Much like its predecessor Game of Thrones, HBO’s prequel series House of the Dragon is very much about the politics, palace intrigue and constantly shifting allegiances surrounding various characters’ ambitions to be ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. But unlike the earlier show, which depicted an entire realm vying for the Iron Throne, House of the Dragon focuses on one family in particular: House Targaryen.
Adapted from the book Fire & Blood, George R. R. Martin’s fictionalized history of the Targaryen dynasty, the show so far has been depicting the early events that lead into the war of succession known as the Dance of the Dragons, with a particular focus on the complicated family relationships which will eventually be solidified into battle lines.
Presiding over the realm and all of this mess up until now has been King Viserys I Targaryen, portrayed by British actor Paddy Considine. Following the death of his wife Aemma and infant son Baelon in the first episode, Viserys chose his daughter Rhaenyra to be his official heir. However, since then he has had a son, Aegon, with his second wife Alicent Hightower (Rhaenyra’s incredibly stressed former bestie), leading to some confusion over who will take the crown in the event of the king’s demise.
And make no mistake, the king’s death has been foreshadowed heavily in each episode of the show to date. At first, he is shown to have sustained some minor cuts, no doubt as a result of sitting on a chair made of literal swords all day. But the cuts aren’t healing. He then develops a series of gnarly-looking lesions all over his body, which the viewer is given a proper look at while he is in bed with Alicent, who is understandably Not Into It. And then there’s the toll taken by all that heavy drinking and the overall stress of being king.
And now the most recent episode appears to have sealed Viserys’ fate.
Is Viserys really dead?
Episode 5, “We Light the Day,” shows Rhaenyra making good on her promise to her father and marrying Laenor Velaryon to heal the rift between the two powerful families. But by the time the wedding day arrives, Viserys is not a well man. He has been throwing up over the side of boats, collapsing all over the place, and is even coughing into a rag. In the world of TV tropes, that’s a death sentence right there.
Then, right after Rhaenyra and Laenor utter their vows in a private ceremony, Viserys collapses once again. And in all likelihood, it is for good this time. We see a rat feasting on some spilled blood in the hall, a portent of the many heirs who will now swoop in like vultures to pick over the king’s remains and attempt to take his crown for themselves.
And given that the entire cast is going to be aged up and portrayed by different actors following a time jump in an upcoming episode, this is probably the last we are going to see of Viserys and Paddy Considine.
However, there is a slender possibility that Viserys will live to reign another day.
Spoilers follow for the books
In Fire & Blood, Viserys does not die on Rhaenyra’s wedding day. Rhaenyra weds Laenor in the year 114 AC, while Viserys dies in 129 AC, under far less dramatic circumstances: while napping. His passing is kept a secret by Queen Alicent, who wants to secure her son Aegon’s claim to the throne before making the news public to anyone who might support Rhaenyra’s legitimacy as heir.
This is the incident that precipitates the schism in House Targaryan, however it is possible that the House of the Dragon writers have brought Viserys’ death forward in time for expediency’s sake, so that we can get into the Dance of the Dragons when the new cast arrives.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.