“It’s been six years,” Rhaenys Targaryen announces smack at the beginning of House of the Dragon Episode Eight. It’s a dreadful declaration for viewers who are still trying to resettle into the Game of Thrones prequel following the massive cast changes we’ve seen since Episode Six. Yep. Another time jump! The children are all much older—and it’s the most awkward change in the fantasy epic thus far.
Sure, it may have seemed odd when House of the Dragon replaced the roles of the young Princess Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent with older actors, while characters like Ser Criston Cole stayed roughly the same age. So imagine my shock when Episode Eight revealed that the kiddos have grown to near-adulthood as well. Is it just me, or does everyone now look roughly the same age? House of the Dragon wants to trick me into thinking that a grown man is now Alicent’s son and Olivia Cooke didn’t age at all. This isn’t an exaggeration on my part. Cooke is 28 years old. The new Aegon actor, Tom Glynn-Carney? 27 years old. Plus, what kind of genes is Ser Criston working with here?! The knight has not aged in what must be at least 20 years of time-jumping now.
Possibly an even greater shock: something has happened to Lord Corlys. After the deaths of Laena and Laenor (sort of), Rhaenys hasn’t seen or heard from her husband in over six years. During an ambush at sea, pirates reportedly slashed his neck and he fell overboard into the ocean! Whoa, what?! The maester at Driftmark informs Rhaenys that Corlys’s miraculous recovery has also not been going well, because he’s come down with a fever. In his absence, Corlys’s younger brother, Ser Vaemond, seizes the moment and declares that he should be granted the claim to Driftmark over “House Strong‘s pups.” (A.k.a. Princess Rhaenyra’s illegitimate children.) He openly challenges Rhaenys and threatens to take the seat of Driftmark by force if he must. Daemon’s daughter, Baela, writes a letter to her father, informing him that Ser Vaemond is sailing to King’s Landing to consult with the Queen. He and Rhaenyra plan to go as well to defend their claim, which means it’s time for another big family reunion. You know what I’m thinking a this point, right? I can’t wait to see how awful the King looks now.
And oh man, does he look bad! King Viserys is downright skeletal and bedridden when Rhaenyra arrives, resembling the horrifying visage of a vampiric Prince Philip. He can barely move. Or breathe. Viserys has a noticeably fancy, frilly golden shirt on. The king wants to go out in his finest. You know, I respect that. The princess introduces her father to his two new grandchildren (which she had with her new uncle-husband): another baby Aegon and Viserys Jr. “That’s a name fit for a king,” Viserys jokes, before he becomes overwhelmed and needs to rest.
We quickly transition to Queen Alicent talking with a maid named Diana. A normal name!? I bet it’s spelled Dyaeanna. (A quick check on IMDb revealed that her name is spelled Dyana, so I was pretty close.) Anyway, Dyana is hyperventilating in the Queen’s chambers. The Queen’s son, Prince Aegon, seems to have raped the poor girl. She’s rightfully terrified about both the event and its potential consequences. After hearing her story, Alicent hands her a sack of coins and pays her off “for her troubles.” She forces the maid to agree to secrecy and drink the anti-pregnancy tea this show so often passes around. The Queen then chides and slaps Aegon across the face, telling him that he is “no son of mine.” Aegon is also, as I mentioned earlier, basically the same age as his mother now. He’s technically married to his sister, Helaena, but he’s a big crybaby and an apparent rapist. This is not the first time he’s done something like this either. So, we definitely will not be rooting for him to succeed in any way from here on out.
Meeting with Rhaenyra and Daemon, Queen Alicent explains that she and her father, Otto Hightower, are not ruling the kingdom, but merely “following the King’s wisdom.” Daemon retorts by asking how that wisdom is expressed. “By blinks and wheezes?” he jests. The new couple accosts the Queen about the removal of the Targaryen crests throughout the castle, which have been replaced with the seven-pointed star of the Seven. Thrones fans will remember the Faith of the Seven as Westeros’s official religion—the one that Queen Cersei foolishly aligned herself with before the High Septon made her walk the streets naked in shame. We’ll see how it pays off for this Queen.
Later, Rhaenyra, Rhaenys, and Rhaena all meet in the garden. It’s fitting, because all three of them have basically the same name. The princess tries to convince her cousin and former mother-in-law that she did not order Laenor to be killed, but the Queen Who Never Was is not having it. Rhaenyra makes a desperate move to forge more alliances, suggesting even more inbreeding between her sons and Daemon’s daughters. We don’t need any more cousin or sibling marriages! Trying to explain all of these family relationships has been getting unnecessarily problematic.
At the Driftmark succession hearing, Hand of the King Otto Hightower is sitting on the Iron Throne. He plans, along with Alicent, to side with Ser Vaemond’s petition. Of course, the main succession problem for the Iron Throne is still in play, but Driftmark is sort of like a mini-game. All of a sudden, King Viserys’s old bones hobble into the throne room. He’s wearing a gold mask that covers half of his face, which would look sick as all hell if Viserys wasn’t a complete ghoul. Later, at dinner, he takes the mask off and reveals an empty eye socket. Gnarly. Back in the throne room, the King stumbles to the Iron Throne as Daemon helps him up. He invites Rhaenys to speak, and she informs the court that her husband, Lord Corlys, intended Driftmark to go to Lucaerys. She brings up that she actually does accept Rhaenyra’s marriage proposal after all. Oof. According to Viserys, the matter is settled, but Ser Vaemond won’t accept it. He tries to speed-run an execution by declaring that Princess Rhaenyra is a whore and that her children are bastards. Unsurprisingly, he dies a second later when Daemon swiftly decapitates him with his sword.
At night, the King makes one last plea to his family to put their differences aside for the sake of the realm. Princess Rhaenyra joins in the sentiment and raises a glass to the Queen, her former bestie. “I love my father, but I must admit that no one has stood more loyally by his side than his good wife,” she toasts. “She has tended to him with unfailing devotion, love, and honor. And for that, she has my gratitude and my apologies.” Queen Alicent responds, recognizing that they have a lot in common as royal matriarchs and mothers. She states that Rhaenyra will make a fine Queen. Great! Everyone should be happy now, right?
WRONG. The little shit Prince Aegon turns and whispers to Lady Baela that he would satisfy her should his nephew, Jacaerys, fail in his duties as a husband. Jacaerys stands up in rage. He’s met with Aegon’s younger brother, Aemond, who now sports an eye patch and is incredibly freaking looking. I wouldn’t be surprised if the character hissed a little whenever he spoke an “S,” to sound like a snake-human hybrid. Pulling back, Jacaerys calms himself and tries to defuse the tension. They haven’t spoken to each other much since Lucaerys slashed Aemond’s eye last episode. Helaena makes another awkward toast and tells Daemon’s two daughters that being married isn’t so bad, because her husband just ignores her most of the time. Sad! Jacaerys asks Helaena to dance. They all start having a nice time again, then the King is removed from the room and Aemond instigates another fight. The vibes are insane in this room. Rhaenyra sends all the kids to their rooms. She tells Alicent that she will quickly send them back to Dragonstone for a time-out, then return to be with her father.
However, King Viserys is on his deathbed tonight. He tells Alicent about Aegon the Conqueror’s dream and the whole Prince Who Was Promised prophesy, which kind of comes true at the end of Game of Thrones. Alicent doesn’t exactly understand his wheezings, interpreting his dying words to mean that their son, who is also named Prince Aegon (as Targaryens often are), should take the Iron Throne over Rhaenyra. She leaves the room, and Viserys presumably takes his last breath.
This should kickstart an incredibly exciting time for House of the Dragon fans, as it seems this is the last episode for King Viserys. His death will finally send everything into chaos—and he just accidentally gave Alicent some misunderstood ammo.
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; his work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.
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