'House of the Dragon' Recap: A Fleeting Moment of Bliss Before a King Dies and Civil War Breaks Loose

With only two episodes left in the first season of the HBO series, it seems fairly clear fans will have to wait for the epic Dance of the Dragons to unfold next season

Wil Johnson, HBO - House of the Dragon, Season 1 - Episode 8
Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Warning: This post contains spoilers for season 1, episode 8 of House of the Dragon.

Six years have passed since the last episode of House of the Dragon, as episode eight — titled "The Lord of the Tides" — opened with Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) learning that her husband Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) suffered a grave wound in battle and was not expected to survive.

It was Corlys' wish that his grandson, Prince Lucerys Velaryon (now played by Elliot Grihault) be heir to House Velaryon. Corlys' younger brother, Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), told Rhaenys he would petition the crown to supplant Lucerys since he, like so many others, suspected the now teen was the illegitimate son of Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) and his nephew, Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan).

Having had two children together and another one on the way, Rhaenyra and Daemon (Matt Smith) planned to travel to King's Landing from Dragonstone, where they would make their case that Lucerys should be heir, as was Corlys' wish. They knew it would be an uphill battle as King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) — still alive somehow, but looking like the Crypt Keeper! — was essentially allowing Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) to rule as he withered away.

By and large persona non grata, the couple hoped to convince Viserys to rule in their favor. When they arrived at King's Landing, no one was there to greet them, which was ordered by Hand of the king, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), to ensure they knew how little they were respected.

Bethany Antonia, Eve Best, HBO - House of the Dragon, Season 1 - Episode 8
Ollie Upton/HBO

In addition to ruling in her husband's stead, Alicent had another major issue she had to deal with: her oldest son, Prince Aegon II Targaryen (now played by Tom Glynn-Carney), who'd grown into a despicable person, going so far as to sexually assault a serving girl, who may or may not have then been poisoned by Alicent to keep the matter secret.

A livid Alicent confronted Aegon over what a scumbag he'd grown into, to which he seemed indifferent. However, her second son, Prince Aemond Targaryen (now played by Ewan Mitchell), had grown into a skilled warrior, who could give Daemon a fight for his money — and very well may in the future. Aemond's personal trainer was Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel).

Knowing that Lucerys stood little chance to win the petition for House Velaryon with Alicent and Otto running the show, Rhaenyra paid a late-night visit to her barely conscious father, where she again tearfully begged for his help on the matter. She also asked if he truly believed in the tale of Aegon the Conqueror's dream, which, as father-daughter saw it, meant she was the rightful heir. He did not answer.

The petition hearing occurred in the great hall the next day, with Otto sitting judgment on the throne. Vaemond made his case — a strong one, as so long as people believed and agreed that Rhaenyra and Laenor's children were illegitimate. As Rhaenyra began to give her argument, the hall's great doors swung open as King Viserys (or what was left of him) made his way to the throne.

Never wanting to believe anything bad about Rhaenyra, especially when it came to her children, Viserys ruled Lucerys would be heir. Of course, it helped that when he asked for her opinion, Rhaenys — also his cousin — betrayed Vaemond, taking a previous deal offered by Rhaenyra that her oldest sons would wed Rhaenys' granddaughters if she'd backed the claim.

An enraged Vaemond told the king and all those in the hall he would never allow it before calling the teen boys "bastards," which, naturally, greatly peeved the king. But, before he could do anything about it, Daemon (gruesomely) beheaded Vaemond. The matter seeming closed, the family dined together, which the king asked Otto to arrange as he wanted to see them all together one last time.

Olivia Cooke - HBO, House of the Dragon, Season 1 - Episode 8
Ollie Upton/HBO

During the feast of only family, the deathly king gave an emotional and poignant speech about how much he loved all of them and how badly he wanted everyone to get along for the sake of the kingdom and the families. He implored them to forgive one another and move on. And, for a moment, it actually worked.

For a brief moment in time in the Game of Thrones prequel, everyone was having fun, joking, smiling, and even dancing, as the king watched before he left, overwhelmed by physical pain. Not long after he was out of the room, of course, the bickering and animosity flared up as Aemond antagonized Rhaenyra's two oldest sons.

As Alicent put Viserys to bed, he answered the question Rhaenyra previously asked, whether he truly believed Aegon the Conqueror's dream. He told his confused wife he did and that a prince who was promised would "unite the realm against the cold." He stressed to her that she must "do this." Alicent took that to mean he wanted their oldest son — named Aegon after the great conqueror — to be king, which will set in motion the Targaryen civil war, aka the Dance of the Dragons.

In the closing moments of the episode, as he lay alone in his bed, Viserys shed a single tear as he reached out to something or someone and said, "My love."

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House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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