House of the Dragon 1×8 Review: The Lord of the Tides
‘The Lord of the Tides’ was quite possibly the best episode of House of the Dragon so far. Hopefully, now that we’ve reached the most crucial plot point of this story, we won’t have these horrible pacing problems anymore.
Trigger Warning: This review mentions rape.
We’ve now reached the pivotal moment in the Dance of Dragons story with the episode ‘The Lord of the Tides.’ Throughout the episode we are shown just how deep the family divisions run, how much generational trauma has been inflicted on these children, and by the end of it all the King is dead. I’m unsure how much of the dance we’ll get through in the last two episodes, but there’s a lot more story to tell. If they start moving at a normal pace, we may have content for the entire second season. Or they’ll give us the cliffnotes version and next season will be an entirely different Targaryen story.
But enough about this show’s ambiguous future. We have so much to talk about with the 8th episode of House of the Dragon. This week Ramin Djawadi continued to impress with his music, Paddy Considine made me cry, and I have an inexplicable urge to make a Brady Bunch parody for Rhaenyra and Daemon’s family. This episode was fantastic and I’m thrilled. So let’s break it down.
Life at Dragon Stone with the Targaryen Bunch
Rhaenyra and Daemon have combined their families into a sort of Brady Bunch-esque household. Except for Baela, who is a ward of her grandmother on Driftmark, all their children seem to live fairly happily together at Dragonstone. We see some mild family drama, such as Jace trying to learn High Valyrian with mediocre results, but I still get the sense that things there were relatively happy.
This delightful little blended family does highlight just how complicated the Targaryen family tree is, though. This is what happens when your family tree seldom branches. Let’s just pick a random member of this family and analyze it for a minute. Let’s pick, say, Jace and explore the complexities of his household.
His mother has married his grand-uncle. This makes his first cousins once removed his step-sisters as well. And his grand-uncle is now his stepfather. His grandfather is now also his uncle. Grandmother Alicent is now also Aunt Alicent. His two youngest half-brothers are also now his first cousins once removed. And Jace’s two uncles and aunt from his grandfather/uncle’s second marriage are also now his cousins.
Confused? Welcome to House Targaryen!
The Softer Side of Daemon Targaryen
Married life with Rhaenyra seems to have tamed Daemon somewhat. Somewhat. Let’s be real, here. He still chops off Vaemond’s head so he’s not exactly an angel. I don’t feel like I need to defend that crime, though. Perhaps I’ve finally gotten over the need to defend my favorite dragon-riding murderers. Or perhaps this was justified. I don’t know which, and I’m not going to dwell on it. He wasn’t wearing his Hoodie of Crime, so it wasn’t a crime! Done. Moving on.
Matt Smith did all sorts of subtle things with his body language and expressions to convey just how much Daemon really loves Rhaenyra. Besides chopping off the head of someone who besmirched her name, he just constantly seems to be looking at her, touching her, and supporting her with every fiber of his being. I know this ship is squick for many, and I get it, but damn, Matt Smith is really selling the romance. I’m on board with it.
Daemon was also incredibly tender with Viserys as he tried to climb up the steps to the throne. He’s always loved his brother and that much is incredibly clear, but he left his typical antagonism at the door here. He had nothing but love and care for him. Like his subtle body language showing how much he loves Rhaenyra, Matt Smith also conveyed a ton of emotion in his body language towards his brother.
This was absolutely spectacular Daemon content and I’m thrilled. Matt Smith is perfect.
Syrax’s Eggs and the Fate of the Dragons
I’m deeply curious about the three dragon eggs Daemon got from Syrax. I absolutely love that we got to see more of this ritual, but I can’t remember where these particular eggs go. If I recall correctly, the common theory for the origin of Daenerys’ eggs is that they are Dreamfyre’s. This isn’t confirmed, though.
I’m not sure if they’ll stick with that, or give that honor to Syrax. Giving it to Syrax would be cool as it will connect Rhaenyra and Daenerys much more directly. But who knows? The two accounts of the Dance of Dragons story in the books – one via Mushroom and the other from Maester Gyldayn – both differ, so the story already has unreliable narrators. If they want to make this a Syrax thing, they absolutely can. It won’t break anything important in the story.
If these three eggs are referenced in the books, I have completely forgotten. My bad if I’ve forgotten this detail. But there’s a lot going on here. I can’t remember everything! I wish I could, though.
Alicent’s Characterization Continues to Be Inconsistent
Eight episodes in, and I still struggle to get a read on Alicent. As I’ve said in previous reviews, she seemed to not like Rhaenyra in the first episode. Then she did seem to like her for a few episodes. Then she was manipulated by her father and seemed to finally actually hate Rhaenyra. Now, this week we see her liking Rhaenyra and respecting her again, only to flip again by the end of the episode. The last flip seemed to be in response to a misinterpretation of Viserys’ words, but it’s a flip nonetheless.
They’re in a tricky position with Alicent. We need to have clearly defined Team Green and Team Black, but they seem to want to make each team simultaneously sympathetic and also at fault for these problems. They’ve done a fine job of making Team Black both sympathetic and at fault, but the only way they seem to be able to do it with Team Green is by making Alicent extremely conflicted and wishy-washy.
I’m Team Black, but Team Green deserves a bit better of a foundation. It still has its defenders for sure and I really don’t care whose team anybody is on. Like who you like. It’s all about the vibes. But the yo-yoing of Alicent’s motivations and loyalty is a tad annoying for me.
But hey, I admit I could very well just be biased. I never claimed to be a neutral viewer here. Go, Team Black!
Aegon The Monster (Trigger Warning for Rape)
Aegon the Elder (Alicent’s Aegon) is a rapist. This shouldn’t be a surprise to book readers, but we still weren’t sure when or how it’d be discussed on the show. We get this tidbit of information by watching Alicent confront one of the women he assaulted. The poor maid was terrified that she might lose her life because she was assaulted by a Prince.
To Alicent’s credit, she handles the situation as kindly as she possibly can. She comforts the poor girl and calms her down from her panic attack. She is even kind enough to give the child moon tea. This does have the added benefit of eliminating a potential bastard so it’s not entirely altruistic. Still, this is helpful for the girl as she doesn’t have to give birth to a child conceived through rape. It’s honestly a kindness in these circumstances.
But she also makes the girl promise to keep the secret and pays her off. Through today’s lens, that’s pretty damn corrupt. It happens too often nowadays among the rich and powerful. I wouldn’t usually feel sympathy for any party involved in it. Through the lens of this world, however, I get why she did it. I can put myself in her shoes for this and empathize, even if the actual situation is abhorrent. This world is very different from our world and I’m constantly having to remind myself of that before passing judgement.
Aemond The Damaged
Being the second son of a King’s second marriage where traditional lines of succession are being changed has damaged Aemond. The psychological impact of not having a dragon for so many years, then losing an eye when he finally gets one, also probably goes a long way in explaining his behavior. The kid didn’t have much of a foundation to grow up with a good sense of morals. He’s filled with rage. And I honestly can’t blame him.
I have a lot more sympathy for Aemond than Aegon. Aegon seems to be born with a lack of a moral compass. Under correct guidance, Aegon could have maybe been directed in a positive direction, but he still would have been morally bankrupt. Aemond, however, seems to have turned evil through circumstances. Had he been given love and support, he could have very well been a great man.
While the younger actor made me feel a lot of sympathy for Aemond, the older actor just isn’t doing it for me. He almost feels more like Aegon than Aemond in both his looks (long face vs. round face) and demeanor. But thankfully I have sympathy left over from last week’s episode, so he’s not a one-dimensional comic villain for me here. Had that young actor not done that, I may not feel the same about him. This is a broken child that never got the love he needed. Everything is a battle for him.
Give Paddy Considine an Emmy
I’ve been hella critical of King Viserys and his lack of ability to make decisions, but Paddy Considine absolutely killed it in this role. The final half of this episode made me regret all the bad things I said about the character. He was truly a kind man. Just not a great leader.
That kindness may have very well been the weakness that destroyed both himself (through the throne rejecting him) and his family (through the uncertain succession he created by creating more heirs after naming Rhaenyra as his successor). Viserys put effort into securing Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne with his final moments of life, though, so I give him credit for that at least.
There are two particular moments I want to highlight that caused me way more emotions than I expected. His final minutes where we simply hear him dying absolutely shattered me. His last words being ‘my love’ makes me believe he was thinking of Aemma in those moments, and I hope that brought him peace.
Ramin Djawadi’s music over the dinner scene as Viserys looked around at his family also pushed me to tears. He truly thought he succeeded, so hopefully, he died in peace. His last memories are of his family getting along and Alicent telling him she understood. His death was described as ‘peaceful’ before, and I think if he died with these thoughts, that’s an apt descriptor.
I did not expect to cry this much over Viserys Targaryen, but here I am. I’m in pieces, dammit. I’ll be sending Djawadi and Considine my therapy bills.
I’m already craving season two.
We have two episodes left and a ton of stuff to cover. Regardless of how these episodes are paced, I’m already craving the second season. Whether season two is the Dance of Dragons or a new story entirely, I want more. This show is fantastic.
If we do conclude the Dance in these last two episodes, I’m hoping to someday get a Daenys the Dreamer season of this show. I have a feeling we’ll want to focus more on the Targaryen’s post-Aegon the Conqueror, though. Why we didn’t start with Aegon I I’ll never know, though. Perhaps Rhaenyra’s story was just too exciting to wait for! But I hope that someday we can go back a few hundred more years and watch their flight from Valyria. That story has always intrigued me more than anything else.
It’s getting real on House of the Dragon now. Let the ultimate battle between Team Green and Team Black begin!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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