House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8 Recap: Last Days

Death seems to play a more important role than usual in the final episodes of house of the dragon. Death, who the Seven believe to be represented by the Stranger, is no doubt one of the main characters of this week’s The Lord of the Tides, and he also spent a lot of his time in the spotlight on last week’s Driftmark. . Although, of course, it’s not uncommon for important characters to suddenly kick the bucket into the bucket game of Thrones Universe rearranging all parts of the titular game, we’ve never dealt with the immediate ramifications of a death for as long as we did in episodes 7 and 8 of this first season of house of the dragon. But while “Driftmark” devoted a good chunk of its running time to the obligatory rites and pleasantries that come after a person’s death, “The Lord of the Tides” deals with what needs to be done in the days leading up to the dreaded visit of the stranger, especially when the one he’s calling on is a lord or a king.


As Lord Vaemond Velaryon (Will Johnson) learns it the hard way after defeating Rhaenyras (Emma D’Arcy) Children the b-word, the stranger doesn’t always announce his arrival – but sometimes he does. When this happens, it is up to the friends and family of the soon-to-be-deceased to do whatever they can to ensure their loved one has a peaceful passing. There are also financial and bureaucratic matters that need to be taken care of, especially when a hefty inheritance is on the table while you do your best not to pretend that the non-deceased is already gone. It’s a delicate balance that’s difficult for many to achieve, and life in Westeros makes it all the more difficult. And so, with Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and King Viserys (Paddy Considine), just waiting for the Stranger to knock on the door, Houses Velaryon, Targaryen, and Hightower are only expected to squabble over what to do with the Driftwood and the Iron Thrones.

The trouble begins at Driftmark, six years after Lady Laenas (Nanna Blondell) Burial. Due to a mortal wound sustained among the Stepstones, where war is raging again, Lord Corlys has little hope of regaining full consciousness and reclaiming his place as head of House Velaryon. While he’s still breathing, his wife Rhaenys (Eva Best), rules in his absence, but the maesters have already made it clear that he is running out of steam. After losing his two children – at least as far as he knows – Lord Corlys wished his seat to go to his second eldest grandson, Lucaerys (Elliott Grihault). However, his brother Vaemond has other thoughts about the future of Driftmark. Vaemond has never bothered to vent his suspicions about the true parentage of Rhaenyra and Laenor (John Macmillan) children, not even during the funeral of his own niece. Declaring himself the closest relative of Lord Corlys and his only male heir, he desires the seat of House Velaryon for himself and intends to plead his case before the king—or rather, the queen.

RELATED: It’s time to embrace Targaryen incest if you really want to enjoy ‘House of the Dragon.’

It turns out King Viserys hasn’t sat on the Iron Throne much these days. The mysterious illness that has plagued him since Episode 1 has left him a mere shadow of himself. Viserys’ body is now covered in wounds, and whenever the king appears in public, he covers the right side of his face with a golden mask to hide a skinless cheek and missing eye. Aside from the cosmetic effects, Visery’s disease also inflicts great pain, rendering him almost unable to move, and the milk of the poppy the Maesters feed him clouds his mind to the point that he has difficulty raising his own daughter recognize. Since the king is unable to hold court or attend the small council meetings, it is up to Queen Alicent (Olivia Cook) to make sure the realm is in order, with a little help from her dear father and Lord Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans).

Given the political leanings of the Hightowers, as well as Alicent’s personal run-ins with Rhaenyra and Lucerys, it looks like the odds are in Lord Vaemond’s favor. Add to that the fact that leaving the largest naval fleet in the empire to a child isn’t exactly the smartest move, and poor Luke doesn’t stand a chance. But Rhaenyra and Daemon (MattSmith) will not let Luke lose Driftmark without a fight. Finally, challenging the boy’s right to the Driftwood Throne means challenging his birthright as heir of House Velaryon, i.e. calling him (and his brother) a bastard, which in turn is a direct attack on the princess’s claim to the Iron Throne . Now awaiting the birth of their third child, Daemon and Rhaenyra gather the children and pack their things for a trip to King’s Landing. Queen Alicent and Lord Otto may not be on their side, but the king certainly is, even if he’s not as royal as he used to be.

Listen, say what you want about King Viserys. He probably deserved it. I mean, the guy chose to bleed his wife to death so he could have a baby with a penis that couldn’t even survive a full minute outside the womb. Still, it can’t be said that Viserys doesn’t stand behind his daughter, at least not since she declared her his rightful heir. And so, just as Rhaenyra and Vaemond were presenting their cases in court, Viserys donned his royal trousers and trudged to the Iron Throne, determined to take matters into his own hands. He settles it by declaring that Rhaenys is the only one who can speak about Lord Corly’s desires for Driftmark, thereby giving her the power to decide who will take the Driftwood throne.

Rhaenys has many dogs in this fight. Maybe even too many dogs. On the one hand she wants to respect her husband’s wishes, on the other hand she blames Rhaenyra and Daemon for Laenor’s death. There’s also a chance she’s trying to use Driftmark for herself and Baela (Bethany Antonia). The possibilities are endless. In the end, however, she decides to stand by Rhaenyra and takes the opportunity to accept the princess’ proposal that Luke and Jacaerys betrothed (Harry Collet) to Baela and Rhaena (Phoebe Campbell).

Well, Lord Vaemond must see this coming. Rhaenys had already told him at the beginning of the episode that she would not support his claim to the Driftwood throne. However, to say he’s pissed off after hearing the king’s verdict would be an understatement. The man literally loses his head, and I mean literally. He turns his anger on Rhaenyra and her children, calling the boys bastards and their mother a whore. This is a crime punishable by tongue cutting under Viserys’ rule, but Vaemond isn’t so lucky: before anyone even has a chance to reach for his tongue, Daemon draws his sword and cuts off the head of the Male in half – a scene that, oddly enough, isn’t that shocking compared to some other things we’ve seen in house of the dragon until now.

Tensions are high in the Red Keep, and Vaemond’s death is just the most obvious example. Alicent and Rhaenyra are still fighting their silent war, the queen is mad at Prince Aegon (Tom Glynn Carney), who since his marriage to his sister Helaena (Phia Saban) and Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) almost drools with anger at seeing Luke again after the boy has cost him his eye. Now he’s fully grown and looks badass with a scar and an eye patch. Aemond is just waiting for the perfect moment to get back at his nephew. Considering he appears to have graduated from Daemon’s School for Wildcard Second Sons With Nothing to Lose, it’s probably best not to take your chances with him. Family is family, and the Targaryens can put their differences aside for at least one last meal with their ailing patriarch.

It’s an oddly pleasant and touching scene for them game of Thrones Universe. King Viserys gives a speech about family unity, Alicent and Rhaenyra compliment each other, and Jace invites his aunt Helaena to dance. Aegon still finds time to be a little bitch, but even he can’t spoil the happy vibe that’s taken over the room. Everyone just looks so happy… until the king leaves, of course.

Tired and in pain, Viserys is carried back to his room by two guards just as a couple of servants come in with a pig on a platter. They place the pig in front of Aemond, which reminds Luke of the time they gave their formerly dragonless uncle a pig with wings. Luke chuckles and Aemond responds with the last of a series of toasts complimenting his nephews for being so… Strong. That’s enough to end the party and prompt Rhaenyra to return to Dragonstone. Curiously, Alicent begs her to stay, and Rhaenyra agrees to return to King’s Landing on the dragon’s back as soon as possible.

But the Alicent Rhaenyra will most likely not be the same Alicent she left behind when she returns. Lying in bed, intoxicated by the milk of the poppies, King Viserys tells his wife about Aegon’s dream and the promised prince, most likely mistaking her for his daughter. Alicent doesn’t understand and initially believes that Viserys is talking about her son, Aegon. However, when the king tells her that she is the one who must unite the empire, something clicks in her head and she leaves her husband’s bedroom with a firm determination.

All in all, The Lord of the Tides is a rather uneventful sequel to house of the dragon standards, albeit an important one. Sure, no one gets beaten to a pulp at a wedding and all the kids stay in full control of their eyes, but the game pieces have been rearranged once more. Lord Corlys is out of the picture, and soon the king may be too. Driftmark and its fleet are about to fall under Rhaenyra’s control, and Alicent thinks she knows a secret about the realm that she doesn’t really understand. Last but not least, the children are all grown up, and their upcoming marriage symbolizes the strengthening of political alliances. There’s a lot at stake, even if what’s happening on screen isn’t that compelling.

That being said, Paddy Considine and Director Geeta Vasant Patel deserves a compliment for that beautiful final scene. The King’s whisper “Never again” is heartbreaking, and the lighting and slow camerawork make the scene all the more touching. We actually see what’s happening, which isn’t always a given when it comes down to it game of Thrones and house of the dragon, and yet the darkness still reflects Viserys’ pain and isolation from the world around him. It’s hard to tell if the king actually received the stranger’s long-awaited visit, but if we don’t see him next week, that scene was a fitting farewell.

house of the dragon airs Sundays on HBO. Episodes can also be streamed on HBO Max. House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8 Recap: Last Days

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