- Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first season of “House of the Dragon.”
- In the GRRM book “Fire and Blood”, King Viserys is described favorably and credited with prosperity.
- But “House of the Dragon” removes the male bias in this narrative and shows Viserys’ weaknesses.
“Will I be remembered as a good king?
That question comes in Sunday’s new episode “House of the Dragon” as King Viserys (played by Paddy Considine) faces his impending death. He is sick, covered in mysterious sores with blood flowing from his nose.
“What will they say of me? Viserys asks Lyonel Fort, the Hand of the King. For readers of “Fire and Blood,” the book by George RR Martin on which the series is based, this question may have raised a knowing smile. King Viserys may wonder how the history books will remember him, but fans at home know because Martin has already written this story.
And it’s very different from the perspective we see in HBO’s “House of the Dragon” series.
The book version of King Viserys is described as beloved and credited with overseeing the “peak” of House Targaryen’s power in Westeros. But so far, the HBO adaptation gives us a story that includes the perspectives of his daughter and his second wife, and we see a whole different story unfold in the patriarchal realm.
‘House of the Dragon’ star Emma D’Arcy says the series is built around the question of how to eliminate bias against women
Emma D’Arcy plays adult Rhaenyra, who we’ll see starting next week’s sixth episode which again advances in time.
“Westeros is a society that doesn’t provide space for women,” D’Arcy said when speaking with Insider at a preseason press conference. “In this universe, femininity is associated with motherhood, availability, duty, incapacity.”
They continued, “When it comes to women in power within the patriarchy, I think the fundamental question of the show is, ‘If you’re a woman seeking to rule, how do you win over an electorate? How do you convince male subjects that you are not ‘other’? How do you undo these damaging labels? »
As these first five episodes have demonstrated, Viserys’ choice to name Rhaenyra heiress wasn’t enough to sustain a peaceful transition of power – failure comes every moment that follows when he fails to back up his claim. of the Kingdom.
“It’s almost a matter of alliance, isn’t it?” said D’Arcy. “You can give someone that mantle of power, but then you have to know that all the systems that cover it are going to oppose it. It takes ongoing support and work to truly enable that change. support does not exist.”
The actor said the world needs to “learn” how to change, not just have people want it.
So that brings us to Viserys, who reflects on his legacy in the latest episode.
“Fire and Blood” gives Viserys credit for prosperity and peace, while “House of the Dragon” shows him letting the kingdom shatter before his eyes.
The “House of the Dragon” writers had a unique starting point for the very first “Game of Thrones” prequel series. “Fire and Blood” isn’t a detailed novel recounting deep character arcs – it’s a fast-paced historical account of House Targaryen written as though from the perspective of maesters and testimonies transcribed far in the future.
In other words, the story is entirely subjective. As you flip through the pages, you’ll read three different accounts of one person’s death or competing stories about which princess slept with which knight. There are hearsay, rumors and paraphrased quotes. And, because Martin wrote that Westeros was a patriarchal society (a society where men are the rightful heirs to the titles and houses of their fathers, and where women are traded as political pawns and forced to be born), “Fire and Blood” has a deeply masculine character. – biased view of how these fictional events happened.
Beginning with the very first episode of “House of the Dragon,” co-creator Ryan Condal and his writing staff let viewers know that this TV adaptation will not only fill in the gaps of events found in “Fire and Blood,” but would correct the notion that the beginning of the end of House Targaryen was the fault of two women.
In “Fire and Blood”, historians credit the reign of King Viserys with the “peak of Targaryen power in Westeros”. The writers say he had a “generous and kind nature” and was “well loved by his lords and his little people”. People called him the Young King and considered his reign “peaceful and prosperous”.
The historian notes that his “open-mindedness was legendary” and the pages boast of how it was the peak time for dragon and rider numbers.
However, showrunners Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik made adaptive choices for “House of the Dragon” that show King Viserys to be weak and ineffectual. He cowers at the opportunity to show his strength in public and postpones important conversations until he has a private outburst of rage or grief.
We see how he is responsible for the first major rift in Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship when he chose his daughter’s peer and best friend to be his new wife. Throughout the Hunt episode, Viserys also failed to counteract the perception of the Rhaenyra Kingdom as entitled and unworthy to rule over a male child.
To be fair in the context of the book, Viserys’ descriptions aren’t always brilliant. The maester notes that Viserys “was not the most willful of kings, it must be said; always amiable and anxious to please, he leaned heavily on the advice of the men around him, and did as they ordered. most of the time.”
We see this come to life in “House of the Dragon” as Viserys tries to keep his small council meetings as conflict-free as possible and takes advice from his hand often without question.
But there’s one aspect of Viserys’ life in “Fire and Blood” that’s decidedly not in “House of the Dragon” so far, and that’s his solution to the Rhaenyra vs. Alicent conflict.
In the book, the maester writes that “King Viserys loved both his wife and his daughter, and hated strife and argument”.
“He strove all his days to keep the peace between his wives and to please both of them with gifts, gold and honors,” the book says.
So far, Viserys has barely seemed to register the fact that Alicent (second wife and mother of his two youngest children) is unhappy and her close friendship with Rhaenyra (his daughter and heiress) has weakened since he chose his wife without first revealing his choice in private.
‘The House of the Dragon’ Changes the Fictional Story of the Book to Put the Blame for the Ruin of House Targaryen on the Feet of Men
Insider also spoke with Condal and Sapochnik ahead of the first season of “House of the Dragon,” where they reflected on the approach to this particular story and the special adaptation opportunity it presented.
“We came up with an approach of telling this story through the female perspective in particular,” Sapochnik said. “And so, one of the things we have to do is listen to women, otherwise we’re making it all up.”
The most recent episode as well as the one from the previous week (in which Rhaenyra had a sexual encounter with Criston Cole and her Uncle Daemon while Alicent carried out her anxiety-inducing duty to let King Viserys have sex with her) were directed by Clare Kilner, the first woman behind the camera for this HBO series. Sunday’s wedding episode was written by Charmaine DeGrate, who is the first female writer with solo episode credit on the series, as well as a credited producer.
In “Fire and Blood”, the male perspective paints both Rhaenyra and Alicent in a cold, unflattering light. Little is explored regarding their motivations and inner life. But “House of the Dragon” changes that, revealing that it was really Viserys’ weaknesses that led to House Targaryen’s decline.
The first five episodes jump in time throughout the lives of young Alicent and Rhaenyra, changing the story of the book so that the two women are both 14 years old at the start of the story, instead of several years old. age gap and never friends before being mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. . With the young cast of Emily Carey and Milly Alcock in those roles, we have almost a miniature prequel in this larger “Game of Thrones” prequel story.
Starting next week, Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy step into the adult roles as the story kicks into high gear with the story arc that ultimately leaves House Targaryen in ruins as the “Game of Thrones” fans know it’s coming.
“We get to be God’s point of view in the story telling the objective truth, we get to show those moments,” Condal said. “And I think that’s the thing that will keep people hunched over and interested.”
“House of the Dragon” airs Sunday nights on HBO at 9 p.m. ET. For more analysis of the series, read our breakdown here of the best details you might have missed in the latest episode.