The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-8 of House of the Dragon and the book Fire & Blood.Just when things seem to be looking up for House Targaryen, the ending of Episode 8 of House of the Dragon sets us on a path of no return with its ending. The episode is an emotional one, especially for Viserys (Paddy Considine), Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), and Daemon (Matt Smith), we see the three reunite after six years separated. Viserys, after suffering from his ailments, is on the brink of death. His face has decayed, his energy has completely drained, and he is fed by the milk of the poppy, taken in order to ease his own pain.
With Vaemond Valerion (Wil Johnson) coming to King’s Landing to contest the legitimacy of Lucerys Velaryon’s (Elliot Grihault) claim to the Driftmark throne, Viserys must once again make his rule clear to those who question him. The episode manages to almost end on a high note. Vaemond is killed by Daemon in the throne room after he calls Luke and Jace (Harry Collett) bastards and calls Rhaenyra a whore, the family enjoys a dinner full of toasts and potential reconciliation, with Rhaenyra and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) seemingly beginning to mend bridges. It seems that despite the bad blood between them, Viserys is able to rally and get the family to see past their differences.
But all of that changes in the final scene, when we see the old man utter his final words and take his final breath. He confuses Alicent with his daughter and leaves his wife assuming that he is ordering her to support their son Aegon (Tom Glynne-Carney) as the heir.
Who Did Viserys Think He Was Talking To?
To get to the source of this confusion, we have to look back at the scene before Viserys’ dramatic arrival in the throne room. Rhaenyra, upset and uncertain about her position as heir and her sons’ legitimacy once again being called into question, arrives at her father’s chambers late at night. Once again, Viserys does not recognize her at first. He calls her Alicent. Rhaenyra corrects him and asks him if the prophecy that Aegon the Conquerer had – the Song of Ice and Fire – is true. She says, “You told me it was our duty to hold the realm united against a common enemy. By naming me heir, you divided the realm. I thought I wanted it, but the burden is a heavy one. It’s too heavy.”
It seems in these scenes that Rhaenyra doesn’t want the burden of being heir but remains heir because of her father’s wishes. Viserys emphasizes this when he replies, calling her his only child. Rhaenyra then pleads for him to defend her if he wants her to bear the burden of being the heir. Although he is tired and exhausted, he seems to hear Rhaenyra’s words because he arrives in the throne room the next day and defends Lucerys’ claim to the Driftwood seat.
Viserys Confirms That He Wants Rhaenyra as Heir
Later that night, after their dinner, Viserys is once again in pain. This time Alicent arrives to give him milk of the poppy. He confuses her with Rhaenyra and tells her, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. But you wanted to know if I believe it to be true.” He makes reference to Aegon, but Alicent believes that he is talking about their son not their forebearer.
He further confuses her when he says, “His dream. The Song of Ice and Fi— It is true, what he saw in the North. The prince that was promised.” It is a devastating scene because he admits, at this moment, to who he thinks is Rhaenyra, that, “The prince… to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. It is you. You are the one. You must do this. You must do this.” In many ways, for Rhaenyra who has always felt the pressure of the realm preferring her younger half-brother over her, this would have been a solid confirmation that even in his last moments, Viserys does not regret naming her as his heir.
But the problem is that Alicent misunderstands him, and now thinks that Viserys, in his dying breath, is naming her son Aegon as the heir and the prince who will unite the realm, especially since she does not know about the prophecy. The episode ends with Alicent backing away, the camera lingering on the Catspaw Dagger that we saw Viserys wield earlier in the episode, and the king finally dying, reaching out one more time and seemingly speaking to his dead wife, Aemma, when he says, “My love.”
Does Miscommunication Lead to a Civil War?
Now, with Viserys’ dying words, it seems that we are on a fast track to the civil war between the two halves of the House of the Dragon. From the book Fire & Bloodthe book that House of the Dragon is based on, written by George RR Martin, we know that Viserys’ death is the linchpin moment that brings the kingdom to full-blown war. When he dies in the book, Alicent does not tell the public that he is dead.
Instead, she summons Criston Cole to bring the small council together. The two of them eliminate any people who support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne. Meanwhile, Viserys’ body begins to rot, but Alicent keeps the septons and silent sisters from treating him until her son’s succession is solidified. After a week, his death is finally revealed and Aegon II Targaryen takes the throne. Rhaenyra, unwilling to recognize her half-brother’s claim, gathers those loyal to her and the war begins.