Episode eight of House of the Dragon was a (mostly) quiet, yet powerful 71 minutes that prepared the viewers for the civil war to come in the final two installments of the season. The longest episode of the series, “The Lord of the Tides” threw a lot of information at us. We got another round of aged-up actors (and two more babies for Rhaenyra), a newly religious Red Keep, an almost dead Corlys, and a finally dead Viserys. Throughout all of this drama and intrigue, however, a slightly surprising group rose to the top: the second sons. In a world like Dragon, where succession is everything, second sons usually get the raw end of the deal. They’re not set to inherit anything and, if they’re lucky, they’ll be given a small sliver of responsibility and some gold coins to entertain them for the rest of their days. But with many of the older bros incapacitated in episode eight, the second sons had a chance to shine. And since they likely won’t get an opportunity like that again, it seems only fair to take this opportunity to discuss this usually forgotten group.
Up until now, we haven’t seen much of Vaemond, though what we did see was telling. He clearly has a bit of a complex when it comes to his authority in Driftmark and in the Velaryon family. His nephew, Laenor, rightfully dubbed him the “Master of Complaints” upon his introduction to audiences in episode three, and he surely has lived up to that title. When his brother, Corlys, is hurt in battle and Rhaenys and Baela attempt to remain positive (as one does when a loved one is ill), Vaemond quickly makes sure no one is hoping for the best. “I have seen blood fever overcome men half his age,” he says like a know-it-all kid in a schoolyard. He immediately sees an opportunity. With his brother possibly out of the picture, and the boy set to inherit Driftmark clearly illegitimate, Vaemond makes a move to become the head of a house, a position he has likely been eyeing for quite a while. I mean, what has kept him from being the Lord of Driftmark aside from losing the lottery of genetics? Unfortunately, that was enough to sideline him for decades.
While Corlys himself has said that he wants Rhaenyra and Laenor’s “son” Lucerys Velaryon to inherit Driftmark, Vaemond fights back. Yes, Luke is a child, but he’s also brunette, a fact that absolutely disgusts the blond-headed Vaemond. And though speaking of such rumors is considered treason in Viserys’ Westeros, Vaemond has no issue running his mouth to everyone who will listen. Admittedly, Vaemond has good reason to think the Crown will take his side, as long as “the Crown” remains in the hands of Alicent and her father, Otto, while Viserys lays in bed in a milk of the poppy haze. Obviously, the Hightowers are intrigued by the offer. Giving Driftmark to Vaemond will mean that Team Black doesn’t get control of Westeros’ navy when the civil war inevitably comes. It also means Vaemond will owe Alicent, and will likely turn Team Green, leaving them with quite the advantage. In the end, though, none of that wheeling and dealing matters, as Viserys appears to take charge, and once again, Vaemond’s plans are ruined by an eldest son. Of course, it’s a second son in Daemon who makes the final blow against Vaemond.
Speaking of the smoldering Prince, he had quite a quiet episode, possible uttering just two lines throughout the 71 minutes, though both were arguably the best of the episode. While in the beginning of the show, Daemon was painted as the bad guy, he is emerging as a fan favorite, thanks to his propensity for leaning against walls, his ever-changing hairstyle, and his obvious love for his niece-turned-wife, Rhaenyra. It is when he puts aside years of conflict between him and his older brother Viserys to help the ailing King up to the Iron Throne, that Daemon seemingly completes his transition into a fully reformed man. The moment is a touching one, and it seems to pay off for Daemon and Team Black, as they are shortly thereafter rewarded Driftmark. It seems with the help of Rhaenyra, he has finally found some purpose in his life, other than drinking, fucking, and moaning over the fact that he will not inherit the Iron Throne. Second sons, take note.
So, while Daemon’s evil ways may be behind him, there’s someone right in line to take his place, and fittingly enough, he has a name to match. We’re introduced to an older Aemond in episode eight, who seems to have been hardened by six years of eye patch jokes to the point where he is now the most intimidating Targaryen at a pretty menacing table (he also happens to look about ten years older than his “older” brother Aegon, but a Google search oddly failed to come up with an age for Ewan Mitchell, who plays Aemond, so we’ll let that rest for now). With a face that was basically made for a George R.R. Martin screen adaption, Aemond commands the screen from the first time we see him fight Ser Criston Cole in the yard of the Red Keep. Clearly, having possession of the largest dragon in Westeros has been good to him and his ego.
Like Daemon, Aemond remains mostly in the background during this episode, but it’s his reactions that inform us of what is to come from this character. Throughout the petitions for the Lord of Driftmark, Aemond stands behind his family with a smirk plastered on his face, and when Daemon slices Vaemond’s head in half, Aemond’s smile only grows larger, clearly intrigued by his uncle. At dinner later that night, Aemond can’t keep his eyes off his fellow long-haired friend, foreshadowing a possible coming to blows between Aemond and Daemon in the future. It’s only when Aemond catches his nephew, Lucerys, laughing at him, that he turns his attention elsewhere and stands to give a speech of his own, delivering some of the best shade we’ve seen in Dragon to date. “To the health of my nephews, Jace, Luke, and Joffrey,” he toasts. “Each of them handsome, wise, strong.” The dig is subtle, so he repeats it. “Come, let us drain our cups to these three strong boys.” Much more artful than just yelling “bastards” at them a la Vaemond.
And then there’s poor, little Lucerys, who not only is still just a young boy trying to keep up with his truly awful uncles, but he doesn’t even have a rhyming name! Anyway, Luke is more or less still a non-entity. Yes, he will officially inherit Driftmark, but he doesn’t really seem interested in that. Nor does he seem interested in marrying his cousin/step-sister, Rhaena. It’s unclear what Luke does want, likely just to be a normal teenage boy who can laugh at his one-eyed uncle without it resulting in mutiny.