Warning spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon. Well, it finally happened, after eight episodes King Viserys Targaryen has shuffled off this mortal coil. Yes, in the penultimate episode of the fantasy series, the king died, but not before telling Alicent something that’ll doom his family and the realm.
Still, we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about how Viserys died in the TV series and how it differs from the character’s death in the books. We’ve also had a think about why the House of the Dragon writers may have changed the Visery’s death from both in and out-of-universe perspectives.
How does Viserys die in the books?
In the books, Viserys’ passing is far more peaceful. Rather than rotting away until he dies a painful and humiliating death King Viserys I is recorded as dying in bed while entertaining his great-grandchildren, Jaehaerys and Jaehaera.
While telling the children the story of Jaehaerys I battling giants and mammoths beyond The Wall, the King grew tired and took a nap from which he never woke. That couldn’t be further from Viserys’ frankly horrifying end in the TV series.
Why did The House of the Dragon writers change Viserys’ death?
Out-of-universe, the likely reason why the House of the Dragon writers changed Viserys death is that dying while telling your cool family stories isn’t particularly cinematic. It also doesn’t fit the show’s theme that power is inherently corrupting.
In-universe, however, there’s a much clearer reason why Viserys death was changed. Omniscient narrators do not write the books Fire and Blood and The World of Ice and Fire; they’re written by historians living in Westeros.
These historians don’t always have the full facts and are writing hundreds of years after the event they’re recording happened. These historians can’t be trusted to tell the truth either. Sometimes they manipulate the truth to make the kings and queens they work for look better.
It’s possible then that the book version of Viserys died alone of leprosy, precisely like his TV counterpart, but those writing the histories thought that was a bit bleak, so they changed it to something a little happier.