’House of the Dragon’ Episode 8 Review: 'The Lord of the Tides’ Is a Tense Family Reunion
As if the issue of who will end up succeeding King Viserys wasn’t enough, House of the Dragon decided to throw another awkward situation into the mix in The Lord of the Tides, with the Greens and Blacks scrambling to seize whatever advantage they can.
It is revealed at the beginning of the episode that Corlys Velaryon, head of House Velaryon and nicknamed Lord of the Tides, has gone missing in action. There are strong rumors he may have been killed, and the ugly question of succession rears its head. While officially, the line of succession says that Rhaenyra’s second son Lucerys will inherit Driftmark, Corlys’ brother Vaemond will not stand for it. He is as ambitious and legacy-obsessed as his brother it seems, so he and Rhaenys journey to King’s Landing to petition the king to their own ends.
Meanwhile on Dragonstone, Rhaenyra and Daemon hear the rumors about Corlys and decide to travel to King’s Landing too, wary that Alicent and the Greens will use the situation to discredit Jacaerys and Lucerys’ own claims to the throne after her. So everyone descends on the Red Keep and we get a big awkward family reunion.
The Lord of the Tides gives us another time jump, this time ageing up Viserys’ grandchildren a few years each. Presumably this will be the final jump of the season, now that everyone is the age they need to be to finally get into the Dance of the Dragons. What follows is a remarkably tense episode; sometimes it’s possible to sit back and gleefully enjoy the drama that unfolds, eagerly awaiting the next thinly veiled barb from one family member to another. Other times the actors really make you squirm, dreading what might happen next and if the drama might escalate further.
By the end of the episode, it becomes clear that matters will indeed escalate sooner rather than later. I didn’t think last week’s episode could possibly be topped for quality drama, but my word did The Lord of the Tides succeed.
I didn’t expect Viserys to be such an influential figure in this episode. Early on it’s established that he’s far too ill to go to court now, with Alicent essentially ruling in his stead. When we see him for the first time, the man looks wretched; frankly, it’s a miracle he’s still alive. He must have been living a miserable existence, too high on milk of the poppy to be useful to anyone (except perhaps Alicent and Otto).
His reaction when he sees Rhaenyra and Daemon again and is introduced to his new grandson Viserys is heartwarming. He doesn’t have much reason to smile nowadays. He might be a poor king but surely no one deserves this.
Rhaenyra returns to him later that night, begging him to defend her honor and her claim during the petitions the next day. Of course, no one expects him to do so — the man hated confrontation when he was in good health so why would be capable of it now — which is what makes his grand entrance to the throne room so remarkably rousing. Viserys has been depicted as such a tragic figure for so long that it was joyous to see him suddenly appear in defence of his daughter and grandsons, summoning a strength that we all thought would elude him.
It’s an anxious wait watching him hobble up the throne room eschewing any help from his kingsguard, but then he really struggles with the steps. When his crown clatters to the floor, you wait with baited breath, hoping he will make it to the throne and keep his dignity. It was a masterstroke having Daemon be the one to help him take his final steps. Really, he is the only person who could get away with it and it was a timely reminder that he really does love his brother.
Daemon was reluctant to follow Rhaenyra into his brother’s chambers earlier in the episode, well aware that it was not Viserys’ wish that they marry. As we know, Daemon is not a shy man and has few regrets. Knowing that, we can see just how much he cares for his brother, perfectly foreshadowing stepping up to help Viserys in his hour of need. It’s a testament to the show’s writing and Matt Smith’s performance that Daemon remains such a complicated character. He’s done some terrible things on House of the Dragon, but his loyalty to those he loves almost makes you want to forget his flaws.
Viserys decides that Rhaenys should be the one to speak on behalf of Lord Corlys and decide the succession, and you can see the defeat etched in Alicent and Otto’s faces as they know the king will not back them. Thankfully, Rhaenys decides to ally with Rhaenyra after their earlier conversation in front of the weirwood tree. Whether or not she believes Rhaenyra’s claims that she did love Laenor and didn’t order his death is unclear, but she definitely believes that her proposal to marry Jacaerys and Lucerys off to her grandaughters is a good one.
Viserys gladly accepts it, but Vaemond vehemently protests the decision. He can’t make peace with the idea that Lucerys would inherit his family’s seat, and in his fury makes the fatal mistake of calling the boys bastards.
Viserys orders his tongue cut out but Daemon goes one step further and slices his head off at the mouth. It’s a shocking moment that had me whooping at the TV screen. I don’t think even Game of Thrones had an execution in the throne room. For all his complexity, Daemon is still a huge wildcard. Frankly, it’s surprising that he kept his own temper in check for the rest of the episode.
Viserys gathers the whole family together for dinner under the pretence of celebrating his grandchildren’s betrothals, but really it’s so he can make one final plea to make his house whole again and persuade everyone to let bygones be bygones. It’s a heartfelt one that moves Rhaenyra and Alicent to publicly make up.
It’s easy to believe that the two of them are merely putting on a show for Viserys’ benefit, but you can see at the end that they genuinely do want to be friends again. Once again, House of the Dragon‘s stellar writing is on show as we see their relationship is a lot more nuanced than it had any right to be.
Unfortunately, the grandchildren are not quite as willing to make up. They keep it up until Viserys is forced to leave the room and then the not-so-thinly veiled insults begin to fly. Aegon starts teasing Jacaerys in front of his betrothed, leading Jacaerys to invite Aegon’s sister-wife Helaena to dance moments after she jokes at her brother-husband’s expense. Then Aemond refers to his nephews as “strong boys”, not-so-subtly eluding to their murky parentage, and a fight breaks out between both pairs of boys.
Funnily enough, Jacaerys seems like he would make a far better king than Aegon. We first meet him in this episode fretting over his struggles to learn Valyrian, stating that a good king needs to respect his family’s history and traditions. He’s charming and conducts himself with honor for most of the episode until he lets himself be goaded by the “strong boys” jibe.
Aegon has continued to grow into an entitled prick, neglecting his wife to go get drunk and rape servant girls instead. He seems to be wilting under the pressure his mother puts him in, preferring to focus on anything other than his duty. Aemond seems to have a lot in common with Daemon. The young man wears a permanent smirk across his face, seemingly itching for a conflict to break out.
At the dinner, the adults (Daemon included) quickly step in before things escalate any further, but the rivalry between the Greens and Blacks goes beyond the matriarchs now. Nevertheless, with Alicent and Rhaenyra taking promising steps to repair their friendship, it is almost possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, Viserys accidentally messes things up again.
In the final scene with Alicent feeding him milk of the poppy, he seems to mistake her for Rhaenyra and starts talking about King Aegon’s song of ice and fire prophecy that he mentioned in the first episode. However, his mind is so addled that it’s mostly incomprehensible.
What bits do make sense certainly make it sound like he’s giving Alicent his blessing to make sure that his son Aegon inherits the throne after his death. We know that’s not what he means, but you can’t blame Alicent for interpreting it that way.
The credits roll as Viserys takes his last breath. With Alicent reinvigorated to fight for her sons’ claim, it seems any hope of peace between her and old friend/stepdaughter has been well and truly dashed. Next week promises to be absolute chaos as the Greens and Blacks scramble to decide who will succeed the king in the end. Things are really ramping up now on House of the Dragon.
Josh is a huge a fan of Star Wars, superheroes and video games. He spends most of his time wondering who would win in a fight between Boba Fett and Star Lord.