Did King Viserys ride a dragon in ‘House of the Dragon?’

Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 1
Image via HBO Max

House of the Dragon‘s King Viserys was known for having strong opinions about dragons, but did he ever ride one? Paddy Considine plays the king of Westeros in the mega-popular Game of Thrones prequel, and throughout most of the first season, the plot revolves around who will succeed him. He’s known for wanting peace and therefore refused to use dragons to solve his problems, but in his youth, he actually did ride a dragon of his own.

Viserys’ feelings towards these winged beasts are made clear early on. While the majority of Targaryens and Velaryons are dragonriders, he’s more comfortable with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He warned a young Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) of their power and how dangerous they are when preparing her to become heir. When she disobeys him and uses her dragon, Syrax, to retrieve a dragon egg from Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), he chastises her for disobeying him.

In his younger years, however, Viserys rode Balerion the Black Dread, and that isn’t just any dragon; he’s one of the biggest dragons that ever lived. It was said that his fire was as black as his scales and his wingspan was vast enough to cover entire towns. Balerion was born in Old Valyria and named after the ancient god of the Valyrian freehold. He was one of five dragons Aenar Targaryen took with him after the Doom of Valyria and made a new home in Westeros.

Aenar’s grandson, Aegon, bonded with Balerion and famously rode him while his sister-wives, Visenya and Rhaenys, had dragons of their own. He conquered the seven kingdoms of Westeros in what’s called Aegon’s Conquest. After his death, Balerion went to his son, Maegor, who’d long since wanted the dragon for himself. His claim to the Iron Throne was challenged by his nephew, Aegon, and Maegar killed him in dragon battle.

Balerion’s last dragonrider was Viserys Targaryen, who was a prince at the time. After that, he never claimed another dragon. Looking back at what Balerion’s previous dragonriders have done, it’s clear to see why he steered clear of dragons, given his personality. Viserys was a family man who didn’t care for the responsibilities of the crown. He’d much rather have his family close to him than fight in wars and destroy others. King Viserys’ refusal to partake in war may have kept it at bay for a while, but after his passing, the Dance of the Dragons starts, and the Greens will face the Blacks in a fight for the Iron Throne.

Considine has said that it was a shame he didn’t get to ride a dragon because his nephews were excited to see it. Still, he understands that Viserys sees them as weapons of mass destruction, and the king’s former days of riding dragonback are long since over. There were still plenty of other Targaryens picking up the slack in the series.

Although Balerion is dead, he’s still seen in House of the Dragons. Its enormous skull is located in the Red Keep, which is where Viserys has an important conversation with his daughter about Aegon’s prophecy and the responsibility of sitting on the Iron Throne. The skull serves as a reminder of its former glory and serves as a cautionary tale about destruction and power.