House of the Dragon: How Paddy Considine’s King Viserys Improves on the Book Character

“Viserys I Targaryen had a generous, amiable nature, and was well loved by his lords and smallfolk alike,” Fire & Blood describes elsewhere. “The reign of the Young King, as the commons called him upon his ascent, was peaceful and prosperous. His Grace’s open-handedness was legendary, and the Red Keep became a place of song and splendor. King Viserys and Queen Aemma hosted many a feast and lavished gold, offices, and honors on their favorites.”

The literary Viserys is an eager to please, well-meaning pushover who never gave much thought to the big picture. Technically, he is stronger in some respects to modern eyes since after he selected Rhaenyra as his heir to supplant Daemon, he never changed it. He simply considered it a settled matter.

By contrast, Considine’s Viserys vacillates, spending most of the third episode of House of the Dragon brooding into his cups and ruing the prospect of replacing Rhaenyra with her half-brother, the wee baby Aegon, as his heir. “I wavered,” he later confesses to his daughter in the same episode. However, this weakness adds dimension to the character because he is thinking ahead and about the challenge of convincing a sexist patriarchy—which directly benefited him when he was chosen as monarch over his cousin Rhaenys (Eve Best)—to bend the knee to a woman when a man (or even a boy) remains an option.

Notably on the page, Ser Otto’s dismissal also occurs before Daemon and Rhaenyra’s dalliance is discovered in Fire & Blood. Spared the urgency of television, the literary Daemon and Rhaenyra spend half-a-year together, with it being ambiguous as to how twisted their relationship became. Whatever the actual transgressions, Daemon was banished and Rhaenyra eventually was forced to marry Laenor Valeryon.

And yet, there is a heavy sense of rudimentary thinking, and even cowardice, to the book’s Viserys in even these actions. He is wrathful with Daemon, which is a nice surprise since he didn’t banish Daemon for the “heir for a day” jape like Considine’s version of the character did in House of the Dragon. In the book, Viserys surprised Daemon by naming Rhaenyra his heir and cravenly hoping that little brother would take a hint. In House of the Dragon, however, Daemon is concerned with more than just hypocritical need to protect his daughter’s “honor.” Instead he is constantly concerned with history, prophecy, and the stability of the family line.

In one of the most intriguing scenes of last night’s episode, Viserys again reminds Rhaenyra of Aegon the Conqueror’s secret vision of another Long Night, and the need to keep a Targaryen on the throne in Westeros. He does this by revealing that the so-called catspaw dagger—the same one Arya Stark would eventually use to slew the Night King on Game of Thrones—has the hidden prophecy of “The Prince Who Was Promised” engraved across the blade.

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