‘House of the Dragon’ brought back anger from ‘Games of Thrones’ that I didn’t know I still had

September 15, 2022 — by Sarah Zhou
Photo by Sarah Zhou
I hate Viserys.
Remembering “Game of Thrones” season eight has toned down my opinions on all the characters of HBO’s new spinoff — except Viserys.

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for Episodes 1 and 2 of “House of the Dragon” Season 1.

Like almost 10 million people on Sept. 21, I tuned in for the prequel of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” “House of the Dragon.” Already renewed for a second season, the show set a HBO record for the most-watched premiere ever.

The acting for all characters — especially Daemon and young Rhaenyra, played by Matt Smith and Milly Alcock, respectively — was phenomenal. The modern visual effects and animation for the dragons surpassed the original “Game of Thrones” by far, though I will say the wardrobe options could have used some improvement: Even with a $200 million budget, they could not find a wig that looked remotely realistic for Laena. Rather, she looked like the fourth graders at Foothill Elementary dressing up as George Washington for History Day.

But my grievances are deeper than visible hair roots and bad makeup. Though none of the main characters from “Game of Thrones” appears in the series, the “House of the Dragon” writers managed to crowd the plot with the horrific personalities of some of the worst “Game of Thrones” characters, and I’m not even talking about Joffrey and Ramsay’s psychopathic tendencies.

King Viserys I Targaryen is definitely not intended to be a villain — some would even consider him a protagonist — but the show has somehow depicted him so that viewers are hoping he dies a long, painful death. 

Viserys’ poor decisions are not normal levels of stupid thinking. They are “the inbreeding must have started before Viserys was born” levels of ridiculous. 

Let me start with the most illogical decision he made: choosing to marry his daughter’s lifelong best friend (and possible love interest) Alicent instead of Laena, the only suitress his advisers recommended, and then expecting his daughter to happily accept his decision. 

The only possible justification he could have given to his council for this decision is that Alicent is the more age-appropriate option. Still, Alicent and Laena only have a 3-year age difference, with both of them still being children, and Laena clearly emphasized that Viserys would not have to “bed” her until she was older. Marrying Laena is the choice everyone advised Viserys to make (and frankly the choice everyone with a brain would choose) as it provides Viserys the powerful ally he desperately needs. 

Viserys was so entranced by Alicent “offering support” (a strategic move by her father) mere hours after his wife’s death that he decided to ruin every other relationship he has, ruin most of his daughter’s relationships and set the stage for his downfall. 

Furthermore, after his wife Aemma died in childbirth from a medieval C-section, Viserys’ claim of being so distraught from mourning that he could not pay an ounce of attention to his living child Rhaenyra, just because she isn’t his male heir, is laughable.

After finally properly acknowledging Rhaenyra for the first time in months, instead of apologizing for his inexcusable behavior, Viserys simply declares her his heir, getting her hopes up for no reason. It was clearly shown in Episode 2’s scenes: Nothing changed for Rhaneyra after being named heir — she is still a cupbearer for her father and his council — and nothing of importance is discussed with her. Viserys strings her along, giving speeches about the importance of her new title when he knew that he was planning to immediately remarry her best friend and try to produce a male heir to replace her.

There is no clear character to be rooting for so far. I think that the organization of the show would benefit from following a similar setup to “Game of Thrones,” where multiple characters are followed at once, so the time jumps occur less often — right now the show just feels painfully slow with forced cuts to move the plot along. 

I understand the need for frustrating characters such as Viserys, but the “House of the Dragons” creators are not creating the correct portrayal of many characters. I’ll still watch the show — not even Viserys and Otto can deter me from “Game of Thrones” — but I will no longer be setting alarms for 5:59 p.m. to intensely press refresh on the HBO Max website.

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