometimes the King laughs off incestuous ideas, other times he's driven to the warm embrace of the wine decanter, sometimes he blasts his daughter in front of the lords and ladies of the court and other times, he defends her choices with all he's got. At the end, he might do what he feels is right, with or without Princess Rhaenyra's best interest at heart but right now, Paddy ensures Viserys' desperation and also his kindness comes through in every scene. His scenes with Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) are tender and the promises he makes, earnest. Therefore, it will hurt more than Logan Roy driving a knife into Shiobhan's back.
The episode also includes great use of allegory and visual parallels. There's entire bit about Viserys feeling like a fake hero, an ornamental king driving a golden spear into an animal caught by others for him. He has no authority, no real claim. He's exhausted nevertheless. Elsewhere, the truly worthy are in the woods, unnoticed. The platinum Targaryen hair looks even more striking when soaked with blood, first on the niece Princess Rhaenyra and then later on uncle, Prince Daemon.
The final few minutes take us to the Sea Snakes' and Daemon's battle with the crab feeders, a few futile years on. It brings back the Game of Thrones flavour of action scenes, full of stunning scenery, intense performances and an uncertainty of the battlefield that lurks in every moment. Moments before mayhem are devoid of any sound, low-echoing muffles at most. And when all chaos breaks loose, the music comes flooding in. Without a spoken word, Matt Smith unleashes the evil fury of Daemon, an unbridled, hurt pride and treacherous ways, with each slash of his sword, stomping through the crabby trenches. Taking on a dozen men at once, he gets the Bollywood star treatment, whether or not he's the most loathsome character of the show. As much as I want to predict a Jaime Lannister turn-around for Daemon I also cannot, currently, see Matt Smith as anything but the villain of the series. After the goofy Doctor in Doctor Who and the very jealous, very human Prince Philip in The Crown, Matt is having a tonne of fun playing the evil rogue prince. And I, for one, would love to see more of it.