Just when you thought the time skips were over, here we are again, finding ourselves six years into the timeline of House of The Dragon. At the very beginning of episode eight, we learn Lord Corlys has suffered the great tragedy of defeat at the hands of his enemies with details surrounding what took place as well as his seemingly inevitable death. This time, it is House Velaryon that suffers another blow but this time it’s in-fighting between Lord Corlys’ brother Vaemond, and his wife Princess Rhaenys to determine succession as leader of the house and of Driftmark. The very sound reason for the disagreement as to who should succeed Lord Corlys is due to, once again, a pure-blooded heir taking over.
In his argument, Vaemond expresses the throne should go to one who is of pure Velaryon blood, which would be him despite Lord Corlys’ wish to have Lucerys take over as the new Lord of Driftmark while Princess Rhaenys subtly threatens him with treason. As the debate intensifies, Vaemond passionately expresses his concerns not just for the future of Driftmark but for the future of his bloodline – which could very well be erased from time if someone of true Velaryon blood doesn’t succeed as ruler. Watching closely as this scene continues to unfold, you can see in Princess Rhaenys’ face she is actually in full agreement because in the previous episode she expressed the very same concerns. To end his point, Vaemond tells her even though he would appreciate her backing his claim, he doesn’t need it because he has the Velaryon people behind him.
The next scene opens up with Jace studying what is known as High Valyrian, which is a language that most people in Westerossi do not speak anymore but is used by Targaryans to communicate with each other, and with their dragons. Jace and his younger brother Joffrey’s lessons in High Valyrian are cut short by Daemon, who has the latest news and developments happening in Driftmark – something that he and Rhaenyra must now face, once again regarding the legitimacy of her sons and their future. We can also see that Rhaenyra is pregnant again (this woman just doesn’t take a break!) and we’ll soon learn which Targaryen she’s expecting to give birth to. With one objective in mind, Daemon and Rhaenyra set sail to King’s Landing to ensure their legacy remains intact.
Upon their arrival at King’s Landing, much has changed within the castle and the focus changes from menial updates to the most troubling topic at hand being the succession of Lord Corlys among the small council. This episode, in my opinion, is an emotionally jarring one, to say the least. When Rhaenyra and Daemon enter King Viserys’ chambers, we are shown the current state of the King. Bedridden and now a decaying shell of his former self, Viserys lies in bed with part of his face wrapped in bandages and out of sorts. His skin is as pale as the moon itself and lesions all over his head and body, Viserys is in no shape to rule, much less carry on a conversation. As always, and in this case rightfully so, Rhaenyra and Daemon waste no time in discussing politics and bringing Viserys into the fold as to what has transpired during his “absence”.
While Daemon urges Viserys to re-affirm his position on who is to be the next ruler of Driftmark, Rhaenyra sees this as an opportunity to introduce him to her newer, younger Targaryen children Aegon and Viserys, named after her father. Here is the introduction to a part of the timeline that’s really going to matter in the future which will inevitably connect the dots within the story of Game of Thrones and House of The Dragon. As happy as King Viserys is to meet the children, he is also in anguish from his pain due to his condition. Here we find out the tea he’s been drinking to relieve his pain is also a sort of medicine, called milk of the poppy which is used to help keep Viserys…comfortable. We can suspect this “tea” is also used to keep him sedated in a way and out of the political decisions that are made by Queen Alicent and her shady father Otto.
Elsewhere in the castle, Queen Alicent has been informed of a delicate situation involving her son Aegon (why do these people try so hard to emulate Aegon the conqueror?) and a young castle maiden named Dyana. Scared out of her mind and fearing for her life, she discloses the details of her “situation” to Queen Alicent – after bringing Aegon his wine, he raped and impregnated her. Seizing the opportunity to keep this young girl quiet, Queen Alicent strikes a deal with the young girl and gives her the same tea Rhaenyra had to drink as a young teenager several episodes ago. Alicent watches the young girl as she drinks the tea in one hand while holding a bag of money in the other, thus ensuring she never has a child by Aegon and by keeping everything under wraps. Aegon, who is now fully grown, tells Alicent that he has done everything she and Viserys wanted of him although he never asked for it – even as a grown man he has no shame or dignity in his actions and continues acting out as a spoiled man-child.
After finally greeting Rhaenyra and Daemon, Queen Alicent tries to justify keeping King Viserys drugged up due to his condition, and while he’s been on this tea, Alicent and Otto have drastically changed the castle with symbols of a new religion called The Faith of The Seven, or commonly referred to as the new gods which no one in House Targaryen subscribes to. This further cements Alicent’s feelings of being betrayed personally by Rhaenyra and wanting to be completely disassociated from the Targaryen family, even though their House would still be technically in power. As we have seen from Game of Thrones in the past, it doesn’t always matter who sits on the iron throne that has absolute power, but sometimes it’s the person that’s in the shadows that do.
Jace and Luke make their way to the courtyard where they reminisce about the old days of living there and come across a sparring match between Aemmond and Ser Criston. The boys are now young men, including Prince Aemmond (fantastically played by Ewan Mitchell) who is demonstrating enough confidence and skill to strike fear into the hearts of Jace and Luke. Ser Vaemond Velaryon also makes his entrance to plead his case as the rightful heir to Driftmark, while Luke isn’t so confident in his own case. This is quite apparent because he doesn’t possess any Velaryon features, and he now also knows the truth about his true lineage. Vaemond doesn’t waste any time convincing Queen Alicent that he should be the next ruler of Driftmark and even goes as far as to say the next ruler will be in her debt, as will Driftmark in all its strength – because who doesn’t love a strong fleet at their backing?
Meanwhile, Princesses Rhaenyra and Rhaena meet to discuss the situation at hand, with Rhaenyra striking a deal to maintain her family’s rule in Driftmark. Her plan is to betroth Lucerys and Princess Rhaena to remain and rule over Driftmark while Jacaerys and Rhaena rule over the Seven Kingdoms once he takes the throne after his mother. With Princess Rhaenys backing Luke’s claim as the rightful heir in accordance with Corlys’ wishes, this would most certainly guarantee that power remains within Princess Rhaenyra’s bloodline – a bold move, yet a sound one. Princess Rhaenys sees Rhaenyra’s point and agrees to the plan but tells her that the Queen and Otto Hightower pretty much have this in the bag.
Rhaenyra makes one last attempt at a hail mary in the next scene by visiting a dying King Viserys in his chambers to plead her case one last time. It is now nighttime and there’s a thunderstorm with heavy rains. The atmosphere is full of sorrow and uncertainty. Princess Rhaenyra is no longer sure she can maintain her claim to the throne and protect her family and children, and King Viserys could pass any time now. As she sits on the bed next to her dying father, the scene closes with an ominous close-up shot of the replica of King’s Landing with smoke rising from below – foretelling the fall of this beautiful city, possibly for all the wrong reasons. We are shown King Viserys’ external wounds to his body due to his illness but we can also see just how strong-willed he is. Regardless of all the pain, he tells Otto he wants to have dinner with everyone.
Although we see Viserys writhing in agony, he refuses the poppy tea Otto tries to give him. At the meeting with the royal families, Otto takes the pleasure of stepping in for the King to make the final decision after the hearing of both Ser Vaemond and Princess Rhaenyra. Ser Vaemond makes a strong argument and whilst being interrupted by Rhaenyra, Alicent cuts her off and lets Vaemond finish making his point. Once it’s her turn to argue her point, daddy dearest makes his grand entrance to hear these testimonials himself. King Viserys battles with his own illness and yet overcomes it by making his way to the throne, all while fighting to get there. Some may look upon this with pity, but I have to admire his strength and dragon-scaled will to keep fighting and do what is right for his daughter. After refusing to get help to sit on the iron throne from a guard, Daemon finally does the right thing after all by helping his brother cross the finish line and places the King’s crown upon Viserys’ head, in a way signifying his recognition and acceptance of his brother being King.
This is where things start to get really hairy – After hearing Princess Rhaenys testify as to what Corlys’ wishes are, King Viserys once again reaffirms Luke (Velaryon) as the rightful heir of Driftmark and Lord of the Tides. As Alicent, Otto, and Vaemond all watch their rock-solid plan now turn to rubble, Vaemond becomes bold enough to challenge the King’s rule. Vaemond, in all of his stupidity, says he will not see the end of his house by supplanting Rhaenyra’s “bastard” children (specifically Luke) to be the ruler of Driftmark and even goes as far as calling her a whore – causing a commotion among the court and slandering Rhaenyra and her children. In the previous episode, Viserys made it perfectly clear should anyone challenge the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s children, he’ll have their tongue. As he rises to dole out the punishment himself, Daemon steps in from behind and slices Vaemond’s head in two.
At the dinner table, King Viserys gives an emotional speech to everyone that has gathered and once again pleads for peace among them. This time around it resonates even stronger because Viserys is dying, and he makes that point loud and clear, and to have division among House Targaryen cannot happen, and both the crown and the realm could suffer because of it. Taking his words to heart, Rhaenyra stands up and gives a toast to Queen Alicent extending an olive branch with a sincere apology, and in turn prompting Alicent to make an apology of her own and mending that broken bond. Ignoring the sentiment, Aegon provokes his Jace by offering his “companionship” to Rhaena, and being the bigger man in this instance, Jace also raises his glass and toasts to his moronic uncle. As the party continues and music is playing, the family once again is reunited and enjoys the party eating and drinking, Viserys sees what could have been the worst gathering ever turn around into a most joyous occasion. However, his condition prevents him from enjoying the party, and is carried off in his chair by his guards back to his chambers.
Aemond, however, doesn’t hesitate to stir trouble and disrupt the peace. He makes his own toast and continues by saying “Final tribute. To the health of my nephews Jace, Luke, and Joffrey. Each of them handsome, wise…and strong”. As he continues to mock Jace and Luke, a small fight breaks out with Jace striking Aemond in the face which doesn’t even phase him. This is a testament to how much stronger, and more in control Aemond is compared to his nephews who both seemingly lose the fight against himself and his brother Aegon. Episode eight ends with Alicent appearing by King Viserys’ bedside to keep him calm and comfortable with more tea, and here he is seen in all of his physical misfortune speaking candidly, and mistaking Alicent for his daughter Rhaenyra about his forefather Aegon’s dream. You would think Viserys was speaking to his wife Aemma, envisioning her as he pleads for the pain to stop as he fades into his eternal slumber. While this episode wasn’t as intense as the previous episodes this season, it continues to set a path for some major events to unfold and seemingly more tragedy for those in House Targaryen.
See you next week for more coverage of House of The Dragon every Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO.
Hey! I’m Lais a.k.a. Chipz-N-Stix and I love video games and nerd culture overall. I typically do reviews and impressions on video games as well as offer some helpful tips and tricks to enhance your gaming experience. From time to time I tend to touch on certain topics that get you thinking – things that would matter to the individual. I’m also a self-proclaimed Pokemon Master but that doesn’t mean you can outright challenge me. I have to “motivate” my team for that!