The End of House of the Dragon Episode 8 Sets Up the Civil War to Come—and Confirms King Viserys’ End
The following story contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.”
House of the Dragon had a lot of work to do in “The Lord of the Tides,” Season 1 Episode 8, as it continues its run toward the first season’s finale and an inevitable civil war for the Iron Throne in Westeros. If you picked up on the Chekov’s Gun the show put right in front of us in Episode 1 when King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) essentially pulled a Monty Python “It’s just a flesh wound,” you’ve probably been waiting for the realm’s kind and naive king to bite it for quite a while. And at the end of Episode 8, you finally got your wish. Things are about to pop off.
But, as with Game of Thrones and, by proxy, House of the Dragon, tradition, the road there was not quite so simple. It involved lots of scheming, lots of politicking, lots of violence, and, unfortunately most of all in this case, lots of misunderstandings. And if you weren’t paying the closest of attentions—hey, Sunday nights are busy—you may have missed a reference here or a line there. And that’s OK.
If you were confused with just what happened at the end of House of the Dragon’s Season 1 Episode 8, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Just keep on reading.
What happened at the end of House of the Dragon Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides”?
In case you didn’t see “The Lord of the Tides” or were only half paying attention, here’s what happened in a nutshell: there was lots of scheming, lot’s of drama, and many disputes that needed settling. King Viserys I Targaryen, in the late stages of his battle, presumably, with leprosy, made his final stand, settling those disputes and desperately, hopelessly, pleading for his family to make peace ahead of his impending death.
And he was almost successful. After Vaemond Velaryon dared to publicly challenge the legitimacy of Viserys’ daughter, Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) children, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) made him pay, cutting his head clean in half just above the mouth (“He can keep his tongue,” Daemon remarked, after the King called for him to be silenced, in that wonderful Matt Smith quippy way). It’s a satisfying display of violence that was both satisfying to viewing audiences at home and also made it clear who’s still calling the shots here.
And at a dinner in the Red Keep that Viserys—no longer sedating his pain with Milk of the Poppy, which seems to be basically a natural, Westeros version of morphine—called, the Hightower side and the Targaryen side almost seemed to finally make peace. Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Rhaenyra paid tribute to each other, coming together once again as the friends they both were because of the man—father and husband—they both truly care about. Let’s ignore, for now, the fact that Alicent’s male children are absolute pests who would’ve messed everything up even if the two ladies were able to remain on the same peaceful page.
But, even so, that wasn’t meant to be.
In the closing moments of the episode—in his own closing moments of life—Viserys attempted to continue a conversation he had previously been having with Rhaenyra, regarding talk of Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy of A Song of Ice and Fire and the oft-mentioned “prince that was promised.” Except there’s one problem: he had no idea he was talking to Alicent Hightower, who knows nothing of this prophecy or where it comes from, and not his daughter. In Episode 7, Viserys called Alicent “Aemma,” so it’s clear that he hasn’t been quite aware of who’s who for a while.
Viserys brings the conversation up, and Alicent does her best to understand. Viserys mentions Aegon, catching Alicent’s attention and making her think she’s discussing their putrid son. “His dream. The Song of Ice and Fire. It is true. What he saw in the north. The Prince That Was Promised,” Viserys says. At this point, Alicent should probably realize that she has no idea what he’s talking about. But she’s caught in the moment trying desperately to understand what ultimately will turn out to be her last interaction with her husband.
Viserys continues, and Alicent continues to not quite understand. “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,” Viserys says, and Alicent believes she understands.
The reality is that Viserys was simply attempting to reaffirm what he told Rhaenyra, what she believes, and what he continues to believe. But what happened is that Alicent now believes—and you can even understand where she’s coming from—that Viserys’ dying wish was for Aegon—their Aegon—to be king.
“I understand, my king,” Alicent says before blowing out a candle and leaving the room.
And this mix-up is going to prove quite deadly.
So is Viserys finally, actually, dead?
While many—us included, hand up—have thought Viserys would’ve died much earlier, the old fella wound up holding on far longer than anyone could’ve anticipated. But just around 16 years of House of the Dragon timeline after we first speculated on his demise, Viserys is finally, truly, dead. You saw how poor of shape he was in throughout “The Prince of Tides.” For most of the episode, he was sedated on Milk of the Poppy, and when he finally got off the juice, his slow entrance into the throne room made it clear to the entire realm that the King was no longer what he once was; his robes and crown weighed more than he did, and he needed his brother’s strong assistance and affirmation to get up the steps to his seat.
And we saw during the fateful final dinner that Viserys didn’t have much of a face left either. Still—his benevolent and kind personality was everlasting, and he pleaded with his family to maintain peace when he was gone. “The crown cannot stay strong if the House of the Dragon remains divided,” he told them. “Set aside your grievances, if not for the sake of the crown, then for the sake of this old man who loves you all so dearly.”
The episode’s director, Geeta Patel, confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that Viserys has died. “I think the last scene of this episode was always a litmus test. Every time we’d watch or think it through, when we got to that last scene, did we feel what we wanted to feel there?” Patel told EW. “Did we feel the loss? Did we feel that Viserys has told his story? Did we feel that he loved his wife who passed away? Did he love Alicent? Did he love Rhaenyra? Did he regret anything? All the complicated layers of Viserys, did we feel it for better or worse?”
Viserys is of course the most vital character in House of the Dragon Season 1—a true lynchpin to the events in what’s turned out to be something of a prologue to the civil war that’s to come. But now that he’s no more, we should give one last shoutout to Paddy Considine for a wonderful portrayal of such a tragic character. It’s clear that Viserys lived a life where he always intended to do the right thing, and made all of his decisions in deep regret of the choice he made to cut his first wife, Aemma’s, life short, down to his undying loyalty to Rhaenyra. Considine played that naivety and benevolence to perfection, and he will be missed as we move on.
What were Viserys’ last words?
As he took his final breaths, just after saying “no more”—his pain would be over soon—Viserys had two final words after the screen cut to black on “The Prince of the Tides”:
As we mentioned above, Viserys seemed to live the final 20 or so years of his life in constant regret of the unenviable decision he made that resulted in the death of his first wife, Queen Aemma. His obsession with a male heir was evident throughout that first House of the Dragon episode, and even though his wife wouldn’t have survived the child birth regardless, it’s clear that he holds himself responsible for her demise.
That regret manifested in an outpouring love for his daughter, Rhaenyra; despite the misunderstanding that will inevitably cause a literal war, he never wavered in his decision to name Rhaenyra heir.
He got his wish for a male heir. In fact, he got two of them. But Aegon and Aemond don’t have the connection with their father that Rhaenyra does, and it’s clear that he doesn’t love them the same way either. When Rhaenyra was pleading with her father to restate his support for her and her children, it’s clear that Viserys was listening to and wanted to, but was simply unable to do so because of his condition.
And in the end, while the realm isn’t exactly going to be in great shape following his passing, at least Viserys will once again be reunited with his love in the great beyond. If Aemma sees it the same way when he gets there remains to be seen.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.
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