Welcome back to Westeros! This week is full of schemes, plotting, and more cousin marriage than you can shake a stick at, so let’s dive right in.
It’s been six years since the funeral of Laena, and Corlys Valeryan is having a rough go of it. He’s been fighting the Triarchy (sigh) and pirates in the Narrow Sea all that time. Now, the poor devil has had his throat slashed by a corsair and then dropped in the sea, and now he’s got blood fever and may not survive. This has naturally led to questions about his successor. On the one hand, it’s all been settled. Laenor’s second son, Lucerys, will inherit the Driftwood Throne. Corlys’ brother, Vaemond, has some opinions about that. Luke knows nothing about commanding a fleet of ships and besides, they need someone with pure, Valeryan blood. Y’know, pure. Not like those pups from House Strong.
Yes, the persistent rumors about Rhaenyra’s kids, uh, persist. And for good reason. Jace and Luke’s wavy brown hair really sticks out amongst all the Targaryen blondes in court. Jace can cram all the high Valeryan he wants, nothing’s going to make those whispers stop. Especially when Queen Alicent and Otto the Hand have a concerted interest in keeping them going.
Rharenys tells Vaemond that challenging a settled succession could be seen as treason, but Vaemond reminds her: the king isn’t sitting on the throne. Viserys is (still) near death, and Alicent has been essentially ruling in his stead, with some helpful advice from Otto. Alicent certainly believes that the Rhaenyra’s kids are illegitimate, and Otto wants to make sure that Corlys’ fleet stays aligned with the crown, so Vaemond makes a challenge. He is going to head to King’s Landing to make his claim.
Upon hearing this, Rhaenyra and her family head to court as well to defend their inheritance, and it doesn’t look great for her. Leaving for Dragonstone has let the Hightowers have free reign to spread rumors and poison opinion against her. Rhaenys still believes her and Daemon to be responsible for the death of her son, Laenor, and she cannot wait to see Rhaenyra taken down a peg. Not even a swell offer of marriage can mollify her. Rhaenyra proposes that her kids will marry Laena’s kids, their cousins, and all rule together. No dice, Rhaenys wants to see her twist.
Meanwhile, Alicent is having her own problems with her kids. Spoiled ass Aegon has a delightful habit of raping his serving girls, and Alicent has to go console and pay off his latest victim, Dyana. Oh, and give her that Plan B tea. At least I think it’s the Plan B tea. Later, one of the other servants asks where Dyana is and Alicent hugs her and starts crying. (Remember, in GoT, Robert Baratheon had bastards scattered all along the Street of Silk, which led to Cersei taking rather dramatic measures to make sure no one challenged Joffery’s claim on the throne.)
Aegon has been betrothed to his sister, Haelena, because sure, why not? I assume because Aegon the Conqueror married his sisters, this will make the people associate Aegon the Rapist Twat with him. Aegon’s not thrilled, since Haelena is either touched with madness or the gift of prophecy, or both. I swear, the Targaryen family tree is a trunk with zero branches.
In contrast to the decadent and spoiled Aegon, Aemond has grown up to be a tall, cold, pillar of Valyrian steel with long blonde hair and a boss eye patch. It’s hard to believe this is the same little boy his brother teased by putting wings on a pig. It’s even harder to believe that he’s only aged six years since last we saw him because now he looks like he’s 28. (Not since the movie version of Dear Evan Hansen had someone looked so conspicuously older) He spends his days in training and the way he smiles when he sees his nephews Jace and Luke makes you think he hasn’t gotten over them cutting his eye out.
Rhaenyra and Daemon go to see Viserys, and he is not doing well. He’s barely coherent, kept in a fog by the Milk of the Poppy the maesters give him for the pain. He is gaunt and sickly and wizened, but still hanging in there. It’s been almost 20 years since Otto said he would die soon, and he’s still here.
The next day, it’s time for the hearing in court, and things seem pretty stacked against Luke and Rhaenyra. Otto, manspreading on the Iron Throne, wants Vaemond in charge of the navies for practical reasons, and also because rumors of illegitimacy will strengthen Aegon’s claim on the throne. Alicent is the acting queen and is still mad at Luke for the whole eye thing, and Vaemond makes a strong case. Rhaenyra starts to make the case for Lucerys when she is interrupted by a late arrival. King Viserys, sporting a sweet, golden Phantom of the Opera mask, has dragged himself out of his deathbed to once again defend his daughter’s honor.
Viserys didn’t take his medicines this morning because since the whole family is together for the first time in years, he wants to have a big family dinner and he needs a clear head. And he also needs to hobble across the castle and onto the throne to prove he’s still in charge. This week’s episode is 1hr10m, and it feels like that extra ten minutes was entirely due to Viserys walking across the great hall. It’s excruciating to watch. Viserys is hunched over, in obvious pain, refusing help from anyone, until his crown falls off. He then lets his brother, Daemon, help him the rest of the way.
Viserys gets to the throne and addresses the hall. I’m confused. Why are we holding a council to discuss a settled succession? Corlys left Driftmark to my grandson, Lucerys, and that’s that. Like any good sailor, Rhaenys senses that the winds have shifted dramatically. She says, yup! Uh-huh! That’s exactly what Corlys wanted. Oh and Rhaenyra generously offered to have our kids get betrothed to each other and I accept! You don’t get to a ripe, old age in Westeros by being a dummy, and Rhaenys is no dummy.
Vaemond, however… His plans have been upended by Viserys’ arrival and now has no fucks left to give. Egged on by Daemon, he eschews court etiquette slightly by going completely berserk and calling Rhaenyra a whore with bastard children. Viserys is infuriated and says he’ll have his tongue for that. He pulls out his dagger and starts to rise, but Daemon does his big brother a solid and lops the top of Vaemond’s head clean off. (You know in South Park how they animate Terence & Phillip? Yeah, like that) And kudos to the prosthetic makeup department. The body of Vaemond, with the tongue lolling out of the throat hole, is both disgusting and hilarious.
At the big family dinner that night, Viserys is done walking for the day. He lets himself get wheeled into the head of the table. He’s the happiest he’s been in years, with his whole family back together. And just like your granddad at Thanksgiving, he can’t stop telling the same stories. The throne cannot stand if the House of the Dragon is divided! Let’s all be a big happy family because I won’t be here much longer. He takes off his mask to reveal his ravaged face with a sunken, missing eye. (And once again, great work by the makeup department. Viserys looks both weak and terrifying.)
This is followed by a series of toasts that all start out very pleasant and then get progressively more passive-aggressive and barbed. Rhaenyra toasts Alicent, praising her for being so loyal and devoted to Viserys. Alicent praises Rhaenyra’s skills as a mother. Aegon acts like a twat by hitting on Baela in front of her newly betrothed Jace, saying if you want a real man just give him a call. Jace toasts Aemond and Aegon, recalling the fond memories of their youth. This is just a master class in petty family dynamics. Nothing being said is outwardly objectionable (except for Aegon, because he’s a snot) but there is just so much hidden meaning and barbs just beneath the surface. If my family was like that, I would have Thanksgiving dinner by myself at Boston Market. (Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, by the way!)
Viserys is tired and goes to bed. And that’s when the niceties stop. Aemond toasts his nephew-cousins, Luke, Jace, and Joffery. They are so brave, loyal, and…Strong. This enrages Jace. Aemond plays dumb. What? Aren’t you proud you’re so Strong? This starts a fight. Aegon slams Luke into the table, Jace takes a swing at Aemond and gets shoved over. Daemon steps in to break it up, glowering at Aemond. (And boy, do those two look alike. Almost enough to start some rumors at court.) I bet that’s not the last time those two will face off.
Alicent goes to check on Viserys and give him his milk of the poppy. He starts to babble about the dream of Aegon. This is the speech he gave to Rhaenyra way back in episode one, all about Aegon the Conqueror’s dream of the endless winter and the end of men, you know, the whole Song of Ice and Fire deal. Of course, Alicent has never heard this before, so of course, she takes it to mean the dream of Aegon refers to her son, and that the dream is to be king. (Dunno, I think Aegon’s dreams are more about fucking all the servant girls and cousins he can.) This is not going to go well. As she leaves the king’s bedchamber, Viserys draws his last few breaths, and dies. It’s ironic. A few episodes ago he was complaining that he had fought no great battles, and now his death is sure to spark a civil war. All he wanted was for his family to get along! Was that so much to ask?
This was a table-setting episode, but quite entertaining. The plotting and scheming get spurred on by family resentments. Unlike past episodes following a time jump, none of the character turns come out of left field. It’s all based on suspicions and grievances and it’s going to build to big-time dragon fights. (Not gonna lie, I’m very excited to see some dragon fights)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Who’s the worst? Another crowded field, but let’s give props to the new generation of shitheels and give it to Aegon. You got a lot of potential, kid!
Line of the Week: Daemon (after decapitating Vaemond): He can keep his tongue.