House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8 The Lord of the Tides | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, September 25th, 2023  

House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 8 (“The Lord of the Tides”)

HBO, October 9, 2022

Oct 16, 2022 Photography by Ollie Upton / HBO Web Exclusive
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In an episode that feels like both a season finale and a season premiere, House of the Dragon takes us through our final time skip, picking up six years after the last two episodes for a final gathering of our main cast before the realm becomes engulfed in fire and blood. The longest episode of the season, “The Lord of the Tides” features a court scene that is the overarching conflict of the show writ small, an awkward family dinner for the ages, and a swan song for one of the series’ most tragic characters.

The episode opens on Driftmark with reports that the Sea Snake has been severely injured in the renewed fighting in the Stepstones. His younger brother Vaemond is preparing to dispute the succession of Driftmark, arguing that Corlys’ chosen heir, Rhaenyra’s second son, Lucerys, is no true Velaryon. I’ll give Vaemond this; he’s no coward. In a barnburner of an early scene, Vaemond takes his petition before the Iron Throne, and with genuine relish accuses Rhaenyra of being a whore and her children of being bastards. One swing of Dark Sister later, Daemon has put an end to the issue and to Ser Vaemond. Although the succession of Driftmark will continue to be a plot point in the story, it’s a microcosm of the larger issue driving the show. Viserys refuses to acknowledge the extremely obvious truth that his grandsons are bastards, a truth that makes Rhaenyra’s already questionable claim to the throne all the more tenuous. How many lords of the Seven Kingdoms will suffer a bastard on the Iron Throne?

There’s a lot of terrific stuff to talk about in this episode, the big one being Paddy Considine’s beautiful swan song as Viserys. But first, I want to take a moment to talk about the thread of Alicent and Rhaenyra’s friendship/rivalry. As mentioned before, the childhood friendship between them is wholly an invention of the show, one that has already paid dividends and will continue to do so.

This episode featured one of those dividends, specifically the scene at the dinner table where Rhaenyra and Alicent toast each other in an attempt to honor Viserys’ wish for peace between the two branches of his house. Both D’Arcy and Cooke play the scene beautifully, showing that while the affection the two characters have for each other is long since past, both still remember it with fondness and regret. Their genuine regret is at odds with the behavior of their children, which makes for an interesting window into the way conflict and hatred is passed down through generations, as well as a glimpse into the way kindness can bridge even the worst of feuds. The example of the former would obviously be Aemond’s toast to his “strong nephews” and the ensuing fist fight that ends the dinner. But there’s a lovely grace note in the scene where Jacaerys asks his aunt Helaena to dance after she guilelessly confesses to being mistreated by her brother/husband Aegon.

The crowning achievement of the episode is its sendoff for Paddy Considine as Viserys Targaryen, the First of his Name. Beneath the shroud of make-up and CGI that has transformed the character into something like a mummy, Considine brings us the tragic ending of a man who has spent his life as a slave to both his family and his own weakness. And yet for all Viserys’ faults, it’s impossible not to be affected by the numerous moments in the episode where Considine reveals him as a man trying to love and defend the family he’s made such a mess of. Whether it’s his fiery defense of Rhaenyra from the Iron Throne, his heartfelt toast to his family at the climactic dinner scene, or the moment (reportedly apparently improvised on set) where his brother Daemon helps him to the throne and places the fallen crown on his head. Even after all these years, and even after his physical degradation has literalized the failure of his reign, Viserys still clings to the hope that his love is enough to hold his family together. The futility of that hope is brought home in the closing seconds of the episode where, dying alone in his bed, Viserys reaches out and whispers “my love,” presumably referring to his first wife Aemma Arryn. The past few episodes have had moments supporting the idea that she was the love of his life (accidentally calling Alicent “Aemma,” wearing Aemma’s wedding ring on his finger alongside his own). In his final moments, Viserys longs for the woman that he himself is responsible for no longer being alive. Brutal stuff.

All of this follows another pivotal scene, in which a delirious Viserys believes he’s continuing an earlier conversation with Rhaenyra about Aegon the Conqueror’s prophecy regarding the White Walkers and the idea that they can only be defeated by a true Targaryen sitting the Iron Throne. In this scene, he thinks he’s still speaking to Rhaenyra but he’s actually speaking to Alicent, whose misinterpretation of the prophecy seems to solidify her resolve that her son, an Aegon, must sit the Iron Throne. Twitter and Reddit are abuzz with arguments over whether or not Alicent is innocently or willfully misunderstanding her husband’s dying words, but that seems to be beside the point. As sympathetic as he was, the dissension that Viserys sowed among his wife, brother, children and grandchildren during his life will far outlast his love for them. Another great tragedy in a story with no shortage of them.

The penultimate and final episodes of the series are respectively called “The Green Council” and “The Black Queen.” The lines have been drawn. The knives have come out. Prepare for fire and blood.

Connections and Foreshadowing:

- One small scene I wanted to point out was the scene of Daemon recovering a dragon egg for the child Rhaenyra is currently carrying. The shot of him descending into the caverns of Dragonstone is disorienting and beautiful in a way that truly makes you feel the scale of this world. The specifics of dragon reproduction are left mysterious in the books, but I appreciated the grossness of the egg sacs Daemon had to cut into to retrieve one.

- Another terrific scene was the one in which Alicent deals with the serving girl that Aegon raped and may have impregnated. It cuts to the core of Alicent, a character who clearly has real empathy for the people around her, but is also a cutthroat player of the game of thrones. Both the serving girl and the audience are meant to be unsure about what’s in that cup until the moment she drinks it. Alicent isn’t Cersei, but it’ll be interesting to see what breaks first: her moral compass or her ambition on behalf of her children.

- Helaena’s line: “Beware the beast beneath the boards,” brought several possible interpretations to mind. There certainly have been a lot of rats in the Red Keep these past few episodes.

- Aemond’s transformation from a nervous, awkward boy to a terrifying, eye-patched swordsman who can best Criston Cole has been a delight. Equally delightful is his silent standoff with his uncle/brother-in-law Daemon, who he appears to both hate and desperately want to be. Trust me when I say that will pay off at some point in the future of the show.

- Speaking of payoffs, the introduction of the Kingsguard twins Arryk and Erryk Cargyll over the past two episodes will become important soon, next week if the Episode 9 preview was any indication.

Author rating: 8.5/10

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