Corlys Velaryon is ill and the question of who should take his place on the Driftwood Throne is up for debate. In the previous episode we saw that he wishes for Lucerys Velaryon to take his place, but his brother Vaemond is determined to overrule it because the rumors regarding the children’s paternity have become relevant again. Everyone reconvenes back at King’s Landing to settle the dispute.
When Rhaenyra, Daemon and all their children first arrive at King’s Landing, nobody greets them. The halls are dreary, dull and lifeless compared to the vibrancy of episode one. Much of the Targaryen decor has been replaced by memorabilia of the Faith of the Seven. Throughout the years Alicent has had to find something to grasp onto so she can find purpose and absolution from the guilt she feels. When she is called to deal with Aegon’s victim, she is rather sympathetic and quick to believe the young girl. Her tears are the result of everything Alicent did wrong as a mother. She does what she can for the girl, but realizes that if rumors of Aegon’s misdeeds spill then it reflects poorly on her as a mother or if he were ever to become King. Despite Alicent covering up her son’s sins, she at least gives the girl the Plan-B tea.
When she confronts Aegon, now married to his sister Helaena, she once again doesn’t respect his boundaries, and slaps him for the third consecutive episode. He says that he has done everything she’s asked but it was never good enough. Alicent has never cared about him in the way Rhaenyra does toward her children. Although everyone can agree he deserved the yelling and the smack this time, Aegon was abused by his mother, and it is not surprising that abused people continue the cycle they were taught. There is solace in the fact we didn’t have to watch him assault the girl. Despite playing such a nasty character, Tom Glynn-Carney does a great job of following the performance set forth by Ty Tennant in the previous episodes.
Viserys is heavy on the milk of the poppy to help with his pain when Rhaenyra and Daemon visit him in his room. Rhaenyra’s love for her father is clear as day. Daemon’s response is so interesting because he can barely stand to look at his brother. He seems uncomfortable and regretful, and is trying hard to keep it together, which is why he pushes straight to the point about Luke’s inheritance. It was a touching moment to see them introduce him to their sons Viserys and Aegon. Daemon and Rhaenyra are natural and sweet to each other, which I think benefited from a woman’s direction.
The most vital part of the episode starts with Otto sitting on the Iron Throne, ready to choose Vaemond as the one to sit upon the Driftwood Throne. Both Vaemond and Rhaenyra have the opportunity to speak, though everyone knows it will be for naught. When King Viserys enters the hall to everyone’s surprise, it is the most wonderful, fist-pumping scene of the series so far. From the surprise on the Hightowers’ faces, to his back-breaking 90-degree hunch, everything is perfect. Even though we have all criticized Viserys’ rule as king, this walk shows just how determined he is, that he has enough of that Targaryen fire to come to his daughter’s aid. Daemon assists Viserys’ and puts the crown on his head even with everything that has happened between them in that hall. Also, it shows that what seemed like misbehavior was the result of feeling denied by his brother, and that Daemon has always had Viserys’ best interest at heart. Perhaps seeing his brother’s health maybe makes Daemon retroactively thankful that he never had to endure the king’s role, too. Paddy Considine’s performance in this episode is nothing short of brilliant. It is heartwarming, emotional, and a perfect example of how heavy the burden of being king is.
When Viserys takes his place, Vaemond does not back down. Vaemond is a prideful man that doesn’t want Targaryens interfering in the Velaryon house, but he has come too far to not say what he has been wanting to. Daemon goads him into calling the boys bastards, but what is surprising is that he calls Rhaenyra a whore. Viserys is ready to climb down there and slice out his tongue himself, but Daemon is ready to defend his wife at a moment’s notice. Daemon knows how dangerous it is that a member of the Velaryon house is not being accepting toward Luke. It is better to take him down now than let it fester any longer. He does a great job of letting his wife assert her dominance as heir while knowing exactly when to take control.
Having Rhaenys’ support in that scene was also a game changer. Rhaenyra is smart, and she knew Rhaena was how to get to Rhaenys earlier in the episode. She did not lie to Rhaenys about Laenor, because she didn’t order his death. She is giving as much comfort to her as she can, and the chance to marry Baela and Rhaena to Rhaenyra’s sons is also a nice offer. Most importantly, I think Rhaenys was inspired when she saw her cousin push through his immense pain to support his daughter. Clearly her husband and son accepted these boys as the future of their house, and so should she.
The final major set piece takes place at a dinner which will have all of Viserys’ family as requested by him. All he wants is peace, not because he is a king and demands it, but because he is the patriarch and loves all of his family. His speech is sweet and genuine. When he takes off his mask, the part of Viserys’ face that is dying is on Alicent’s side, which is excellent symbolism. This is where Rhaenyra extends the olive branch which is smart politically and beyond, and Alicent is genuinely touched. When Alicent states Rhaenyra will make a fine Queen, she definitely believes it, especially considering what her son did earlier that day. When the music starts, it is a moment of pure happiness. There seems a chance that maybe everyone will forget their qualms and genuinely try to be a family.
While everything seems to be okay with the adults now, the children continue to have issues that are first stoked when Aegon sees how happy Baela is to be engaged to Jace and he taunts them. Aegon does get his “just desserts” whenever his sister-wife Helaena makes the quirkiest, most hilarious speech about marriage that happens to embarrass him. All is well until a pig is put in front of Aemond and Luke, like the teenager he is, snickers at the memory of Aemond’s embarrassment. Aemond gives a speech with a double meaning and fighting ensues, but Daemon silently stops everything with just his body language and a look. Aemond clearly admires Daemon considering how he gazed at him after what happened in the throne room. His appearance beckons back to Prince Daemon’s appearance in episode one. It will be fun watching each other’s future interactions. Ewan Mitchell’s face is one of the most intriguing faces I’ve ever seen. He may only be given one eye to work with, but dang does he use it!
Although he nearly knocked it out of the park this episode, Viserys slips up at the final scene when he thinks he is speaking to Rhaenyra about the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy, but actually spills it to Alicent. Having Alicent ignite the Dance of Dragons over a miscommunication is certainly a bold choice. Are the writers afraid to have Alicent be too devious? And why would she assume her deviant son Aegon is the one Viserys was referring to? Perhaps they want the audience to be conflicted on whether they should be team Greens or team Blacks, but making Alicent too soft can also be frustrating. People loved Cersei Lannister despite her many despicable choices, so I don’t think they need to hold back Alicent’s ambitions. At least we got to hear Viserys reconnect with the love of his life, Aemma, as he passed away.
Now that the final iterations of the characters have been established, the world is truly starting to take shape. This episode is also Emma D’Arcy’s best performance to date, and it is clear to see why they won the role of Rhaenyra. We can all salute Paddy Considine’s brilliant performance and expect to see him with an Emmy nomination next year. But now that King Viserys, the sweet patriarch of this family, is gone, how will the Dance of Dragons begin?
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