Viserys Targaryen: a good man, a bad king?

Coming Sunday, with the airing of episode 8, we will say goodbye to actor Paddy Considine in the role of Viserys Targaryen. His name opens the credits of House of the Dragon, placing him as the star of Season 1. He was also the only actor in the cast who would not have even been tested, he received the invitation to give life to the complicated Viserys I, a man that the author himself defines as good who was not necessarily the best king.

Finding the exact tone for a nice guy, but I fail precisely because I try to get it right, is not an easy task. The sweetness that Paddy brought to the character, as well as her contradictions, makes her performance one of the best in the franchise. Hit the lineup of the cast, on the fly.

Paddy is one of the most respected actors in the UK and with this series alone he has effectively become an international name. Actor and director, he doesn’t always play “sympathetic” roles, but he placed Viserys among one of the most beloved in the franchise, for understanding him so perfectly that his defense is passionate. “He is a man tormented and rejected by everyone, including the Iron Throne who literally eats him alive,” he said in an interview.

Although the actor got the “soul” of Viserys right, there are differences between the book and the series. For example, Viserys I was fat and had a mustache, just as his reign was marked by balls, banquets, and tournaments, which we have seen little of. The popularity, which was also described as unanimous, seemed more like general tolerance. In the book, his weight got so extreme as he got older that he couldn’t even climb up to sit on the Iron Throne. Even fuller, Paddy had more dignity (although he lost an arm in the series, and in the book only fingers were removed).

Other differences in the series are Viserys’ age and his relationship with Rhaenyra. When he became a widower, the king was not yet 30 years old (and as Paddy is almost 50, it was not very clear) and when choosing his daughter, he was training the princess as his successor. From what we’ve seen, in the crucial years, the two barely spoke to each other.

As Alicent was older than her stepdaughter in the book, when she married the King the two got along well, so it was not an immediate problem for Viserys. The conflict between them arose little by little, with the sons Alicent gave birth to and whom she came to want to be her husband’s successors. In his late 40s, Viserys was reluctant to take a stand, displeasing both of them.

On the other hand, Viserys here isn’t so silly. Upon realizing that Alicent was planted in his life, his relationship with his wife was never the same and this subtle change is the merit of a great actor like Paddy. As he says, Viserys chooses to avoid confrontation, but when he does, he doesn’t give in to outside pressure.

Another relationship that ran deep in the series was his with his brother, Daemon, a complex and unique brotherly love story for the two of them. The chemistry with Matt Smith is in every scene of the two, driven by Paddy.

Viserys’ undeniable integrity prevented him from finding a way out for either himself or Alicent, not least because it was too late. If in the book the king is drooling over all his children and grandchildren, in the series he really has a different situation with his eldest daughter. Rhaenyra is the spitting image of her mother, Aemma, “a blessing and a pain”, as Viserys put it in Episode 7. His guilt over having contributed to his wife’s death literally destroys him. The result, he should have understood, would be tragic and bloody.

There are fans who compare and project the participation of Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) with that of Ned Stark (Sean Bean). In terms of acting, ok, but in the pages of history, not so much. Ned’s righteousness was an example to all his children, the common ground of admiration, devotion, and passion, including the “bastard” Jon Snow and the “adopted” Theon Greyjoy.

The show didn’t allow us to witness what a special father Ned was, embracing his children’s differences without judgment (Arya never needed to be different from who she was) and putting love before duty in caring for Jon. Ned Stark’s innocence (or stupidity) hovered throughout the series in an iconic way, connecting us with the idealism that cost his life.

Viserys deal with hard choices. He was induced to choose Rhaenyra as his successor but remained unshakable afterward. Aware of being surrounded by hypocrites (Alicent sold herself to him on her father’s orders, not betraying him was a choice of fear rather than desire), he knows his daughter and knows what’s going on, but he won’t surrender to Otto. again. Unfortunately, that’s what he thinks.

Viserys’ children and grandchildren will stain the pages of Westeros’ history because of the Hightowers’ ambition, but it is the king who will take “the blame” for not having contained the hatred in his family. It was a losing battle.

Paddy Considine will be missed in the coming seasons, but no one can deny that he reigned supreme in the first phase of history. R.I.P. Viserys Targaryen, the first of his name.


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