House of The Dragon is winding up even while its inaugural season is winding down! We have been introduced to a lot of players in the Dance of the Dragons, which is the event we’re gearing up for! Episode 8 brought us a crux in the events about to unfold with a large character death, more boiling animosities, potential amends, and misunderstandings. Sounds like Game of Thrones, right?!
Before we get too far into the episode, here’s a quick reminder to catch our new show, "Decoding Dragons," where my talented co-host Liza Phoenix and I break down all things House of the Dragon (also available on YouTube and podcast format)! We dive deep into lore, symbolism, easter eggs, and more of Westeros and Game of Thrones. If you don’t have 40 minutes to listen or watch, but you do have a few minutes to read, continue forth, my Lords and Ladies. If you don’t want to get burned by spoilers, I suggest watching the eighth episode before continuing on!
Without further ado, let's dive into Episode 8, titled "Lord of the Tides."
Last time we had a time warp, it was 10 years! In this episode, we move forward 6 years from the funeral and calamity of the events that followed. This was enough of a time jump for Corlys Velaryon to be wounded in yet another battle at the Stepstones. This is where the episode opens: with Corlys' brother standing in the throne room of Driftmark and proclaiming to Rhaenys Targaryen that he is the rightful heir to the throne she sits upon. In her presence is Baela Targaryen, one of Laena and Daemon's daughters who Rhaenys took as a ward after the death of Laena.
This is the subject that the episode revolves around: the heir to Driftmark, otherwise known as the Lord of the Tides. (*gasp* That's the title of the episode!) Why is this so important? Similar to Rhaenyra's words in the episode, to question the heir to Driftmark is to question her as heir to the Iron Throne since the Driftwood Throne is supposed to go to Rhaenyra and Laenor's second son, Lucerys (Luke). Vaemond, Corlys' brother, knows Rhaenyra's sons are not Laenor's biological sons, though, and therefore does not wish to give Driftmark to anyone not of Velaryon blood. Baela sends a raven to her father, Daemon, at Dragonstone alerting her of what was happening as Vaemond sets sail for King's Landing to petition against Luke. Also, Rhaenys travels there on dragonback, seemingly to make a case for herself to take her husband's seat. This prompts Rhaenyra and Daemon to travel to King's Landing to defend her son's claim.
Easter eggs: If you have been keeping up with these weekly recaps, recall that in the book this show is based off of, called Fire & Blood, Rhaenys Targaryen actually has brown or dark hair. This is because of the Baratheon lineage in that Targaryen line. This makes it more difficult to determine that Rhaenyra’s children are, in fact, bastards in the books. The show, however, went a different route.
Upon their arrival, Daemon and Rhaenyra can see the influence of the Hightowers on the Red Keep. Many of the prominent Targaryen symbols have been replaced by mundane walls and the 7-pointed star in every corner, the symbol of the Faith of the Seven. As mentioned in previous articles, the Hightowers are very devoted to the Seven as they hail from Oldtown, the center of that faith. Game of Thrones fans know Oldtown as where Sam Tarly goes to train to be a maester. This faith is strong with Alicent and Otto, and, as a result, King Viserys' absence due to his illness is seen and felt all throughout the Red Keep.
Rhaenyra and Daemon do not get a formal welcome to the keep and are, instead, received by Lord Caswell. He was the gentleman who stopped Rhaenyra on the stairs when she was walking her brand new baby up to see the Queen in Episode 6. They are able to make their way into the King's chambers and are greeted by a gruesome sight: King Viserys is hardly recognizable. With a cloth over half of his face, he barely has the energy to sit up and can't even recognize his only daughter or brother through the ragged breathing and one good eye. He's basically the Crypt Keeper. It's obvious the illness has increased in severity over the last 6 years. Rhaenyra introduces her new sons to her Father, the sons she shares with Daemon, named Aegon and Viserys respectively.
Easter eggs: Aegon is named after Aegon the Conqueror at this point in time, and Viserys is named after Rhaenyra’s father, the current king. Rhaenyra naming her son Aegon is also to slight Alicent, twisting the knife of petty in just that much deeper.
As Rhaenyra and Daemon await a formal welcome in the castle, Jace and Luke make their way to the battle training grounds where they spent a lot of their childhood with Princes Aegon and Aemond. They watch Aemond, now grown tall, battle Ser Criston Cole and his Morningstar. Aemond is sporting a black eye patch in replace of his eye that Luke took in the previous episode. Through the training and eye patch, he still spots his nephew-cousins, and the tension is palpable.
Meanwhile, Alicent eventually welcomes Rhaenyra and Daemon after the High Council meeting that kept her from receiving them, and the drama remains strong. Following this, Rhaenyra finds Rhaenys in the Godswood and welcomes her with Rhaena, Baela's sister. Rhaenyra is uncertain as to who Rhaenys supports at this time given that the last time they were in close contact, Rhaenyra presumably had Laenor killed so she could marry Daemon. Rhaenyra offers her sons to wed Baela and Rhaena to ensure Rhaenys' support for Luke to maintain his position as heir to Driftmark.
The following day, the travelers gather in the Red Keep to make their thoughts known about who should inherit the Lord of the Tides title. Sitting on the throne in place of the King is the King's Hand, Otto Hightower. Between the High Council meeting the previous day, and now this, it is clear the Hightowers are accustomed to replacing the King in Kingly matters. Vaemond speaks first and tries to make a decent case. In the midst of some rude interruptions, the throne room doors open and Viserys clambers his way through the hall to the shock of all those in attendance. Given the reaction, it's obvious that Viserys has not been out of bed in a long time not only due to his illness but also due to the strong opiate-like medication milk of the poppy that's been given to him on a regular basis. He is wearing a mask, à la Phantom of the Opera, to hide the part of his face that was covered in cloth when he was in bed.
Viserys and Daemon share a brotherly moment: Viserys' crown falls off as he's climbing the stairs to the throne, and Daemon picks up the crown, helps him to the throne, and places the crown back on his head. The appearance of his brother is clearly a shock and one that saddens Daemon. Once he ascends the throne, Viserys makes it known that the gathering is ridiculous as the succession of Driftmark has been decided. He gives Rhaenys a chance to speak in which she declares support for Luke's cause and accepts Rhaenyra's offer of marrying her sons to Rhaenys' granddaughters. Vaemond loses his cool and shouts in Rhaenyra's direction that her sons are bastards and she is a whore… right in front of the King in the throne room. You have to admire the balls! These are his final words, however, as Daemon comes behind him and slices his head in half right after Viserys threatens to take Vaemond's tongue for his treasonous remarks.
Easter eggs: It's fun to point out that this brotherly moment between Viserys and Daemon was not scripted. In fact, the crown fell off Paddy Considine's head as he was climbing the stairs during a take, and Matt Smith Daemon didn’t miss a beat to improv this touching moment.
Viserys confirms Luke's succession is to Driftmark and wants to celebrate the betrothal of the two couples. He follows through with his wish to have a dinner with his entire family in town. At dinner are Alicent, her father Otto, her sons Aegon and Aemond, and her daughter Helaena (who is now married to Aegon). With them at the large table are Daemon, Rhaenyra, her two eldest sons Jace and Luke, and Daemon's twin daughters Baela and Rhaena. Servants carry Viserys in on a chair, his strength clearly reduced from the morning's excursions. He then takes a moment to wish his family to see him as a person, not the King. Drama and strife have been aplenty throughout his reign, and he makes it known that the House of the Dragon cannot remain divided. (Even though he's part of the reason why it's divided, but meh. Details.)
Throughout dinner, we see something we've never seen before: a family enjoying a nice meal together. Even if it was fake happiness in sympathetic support of Viserys' wishes, it was still a welcome sight and a unique event. Alicent and Rhaenyra make toasts to one another that seem as if the walls are beginning to come down between the two of them. Unfortunately for their children, though, the seeds of hatred have already taken root.
Through dinner, there are plenty of hateful comments thrown about between the children, which they initially play off in jest. Jace and Halaena dance when King Viserys requests music, and it appears to make his heart swell and ache so much with pride that he may have actually been having a heart attack. He is whisked away in his chair, and then shenanigans ensue. Aemond, who had been quietly observing the entire affair, stands to make a toast to Rhaenyra's sons. He refers to them as "strong" boys, among other adjectives, which seems an intentional callout to their biological father, Harwin Strong. This provokes a fight from his cousins.
Daemon quickly steps in front of Jace and Luke and faces Aemond. They eye each other up and down, and Aemond decides today is not the day to face his Uncle-cousin. (Drew, any comment you’d like to make on the incestual paradox here? No? Just checking.) The parents send the kids to bed, and Alicent and Rhaenyra share well-wishes with each other. Rhaenyra promises to return on dragon-back once she sees her kids home to Dragonstone, which Alicent is more than happy to hear (much to the apparent dismay of her father).
Rhaenyra and her family head back to Dragonstone, and King Viserys then whispers sweet nothings at the end of the episode. Actually, that's not at all what happens. Previously, Rhaenyra had sat at Viserys' bedside and asked her if the Song of Ice and Fire held any truth. Viserys was too muddied by the milk of the poppy to understand at the time. But now, when Alicent shows up to say goodnight to her husband, he begins speaking about Aegon's dream as if picking up from that conversation with Rhaenerya. He mentions that Aegon is what will hold the realm together, and this is the crux of it all. Alicent doesn't understand at first (or does she?!) and takes the King's words to mean her son must sit the Iron Throne to unite the realm.
Remember, though, that Rhaenyra had introduced Viserys to her new son, also named Aegon. Shit's about to go down! With that mix up, the King quietly passes away in his bed, greeting his long lost love, Aemma, as he's dying.
Next episode is going to be full of turmoil, betrayal, and rage. Are you ready?! Have you been watching? What did you think of the episode?