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Time Jumps the Dragon, where yet another few years have passed between episodes. That means the younger characters, like Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Daemon’s children, have again been recast to depict the passing of time, but it can be confusing with their parents not visually aging at all. That’s except for King Viserys, whose nasty battle with a form of leprosy has reduced him to all but a breathing corpse. Knowing he’s in his final days, he pleads his extended family to make peace with one another, to have dinner together like civilized, if not loving, kin instead of enemies who pull knives on one another. But will it work? In the vein of a Real Housewives reunion, the gathering starts off hopeful but, inevitably, ends in chaos. Especially now that another succession battle has come to the fore.
The episode starts with Princess Rhaenys receiving news that her husband, Lord Corlys, has been severely wounded in battle and his odds for survival are uncertain. It’s been six years since she’s seen him, but she must prepare for the worst case scenario. The seat of Driftmark is meant to be passed down to Lord Corlys’ son, Laenor, but since they believe he is deceased, the next in line would be Laenor and Rhaenyra’s second son, Lucerys. (His first son is already in line for the Iron Throne.) Corlys’ brother Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson) won’t accept this. He knows that Laenor’s kids aren’t really Laenor’s; why should foreign blood rule over Driftmark? Vaemond proposes that as Corlys’ own blood, he should be next in line. But what about Rhaenys? She’s been filling in for Lord Corlys as he battles abroad. Could she sit on the Driftwood Throne for good, or will the Queen That Never Was be passed over again? That’s no matter to Vaemond; he’s set on sailing to King’s Landing to make his case.
Over in Dragonstone, Daemon scales down a cliff into Syrax’s lair to find the dragon has laid three eggs. (More dragons!) His daughter Baela, who’s been staying with Rhaenys in Driftmark, sends a message warning him that Uncle Vaemond is riding to King’s Landing to discuss “matters of succession, rights, and the sanctity of blood” with the king. He shows the letter to Rhaenyra, who promptly takes offense to yet another challenge of her son’s parentage. She and Daemon decide they should go to King’s Landing, too.
Earlier in this scene, we get a sense of the Targaryen household in Dragonstone these days: Now-teenage Jacaerys (Harry Collett) is practicing High Valyrian with the grand maester. Joffrey, who was born two episodes ago, is now preschool age, or whatever the equivalent in Westeros is. Also, Rhaenyra is pregnant again. Time is really flying!
The Targaryens’ setup on Dragonstone is also much warmer than their accommodations when they arrive in King’s Landing. Rhaenyra can barely recognize the Red Keep’s dark halls, which is partially Otto Hightower’s doing. At the Small Council meeting, he says he arranged the couple’s residence “as befits their station.” Ouch. Another big change? The Faith of the Seven has taken over the palace, with its symbolic seven-pointed star hovering above and hanging as a pendant on Queen Alicent’s neck. She sits at the head of the council table, acting on behalf of her husband, the king.
Side note: If you’re wondering who the newbies on the Small Council are, they’re Jasper Wylde, Master of Law; Grand Maester Orwyle, who replaced the previous Grand Maester Mellos; and Tyland Lannister, Master of Ships and twin brother of Jason Lannister.
Rhaenyra and Daemon visit Viserys in his chambers to find him deathly ill and bedridden. He’s lost almost all of his hair, his skin is purple and scabbed, his nails are brown. He can’t even recognize Rhaenyra, his only child, beside him. The princess tearfully takes in this difficult image, and so does Daemon, but he also reminds them why they’re there. He informs the king that a petition for the Driftwood Throne will soon take place and they need him to affirm Lucerys as the rightful heir. Rhaenyra also has a surprise for her father: She and Daemon have had two sons, Aegon (a bit petty to give your child the same name as your fremeny’s firstborn, no?) and Viserys. With platinum blonde hair, Aegon III and Viserys II are undoubtedly Rhaenyra and Daemon’s blood.
Alicent deals with a “delicate matter” regarding her own son, Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney). The servant girl Diana has come forward accusing him of sexually assaulting her. Alicent believes her account, even embracing her as she cries. “It wasn’t your fault. I believe you,” the queen says. Still, she worries what others might think if word gets out. She gives Diana cash for her troubles and tea to induce an abortion then sends her on her way. Next, she scolds Aegon for his despicable behavior. Groggy and naked in bed, he brushes off Diana’s claims, but his mother is not fooled. He cannot keep shaming his house, shaming his wife (hold up, he’s married? Book spoiler: His wife is his sister, Helaena.) like this, she says. With a swift slap across the face, she leans in and tells him, “You are no son of mine,” quoting Tywin Lannister. Aegon starts to break down. He never asked for this life! No matter what he does, his mother and father will never be satisfied, he says. Helaena (Phia Saban) interrupts the conversation, looking for Diana to dress “the children.” (Wait, she has children now?) Alicent says nothing, but her eager embrace with her daughter speaks volumes.
Alicent offers an awkward welcome to Rhaenyra and Daemon in Viserys’ room but neither silver-haired guest is pleased. She also notices the scar on Rhaenyra’s forearm, left from when she sliced her in a rage with a Valyrian steel blade. Rhaenyra and Daemon are so in sync here, their fed up energy is matched and they see through Alicent’s act. Their alternating comments are in rhythm as they prod the queen about holding power and introducing the Faith of the Seven while Viserys is weak in bed. Alicent is unperturbed. She’ll have her say during the petition for Lucerys’ inheritance anyway.
As Jace (Jacaerys) and Luke (Lucerys, now played by Elliot Grihault) wander around the Red Keep, Luke notices everyone looking at them. He already knows why. “No one would question my being heir to Driftmark if I looked more like Ser Laenor Velaryon than Ser Harwin Strong,” he says. In the yard, they find Ser Criston sparring with none other than Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), now sporting Legolas-like hair and an eyepatch over the eye Luke sliced out years ago. Aemond’s fighting skills have surely improved since they were boys in combat lessons together. Jace and Luke tremble when they recognize him but Aemond has already spotted them in the crowd. “Nephews,” he calls out to them. “Have you come to train?”
Before they can arrange a rematch, Vaemond Velaryon arrives in King’s landing. During a brief meeting, Otto and Alicent Hightower consider his proposition. The queen wants to act in the public’s best interest, but the scheming Hand of the King makes a good point: War is looming. When it comes, do you really want a child leading the greatest fleet in Westeros?
I can’t believe this happened, but we get Rhaenyra, Rhaenys, and Rhaena—Daemon and Laena’s younger daughter—all together in the same scene. (Will a Daemon, Aemond, and Vaemond collab come next?) Rhaenyra approaches Rhaenys at the Weirwood tree, knowing the latter is here to vouch for herself as the next leader of Driftmark. Rhaenyra makes an offer: If Rhaenys supports Luke as heir of Driftmark, they’ll betrothe Laena’s children to Rhaenyra’s. That would make Baela (Bethany Antonia) queen of the seven kingdoms if she marries Jace and Raena (Phoebe Campbell) a future ruler of Driftmark alongside Lucerys. The Driftwood Throne would be inherited by her children. Rhaenys seems intrigued, calling it “a generous offer…or a desperate one.” But she chooses to act alone for now.
Rhaenyra visits her father’s bedside on a stormy night, troubled. “The Song of Ice and Fire, do you believe it to be true?” she asks him, tears in her eyes. When she was a child, he told her about Aegon the Conqueror’s secret prophecy, and that it was their duty to unite the realm against a common foe. But, “by naming me heir, you divided the realm,” she says. “I thought I wanted it,” Rhaenyra says of the crown. But as the old adage says, heavy is the head that wears it. The princess is starting to crumble under that weight. “If you wish me to bear it, then defend me and my children,” she begs to her father. With everyone coming after her, she needs him on her side.
In the Great Hall, Vaemond makes his case to inherit the seat of Driftmark while Otto presides over the gathering. Rhaenyra comes next, but before she can speak, King Viserys hobbles into the throne room dressed in his crown, cape, and all the regalia, aided with a cane and a sick golden Phantom of the Opera mask. The crowd is in shock; no one was expecting him to show. “I will sit the throne today,” Viserys insists, though it’s a pitiful picture as he heaves and struggles up the stairs to the Iron Throne. His crown even falls off—an obvious metaphor—but Daemon picks it up, helps his brother up the steps, and places the crown back on his head. Viserys reiterates that the matter of Driftmark’s successor has already been settled. Even Rhaenys voices her support for Luke as heir and confirms that Laena’s children will marry Rhaenyra’s. Viserys is pleased.
But Vaemond is not. Even as the king of the Seven Kingdoms, Viserys is in no place to tell him who can inherit his family’s ancestral throne and home. House Velaryon survived the Doom; it cannot become extinct over this. Wil Johnson gives his all here, breathing fire into Vaemond’s impassioned, poignant speech. He’s not simply fighting for legacy like his brother Corlys; he’s fighting for his family’s survival. Vaemond ends his piece calling Rhaenyra’s sons bastards and the princess a whore. The hall gasps. Viserys gets up. Daemon slices Vaemond’s face clean in half with his sword. It’s a sudden and shocking death, and I’m almost left wishing we could’ve seen more of Vaemond. After keeping to the background in past episodes, this was the one where he shone the most, but also where he met his untimely end. (Alas, the character is also beheaded in George R. R. Martin’s books after he tries to claim the Driftwood Throne and questions Rhaenyra’s children.)
Despite the bloodshed, the Targaryen and Hightower families still gather for dinner together at the king’s behest, and he’s the only one who seems to be happy about it. Here, Viserys makes a desperate final plea to his family. He removes his mask to reveal the rest of his face, an eyeball missing and the skin of his cheek almost entirely gone. He looks skeletal. “I wish you to see me as I am. Not just a king but your father, your brother, your husband, your grandsire, who may not it seems walk for much longer among you,” he says. He begs them to make nice with each other, if not for the realm’s sake, then for his. Rhaenyra is the first to comply, raising her glass to Alicent to praise her loyalty and devotion to Viserys. “For that she has my gratitude and my apology,” she says. Moved, Alicent raises her own glass to Rhaenyra and her house. “You will make a fine queen,” she adds. Even Otto is surprised.
Meanwhile, the kids are still squabbling. Aegon hits on Jace’s fiancée, Baela, to get on his nerves. But Jace takes the high road, raising a toast to Aemond and Aegon in what is starting to feel like a feelings circle. Helaena toasts Baela and Rhaena for their engagements, adding that having a husband is “not so bad—mostly he just ignores you, except sometimes when he’s drunk.” (Someone help this girl!) Jace dances with Helaena while the family looks on, enjoying laughs at dinner. For a moment it seems like everything is okay in House Targaryen. Until Viserys starts feeling a terrible pain and is carried out of the dining room.
A roasted pig is placed in front of Aemond for dinner, and Luke laughs remembering how they used to tease Aemond with his very own “dragon pig.” Aemond loses his patience. He gives a final toast dedicated to his nephews, calling them handsome, wise, and strong, alluding to their real father Harwin Strong. Once again, he picks up the parentage issue they had just seemingly laid to rest. The boys are offended and tousle with their uncles once again until the adults send them all back to their rooms. Rhaenyra wants to take the children back to Dragonstone. Alicent takes her hand, hoping she’ll come back soon. The gesture is gentle and familiar, almost reminiscent of their friendship as young girls.
Remember Mysaria? We’ve gone through several episodes and three of Daemon’s wives since we last saw her. But after dinner, Talya, a handmaiden to Queen Alicent, meets with her in the cloak of night. The scene ends there, though. Character development will have to wait another day!
Viserys writhes in pain in bed while Alicent tends to him. Not in his right mind, he mistakes her for Rhaenyra and answers her question from the other night. He does believe in the Song of Ice and Fire, he confirms. He name-drops Aegon, referring to the Conqueror, and says what he saw in the North was true. He mentions “The Prince That Was Promised,” referring to the destined hero who will arise from the Targaryen bloodline. But Alicent, who has no knowledge of Viserys and Rhaenyra’s secret, interprets this differently: She believes Viserys is calling Aegon, their firstborn son, the prince that was promised—as in the rightful heir to the Iron Throne instead of Rhaenyra. “It is you. You are the one. You must do this,” Viserys whispers in his delirium. Alicent takes this as his wish for their son to become king. Olivia Cooke is excellent at conveying Alicent’s shock, relief, acceptance, and even fear as she grapples with the weight of this message. You can already tell what chaos will ensue, and what damage she will do, with this news.
“I understand my king,” Alicent tells him as she leaves the room. The camera pans to that fated Valryian steel dagger as she exits. In the darkness, Viserys seems to be taking his final breaths in bed. He has no idea he’s just played the worst game of telephone ever.
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Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.