House of the Dragon Episode 8 Review: A Last Game of Thrones for King Viserys

Episode 8 of House of the Dragon — available now on HBO Max and Disney+ Hotstar — is titled “Lord of the Tides.” That’s because it’s largely a matter of deciding who will inherit the throne of Driftmark, with Lord Corlys “Sea Snake” Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) reportedly badly injured. (It’s a little weird that the Game of Thrones prequel spin-off series basically killed off one of its main cast entirely off-screen. Thank you, time skips.) In some ways, House of Thrones episode 8 the Dragon could have been called “The Lord of the Undercurrents”. While everyone involved can sense it, hardly anyone has the audacity to admit that war is inevitable and imminent. It is, if you can call it that, the calm before the inevitable storm.

And what a strange calm filled with tension. Six years have passed since the events of Episode 7 of House of the Dragon. King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is a shadow of himself. Half of his face is gone, he’s more or less bedridden, and he’s surviving on poppy milk – which staves off the immense pain he’s feeling. In his absence, the Hightowers are essentially the new rulers: Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) and her father Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). And given that the Velaryon family has closer ties to his wife, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Prince Daemon (Matt Smith) – both married to the Sea Serpent’s children – the Hightowers are understandably not inclined to let the standard rules of inheritance apply to Driftmark.

Rather than taking things to heart and blood, as was the case in episode 7, political machinations and forgeries are the name of the game in House of the Dragon episode 8. The Hightowers invited “petitions which will be heard in the Red Tenez, and since the balance of power is tilted in their favor at the moment – the Hand of the King speaks for the King when he is indisposed – they are sure to deal a blow to Rhaenyra. Holding Driftmark gives you control over the greatest fleet in the Seven Kingdoms, after all. Add to that Alicent’s third-born, Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), winning Vhagar to their cause in Episode 7, and it would make them great. Rhaenyra understands this too – which is why she immediately leaves for King’s Landing after being informed.

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Wil Johnson as Ser Vaemond Velaryon in House of the Dragon episode 8
Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

This word comes from Daemon’s daughter, Lady Baela (Bethany Antonia), in Driftmark. (Baela became her grandmother’s ward in the years after Episode 7.) House of the Dragon Episode 8 opens there, with Sea Snake’s younger brother Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), explaining why he would have to be the new lord of Driftmark if Corlys couldn’t make it. I have to admit I had to look up his name. Vaemond has barely been on the show – it’s partly a year skipping issue with the characters not getting enough screen time – and suddenly he’s in the foreground, vying for a powerful seat. . Like, who are you? Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) warns her brother-in-law that his words are treason, but Vaemond is sure it’s the queen who reigns these days.

Alicent is so busy making the decision that she doesn’t even have time to greet her guests, Rhaenyra and Daemon. Although this is the most charitable version. The two childhood best friends no longer agree – and things ended very badly last time. In fact, when reunited on House of the Dragon episode 8, Alicent’s eyes drift to Rhaenyra’s left arm, where the scar has healed but remains visible. Rather than being a moment of concession, the meeting ends up being spiced up, with accusations being leveled on both sides. Considering the status of her king father, Rhaenyra feels that the Hightowers occupy the Iron Throne without any legitimacy. She is the heiress after all. Alicent protests that Viserys is guiding them from her bed. Who do you choose to believe?

Daemon’s laugh at that moment in House of the Dragon Episode 8 says it all. After all, it’s clear who is actually calling the shots. The decision Alice – with guidance from her father, Otto – makes here is essentially a reflection on the bigger picture. If you overlook a son’s right of inheritance (in this case, Prince Lucerys, Rhaenyra’s son, and Sea Serpent’s grandson by name if not by blood) because you want someone who is in your favor (in this case, Vaemond the guy who’s barely been on the show), you’re setting a dangerous precedent. Sure, you’re helping your own cause down the line – Rhaenyra the Chosen Heiress vs. Alicent’s Firstborn Aegon – but it also opens the door for you to be questioned and suspected by other Lords in the future. .

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Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon episode 8
Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

For Rhaenyra, the petitions are a deep affront. Princess Targaryen sees this as a questioning of her own legitimacy to claim the Iron Throne – if her children are overlooked for the Driftmark seat, what does that say about who holds ultimate power? At night, Rhaenyra visits her ailing father again, half praying to the gods for strength to oversee the proceedings. But in the morning, as petitions are heard in the Great Hall, there is no sign of Viserys. Instead, Otto sits on the Iron Throne. As Vaemond Velaryon makes his case in House of the Dragon episode 8, Rhaenyra is visibly frustrated. She may be the heir to the Iron Throne, but right now she’s utterly powerless.

Then the mood in the Great Hall changes completely when the doors open. In the Viserys walks – clinging to a cane, the King of the Seven Kingdoms slowly walks towards the Iron Throne. Otto, Alicent, and Vaemond exchange glances, knowing this will spill cold water on their plans. Viserys’ frailty is evident to all in House of the Dragon Episode 8, and he can barely keep the crown on his head, but once he gets to the other end of the room, it’s clear that only a man’s voice matters now. King notes that since Corlys is injured, the best person to speak on his behalf would be his wife, Rhaenys.

Instead of defending herself as she suggested earlier, Rhaenys publicly accepts the marriage proposals presented by Rhaenyra privately earlier in the episode. Clever. Instead of undermining herself in front of Viserys who is completely faithful to the book, The Queen Who Never Was shows that she knows how to play the game of thrones. However, his brother-in-law Vaemond does not. He goes wild, calls Rhaenyra the W-word and her children the B-word. Forget the insults; it’s a betrayal, especially considering Viserys’ reaction in House of the Dragon episode 7. As you’d expect, the king stands up and asks for Velaryon’s tongue. But Daemon is two steps ahead, as he decapitates Vaemond from behind. And just like that, the guy we barely knew is gone.

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Ewan Mitchell as Aemond Targaryen in House of the Dragon Episode 8
Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

That evening, over dinner, Viserys, ill, does his best to bridge the differences between his wife and daughter. (Episode 8 of House of the Dragon sets this scene up with a nice shot of the literal chasm between queen and heir — which is appropriately filled in by the king.) And for a moment, his words work. Rhaenyra and Alicent recognize each other’s efforts. Even Rhaenyra’s children get in on the act, doing their best to say something nice about their uncles, Alicent’s boys. Pleased with what he sees, Viserys asks for music, which leads to a dance between one of Rhaenyra’s boys and Alicent’s only girl. It’s a brief hint of a union between the two warring factions. Carried away by his pain, the king thinks he has done his duty.

But, of course, it was all just an act. Alice’s boys are understandably more bitter, given that Rhaenyra and her family will be sitting on all thrones. After mocking them about their marriages, Aemond – the boy who became Vhagar’s new dragon rider in House of the Dragon episode 7 – gives a final speech. He chooses his words cleverly, calling the boys of Rhaenyra “strong” while implying something else. When the children start fighting, they are separated and sent to their rooms. Rhaenyra then tells Alicent that they will leave for Dragonstone in the morning – she got what she came for – even though they have only just arrived.

As Alice deals with her hubby king after the controversial dinner, Viserys starts chatting about the “song of ice and fire.” It speaks of Aegon the Conqueror’s dream – a vision of a long night when invaders will arrive from the North – the details of which have been passed down from generation to generation, from one Targaryen ruler to another. But the queen misunderstands him, thinking he speaks of their son Aegon (II) as the “promised prince” and “the one who will unite the kingdom”. It’s clear that Alicent is going to use those words to establish her son’s credentials later. Rhaenyra may have heard it all (when Viserys was sober and sane), but now it’s her word against Alicent’s.

And with the king breathing his last breath in House of the Dragon episode 8, the fragile peace he’s struggled to maintain seems poised to vanish at any moment.

House of the Dragon Episode 8 is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar in India and on HBO Max wherever available. New episodes drop every Monday at 6:30 a.m. IST / Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

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