A Historically Accurate Royal Hunt
One of the biggest plot points in this episode was Viserys’ royal hunt, where he and about half of the Red Keep went into the Kingswood to hunt down a rare white hart in celebration of his son Aegon’s second nameday. This is actually pretty accurate to what medieval royal hunts looked like, where the monarch would wait for his huntsmen to find their prey and the king would deliver the killing blow. So while this may be more in line with how it actually may have happened, we’ve already seen a king in Game of Thrones go hunting through the Kingswood, with nobody but a Kingsguard, his brother, and a cupbearer. Robert Baratheon has no time to sit in a tent when a boar the size of an elephant is waiting to gut him to pieces!
Viserys chose to spend his time waiting for his prize drinking and getting into whisper shouting matches with his daughter, Otto Hightower, and a Lannister about the war in the Stepstones. Paddy Considine is really nailing the role of Viserys, trying to please everyone while drinking himself into a stupor, and in doing so, making things so much worse. And did anyone catch those missing fingers from the Iron Throne cut? Bad omen. Another note is that the hunters couldn’t track the white hart, they only found a brown one, and Viserys could not even cleanly kill the poor replacement. The rare white hart did appear for Rhaenyra, but she chose to let it go. Something to remember moving forward.
A lot of time was spent this episode with Viserys combating different people (Hightower and Lannister) for questioning his line of succession. Viserys finally made a stand and cemented his daughter as heir, even confirming it to her. He did have a moment of weakness with Alicent in wondering if he had the made wrong choice in Rhaenyra, but then doubled down on his choice afterwards. This confirmation of Rhaenyra as heir should make her more interactive in court and around her family, but the lingering question remains: what happens between Rhaenyra and Aegon when Viserys is gone?
Rhaenyra and Company
The episode provided some quality one-on-one time with Criston and Rhaenyra, after Rhaenyra ran off and Cole had to go after her. A callback to King Robert showed up when a (much smaller) boar attacked Rhaenyra and Criston, but the Kingsguard knight made short work of it. It did make quite a striking visual with them arriving back at camp dragging the carcass and Rhaenyra being soaked in blood.
Another significant dynamic to keep an eye on is the rivalry between Alicent and Rhaenyra. So far, Alicent has seemed very sympathetic towards Rhaenyra who is giving her the cold shoulder. How long will Alicent continue to play nice, especially with her father in her ear whispering that her own son Aegon should be heir and not her stepdaughter?
War in the Stepstones
A big difference between the show and the book is that Viserys was not supporting the Stepstones throughout the war. In Fire and Blood, Viserys was happy to pay for Corlys and Daemon’s war in order to keep him out of trouble. In the show, Corlys and Daemon are struggling, and were on their last legs before Viserys chose to send a small force. This minimal help drove Daemon into a rage and one last assault, basically soloing the Crab’s forces before Corlys’s army along with his son, Laenor, and his Dragon Seasmoke came to save the day. Laenor isn’t a warrior in Fire and Blood, he doesn’t even get knighted until he’s required to for marriage, so it’s quite a change from the books and something that probably should have been set up a little better to have a bigger impact.
One major complaint about this episode is that Daemon’s duel with the Crabfeeder took place entirely offscreen. I was really looking forward to that, especially with the Crab looking like Jason Voorhees incarnate. Oh well. We’ll see how Viserys handles Daemon being the self-proclaimed King in the Narrow Sea next week.