Episode 8 of House of the Dragon is a whopping 1 hour and 20 minutes long … that must mean we’re in for some mega-sized drama. Is this the episode where the other shoe finally drops? Where someone draws first blood and plunges Westeros into war? Let’s find out.
What Happened in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8
Right out of the gate, we get a pretty big bit of news: Corlys is dead. Or at least missing. If I heard correctly, the Queen That Never Was mentioned she had not seen the man for six years, which is also a clever way of telling us how much time has passed between episodes.
Shit, now I gotta try and figure out who everyone is again. Vaemond (who is Corlys’ brother) is like, “He’s dead, let’s move on. Driftmark is mine.”
“My cousin the King would have your tongue for this,” Rhaenys says.
“Well, he’s not sitting on the throne these days, is he,” Vaemond replies. “It’s the Queen.” He also notes that Corlys’ ambitions have brought nothing but trouble for the Sea Snakes. That’s a helluva tale to leave behind.
We jump over to Dragonstone and see Daemon doing some spelunking. He happens upon some loose mud and pries out a dragon egg — three in fact. Outside, he receives an urgent message.
Elsewhere on the local, a very pregnant Rhaenyra walks in on Jacaerys studying High Valyrian. We get a peek at a much older Joffrey as well. Daemon enters with the letter that once again calls into question Rhaenyra’s sons’ claim to the throne.
So, off to King’s Landing we go.
Rhaenyra and Daemon receive a rather cold welcome and note the, um, darker makeover Alicent has given the locale.
Speaking of which, Alicent presides over the High Council, looking all Princess Leia-like. She’s clearly not the kind-hearted woman we met years ago; her happy demeanor was replaced by a coldness that’s hard to describe.
Meanwhile, Rhaenyra heads to her father’s chambers, and oh my God how is this man still alive? Like, what’s the point — just die already and make the pain go away! Anyway, Daemon informs his bro that the Triarchy is resurgent, and a petition has been brought forth to determine who will take over Driftmark now that Corlys is dead/dying/missing.
“Oh, for cripes’ sake,” the King moans. “Talk to Alicent and Otto about all that shit now.” He just wants sleep. He’s only ever wanted sleep. Poor guy.
“Eh, we need you to speak up for Lucerys to take up Driftmark as Corlys’ successor … please,” Daemon says.
Rhaenyra introduces Aegon and Viserys — two new babies — to her father. The poor guy is in so much pain. Even Daemon looks disturbed. The King begs for some tea. Daemon obliges and hands his brother a nearby cup, then sniffs the contents and casts Rhaenyra a curious look …
Alicent the Cold stands over a weeping girl named Dyana, who trembles at her sight. Dyana reveals that Prince Aegon was, well, not kind to her while she was cleaning his room. As such, they have a bit of a problem. Alicent has clearly dealt with this problem before. She goes through the motions, and tells the girl it wasn’t her fault and that she believes her story. Unfortunately, others in the kingdom may not.
At first, I’m thinking Dyana is about to get tossed out a window, but the Queen instead hands her a sack of coins for her troubles, forces her to drink some of that “cleansing” tea and then sends the young girl away. I mean, that’s better than the alternative, right?
We cut to Alicent screaming at Aegon to wake up. The much older chap stumbles out of his bed, unsure why his mother is so mad. “It was just a bit of harmless fun,” he says regarding the Dyana incident.
“How can you do this on a day like today,” she asks.
“What’s today,” he asks, genuinely confused, and his comment earns a slap.
“You are no son of mine,” Alicent declares. Honestly, no biggie. I heard that from my mom through much of my freshman year in high school.
Elsewhere, Rhaenyra and Daemon are still waiting for someone to acknowledge their presence. Alicent finally appears and immediately notices the scar on Rhaenyra’s arm. “It’s been a while,” she says.
“Not long enough to give us a formal greeting, I suppose,” Daemon says coldly.
There’s some back and forth about the King’s condition. Dameon and Rhaenyra claim Alicent is drugging the King with milk of the poppy while they rule in his stead (they’ve even replaced Viserys’ symbols around the castle with their own). Alicent says it’s an act of mercy, nothing sinister.
Regardless, this produces a problem for Rhaenyra and Daemon. Who will preside at their son’s judgment proceeding on the morrow?
“Well, mine,” Alicent states. “And the Hand, my pop.” She smiles coldly and promptly exits.
Outside, Rhaenyra’s sons Jaecarys and Lucerys meander about the training yard. Everyone stares at them. I mean, they have dark hair and look nothing like Rhaenyra or Laenor. They’re not really fooling anyone at this point. Did no one think to cut their hair and give them wigs? This place has friggin’ dragons. Surely they can produce convincing wigs.
Anyways, they happen upon a duel and spot Criston Cole squaring off against — gasp! Aemond the one-eyed wonder. Criston genuinely tries to kill Aemond, but he easily overpowers him and then shoots a psychotic Christian Bale from American Psycho glance at his nephews. “Have you come to train,” he asks.
Eh … they both reply.
Suddenly, the gates to the courtyard open, and in steps Vaemond. The Sea Snake sits before the Queen and Hand and offers his allegiance to the throne should they grant him Driftmark. Otto quietly sneers. “War is coming, my Queen. Do you really want a kid in charge of the biggest naval force in Westeros when it arrives?”
Alicent’s behavior confuses me. She appears cold but has yet to take that last step towards full-on villainy, and seems to struggle to make the right decisions. I suspect she doesn’t want a war but realizes all too well that all of her choices lead to one. It’s just a matter of aligning one’s self with the right people.
Case in point: Rhaenyra seeks out Rhaenys (who traveled to the locale with Vaemond) and gives her an offer (after lying about her complicity in Laenor’s “death”): “Back Luke’s claim and let us betroth Laena’s children to mine. Baela will be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Rhaena will rule Driftmark …” Honestly, I have no idea who any of these people are and just believe Rhaenys when she calls it a generous offer — or a desperate one.
“What does it matter,” Rhaenyra snaps.
“Indeed,” the Queen That Never Was says gravely. “Tomorrow, the Hightowers will force you to your knees,” she continues. “And I must stand alone.”
Clearly, she’s not over the whole Laenor dying thing.
At this point, does it not make sense for Rhaenyra and Daemon to head back to Dragonstone and prepare for war? Or just tell the Queen, “It’s all good. You do your thing and we’ll do ours.” In the next scene, Rhaenyra asks her father if the Song of Ice and Fire is true, and if it is, why did he divide the realm by naming her heir? “It’s a heavy burden,” she says. “Too heavy. If you wish me to bear it, then defend me!”
He’s clearly out of his mind and we’re left watching poor Rhaenyra (who, frankly, did this to herself) sobbing on the foot of his bed amidst a thunderstorm.
The next morning, Otto wheels Viserys’ corpse out of bed so that the poor staff can tend to his nasty ass body. (The FX here are pretty great.) There, the King asks Otto to set up a dinner party for his entire family — and he rejects the milk of the poppy. Uh oh.
Later, Otto sits atop the Iron Throne to deal with the succession of Driftmark. He will listen to the various petitions in the King’s stead. All of our characters are present. Vaemond goes first and notes that he is Corlys’ closest heir and deserves Driftmark. Rhaenyra goes next but before she can speak, the gates open, and the King hobbles in. Everyone looks shocked.
He slowly makes his way up to the Iron Throne looking like Edward Norton from Kingdom of Heaven, and takes his seat on the great throne. At one point, he drops his crown, and Daemon steps in and helps guide his brother the rest of the way. He also places the crown on his head. Not gonna lie, that made me choke up a bit.
“I’m confused,” the King says. “Why is everyone here tossing bids for Driftmark when Rhaenys is the only one with any say?” This statement causes the Queen The Never Was to perk up for the first time this season.
“Indeed,” she says before dropping the bomb: “My husband wanted Driftmark to pass to Lucerys all along. And I agree. As a matter of fact, Rhaenyra has informed me of her desire to marry her sons Jace and Luke to Lord Corlys’s granddaughters, Baela and Rhaena.”
Looks are exchanged. Alicent murders Rhaenys with her eyes. Vaemond looks positively flabbergasted.
“Well then,” the King says, “the matter is settled — again.” He confirms Rhaenys wishes. (Otto looks positively dejected here.)
Vaemond wants none of this. He lays it all on the line — to what end, I wonder? — and when pressed, calls Rhaenyra a whore and her children bastards.
“I’ll have your tongue for that,” the King says.
Suddenly, Vaemond’s head is sliced off by Daemon’s sword. “He can keep his tongue,” the Prince says. (Indeed, Vaemond’s tongue protrudes from his neck.) The entire room gasps. Aegon and Aemond smirk. Rhaenyra is like, “Okay, dear. Put away the sword.”
Then the King collapses, and Alicent runs to his side. She seems to genuinely care for the man, which is surprising considering everything she’s been through.
Later that night, Rhaenys stands next to Vaemond’s disfigured body and refuses to leave his side. This is graphic.
Naturally, we cut to family dinner. Alicent and Rhaenyra are seated closely together. Servants carry the King to his chair and we kick off one of the weirdest family dinners to be put on screen this side of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Alicent offers a prayer for Vaemond — Daemon rolls his eyes — and then the King announces the betrothal of the various cousins like it’s a good thing. Aegon pesters Jacaerys about sex … the King rises and laments how the family has fallen apart … removes his mask to reveal his hideously scarred face (without an eye). He wants everyone to see his true face, not just as a King but as a father, brother, husband, etc.
“Set aside your grievances,” he says, “if not for the sake of the crown, then for the sake of this old man who loves you all so dearly.”
Alicent casts a look at Rhaenyra, who stands and raises her cup to the Queen; offers praise for her devotion to Viserys. “She has my gratitude and my apology.”
“Your graciousness moves me deeply,” Alicent replies. “We are both mothers and we love our children. We have more in common than we sometimes allow.” She also raises her cup. “You will make a fine Queen,” she says.
The remark causes Otto to raise his eyebrows.
Things are too happy, and so Aegon eggs Jace on with more sex talk, causing the boy to slam his fists on the table in rage. Aemond stands to defend his brother, a crazy look in his eye. Except, Jace defuses the situation and offers a toast to Aegon instead.
Everyone is relatively happy and this makes the King … happy. He smiles. This is what he always wanted. Eventually, the pain becomes to great and he’s hauled away.
Aemond the psycho then decides now is time to offer his own toast. He offers tribute to Rhaenyra’s sons and mixes the word STRONG in for good measure. Jace steps forward and smacks Aemond in the face. A fight nearly breaks out but Daemon steps in between the two boys and gives Aemond a cold stare. Aemond frowns and sulks away.
“Eh, it’s probably best if we head back to Dragonstone,” Rhaenyra says.
Alicent urges her to stay.
“We’ll return on dragon back.”
“The King and I would like that very much,” Alicent says.
Something’s not right. Maybe because I’ve learned not to trust anything remotely happy on Game of Thrones, or I’ve just become paranoid in my old age, but this reconciliation came about way too easily.
Later, while Alicent nurtures the King in his bed, the old man starts muttering about the Song of Ice and Fire. He drops names like Aegon and states that only he can unite the realm. Alicent, of course, thinks he’s talking about her son, Aegon, and … well, that’s not good.
The episode concludes with Viserys reaching into the darkness, his hand grasping for anything. “My love,” he says before (I assume) taking his last breath.
Final Thoughts on House of the Dragon Episode 8
Damn, this show is so good. The entire episode held my attention from start to finish, even if it always seem to take me a good 30 minutes or so to figure out who everyone is after the various time jumps. Honestly, that 90-minute journey left me emotionally drained. I really liked the King and am sad to see the poor guy go. I was also sad to learn that we’ll never see Corlys again. Good men, both of them.
It also sucks that Alicent and Rhaenyra can’t stay friends. In a perfect world, their houses unite and rule the Seven Kingdoms for centuries. In this show, however, you’re seeing everything that led to the great Targaryen downfall, which is what makes it so fascinating. These tiny moments in time ultimately led to the destruction of a vast dynasty, the effects of which carried over into later generations.
While it would be great to spend more time with each iteration of these characters, the time jumps actually aid in the storytelling, as we know each episode represents another step in the wrong direction for these families. Great stuff.
I’m also surprised at the lack of sex, violence, and action thus far. The first few episodes took a few random detours into brothels and leaped into some wild action beats early and often, but since then the showrunners have settled down to deliver a compelling drama that doesn’t lean so hard on excess for kicks. I expect the shit to hit the fan soon with bloody results, but the tragedy that befalls this household will only hit harder as a result of the careful buildup.
As stated before, I’m excited and terrified to see what becomes of these people. Until next week, folks!
Odds and Ends:
- I loved the bit with Daemon where he urges Vaemond to say the word “bastards.” Our Prince has been sitting on the sidelines for far too long.
- Also really liked Deamon stepping up to aid his brother as he struggled toward the Iron Throne.
- Alicent is a good person after all. So is Otto. I keep expecting some sort of Cersei Lannister/Little Finger-level of dubiousness on their part, but their loyalty to Viserys continues to surprise me. Unless I’m missing something. Otto looked shocked and mildly miffed at his daughter’s rekindled love for Rhaenyra but also appeared to be having a ball at the dinner party. So, I dunno. I’m done trying to guess what these people are up to.
- Aemond is cool, but in a psychotic, I don’t know what to expect from that guy sort of way.
- Aegon somehow looks younger than he did the last episode unless I’m looking at the wrong character.
- Criston Cole has slid into the background, which is surprising given his actions. I expect they’re keeping him around for something, but I’m not sure what that something is.
- With the King dead, does that mean the throne is basically up for grabs? Everyone was playing nice for appearance’s sake, but now that it’s time to honor his wishes, I imagine someone is going to blink first. But who? Does Alicent possess the ruthlessness to murder Rhaenyra and her children? Does Otto? Or will they entrust Larys Strong to do the deed?
- I’m glad the King died relatively happy, even if he died by himself alone in the dark. Who was his “love?” Was it his first wife? Or was it Alicent? Rhaenyra? Who was he speaking to?
- Viserys was a good man, but a horrible King. His inability to rule with an iron fist is ultimately what caused his family to fall apart. You can’t rule with your heart, man. At least, not in King’s Landing.