Warning: the following article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.”
King Viserys Targaryen succumbs to his ailments in the eighth episode of House of the Dragon, but not before speaking some ominous words first. Paddy Considine has played the king on the Iron Throne since the beginning of the Game of Thrones prequel series, and the fate of Westeros has hinged on his decisions. His final moments revealed more about the great song of ice and fire and his true feelings.
Throughout the series, Rhaenyra Targaryen, played in her younger years by Milly Alcock and in her older years by Emma D’Arcy, has carried the secret of Aegon’s prophecy for years. After Rhaenyra’s mother, Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), died during childbirth, Viserys decided to make his daughter his heir, disregarding generations of patriarchal rule and tradition. Revealing the catspaw dagger, the King told Rhaenyra about Aegon’s dream of a winter that would come from the north and how a Targaryen must be seated on the throne if humanity is to hope to survive it. This highly guarded information has been a core motivating force for the princess, driving her to attempt to upkeep her claim to the Iron Throne no matter the odds against her.
What happened to King Viserys in episode 8?
In episode 8, word spreads that Corlys Velaryon (Steven Toussaint) might be dying at the Stepstones, prompting the need for a definite decision of who is going to rule over Driftmark in the event of his death. Rhaenyra believes it should be her son, Lucerys Velaryon (Elliot Grihault), whereas Corlys’ brother, Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), believes that he should be Lord of Tides. He’s adamant that the ruler should have Velaryon blood and insists Rhaenyra’s sons do not – he’s not wrong. Rhaenyra and Vaemond travel to King’s Landing to petition for their side. When she arrives, the Targaryen princess, as well as her second husband, are saddened to see how much the king’s health has deteriorated. King Viserys is in bed, he’s been ravaged by leprosy and has scars all over his body. It’s not looking like he’s in any condition to stand let alone lead.
After Rhaenyra pleads with Corlys’ wife, Rhaenys, to join their houses by marrying her sons to Rhaenys’ granddaughters, she gets the cold shoulder. Rhaenyra goes to her father’s bedside and asks about Aegon’s prophecy. Feeling lost and insecure she tries to make sure that Viserys’ conviction that she is the one who’s supposed to wear the crown has not waned, but Viserys is out of sorts and unable to lucidly communicate. After Vaemond pleads his case to the Hand Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), Rhaenyra stands before the court to petition for Lucerys. Before she can make her point, King Viserys arrives to rule in favor of his daughter’s line in what may well be the most emotionally powerful scene in Season 1.
At dinner, Viserys demands that his family put their hatred aside and come together, and he gets one happy moment between the Targaryens and the Hightowers before he feels unwell and is taken to his chambers. Later, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is there to soothe his pain, but in Viserys’ feverish state, he starts talking about Aegon’s prophecy, believing he’s answering his daughter’s plea from the night prior. He refers to the dream of a song of ice and fire, what Aegon saw in the north, and the prince that was promised. Alicent believes that her husband is referring to their son Aegon (Tom Glyn-Carney) and not the legendary King Aegon. “You’re the one,” Viserys feeble says, unknowingly telling these fateful words to the wrong person “You must do this.”
King Viserys’ last words widen the divide instead of bridging the gap
Contrary to what would’ve been Viserys’ true wishes, Alicent now thinks it’s her responsibility to set her son on the throne and not Rhaenyra. “I understand, my King.” The Green Queen says before exiting the bedchamber, while viewers remain with a suffering Viserys. With his very final breath, we hear him whisper, “My love,” undoubtedly referring to his first wife, Aemma. In the episode prior, “Driftmark,” the aged king had actually mistaken Alicent for his former wife, the one woman he’d truly loved. In an interview with Vulture, Considine shares what went through his head in this moment “In my mind…he sees Aemma. When he reaches out and says, ‘My love,’ that’s what he sees the moment he dies…[and] they used it, which is amazing.”
In the book, Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin, things played out a little differently. Viserys’ final words in the text are, “Then the storm broke, and the dragons danced.” This was artfully represented in the episode. A storm was present, and it picked up as Viserys was dying. The catspaw dagger begins to hum, a weapon that symbolizes Aegon’s prophecy and the future of the realm. After this, comes the point of no return. The war between the Blacks and the Greens cannot be halted in its march to destruction. Fire will reign and dragons will dance.