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House of the Dragon: The Lord of the Tides

"I must put things right..."

This episode was very impressive, sad and moving. Makes what’s about to happen all the more tragic. This is the calm before the storm.

I’m guessing it will also be the last of the big leaps in time. For awhile, that is.

Six years have passed since the feud between Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent’s families finally drew blood, and a lot’s changed.

Now married to her uncle Daemon, Rhaenyra has two more sons (Aegon and Viserys) and another child on the way. But her son Luke’s inheritance of Driftmark and the title of Lord of the Tides is put in jeopardy when a sea battle leaves Corlys Velaryon's fate uncertain and his brother Vaemond presses his own claim. This forces Rhaenyra to bring the family to King’s Landing.

King’s Landing is quite different, too. King Viserys has deteriorated to the point that he is a frail, gaunt, bedridden old man, having now lost an eye and some facial tissue to his perpetual body rot. He’s kept sedated while Alicent and her father effectively run the realm. While careful not to openly question Luke’s paternity, it’s pretty clear that they’re conspiring with Vaemond to acquire the power of House Velaryon and have Rhaenyra’s sons declared illegitimate.

This leads to one of this season's best scenes thus far, when the proceeding is upset and the entire court shocked by the appearance of the king, compelled to defend his daughter and grandsons. George R.R. Martin has stated that the show's version of this character has a tragic majesty his version did not, and that has never been more true than with the sequence of old Viserys hobbling unsteadily to sit the Iron Throne one last time. The use of makeup and CGI in combination with Paddy Considine's riviting performance is quite a sight to behold; award-worthy, even.


It was nice of Viserys to ask Princess Rhaenys her thoughts on the matter, since she is the wife of the man whose legacy is being fought over. Rhaenys came to the capital to back her own claim to Driftmark over Lucerys and Vaemond, but this acknowledgement from the king is enough to convince her to back Luke and agree to Rhaenyra's offer to wed her eldest sons with her Velaryon granddaughters, Baela and Rhaena. It forces her to side against her husband's brother, though.

The throne room scene also gives Daemon time to shine, too. He's quietly heartbroken over his brother's pitiful condition upon returning home. Him helping Viserys get to his throne and placing the crown back on his head might be my favorite moment in the show so far; this was quite a meaningful moment, considering what an antagonistic jerk Daemon had been for so many years. He does, however, still earn his standard bad guy cred this episode when Vaemond openly insults his stepsons and Rhaenyra; I nearly jumped out of my seat when Daemon suddenly sliced his head in two.

So all seems to be well. Vaemond is dead, Luke's inheritance is reaffirmed, and the betrothal of Rhaenyra's half-Targaryen sons and Daemon's half-Velaryon daughters ensures House Velaryon will live on through Velaryon blood. Viserys gathers his loved ones together for dinner, during which he pleads with them once more to let go of their personal grudges and unite as a family. His wish for a peaceful reconciliation is seemingly granted as members of the blacks and the greens offer up toasts to honor each other. For a moment, everyone is happy or at ease.

But of course, it was too good to last.

As soon as the king is carted away to bed, the feud resurfaces. This is thanks to everyone's new favorite bad boy, Prince Aemond. No longer the bullied adolescent outcast, but a fearsome warrior with an eye-patch, the biggest dragon alive and a seething desire to stir shit up. Unable to stomach the good fortune of the nephew who put out his eye, Aemond makes a final toast to his "strong" nephews, provoking a fight between the Targaryen and Velaryon princes and putting a damper on what could have been a lovely evening. The family divides once again, though Rhaenyra and Alicent appear to leave on good terms.

Doesn't matter, though. Earlier, we see that Viserys confuses Rhaenyra for Alicent while sedated in bed. In the final scene, he confuses Alicent with Rhaenyra and unwittingly leads her to believe that he wished for Aegon to sit the throne... when really he was just reminiscing about The Prince That Was Promised prophecy he told Rhaenyra. In his last moments before death frees him of his agony, King Viserys I sows the final seeds of destruction. It's all going to unravel after this.

The age of peace we've been enjoying is over.


Blacks and greens:

* With the Hightowers running the Red Keep, both the Faith of Seven and the Maesters Guild have gained quite a bit of influence over royal matters. House Hightower rules over Old Town, where the maesters' Citadel is located and where the Faith's religious power was once centralized, so this is no coincidence. These two institutions (particularly the Faith) were quite opposed to the Targaryens taking over the realm back in the day. So it makes sense that they're grasping for control now that House Targaryen is fractured and vulnerable.

* Lord Caswell is the only one who greets Rhaenyra and her family upon their return to the Red Keep. He seems to be a loyal ally.

* Speaking of allies, the small council is starting to divide between supporters of the blacks and the greens. Jasper “Ironrod” Wylde is clearly siding with Otto Hightower, while Lyman Beesbury speaks up for the rights of Rhaenyra’s son. Others, like Tyland Lannister and Grand Maester Orwyle, are a bit harder to read.

* They’ve introduced Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk Cargyll, near-identical brothers who both serve on the Kingsguard.

* Now a man grown, Aegon remains as lazy, crass and unempathetic as ever. And he's graduated from masturbating off a balcony to casually raping his servant girls. He disgusts his mother, but this has evidently happened enough that Alicent has a whole process for covering it up.

* Speaking of which, second best performance in this episode goes to the actor who played Dyana, the victim of Aegon's "harmless fun."

* I love how Alicent says a prayer for Vaemond at the family dinner, and Viserys is just like “Anyway, let’s celebrate!”

* Helaena probably had the best and most sincere toast, next to her father. If only she had been married off to Jace instead of Aegon, a lot of problems could have been avoided.

* Aemond appears to be provoked into giving his toast when a roasted pig is placed in front of him and he looks up to see Luke smiling. I wasn't sure if Luke had the pig brought in to deliberately rile Aemond, or if its placement was a coincidence and the reminder of a boyhood prank ("The Pink Dread") was enough to set Aemond off.

* Alicent’s servant girl turns out to be a spy for Mysaria. That scene mostly felt like it was there to remind us Mysaria is still a part of the story. Mysaria and Larys Strong should hook up for some Littlefinger/Varys type conversations.

Quotes:

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen: “My cousin, the King would have your tongue for this.”
Ser Vaemond Velaryon: “But it’s not a king who sits the Iron Throne these days, good sister. It’s a queen.”

Alicent: (to Dyana) “And though I believe you are not to blame, others might not be so trusting. They might think you were trying to besmirch the Prince, or worse… that you’re the sort of girl that might have enticed him in the first place. And you know what happens to girls like that.”

Alicent: (to Aegon) “You are no son of mine.”

Rhaenyra: “I’m sure the Queen had pressing business, my love. What can either of us know of ruling a kingdom?”
Alicent: “I do not rule, as you well know. My father and I are mere stewards of the King’s will and wisdom.”
Daemon: “And how exactly is that wisdom expressed? In blinks and wheezes? I’d be surprised if he could remember his own name. Or if you could.”

Vaemond: “This is a matter of blood, not ambition.”
Great how the camera shifts between Lucerys and Aemond when this line comes up.

Daemon: “...He can keep his tongue.”

Grand Maester Orwyle: “You may wish to leave the Silent Sisters to their work. It is ill luck to look upon the face of death.”
Rhaenys: “The Stranger has visited me more times than I can count, Grand Maester. I assure you… he cares little whether my eyes are open or closed.”

King Viserys I: “Let us no longer hold ill feelings in our hearts. The crown cannot stand strong if the house of the dragon remains divided. But 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.”

Prince Aemond: “Final tribute. To the health of my nephews: Jace... Luke... And Joffrey. Each of them handsome, wise... Strong.”

Alicent: “... I understand, my king.”
Sadly, you do not.

Five out of five surprise decapitations.

3 comments:

  1. Daemon helping Viserys with his crown was adlibbed on the spot by Matt Smith. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good episode. If they follow the GOT 9th episode formula then the shit should be hitting the fan tonight. I’m eager to see what happens next. Let the war begin.

    ReplyDelete

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