House of the Dragon doesn’t stay still for long. Episode 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, titled The Lord of the Tides, takes place. That means that, since the premiere episode, we’ve jumped nearly 20 years into the future. House of the Dragon keeps it moving.
The issue at the center of episode 8, as its name suggests, is who will succeed Lord Corlys Velaryon as Lord of Driftmark. Whoever rules Driftmark also rules Westeros’ greatest fleet, so it’s an important post. Since House Targaryen is now effectively split into two teams, both want one of their players to rule Driftmark.
A new time jump also means some new actors: The six Targaryen kids — Aegon, Aemond, Jacaerys, Lucerys, Baela and Rhaena — all have new faces in Sunday’s episode. A full recap of House of the Dragon episode 8 is below. Caution: Spoilers ahead.
Six years hence
It’s time for a time jump, the second biggest yet. As noted, The Lord of the Tides takes place 6 years after the events of episode 7. Jacaerys, Rhaenyra’s eldest son, has transformed from small child to gangly teenager.
We start off this week in Driftmark, where Princess Rhaenys gets word that Lord Corlys Velaryon, Lord of Driftmark, has been injured. The restarted war in the Stepstones that was mentioned in last week’s show — the war Ser Qarl was planning to fight in — is still going, and Lord Corlys was previously injured in a battle. He’s not dead yet, but he’s presumed to die. The incident invites the uncomfortable question over who succeeds him.
Lucerys Velaryon is the rightful heir on paper, since he’s the “son” of Laenor Velaryon, but Corlys brother, Vaemond, says that won’t do. Everyone knows Lucerys was actually fathered by Harwin Strong, so to pass Driftmark to him would be to end House Velaryon’s rule of Driftmark.
Vaemond challenges Lucerys’ right to succession, bringing the truth of Lucerys’ parentage into question. That means everyone needs to descend on King’s Landing to fight it out.
Queen Alicent is now very much in charge of King’s Landing. Viserys has seemingly been on death’s door for 16-odd years now. He’s still alive, but completely bedridden. Most of his hair is gone, his skin discolored, and a bandage is wrapped around the left side of his head when Rhaenyra and Daemon (who sailed from Dragonstone) go to see him.
Rhaenyra and Daemon tell Viserys that Lord Corlys is injured and probably going to die, and that they need his help as king to shore up Lucerys’ claim to Driftmark. It doesn’t work though, because Viserys doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s been drinking Milk of the Poppy to calm his pain, but it’s also a sedative. Instead of politicking, Rhaenyra introduces Viserys to her and Daemon’s two children: Aegon and Viserys.
So yes, to be clear, there are now two living Aegons. Aegon II is the son of Viserys and Alicent, Aegon III is the son of Rhaenyra and Daemon. There are also two Viseryseses.
Speaking of Aegon (II), the prince is not a good guy. He sexually assaults (off-screen) one of King’s Landings servants, who tells Queens Alicent of the ordeal. The Queen comforts her — for a few seconds. She then threatens that bad things will happen if the servant tells anyone of this, gives her some gold and forces her to drink a special brew of tea, which I assume is like the King’s Landing equivalent of the Men in Black neuralyzer stick.
Queen Alicent berates Aegon, who’s strung out naked in bed. The queen yells that the prince has insulted his wife — who’s also his sister, Helaena — not to mention the queen herself. Aegon complains that he tries so hard but that nothing is good enough for Alicent. She gives him a hard slap.
“You’re no son of mine.”
After adjourning a Small Council meeting and dressing down her undressed son, Queen Alicent finally greets Rhaenyra and Daemon in the King’s Chambers.
They’re offended the queen didn’t greet them on arrival.
“King Viserys’ condition has worsened since you saw him last,” Alicent tells them, a large understatement. Queen Alicent says the maesters advise her to keep him sedated with the Milk of the Poppy, but Rhaenyra and Daemon don’t buy it.
“Ah, the maesters. It is they who keep him addled on Milk of the Poppy while the Hightowers warm his throne,” Rhaenyra says.
Daemon wonders if the maesters also recommended the removal of Targaryen iconography throughout King’s Landing and its replacement with religious symbolism.
“The emblems of The Seven serve only to guide us on an uncertain path to remind us of a higher authority,” she explains. And tomorrow, it’ll be her authority who presides over Driftmark’s succession.
Meanwhile, Jacaerys and Lucerys are running about the old King’s Landing training grounds when they chance upon an intense sparring clash. It’s two distinctly unfriendly faces: Ser Criston Cole is training with Aemond Targaryen, who’s sporting an eyepatch thanks to Lucerys.
Ser Criston is really going for Aemond, but the prince outmaneuvers and bests the knight. Ser Criston congratulates him, and says he’ll be winning tournaments in no time.
“I don’t give a shit about tourneys,” he says. Then, without moving his head or eye to address Jace and Luc, he disconcertingly adds, “nephews, have you come to train?”
Before any melee breaks out, Vaemond Velaryon and his crew arrive. Vaemond heads straight to the queen, and gets an audience with both the queen and her father Hand. Otto Hightower is firmly on Vaemond’s side.
“The realm has enjoyed a long peace, a credit to the work of both Jahaerys and Viserys, but the threat of war looms and may arrive on our shores,” Otto says to his daughter. “When it does, will you want a child at the command of the greatest fleet in Westeros?”
“The next Lord of the Tides will be deep in your debt, your grace,” Vaemond says. “As will Driftmark, in all its strength.”
The implication is clear: If the queen were to, say, get in a civil war with the princess, a Vaemond-led Driftmark would back Alicent. A powerful ally.
Rhaenyra meets Rhaenys in the Godswood to do some petitioning of her own. Rhaenyra says she’s wondered why Rhaenya came to King’s Landing, and whose claim she would back, but eventually realized that Rhaenya is going to put herself forward.
“This is no fair proceeding, it is a trap. Set by the Queen and the Hand, I’d wager, to proclaim my son illegitimate,” Rhaenyra says.
“Yet you did worse than that with Laenor, did you not?”
Rhaenyra says she loved Laenor, and that she didn’t order Laenor’s death. Technically true! Rhaenyra makes Rhaenys an offer: If she backs Lucerys’ claim to Driftmark, Laena’s two daughters can marry Rhaenyra’s two sons. That way, Baela, Laena’s eldest, will be Queen and her sons will become heirs to the Iron Throne.
“A generous offer, or a desperate one,” Rhaenys scoffs. “You can bargain with me all you like… but tomorrow the Hightower’s land their first blow. They’ve forced you to your knees, and I must stand alone.”
Aegon’s greatest hit
Rhaenyra visits her ailing father at night, with a thunderstorm crackling in the background.
“The song of ice and fire, do you believe it to be true?” She says, starting big.
“Aegon’s dream,” he whimpers.
“You told me it was our duty to hold the realm united against a common foe. By naming me heir you divided the realm. I thought I wanted it, but the burden is a heavy one…If you wish me to bear it then defend me, and my children.”
The next morning, while the maesters are working over a pained and groaning Viserys, the king tells Otto Hightower he wants to dine with the whole family tonight.
With great exertion, the king manages to sit up. Hightower hands him Milk of the Poppy, but Viserys rejects it. “Just arrange the supper.”
Keep your heads
It’s now time for the case of Driftmark’s succession. With a who’s who of King’s Landing organized into the Red Keep, the claimants plead their case before the Hand of the King.
Vaemond gives a speech about Velaryon blood, about how he doesn’t have ambition, he just wants Velaryons to continue their rule of Driftmark. Rhaenyra begins her soliloquy but is immediately interrupted – by King Viserys Targaryen.
He’s done it. The king is out of bed.
Everyone is shocked, but Otto Hightower is particularly dismayed. This is bad news for Team Hightower, since Viserys has shown he’ll always side with Rhaenyra.
Viserys takes a slow march down the Great Hall. He stares at Hightower. “I will sit the throne today.”
“I must admit my confusion,” King Viserys begins. “I do not understand why petitions are being heard over a settled succession. The only one present who might offer keener insight into Lord Corlys’ wishes is the Princess Rhaenys.”
Rhaenys thinks quickly on her feet. Seh says that Lord Corlys wished that Driftmark pass through Ser Laenor to Lucerys.
“His mind never changed, nor did my support of him” Rhaenys says. “As a matter of fact, the Princess Rhaenyra has just informed me of her desire to marry her sons, Jace and Luc, to Lord Corlys’ granddaughters, Baela and Rhaena. A proposal to which I wholeheartedly agree.
Well played. King Viserys decrees the matter settled.
Not so fast!
Petitioning is over, so Vaemond begins to protest. “You break law and centuries of tradition to install your daughter as heir, don’t you dare tell me who deserves to inherit the name Velaryon,” he says to the king.
Daemon begins to smile, knowing his enemy is on the cusp of ruining himself.
“My house survived the doom, and a thousand tribulations besides, and god’s be damned, I will not see it ended on account of this,” Vaemond begins, motioning towards Lucerys.
Daemon dares Vaemond to say it. Vaemond smiles — and falls for the trap.
“Her children are BASTARDS,” he yells. “And she is a whore.”
Congratulations, Vaemond Velaryon. You played yourself.
King Viserys says he’ll have Vaemond’s tongue. He won’t: Daemon slices Vaemond’s head clean off.
Come dine with me
A spontaneous decapitation isn’t the most auspicious warmup for dinner, but the king ordered everyone to dinner, so what can you do?
“How good it is to see you all tonight, together,” Viserys says at the beginning of dinner, not reading the room at all.
Though it’s a happy occasion, Viserys said, his heart is filled with sorrow. The king takes off the gold mask that had obscured the left part of his face to reveal an empty eye socket.
“I wish you to see me as I am,” he says. “Not just a king, but your father, your brother, your husband, your grandsire, who may not, it seems, walk for much longer among you. Let us no longer hold ill feelings in our hearts. The crown cannot stand strong if the house of the dragon remains divided. 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.”
It was a great speech. Viserys’ entire presence in this episode is classic Game of Thrones quality stuff. It wasn’t just me who was impressed, as all the adults in the room were visibly stirred by the king’s plea for harmony.
Rhaenyra stands up to toast Queen Alicent. The princess says she loves Viserys, but that Queen Alicent is the one who has been at the king’s side for all these years. “She has tended to him with unfailing devotion, love and honor. And for that, she has my gratitude. And my apology.”
Queen Alicent accepts the toast and returns the favor. She says they have more in common than they often remember and, significantly, says Rhaenyra will “make a fine queen.”
Unfortunately, the Targaryen kids weren’t so moved by Viserys’ words. Aegon had been teasing Jacaerys about his betrothal to Baela, asking if Jacaerys even knew how to consummate their marriage. It didn’t help when Helaena, Aegon’s sister/wife, gave a toast of her own.
“I would like to toast Baela and Rhaena,” she bega. “They’ll be married soon. It isn’t so bad. Mostly he just ignores you. Except sometimes when he’s drunk.”
Some awkward looks among the room. Viserys tries to get the evening back on track with some music, which leads Jacaerys offering to dance with Helaena.
It’s meant to provoke Aegon, which it does, but it also momentarily provides some mirth for the room. Everyone is cheerful. Rhaenyra smiles with Daemon, the queen is happy, even ol’ Otto Hightower lets out a laugh as the music plays. The king is satisfied, but quickly succumbs to illness and has to be taken out of the room.
Lucerys can’t keep his eyes of Aemond, and lets out an unfortunate snigger that Aemond catches. With the king out of the room, Aemond takes this opportunity to give a toast of his own.
“A final tribute to the health of my nephews,” he says. “Jace, Luc and Joffrey. Each of them handsome, wise… strong. Let us drain our cups to these three Strong boys.
That comment, a reference to Harwin Strong, causes a ruckus. Jahaerys gets up in Aemond’s grill, daring him to say it again. Queen Alicent reprimands Aemond, asking why he’s say such a stupid thing. A fight nearly breaks out, but Daemon interjects. The kids are all sent to their rooms.
Rhaenyra says she ought to get the children back to Dragonstone, but promises a concerned Alicent she’ll fly back. “The King and I would like that.”
The prince that was promised
In the final scene in the movie, we see what may end up being King Viserys’ final House of the Dragon scene.
Queen Alicent visits the sleeping king after dinner. The king is delirious, and struggling to breathe.
“You wanted to know if I believe it to be true,” he says. “Aegon.”
Viserys is confused. He thinks Alicent is Rhaenyra, and answers the question his daughter put to him the night before.
“You wanted to know if I believe it to be true,” he says. “His dream, the song of ice and fire, it is true. What he saw in the north. The prince that was promised.”
“Prince Aegon?” the bewildered queen asks.
“You wanted to know if I believe it to be true.”
“The Prince to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. It is you. You are the one. You must do this,” Viserys says, gasping for breath. “Please do this.”
“I understand, my king,” Alicent says.