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What Happened on House of the Dragon? Here’s Our Recap of Episode 8.

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The following story contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 8 of House of the Dragon, titled “The Lord of the Tides.”


As we enter the home stretch of House of the Dragon‘s Season 1, it’s clear that the show’s freshman season had one primary intention: get us to the inciting incident. As we continue the wind-up toward something major happening, we get another episode that feels every bit as long as its 67-minute runtime, packed with multiple plots, some new character development, and plenty of defining moments that could reflect the direction the show goes in Season 1’s final two episodes.

It’s impossible to talk about any of that without talking about Westeros’ man with the plan (or, well, without any real plan, if we’re being honest): King Viserys I Targaryen. House of the Dragon is an ensemble show at its core, but the most important character in Season 1 is Viserys, and with his life now hanging in the balance—more on that below—we’re getting into crunch time. What characters do now is key positioning for the scramble for the throne that will come after the King’s clearly-inevitable death.

But before he’s gone, let’s take a moment to reflect on just how good Paddy Considine has been in what’s been both a showy and thankless role on House of the Dragon. Matt Smith (as Daemon), Olivia Cooke (as Alicent), and Rhys Ifans (as Otto) are all exceptional, but get to play characters either operating at some level of unhinged, or some level of quietly always scheming. Considine plays someone on the straight-and-narrow, who’s kind and naive—constantly to his own detriment. We know Viserys’ doom is coming, and it’s so sad to see his decline episode-after-episode, because it’s clear that he’s someone who learns from his mistakes (he misses Aemma and without question regrets his actions that led to her death) and just wants to keep his house together.

But this is Westeros, and scheming is what these people do. So
“keeping the house together” is a concept just as doomed as our dear King’s health.

Here’s what else went down in Episode 8 of House of the Dragon, “The Lord of the Tides.”

More Succession on HBO

HBO

We open “The Lord of the Tides” after another time jump, sending us a couple more years toward the inevitable civil war that will come whenever King Viserys kicks the bucket. But first, there’s another issue of succession that needs settling, as Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) has been gravely injured during battle in the Stepstones (there seems to literally always be some sort of war happening there), with a slashed neck leading to a bout of fever that sounds to be pretty insurmountable. Plans need to be made, and those plans need to be set in stone.

Corlys made his wishes abundantly clear in last week’s episode: he wants his grandson, Lucerys Valeryon (son of Rhaenyra and Laenor, but really Rhaenyra and Harwin Strong), to take over. But Corlys’ brother, Vaemond, isn’t too keen on this, insisting that he should be the one to take over, whispering what everyone knows to be true: Lucerys isn’t a real Velaryon. Princress Rhaenys (Eve Best), believing she’s lost both of her children and now will soon lose her husband, is torn between her brother-in-law, her grandchildren, and, why not, herself. Someone’s got to take over when the big man goes down.

This debated matter continues throughout the episode; Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and her new boo Daemon (yes, her uncle/husband) make the trip to King’s Landing to plead Lucerys’ case to Alicent, now ruling over most royal matters with the assist from her constnatly-scheming father, and to see the oh-my-god-how-is-he-still-alive King Viserys, now mostly bedridden, sedated on Milk of the Poppy, and with half of his face left if we’re being generous.

house of the dragon

HBO

After pleading her case to Rhaenys, the matter ultimately comes down to a session resided over by Otto (the King’s hand) and Alicent (the Queen), and Vaemond is there as well to plead his case. Alicent and Otto are clearly going to rule in favor of Vaemond; Otto at this point has been building the case for his kin and against Rhaenyra’s for decades, and isn’t about to stop now. He makes the case that an adult should be in charge of the Sea Snake’s fleet in the forthcoming war, which…fair, but, also, like, fuck off, dude.

Rhaenyra is about to plead Lucerys’ case, when a now not-medicated and very, very ill Viserys makes his grand entrance. The room is shocked by his presence, and perhaps even more shocked by just how poor his health is; his slow walk toward the throne, dragged down by clothing and accessories that quite clearly weigh more than he does, takes far longer than his eventual ruling on Driftwood: this matter is settled. Lucerys is the current heir, and future ruler. Corlys said so. Rhaenys, in something of a surprise, is on Rhaenyra’s side as well. Viserys said so. And that’s it.

The Birth of an (Anti?) Hero

house of the dragon episode 8 recap

HBO

We’ve seen a lot of growth from Daemon Targaryen over the course of House of the Dragon‘s Season 1. When we started the series, he was basically a menace; the whole reason for Rhaenyra being named heir in the first place is essentially a safeguard to protect the realm from the chaos that would ensue if Daemon somehow asecended to the throne.

Looking past the fact that he murdered his first wife and is now married to his niece (a lot to ask, believe me, I know), it’s become clear that Daemon has been repositioned as someone who’s gained a moral compass, and someone who’s side we should be on. When Laena Velaryon, his second wife, was not going to survive her childbirth—making Daemon face the same decision that Viserys did with Queen Aemma—he didn’t go forth with a forced C-section, instead allowing her the agency to choose for herself. Sadly, she chose death by Vhagar, but still it was a choice she was allowed to make for herself.

Last week, perhaps maturing even more with Rhaenyra by his side, Daemon helped to execute a plan that would get people thinking that Rhaenyra was someone to be feared, but in reality created a win-win situation that saw Laenor escape to a new life with Ser Qarl.

Daemon still has his hot-headedness, but seems to save it for special occasions now. Where we saw him quarreling with his brother often in the first half of the series, now, he’s the one to help his brother make his way up the steps to the Iron Throne when it’s clear he needs it. It’s not out of pity—it’s a moment of respect. Daemon doesn’t care about the throne anymore; he cares about people respecting his brother for the kind, benevolent, and, unfortunately, naive, man he is.

And when Viserys rules against Vaemond, well, it’s clear how the rest of that scene is going to play out. And yet it’s utterly delightful to see how it does.

Viserys, sick and rotting away, still will not hear any disrespect for his daughter or her family—so when Vaemond dares to say the obvious, that Rhaenyra’s kids were born out of wedlock, Viserys is fuming. Considine does a wonderful job in this episode playing someone so barely alive, yet still feeling so much, and this scene might be the showcase of it all.

But when Vaemond goes a step further to call Rhaenyra a whore, Viserys pulls his dagger out and demands Vaemond’s tongue. Daemon tells Vaemond he can keep his tongue, slicing his head clean in half, in the series’ most violent and hilariously-gross moment to date.

Daemon is now a badass anti-hero. That’s that!

These Kids Really Suck

house of the dragon episode 8 recap

HBO

With another time jump comes another batch of actors playing the Targaryen/Valeryon children/grandchildren. One of the first things we learn about in the episode is Alicent being told of an incident involving the Prince. At first, we don’t know what the incident is, or even which Prince is being referred to. A few scenes later, Alicent goes full Shiv Roy fake-ally victim blaming, learning that her son, Aegon—now played by Joe Burrow-lookalike Tom Glynn-Carney rather than Finn Wolfhard-lookalike Ty Tennant—has forced himself on a young servant . But gotta protect that rep! The Hightowers haven’t stopped their scheming and grand planning, and aren’t stopping here. Alicent makes sure the girl gets some of the Plan B tea that Rhaenyra got a few episodes ago, and that’s that. Ugh.

While Aegon is busy being a creep and a general loser, Aemond (now played by Ewan Mitchell) now looks exactly how you’d expect a sinister Targaryen of the past to look, smirking with a vaguely evil look in basically every scene he’s in. He’s also become a star fighter in the time since taking Vhagar for himself and losing his eye, and we see him besting that loser Criston Cole as they practice in the courtyard.

aemond

HBO

It’s important that we learn just how dangerous Aemond has become, because by the end of the episode he’s already fully threatening his nephews, Rhaenyra’s children, at a dinner organized by Viserys in the Red Keep.

It looked for a second like there was blood about to be spilled right then and there, but Alicent holds her younger son back—for now. This comes after Aegon sexually harasses Rhaenys’ granddaughter, Jaecerys’ future wife, and a series of tongue-in-cheek toasts (which the already-naive and now-very ill Viserys obviously won’t pick up on). When Jaecerys gets up and starts dancing with Helaena (who just basically said how much being married to Aegon, her brother, sucks), the two Tagaryen/Hightower boys basically go into full douche mode, and it’s only going to get worse. There’s friction here, and it’s coming to a head soon.

The main takeaway though? Oh boy do Aegon and Aemond suck.

Moments Before Disaster

alicent

HBO

If there’s one good thing to come from Viserys’ dinner that he calls for in the Red Keep, though, it’s the moment between former best friends Alicent and Rhaenyra. The two toast one another, and despite both clearly knowing what will happen when Viserys dies, make it seem like they kind of wish it had all gone down differently. These two were friends—and perhaps wanted more—and thrust into a life neither of them had desired. It all has the feeling of a calm before a (enormous, huge, life-changing) storm; Viserys is in extremely poor health, and that’s now known to the entire realm. Everyone who saw his grand entrance toward throne knows, and they won’t be whispering. The civil war is coming.

And it’s coming soon, because at the end of the episode, we see Viserys struggling for one last time. He’s missing an eye, he’s missing basically his whole face, and he tells Alicent—not Rhaenyra—once more about the prophecy of the Song of Ice and Fire, and the Prince Who Was Promised. “It’s you,” he says to Alicent. What’s not clear, though, is if he knows he’s talking to Alicent, or thinks he’s talking to his daughter.

The benefit of us having seen Game of Thrones is that we know that the person Viserys is talking about is neither of the above. If it’s anyone, it’s Jon Snow. But thats a couple hundred years away, and they don’t know that.

And Alicent doesn’t know that. And when Viserys takes his final breath at the end of the episode (Yeah, he really is dead this time), we have no idea what kind of ideas are going through the newly-widowed Queen’s head—but we’ll see in the final two episodes. Because the time for war has likely arrived.

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