Throughout the first season of HBO Max’s House of the Dragon, Viserys has been the buffer between the two factions of his house, headed by Alicent and Rhaenyra, respectively. Each of them knows that they can’t make any moves while Viserys still rules. While Alicent and Otto have been tiptoeing about up until Episode 8, Viserys had grown very weak and has given the keys to both of them to run his kingdom. About 6 years of time have passed between Episode 7 and this one. Time to get into some lore.
This is the dying King’s finest hour. Viserys talked with Daemon in an earlier episode about how he felt he’d never been tested as a king, and how he wished he could prove his mettle. He did that in this episode, rising to the occasion to save his daughter and grandsons from losing Luke’s inheritance and legitimacy. His walk up to the throne is a top 5 scene from the Game of Thrones franchise, taking all of his effort, and only accepting help from Daemon in his climb. According to the director, the crown falling from his head and Daemon placing it back onto Viserys was unscripted, and it made the moment all the more powerful.
The events of that scene were forced by Vaemond Velaryon, Corlys’s brother, trying to go around Viserys and Rhaenyra, straight to Otto and Alicent to secure his claim, reasoning that Luke is not a true Velaryon and has no right to Driftmark. Vaemond got taken out at the knees when Rhaenys, the matriarch of the Velaryons, put her chips in with Rhaenyra, agreeing in front of the court to marry Jace and Luke to her granddaughters, Baela and Rhaena. This sent Vaemond into a rage to call out that the boys are bastards and their mother is a whore. Viserys warned that anyone who questioned Jace’s and Luke’s parentage would get their tongues ripped out; however, Daemon took matters into his own hands, slicing half of his head off with Dark Sister, but he let him keep his tongue.
With his family all under one roof for the first time in 6 years, Viserys hosted a dinner with all of them, where there were toasts all around and everyone was playing nice, with Alicent even telling Rhaenyra that she will make a fine queen. That seemed to indicate that the matter of succession was over. Yeah, in Viserys’s dreams. I am happy that in Viserys’s last moments before he was carted off, there was a small smile seeing his family happy all together. Even for all of his faults, he deserved a better family than the vultures he had. His last, muttered words were “My love,” pretty obviously in memory of his first wife, Aemma.
It’s shown very explicitly that both Rhaenyra and Alicent have some differing parental styles. Rhaenyra is supportive in Jace’s learning of High Valyrian, and there has been no signs of mental or physical abuse towards her sons. Also, we got our first sighting of Aegon the Younger and Viserys, which are Daemon’s and Rhaenyra’s sons. There’s no denying that they are Targaryens with that platinum hair, and it’s great that Viserys got to see them before he died.
Speaking of Viserys’ terrible family, Alicent was shown to be abusive to Aegon, and this episode showed that it had been well deserved since he sexually assaulted one of the handmaidens and dismissed it as “Just a bit of fun.” But what did Alicent do? She covered it up, paying the girl and giving her moon tea to eliminate any chances of an unwanted pregnancy. She followed up by then slapping Aegon in the face and saying he’s no son of hers. Problem solved, put a band-aid on it!
I noted that Alicent finally ceded to Rhaenyra and admitted to her being the next queen, but the seeds had already been sowed in Aegon and Aemond’s minds that they were above Jace and Luke, and deserved the inheritance. Aegon repeatedly asked Jace’s bethrothed, Baela, if she wanted to sleep with him right in front of everyone. Even after that, Jace raised a toast to Aegon and Aemond, hoping they could become friends as they once were. Aemond had a pig placed in front of him, a reference to when Aegon, Jace and Luke dressed up a pig as a dragon for Aemond. This really really pissed him off when Luke is seen to be laughing at him, so in retaliation he raises a toast, calling Jace Luke and Joffrey “Handsome, smart, brave….. and STRONG.” This sent the Blacks into a fury, only stopping when Daemon stood between Aemond and Jace and stared him down, sending him away with his tail between his legs. Aemond is trying so hard to be Daemon, but as of now, there is only one Daemon. There’s a showdown coming for those two in future seasons. Alicent and Rhaenyra have a touching moment after, where Alicent wants Rhaenyra to stay in King’s Landing. They’ve finally put their differences aside and want to be close again. If only.
The Power of Prophecy
Throughout all of this series, people have been driven by prophecy. The all-encompassing prophecy is The Song of Ice and Fire, which includes The Prince that was Promised as the messiah figure. If you watched Game of Thrones or read the series, you know there have been many, many people who believe that they were the chosen one, and each time war has broken out. Rhaegar’s belief that he or his children were the Prince, led to Robert’s Rebellion and the destruction of the Targaryens. Stannis’s belief that he was the Prince, led to the War of the Five Kings, and the destruction of the Baratheons. And finally, both Jon and Daenerys were led to believe they were the ones, and while they destroyed the White Walkers, it also led to thousands of people’s deaths. The question is always asked, is the prophecy always meant to come true, or is it the people’s actions after learning of it?
House of the Dragon continues, or sets (?), this tread with Viserys unknowingly having fed this information to Alicent while delirious and moments from dying. He talked of Aegon the Conqueror’s dream and that this prophecy will save the kingdom, which Alicent took to mean that her son Aegon would be the one to save the realm. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back as Alicent believed she had no choice but to stand against Rhaenyra, fulfilling Viserys’s last wishes. The Westerosi version of telephone where it sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths.
Things to Come
With Viserys dead, there is now nothing to stand between the Greens and Blacks, and both of them feel they have the right to rule. Episode 9, if my predictions are correct, will send both sides into a full-scale war. While Aegon is the elder, Aemond will be the martial leader of the Greens, versus Daemon on the Blacks.
A very small part of this episode showed that there are twin Kingsguards, Arryk and Erryk Cargyle. Their parents are absolute trolls naming them. This will come into play if the series follows the book, because one of these twins will be with Rhaenyra on Dragonstone, and the other with Alicent in King’s Landing.
We also saw Mysaria again, who has contacts in the Red Keep that are keeping tabs on the royal family for her. She keeps popping up for small appearances, so she still has a part to play in the Dance.
Also returning are more Helaena Dragon Dreams! During dinner, she muttered to herself, “Beware the beast below the boards.” As with most of her other dreams in this season, this was meant to be taken literally. If you watched Game of Thrones, you know that there are tunnels underneath the Red Keep where people can travel in secret throughout the castle. Tyrion, with help from Varys, used these to sneak into his father Tywin’s chambers to kill him. In that time, it was basically only Varys that knew these passageways, because the knowledge had been lost in time. In House of the Dragon, there are many people who know these tunnels, because they use men instead of cats as rat catchers. They’re not doing a very good job it seems, as there are rats seen throughout a lot of different episodes. What are they hinting toward? Wait and see.