All of which gives added weight to the white stag (or “white hart”) that Viserys chases in Aegon’s honor. It also portends several intriguing possibilities when it becomes Rhaenyra, and not her weak-willed father, who finds the beast. But what does that and the boar she skewers really represent? We’re here to unpack that and more below.
Viserys, the Failed Hunter and Failing King
Early in the episode, before Viserys and his child bride depart on the hunt, Viserys is given an urgent message from Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson): Despite having dragons at their backs, the Velayron war against the Crab-Feeder on the Stepstones is failing. Reinforcements are needed immediately. Unfortunately, Viserys is only dimly aware of these ill tidings. In fact, the Targaryen king refuses to even glance at the doom-ridden parchment.
“It’s been three years,” Viserys bemoans. “It can wait another three days.”
There is irony in this. After all, as we later see confirmed, Viserys does not even enjoy hunting. Nonetheless, the milquetoast king is determined to play the milquetoast host. He will hold a hunting party to celebrate the second name day of Aegon—a child too young to remember the festivities, and who’s event is too grand for a lad that Viserys is determined to raise as the spare and not the heir. As Viserys ultimately confirms at the end of the episode, he remains committed to making Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) his successor to the Iron Throne, if for no other reason than he seems determined to honor “your mother’s memory.” The other irony here is, of course, that Viserys drove poor Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke) to a preventable death in forced childbirth.
Yet as we see on the hunt, Viserys is an indecisive man who waffles and stews, making problems worse for himself and ultimately his kingdom while he dithers. This is crystallized when he finally kills his stag. Before that fatal moment, the king has seemingly accepted the wisdom of his serpent-like Hand, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), that a spotting of a white hart (the most rare of stags) is a sign from the gods that proves Aegon’s royal pedigree. Before the dragons came, the White Hart was, after all, the symbol of royalty in the lands that now comprise the kingswood. But Viserys fails to slew that beast in young Aegon’s name.
Instead he is awakened on the final day of the hunt by his king’s men, who have captured a generic stag on their horses and with their hounds. By the time the old king comes upon that common creature, it can barely move as Viserys is allowed to “hunt” it with a spear gifted to him by Casterly Rock. His men hold the animal in place, even directing the king of where best to strike the animal dead.