Viserys, we careys ❤️
House of the Dragon is in its final stages and the temperature is surprisingly wholesome in the Red Keep? An uncles’s death and a scuffle at the kid’s table notwithstanding, the Greens and Blacks meet in the middle there for a second, patting arms, and forgiving past grievances. Then again, if the food is out and the wine is good, better not let it go to waste?
QUEEN OF THE TIDES
In episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides,” Rhaenys finally RULES. Though not the coveted position of the Seven Kingdoms, but certainly of the moment as another matter of succession is called into question. Corlys is wounded off screen after the fighting in the Stepstones has resurged, and GOOD; motherfucker’s misogyny was showing last ep. Pride comes before the fall, and Rhaneys is given what Corlys has falsely been championing all this time. Oh, the irony. If he took up Rhaenys’s fallen honor as “Queen Who Never Was” simply to wield her Targaryen name, then now the Targaryen bloodline will override House Velaryon. Corlys’s obsession with “names” over “blood” effectively ices out brother Vaemond from potential succession (lol). Had Corlys listened to his dear wife last ep – WHO WAS ON HIS SIDE – then Driftmark would stay with a true Velaryon ruler. Alas, Corlys fucked around, and Vaemond finds out.
“It is not a king who sits the throne, but a queen,” Vaemond seethes. How right he is.
A FINAL TIME JUMP
We jump ahead 6 years here, seemingly the final time jump for the fortuitous dance that awaits. We saw Baela much older at Driftmark, then over at Dragonstone we meet a prego Rhaenyra, in utero for another round of 3 dragons. Although, Daemon seems unmoored by the passing of time???
Jacaerys is looking like a Robb Stark (which is to say, DOOMED), taking his Valyrian studies seriously, and Lucerys looks like an overgrown boy a la Bran & Rickon. The path that lies ahead will ask too much of them at their age; they’re boys demanded by their destinies to become men. Whether theirs will be one of tragedy or triumph in HotD’s telling remains to be seen, but I think the tragedy here kinda speaks for itself.
The funniest age up by far is Aemond, who went from hobbit to Aragorn in 6 years. Hey, you claim Vhagar, you earn the right to level up. The significant age up here is clearly to show Daemon and Aemond as equals, though one isn’t quite there yet. A showdown has been foreshadowed nonetheless. Aegon meanwhile, Rhaenyra’s challenger to the throne, has fully come into his own as an entitled piece of shit. It’s never a good thing when kids fail to measure up to the godly standards imposed by their parents, and definitely not a good thing when that same kid is a rapist. And yet, Alicent only has herself to blame for what Aegon’s become, not the mysterious work of the gods. Then we have,Heleana, who couldn’t be happier dreaming, playing with bugs, and learning how to dance.
Alas (🤞) we have our main characters at the proper ages for this dance of dragons to commence.
SEVEN-POINTED RETURN TO KING’S LANDING
Rhaenyra and Dameon arrive to an icy procession at King’s Landing, with the Red Keep looking suspiciously more like the Sept of Baelor. Though the remnants of a passive-aggressive battleground are still standing. Alicent has seen to the removal of the dragon orgies on the walls, renovating all that was Targaryen in the light of the Seven.
Rhaenyra’s “cloak of righteousness” sting hangs heavy over the Red Keep redress. Alicent has been leaning on her faith more so to get by these last couple of years. She’s reneged on her own upstanding principles of late; she called out the “queer Targaryen customs” yet has bethrothed Aegon and Helaena to bolster Hightower’s claim, and has no problem dispensing moon tea if it means hiding her son’s sins. Young Alicent sought the rows of the Sept to grieve a lost mother, and found meaning and purpose in the faith. Maybe now it’s a beacon of salvation for what’s happening all around her. When Alicent meets with Dyana, she’s framed looming over her son’s victim like a merciful mother. Or perhaps the overt religious affiliation is one final play for the support of the common folk—which Rhaenyra hasn’t exactly been sympathetic toward.
Even with Daemon at her side, Rhaenyra isn’t as powerful as she seemed in the aftermath of their confrontation at resolute Driftmark. Two dragons versus one Hightower. Which is why they’re not here to sway Alicent or Otto, but a dying monarch.
The Targaryens have been renowned for their godly status as dragon riders. Perhaps the Hightowers will need the might of their old gods to take back these Seven Kingdoms. Considering what became of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones’s late season religious revival, this may come back to bite them in the ass.
VISERYS BECOMES KING
When Rhaenyra pleads on her father’s deathbed, we at this point have come to expect Viserys to not come through. His legacy is one of inaction, avoidance, peace and love, etc. He was seen feeble and weak long before he actually became feeble and week. And yet, as Viserys made his surprise appearance in the throne room, crawling one cane-step at a time, he had never seemed more kingly.
Viserys has damn near made a mockery out of using Blackfyre as a walking stick all season long. In contrast, there was Daemon, who used their father’s sword Dark Sister to cut through enemies on the battlefield like butter. Thing is, we’ve seen plenty of that spectacle in GoT before. But we have never seen a spectacle made out of a king retaking his seat of power. Daemon may have had the glory here and there, but big brother Viserys gets THE moment. At his weakest and frail, Daemon had never seen his brother so strong and powerful. When Daemon picks up the crown, reader, my eyes were a mist 🥺
“Defend me,” Rhaenyra had pleaded. And a father does. No matter how naive it looks, Viserys remains absolute, and he owns Vaemond a thousand times over despite the fact that what Vaemond says is true. He’s the stubborn one because he’s alone. Even Rhaenys, who snided her niece in the Godswood, recognizes Viserys as king perhaps for the first time in her life, and sides with Rhaenyra.
As was the lesson with Ned Stark – being honorable can only get you so far in this world. Lies and allies are the true pillars of power in these Seven Kingdoms.
If I may for a second: Daemon slices Vaemond’s head in half, and Aemond watches. (These names are so not serious.)
ONE LAST FEAST BEFORE THE DANCE
I love that each ep comes to a head in one dramatically rich sequence. Last ep we had the hall in Driftmark. Here we have Viserys’s last supper. We almost believe for a second that they can avert the natural disaster coming their way. But for every devastating winter comes a dream of a false spring.
After a season full of lords and ladies making their pleas for Viserys to do this or that, a king makes his. A final wish. An ep ago, this plea sounded naive and childish. Here, through Paddy Considine’s heartbreaking conviction it’s like a stone-tablet commandment. It renders Otto a statue, and Daemon a mute – he who would normally stir things up, and now cannot think to upset his brother’s wishes.
So it’s a round of forgiveness and giving, and passive-aggressive toasts to go around. It’s very easy to read this as one Rhaenyra or Alicent merely saying what Viserys wants to hear. Without the first 5 eps, there’d only be one reading. But with that built-in history, it’s a genuine moment between two former BFFs. Two devils on Viserys’s shoulders – who each named their children different Targaryen namesakes to appeal to Viserys at specific pivot points – are instead swayed by the desperate words of the patriarch who sits between them.
But it does not matter how convincing Rhaenyra and Alicent are in their speeches. The feud has self-sustained among their children. One generation knows how to put aside misgivings, and another who only knows how to speak in misgivings.
The pat and punch from Jacaerys to Aegon is some of the best physical comedy I’ve seen in HotD so far, with sister/wife aiding in the third degree burn. But it is Aemond who one-ups them all. That miniature dance of dragons playset doesn’t suffice anymore. Aemond makes a taunt that Daemon himself wouldn’t resist, and there’s almost a look of recognition between them? Not quite a beef between uncle and nephew, but ho boy is that shit SIMMERING. Aemond can stare down his uncle all he wants, but if his mother tells him to stop, he loses that menace. Daemon, surely, knows the obstacle that lies ahead. Maybe he’s softened (time can do that to you) or maybe he’s respecting his brother’s wishes for the first and last time. In different circumstances, Daemon and Aemond would’ve been the best of buds. But in this divided house of the dragon, they are destined to draw swords.
A MISUNDERSTANDING OF ICE AND FIRE
Viserys might’ve righted all the wrongs he could before the Stranger visited his bedside, he left one crucial wrong for the road: Aegon’s prophecy. An ep ago, the Valyrian dagger was the utmost trump card. Now, it’s the ultimate MacGuffin that’ll have the Seven Kingdoms scrambling. Viserys resumes a prior conversation with Rhaenyra… with Alicent. She hears what she thinks are the ramblings of an old man, and others like Otto are likely to hear what they want to hear. That Viserys is talking of Aegon the Conqueror’s dream, not the notion of their Aegon ascending the iron throne does not matter. It is all the same, and a big reason why you NEVER name your kids after anybody—AND why you don’t wait til your deathbed to reveal crucial exposition that otherwise might unite the continent against a common enemy.
Viserys may rant of a dream, but he spurs a waking nightmare that the House of the Dragon will never recover from.
And so we head into the final phase of House of the Dragon with a crucial, and perhaps fatal, turn of the tide. Kinda crazy to think millions will die because of a misunderstanding, but far bigger wars have been waged resulting in greater losses, and started at pettier grievances. All the choices and allegiances made led to this. House Targaryen reaped this and more at the council of Harrenhal. And they’re about to sow going into this penultimate shitstorm.