House of the Dragon episode 8 explained: The 3 biggest talking points

Time is a funny thing. A constant that on occasion appears to move at a great pace, and at other times with a glacial trickle. But all my preconceptions about the apparent mutability of time have been thrown out the window with this season House of the Dragon. Time has moved in a hop, skip and a jump, with actors replacing actors replacing actors. And all the same, despite another six-year gap before this week’s episode, “The Lord of the Tides”, most of these beautiful characters haven’t aged a day. There must be something in the Westerosi water.

Turn of the tides

One person who has aged a day – and quite a lot more – is Paddy Considine’s Viserys. The fact that he’s held on this long, despite viewers witnessing his rotting wound in the first episode (very much like coughing in Act One), is a medical miracle. Now he is emaciated and bedbound, his face collapsing in his skull. But it is not his demise that catalyses this episode, but rumors about Lord Corlys, the Sea Snake, who has contracted a savage fever. “I am the Sea Snake’s own blood, the closest kin he has left,” says Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson) to Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), disavowing the Velaryon children who are rumored to be the bastards of the late Harwin Strong. “One could take your words for treason,” she replied. Fair warning.

The question of succession to the Driftwood Throne will, inevitably, throw up inquiries about the legitimacy of Corlys’s heir, his grandson Lucerys (Elliot Grihault). To stave off the threat posed by Vaemond, Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Daemon (Matt Smith) pack up their brood and head back to King’s Landing, their first visit in many years. “I would say it’s nice to be home, but I barely recognize it,” observes Rhaenyra, who receives a chilly, unheralded welcome. But Daddy is always pleased to see her, even through the fog of opium, and especially eager to meet his latest grandson, Viserys. “Now that is a name fit for a king!” he croaks.

Buying silence

If there is a scene from House of the Dragon that has been anticipated and analyzed in advance, it is Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) sexually assaulting a serving girl. The incident happens off-screen, as producers guaranteed it would, and the fallout is left to his mother, Alicent (Olivia Cooke). “You are no son of mine,” she tells him. “I try so hard but it will never be enough for you or father,” he blubs in response. But Alicent’s tough line on her son does not extend to true charity towards his accuser: “I believe you,” she tells the girl, “but what I worry about is what others might believe.” Her son’s victim exits with a pocketful of gold and a promise of silence.

It is, I suppose, an improvement on how Game of Thrones treated sexual violence. The event is not played for prurient eyes, even if the unsympathetic response is painted in George RR Martin’s famously ice-cold palate. Alicent is a morally gray character, as is her nemesis Rhaenyra. In a rare moment of vulnerability, the Princess confides to her father that his decision to name her as heir has weighed on her. “I thought I wanted it,” she whispers. “But the burden is a heavy one. It’s too heavy.

Viserys’s last stand

While everyone else seems to be remaining a perpetual twenty-something, despite the passing decades, Viserys is on his last leg. He hobbles into his throne room, shocking an audience, including his Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) who has been lounging in the big metal chair. “I will sit the throne today,” he announced with solemn exhaustion. And what a day to choose! The petitions over the next Lord of Driftmark are heard and Lucerys confirmed as heir. This does not sit well with Vaemond, upon whom the red mist descends. “The children are bastards,” he yells, before pointing at Rhaenyra, “and she is a whore.” This loss of his head results in the, well, loss of his head: Daemon chops it neatly off his shoulders before trial or even protest.

“The crown cannot stand strong if the house of the dragon remains divided,” Viserys announces at a frosty supper that night. And his wife and daughter seem to take it to heart, toasting each other and allowing for a slight thaw. But the moment that Viserys has returned to his chambers, their terrible progeny begin to fight, with one-eyed Aemond (Trigger Point’s Ewan Mitchell) making a series of rash imputations against his nephews’ paternity. And this is where the episode fades out – and with it, Viserys, as kindly a king as the Seven Kingdoms has known. For all his dreams of reconciliation, the dream that burns brightest is his ancestor Aegon’s Song of Ice and Fire. It tells of a darkness descending on Westeros, a darkness that viewers of Game of Thrones know will come to pass. And there’s one other thing we know, that Viserys does not: time, that old enemy, will not be kind to House Targaryen.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.