The Farewell of Viserys Targaryen I was an episode made for season one star Paddy Considine, the actor who was invited to participate in Game of Thrones (but declined) and joined House of the Dragon as the cast leader. With his departure, it will be Matt Smith to open the credits, taking over the head of House Targaryen.
The difficulty of playing Viserys cannot be underestimated. A character that needs to pass strength, affection, and at the same time critical, needed an actor with Paddy’s reach. Not only did he deliver a generous and perfect performance, but he also adopted Viserys as “his”. We’ll miss him dearly.
In terms of the conflict, there was no news per se in episode 8. If between episodes 1 to 5 the issue was the machismo that would prevent a woman from being Queen, from the 6th the drama took on new proportions with doubt (or rather, the obvious certainty of the) illegitimacy of Princess Rhaenyra’s children. With an (almost) openly gay husband, the three boys looked more like their mother’s personal guard, Ser Harwin Strong, not only contributing to the huge distrust of her unfitness as successor but also threatening her to lose everything: crown and fortune.
Since Episode 6, the Princess has had even fewer real supporters, and Alicent Hightower has become an active agent in her downfall (fueled by personal resentments of envy, rancor over her father, and jealousy of her husband’s relationship with her stepdaughter. ) However, as her greatest ally is King Viserys, the Court must “swallow” the princess and her children. In Episode 7, the King’s fragile health took a turn for the worse, reducing Rhaenyra’s chances of turning the tables. Viserys’ “protection” is clear, even after his children and grandchildren shed blood. Rhaenyra is his preference.
But the diabolical strategist Otto Hightower, always acting in the shadows, continued to manipulate everyone, especially his daughter, Alicent, succeeding in putting the two women on opposite sides. At this point, it doesn’t even matter that they reconcile, the children hate each other even more than they do. He – thanks to his daughter’s “friend”, Ser Larys Strong – returned to the Court with even greater power than before.
Thus, Lord of the Tides, Episode 8, revolves around once again a conflict involving the legitimacy of one of the sons of the future queen, Lucerys Velaryon. Deciding who inherits Driftmark in place of a (also) sick Ser Corly Velaryon is the trigger to bring Greens and Blacks back to the opposite side of the ring. While petulant and not missed Vaemond Velaryon seeks power for himself, Rhaenys Targaryen is a neutral point: she wanted her granddaughter to inherit and dislikes Alicent and Rhaenyra equally but is a skilled and experienced player. When the current changes, she quickly secures her side by supporting Rhaenyra. But that’s because Viserys was still alive, to see what she’ll be like next.
Going back to the king, the disease that destroyed Viserys – practically turning him into the appearance of a Night Walker – was severe. Though he had time to share a few moments with Rhaenyra, he was confused, drugged, and in constant pain. Therefore, just before he dies, he causes further confusion when he talks about Aegon I’s prophecy with Alicent thinking he is talking to her daughter. Not aware of what he really meant, she misunderstands the message. Paddy’s performance was moving from start to finish, a glorious farewell.
In the next episode, we will see the coup d’etat of the Greens and the beginning of the Dance of the Dragons. That is the beginning of much bloodshed. It doesn’t have a better side. Without Viserys, it only gets worse. The Fire and Ice prophecy, which speaks of the prince who was promised, as we know, generates the opposite of what it preaches: disunity in Westeros. A sad irony with tragic consequences.