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House of the Dragon episode 8 recap: Rhaenyra on trial

House of the Dragon: As the fantasy series draws to a close Rhaenyra ends up defending herself and her children from rivals in King's Landing

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Our Verdict

House of the Dragon episode 8 gives a heartbreaking look at how happy the Targaryens could be if they stopped being terrible to one another.

Warning spoilers ahead! Game of Thrones always saved its most shocking twists for the penultimate episode of each series, and it seems House of the Dragon will continue that tradition. Honestly, though, the fantasy series‘ eighth episode may have been its most effective yet, giving us a heartbreaking glimpse of what could have been if the Targaryens weren’t dedicated to being absolute arseholes and could instead just be a family.

The episode opens on Driftmark six years after the events of Laena’s funeral, where Baela – Daemon Targaryen’s daughter with Laena – is now the ward of her grandmother Princess Rhaenys and all is not well. Corlys Velaryon has been gravely injured fighting corsairs in the Stepstones, and his recovery seems unlikely. With the Lord of Driftmark not long for this world, his younger brother Vaemond is adamant that Rhaenys revisit the line of succession.

You see, Vaemond, unlike Corlys, does not want to see Harwin Strong’s bastards on the Driftwood Throne. While Rhaenys is adamant that Lucerys will inherit Driftmark as Corlys intended, Vaemond demands to be named heir and intends to take his claim to the crown to settle the matter.

It’s then we learn that in the last few years, Viserys condition has gotten so bad that Alicent is effectively king in all but name. Worried for her stepbrothers, Baela writes to her father on Dragonstone, and Rhaenyra decides to return to King’s Landing and head off the challenge.

Unsurprisingly, considering the last time they met, they had a knife fight, Alicent doesn’t roll out the red carpet for Rhaenyra. In fact, the queen doesn’t send anyone to greet Rhaenyra and her family when they arrive; instead, she leads a privy council meeting where it’s made clear the Hightowers have stuffed the council with a bunch of yes men.

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With Alicent away talking politics, Daemon and Rhaenyra explore the Red keep and quickly become annoyed that Alicent has removed so much Targaryen heraldry, replacing it with iconography from the Faith of the Seven. As the couple wander the grounds, they make their way to Viserys bed chamber, and we see what’s become of the king.

It’s fair to say Viserys has seen better days. The king looks like the Cryptkeeper’s uglier brother these days, having lost half his face to the disease ravaging his body. Even worse, the medication he’s taking for the pain is robbing him of his faculties, and Viserys can hardly get through a meeting with his new grandchildren, Viserys and Aegon, without wailing in agony.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Jacaerys and Lucerys meanwhile decide to visit a few of the sites from their youth where they see their uncle Aemond who’s grown to become a talented and deadly swordsman. As they marvel at Aemond’s skill, the courtyard goes silent as Vaemond and his entourage arrive to appeal Driftmark’s succession to the king’s court.

Elsewhere realising how feeble her father’s become, Rhaenyra decides to try her hand at politics. The princess goes to visit Rhaenys and offers to marry Jacaerys to Baela, and Lucerys to Rhaena, in exchange for her support over the issue of the Driftwood Throne.

You see, Rhaenyra fears that Vaemond isn’t acting alone, and his challenge is, in fact, the work of the Hightowers in an attempt to get the princess and her children disinherited.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Despite Rhaenyra’s offer guaranteeing that a Velaryon will eventually sit on the Iron Throne, Rhaenys turns the princess down, not wanting to get more involved in the brewing civil war. Out of allies, and likely to lose the appeal, Rhaenyra visits her father one last time and begs him, if he truly believes she should be queen, to defend her.

While it seems like Viserys is too addled by the milk of the poppy to hear her, something clearly gets through because the next day, as the king’s treated for his various scabs and wounds, he tells Otto that he will have supper with his family tonight. Bemused, Otto agrees and heads to the throne room to rule on Rhaenyra and Vaemond’s argument.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Predictably the Hightowers give Vaemond all the time he needs to outline his claim against Rhaenyra, not letting the princess defend herself. As it becomes clear Rhaenyra will lose, the doors of the throne room are thrown open, and Viserys arrives. Weak and sickly, it takes a lot of effort for the king to sit the throne, but with some help from Daemon, he manages it.

Viserys asks Rhaenys who Corlys named heir. Sensing the odds have tilted in Rhaenyra’s favour, she explained that Lucerys is Corly’s heir but adds that the boy is to marry Rhaena. Delighted Viserys finds in favour of Rhaenyra to the annoyance of the Hightowers and the fury of Vaemond.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Completely losing his head, Vaemond declares Rhaenyra’s children bastards shocking the court. Drawing his dagger, Viserys says he’ll cut out Vaemond’s tongue, but he doesn’t get the chance. Daemon gives Vaemond the world’s most brutal haircut slicing most of the younger Velaryon’s head from his shoulders.

With the matter closed… sort of? All the Targaryens meet for supper, and it’s clear no one’s very happy, but Viserys, of all people, sorts things out. The king makes an impassioned plea to his family to stop the infighting and come together. Not for the good of the realm but through their love for each other.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

Surprisingly this works, and Rhaenyra and Alicent actually make up after more than a decade of fighting. Jacaerys even asks Helaena to dance, and it looks like everyone’s having a good time, or at least they are, until Viserys grows tired and is taken away. The fighting begins almost at once, with Aemond making yet another crack at Rhaenyra’s son’s parentage, to be fair to the one-eyed prince, though, it as a strong joke.

Surprisingly, though, Alicent seems to have turned a corner, and she chides Aemond for his comments. As the night draws to a close, Rhaenyra tells Alicent she’s going to return to Drsgonstone, but the queen asks her to stay, saying she’s been away too long. Rhaenyra agrees but says she’ll take her children home before returning.

House of the Dragon episode 8 recap

All seems well in the land, and then Viserys makes one last mistake. Delirious from pain and the medicines he’s taken, the king confuses Alicent for Rhaenyra and tells her Aegon’s prophecy. As Alicent listens, she becomes convinced the prophecy pertains to her and her children and that they must sit on the throne to protect the world from the White Walkers.

As Alicent leaves, Viserys takes his last breath, never knowing that he’s doomed his daughter, family, and the real to years of bloodshed and chaos.