16 House of the Dragon Power Moves: Questions of Legitimacy Set Stage for War

The blood of family runs strong and children see and hear what their parents do. It can be both a blessing and a curse as the next generation picks up the prejudices and attitudes of the previous.

Obviously, blood is at the heart of “House of the Dragon,” and all over its title sequence, as it’s a story of succession. It’s also a story of family, albeit one that has become extremely fractured and dysfunctional.

When Corlys Velaryon falls ill and there is real concern he may die, suddenly everything is thrown into the air. For all our concern about the Targaryens, after Rhaenyra and Laenor wed, their future is intertwined with Driftmark.

Thus, the question of legitimacy for Rhaenyra’s oldest three children is extremely relevant to House Valerayon. Corlys was obsessed with the history books and legacy, saying last week that history doesn’t care for blood, it only cares for names.

That may be true, but his brother Vaemond cares less for legacy and the history books as he does for the pure Velaryon bloodline … a bloodline he believes is seriously in jeopardy of ending should Rhaenyra’s second-born son Lucerys take the Driftmark Throne and become Lord of the Tides.

No one has yet been willing to put public voice to it, which has been a dominating theme of the season (not putting voice to things), but if Rhaenyra’s children are not Laenor’s children then there would be no true Velaryon blood on the throne and in any line that succeeds from Lucerys.

What Vaemond does not know is that this question of the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s children has been this cold war brewing within House Targaryen for nearly two decades now and the very succession of the throne and future of the realm is all tied up within it.

He only cares about what’s right for House Velaryon and his bloodline, and in regards to Rhaenyra’s children, he’s not wrong. He has no idea the chaos his petition to place himself on the Driftmark throne instead unleashed.

This was an episode of simmering water not quite rising to a full boil, but certainly heating up. In the tradition of “Game of Thrones,” it looks like all hell is about to break loose in the ninth episode of the season next week. But before that happens, let’s set the stage.

Vaemond Questions Lucerys’ Claim

The very idea of publicly and formally questioning Lucerys’ claim to the Driftmark Throne, despite Corlys expressly stating that he wanted Lucerys to inherit it after him, questions the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s children, and thus her own succession. It questions everything and puts formal voice to the rumors that have plagued the family since Jacaerys was born with those “Strong” features and black hair.

Rhaenyra Arrives to Zero Welcome

With Vaemond heading to King’s Landing to petition, Rhaenyra goes as well to petition for Lucerys’ claim. Her return, though, is reminiscent of KIng Viserys’ non-welcome in Driftmark when he went to ask Corlys for Laenor and Rhaenyra to be betrothed. There was no one there, which we later learn was at the orders of Otto Hightower. He and Alicent have been ruling Westeros with Viserys in poor health and addled due to milk of the poppy and other concoctions to ease his pain and fog his mind.

Alicent Addresses Dyana to Protect Aegon

This is a moment where we see just how far Alicent will go for family — or did she? After her son Aegon effectively rapes a maid who entered his room, Alicent is more concerned that the maid might tell people and sully Aegon’s name and so she offers her a tea, “just in case.” We might think it’s the same kind of tea Rhaenyra drank to prevent pregnancy years ago, but then we learn that Dyana did not show up for her duties. So did Alicent kill her or was it what it looked like on the surface, and she paid her off to go away? It all depends on how far we think she’s gone.

Daemon Calls Out Alicent’s Rule

Daemon has never played by the rules, so if their is a game of houses and a game of thrones in Westeros, he’s never bothered to play it. So while Rhaenyra and Alicent cat around one another after he and Rhaenyra visit the ailing Viserys, Daemon calls out the queen for ruling alongside her father. When Alicent says they are fulfilling Viserys’ wishes, Daemon questions how his addled mind could express any wishes at all. It’s clear they’ve claimed power, just as Alicent has redecorated to reflect her own faith in the Seven Gods, which is not the faith of House Targaryen.

Rhaenyra Offers to Betroth Her and Laena’s Children

In a desperate effort to quell the looming public questioning of her children’s legitimacy, Rhaenyra makes an offer to Rhaenys, who still thinks Rhaenyra and Daemon had her son Laenor killed so they could wed — she’s not wrong, per se, though Laenor survived). She suggests that her eldest two boys be betrothed to Rhaenys’ granddaughters by Laena (and Daemon), tying their families together both on the Iron Throne and the Driftmark Throne. This would also bring pure Velaryon blood back to the Driftmark line of succession after Lucerys. Rhaenys, though, indicates she has no intention of protecting Rhaenyra’s claim.

Rhaenyra Does Not Kill Viserys

It’s odd, yes, to spotlight something that didn’t happen, but after Rhaenys rejected Rhaenyra’s offer to unite their children, Rhaenyra went to see her father. Viserys is in terrible health and clearly on his deathbed in this episode, so the solution to all of her problems was just one pillow away. She was alone at night in his bedchambers and could have easily taken him out. That would have made her queen instantly, negating the power of the Hightowers and removing anyone really to stand against her — until the realm revolts into civil war, of course. But she didn’t, due to the love and affection she still has. It’s the same way she didn’t kill Laenor. If Alicent killed Dyana, then she’s clearly the more brutal of the two of them. When they inevitably go to war, will Rhaenyra truly have the stomach to do what is necessary? Does Alicent, or will they not be willing to make that killing stroke?

Viserys Calls Family Supper

Since the beginning of the series, Viserys has wanted love and peace and happiness and harmony. It’s a fantasy, but not the kind that George R.R. Martin writes. Viserys is too warm-hearted for this cold-blooded world, and his dreams of unity never leave him. It’s endearing, but also why he was ineffective in quelling the growing unrest within his house. Instead, he calls for a dinner in an attempt again to create peace. It is the first time the extended family has been together in years, so it’s also understandable for a man at the end of his life to want this last chance to see everyone at once.

Viserys Rejects Otto’s Tea

In his delirium, Rhaenyra had begged him to stand up for and defend her against Alicent’s plotting and this threat to the legitimacy of her children. And so, it was a huge moment when Viserys rejected the tea that was offered to him by Otto. He knows that it addles his brain and makes him unable to think clearly. It also eases the tremendous amount of pain he’s in at all times, so it’s a decision that comes from an inner strength to do what is right and, once again, defend his daughter.

Viserys Sits the Iron Throne

Vaemond makes his petition to Otto on the Iron Throne, with Alicent standing by and smirking at Rhaenyra. They’re seeing this as the opportunity to finally take her down. They don’t count on Viserys opting to show up in court today. It was a powerful and dramatic sequence as he painstakingly made his way to the throne, and Daemon finally helped settle him into it with his crown. And then, he called into question why there even is a petition about a settled line of succession.

Rhaenys Backs Rhaenyra

It’s never quite clear what Rhaenys is thinking, but when called upon by Viserys to speak of Lord Corlys’ wishes, she reaffirms that her husband wanted Lucerys to ascend the Driftmark Throne. She then furthers this by revealing Rhaenyra’s offer to wed their children together, saying that her house graciously accepts the offer. With this, House Velaryon ties itself even more firmly with Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne. Who knows what she was going to do had Viserys not showed up, but it was clear seeing her brother changed her mind.

Vaemond Calls Rhaenyra Whore, Children Bastards

This was the big moment of the episode, with Vaemond outraged after Viserys affirms the succession Corlys wanted. He will not let Viserys determine the future of his bloodline, he says, and then he puts voice to what no one in the kingdom has been willing to say publicly — with Daemon whispering for him to do it. He publicly calls Rhaenyra’s children bastards and her a whore. Of course, this incenses King Viserys, who calls for his tongue, but it’s also the first time someone has publicly put word to rumor in a formal setting, and words have power.

Daemon Kills Vaemond

Of course, said words cannot come without consequences, and Daemon was more than willing to step in and take care of that part of it, lopping Vaemond’s head off from behind. He did, however, leave the tongue intact, making a cheeky comment about it. With Vaemond dead, there really is no more succession argument in Driftmark, paving a smooth path for Lucerys to take over whenever it may be that Corlys dies. It does not, however, remove the words that he spoke or the ears that heard them.

Viserys Begs Family to Reunite

At supper, Viserys makes one last plea for his family to unite. With generations before him, he takes off his mask to reveal his missing eye and rotting cheek on one side, but it’s to reveal his humanity. He would beseech them as an old man, as their family member, to put aside their petty differences and be strong for one another and for the realm. A divided House of the Dragon is disastrous for the realm.

Rhaenyra and Alicent Toast Each Other

Rhaenyra and Alicent are childhood friends, they grew up together and had many good years together. Their feud has been running for so long, is there a possibility of peace between them? Well, there’s always a possibility. Spurred on by Viserys’ plea, Rhaenyra toasts Alicent for taking such care of her father all these years. Alicent then toasts Rhaenyra, with the sentiment carrying on to toasting the newly betrothed cousins. But Aegon continues his lecherous ways, openly offering to bed Jacaerys’ newly-betrothed Baela in front of Jacaerys and Aegon’s own wife. The tension that brewed between the chidren of the next generation is not so easily cooled.

Aemond Toasts Nephews ‘Strong’

Aemond set himself up for a villain turn when he brashly laid claim to the dragon Vhagar before Rhaena could. As it was her mother’s dragon, Rhaena techincally had claim, which is why Aemond stole out in the night to make his claim, which worked. In the ensuing battle, Lucerys slashed Aemond’s face, costing him his eye. The ensuing years did not soften Aemond at all, who comes across as even more of a jerk than his older brother, smirking at everyone. And then, he decides to toast his nephews, very pointedly and repeatedly using the word “strong” — in reference to their real feather, Harwin Strong — until a fight breaks out between all the young men. Even if Rhaenyra and Alicent would consider ending their own feud, they’ve already fueled enough hatred in their children to keep it going into the next generation. Blood feuds are nasty things and can be very heard to break because the next generation doesn’t understand all the nuances of the original grievance, but they can certainly understand the hate.

Viserys Tells Alicent Aegon’s Dream

Could this be the moment upon which everything turns? Earlier in the episode, Rhaenyra asked Viserys if he really beiieves “The Song of Ice and Fire” that’s been passed down from one ruler to the next? He couldn’t answer her, not in his right mind. At the end of the episode, he’s again not in his right mind, but he does answer the question. The problem is that it’s Alicent by his side. And since the dream was Aegon the Conqueror’s, she thinks he means their child Aegon II when he talks about “the prince that was promised” and how he will unite the realm. He says to her, “It is you. You are the one. You must do this.” He thinks he’s talking to his heir, Rhaenyra, but Alicent thinks he is telling her that he actually wants Aegon to be his heir. And then, he died. And so, both women now believe that Viserys wanted them to be his heir, one in truth and the other through misunderstanding. The blood we’ve seen in the opening credits is about to let because this succession is going to be ugly!

“House of the Dragon” airs new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

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