DISCLAIMER: This recap of the House of the Dragon episode “The Lord of the Tides” has spoilers. Prepare for fire and blood, and proceed at your peril. 

Welcome back, dragonriders! “The Lord of the Tides” is, undoubtedly, House of the Dragon‘s strongest outing thus far. If Paddy Considine isn’t at least nominated for an Emmy, I’ll riot. The performance he delivers in this episode alone should garner him accolades aplenty. The amount of physical exertion it ostensibly took to act like he’s dying of leprosy … my mind can’t comprehend it. And through it all, he still doled out heart-wrenching, nuanced work. Bravo. 

Everyone delivers solid performances, including the newcomers to the show. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so tense during a family dinner. 

Ready to delve into “The Lord of the Tides”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with Rhaenys (Eve Best) sitting on the Driftwood Throne in Corlys’s stead at Driftmark. Baela (Bethany Antonia) stands next to her grandmother while Vaemond (Wil Johnson) fills Rhaenys in on the extent of Corlys’s injuries. We learn she hasn’t seen her lord husband in six years, as he was fighting in the Stepstones. After taking a dagger to the throat, he fell into the sea and succumbed to fever. 

Of course, with the Sea Snake clinging precariously to life, Vaemond calls into question the line of succession. Baela believes her grandma looks quite comfortable perched atop the Driftwood Throne. Rhaenys reminds Vaemond that Corlys named Lucerys as his heir. However, Vaemond believes he’s more suited to the role as Corlys’s brother. 

Vaemond Velaryon stands in a throne room while wearing a black and gold coat in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Meanwhile, on Dragonstone, Daemon (Matt Smith) fetches three dragon eggs for his and Rhaenyra’s children. He receives a note from Baela on Driftmark, informing him that Vaemond plans to sail to King’s Landing to make his case to the king. Inside the castle, Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) watches with amusement while Jacaerys (Harry Collett) tries to learn High Valyrian from Maester Gerardys (Phil Daniels). We see young Joffrey playing in the corner.

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Daemon enters with the note from Baela. Rhaenyra asserts that Vaemond will poke holes in Luke’s inheritance of Driftmark and her claim to the Iron Throne. Daemon suggests he and his wife make a beeline for King’s Landing. On a separate note, I love Rhaenyra’s dress in this scene. 

Later, we see Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Otto (Rhys Ifans) in a small council meeting, listening to Lord Beesbury (Bill Paterson) drone on about the Stepstones. Grand Maester Mellos is no longer with us, but Orwyle (Kurt Egyiawan) now fills that role. Alicent learns about Rhaenyra’s arrival, and the council briefly bickers about the line of succession to the Driftwood Throne. Beesbury defends Luke’s right to hold his future seat, as it’s Corlys’s wish. Beesbury’s one of the only good ones, folks. 

Jacaerys Velaryon stands in front of a table while looking intently at something off screen in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Then, Rhaenyra and Daemon visit Viserys (Considine) in his chambers. Oof. He looks rough. The makeup department deserves an Emmy just for doing Considine’s makeup in this episode. Viserys seems to forget who’s before him until Rhaenyra reminds him. She also introduces him to his new grandsons, Aegon and Viserys. Initially, Daemon looks shocked by the sight of his brother, but his features soften once it wears off, and we see only love there. 

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Rhaenyra encourages her father to support her claim, reaffirming the title he gave her nearly two decades ago. Daemon informs Viserys about the resumed fighting in the Stepstones since the Triarchy made a comeback. Meanwhile, Alicent comforts a serving girl, Dyana (Maddie Evans), who Aegon raped. I hate him so much. Alicent believes her and gives her moon tea. Admittedly, I was so scared for Dyana. I thought Alicent was going to kill her or order her death.

Aegon Targaryen sits at a table for dinner while looking suspiciously at something off screen in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Next, Alicent rebukes her son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) for his actions, emphasizing that everything he does falls back on her. Plus, Aegon refuses to think about his wife, Helaena. Helaena (Phia Saban) asks where Dyana is, as it’s time for her to dress the children. At this point, I’m assuming she’s given birth to her twins, Jaehaera and Jaehaerys. 

Alicent finally reunites with Rhaenyra and Daemon in Viserys’s quarters. Daemon puts Alicent in her place as only Daemon can, finding it disrespectful that Alicent wasn’t there to greet them. I love that he doesn’t stand for Alicent nor address her as “Your Grace.” It also doesn’t sit well with Rhaenyra and Daemon that Alicent and her father will oversee the succession case. Also, why is the Red Keep bereft of the Targaryen standard? Fishy!

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Meanwhile, Jace and Luke (Elliot Grihault) watch while Criston (Fabien Frankel) dukes it out with Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Aemond spots his nephews and wonders if they’re there to train. However, the doors open, and Vaemond enters with his retinue from Driftmark. Vaemond meets with Alicent and Otto to discuss his claim. Otto ostensibly supports Vaemond inheriting the Driftwood Throne. 

Rhaena (Phoebe Campbell) reunites with her grandmother Rhaenys, and hot on their heels is Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra chats with Rhaenys in the godswood. She asks the latter to support Luke’s claim to Driftmark. Rhaenys sees right through the princess’s ruse, mainly because she utilizes Rhaena as a buffer to soften the blow of her request. Rhaenyra proposes a betrothal between her sons and Rhaenys’s granddaughters — Baela will wed Jace, and Rhaena will marry Luke. Rhaenys rejects the proposal. 

Aemond Targaryen stands by a dinner table while holding a glass of wine to toast someone in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Then, Rhaenyra sits beside her father while he slumbers that night. She begs him to guide her. We finally see the burden of becoming queen weighing on Rhaenyra’s shoulders, especially the decades-long conflict between her and Alicent. D’Arcy shines here. She asks Viserys if “The Song of Ice and Fire” is true, but he’s in too much pain and in a haze of confusion to answer. 

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Later, Otto observes while the maesters dress Viserys’s wounds. We see the full extent of his leprosy. Seriously, give this department all the accolades. Viserys wishes to sup with his family that evening and asks Otto to arrange the event. Otto sits on the Iron Throne to oversee the succession debacle. Vaemond steps forward to make his case first. He claims that it’s about blood, not houses. He’s a true Velaryon, while Luke isn’t. The tension between everyone is so thick you can cut it with a rusty butter knife. 

Daemon Targaryen, Rhaenyra Targaryen, Lucerys Velaryon, Rhaena Targaryen and Rhaenys Targaryen stand in the throne room while looking solemn in House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 8, "The Lord of the Tides."

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Rhaenyra stakes her claim next, but she’s interrupted by the arrival of a latecomer. Viserys hobbles into the throne room, donning his royal finery. He wears a mask that conceals half of his face. Yes, I’ll refrain from making Phantom of the Opera jokes. It’s too easy. Nobody assists him until he gets to the steps before the throne. Viserys insists on going it alone, but Daemon’s there to help when he stumbles. Daemon and his brother ascend the stairs together, and the former places the crown on the king’s head. I’m not crying; you are

Viserys reminds the court that Corlys made Luke his heir to Driftmark as the king made Rhaenyra the heir to the Seven Kingdoms. He asks Rhaenys to speak on Corlys’s behalf. Not only does she throw her support behind Luke, but she approves the betrothals between Rhaenyra’s sons and her granddaughters. Plot twist! Vaemond is irate. He speaks insolently to the king before turning his ire on Rhaenyra and her sons. Vaemond calls his nephews “bastards” and the princess a “whore.”

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Viserys shakily procures his blade, threatening to have Vaemond’s tongue for his treasonous language. However, Daemon swiftly removes Vaemond’s head with Dark Sister save the latter’s tongue. “He can keep it,” Daemon says. Admittedly, it’s a badass line. Later, Rhaenys watches in stony silence while the silent sisters prepare Vaemond’s body for the voyage back to Driftmark. That poor woman. She’s experienced more loss than anyone. 

Next, we see the family gathered for a feast. Viserys arrives on a chair, and he’s carried to the table. Jace sits next to Baela, his betrothed, with Aegon on the other side. Aegon incessantly pesters Jace about having sex for the first time. Baela urges Jace to ignore him. Viserys stands and removes his mask. We see he’s missing his right eye and a good chunk of the right side of his face. He delivers a moving monologue about wanting his family, the most important people in his life, to let bygones be bygones. Mend fences! He won’t be around forever. Everyone around the table, save maybe Aemond, looks genuinely touched by his words. This is Considine’s Emmy submission. 

Rhaenyra Targaryen stands in the throne room while wearing a black dress with red trim and looking pensive.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Rhaenyra is hot on his heels in the speech department, delivering her remarks regarding Alicent and her loyalty to the king. Rhaenyra apologizes for the rift between them. Alicent, moved, also gives a toast to Rhaenyra and her house. Toasts all around! Aegon makes another unsavory dig at Jace, and he almost reacts angrily. However, he turns it into a toast to his uncles. Helaena provides a toast to Baela and Rhaena, telling them that marriage isn’t so bad because “he ignores you.” Admittedly, this candid statement made me laugh out loud. 

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Then, Jace asks Helaena to dance with him, much to Aegon’s dismay. Aemond One-Eye watches the display in silence. Rhaenyra and Daemon laugh together. Otto smiles while Alicent laughs. Yes, full-on smiles. It’s a Christmas miracle. Aemond stands, offering a toast to his nephews. He rattles off a list of descriptors for them. Before he gets to “strong,” we see Alicent silently plead with him not to say it. And they say there’s no humor in the Game of Thrones universe.

Anyway, he calls them “strong,” prompting Jace to act. Jace, Aegon, Luke and Aemond battle it out, but Daemon steps in before it gets too ugly. At this point, Viserys already went to bed. Rhaenyra orders her sons — and Baela and Rhaena — to go to their chambers. Alicent urges Rhaenyra to stay. She reaches for Rhaenyra’s arm. The layers of enmity peel away, revealing the center of what used to be a treasured friendship underneath. After seeing her family home to Dragonstone, Rhaenyra vows to return to King’s Landing on Syrax. 

Alicent Hightower stands tall with her hands folded in front of her while wearing a green gown.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON — Season 1 Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides.” Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO.

Meanwhile, Talya (Alexis Raben), a maid of the Red Keep, meets with Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno). It appears she’s one of Mysaria’s informants, who keeps an eye on the royal proceedings. We return to the king’s chambers, wherein Alicent comforts an ailing Viserys. She feeds him milk of the poppy to alleviate his pain.

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Viserys tells her that Aegon’s Dream, “The Song of Ice and Fire,” is true. Aegon saw it all — he saw what would happen in the North. “The Prince That Was Promised” will protect the realm. Alicent misunderstands her husband, thinking he’s referring to their son, not Aegon the Conqueror. Unfortunately, Viserys believes he’s talking to Rhaenyra, not Alicent. 

When she departs, Viserys lies there, his breathing ragged and shallow. He whispers, “No more.” Then, he reaches out his hand. I think he sees Aemma here. Finally, he utters, “My love,” before his breathing stops. 

RIP, Viserys Targaryen. 

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“The Lord of the Tides” is a brilliant entry in the Game of Thrones universe. It’s compelling, tense, heartbreaking and poignant, dressed in scintillating royal politics and high-stakes drama. I don’t think I can say enough about the performances, notably Considine, D’Arcy, Smith, Best and Cooke. The facial expressions and charged glances tell us everything, even when there’s no dialogue. I’ll never get over how Daemon looks at Rhaenyra and Viserys in this episode. These powerhouse performers know how to communicate effectively without uttering a word. 

The dinner almost makes you believe they might mend fences. Rhaenyra and Alicent seem intent on letting things go. Alicent even remarks that Rhaenyra will make a fine queen. However, generational trauma and bitter rivalry run deep in the veins of their children. 

Viserys’s passing doesn’t happen on the night of the dinner, so the writers rush toward the Dance at a breakneck pace. Alicent’s misunderstanding regarding Aegon will fuel the fire since Viserys is now dead. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead. 

Since Daemon killed Vaemond, will Rhaenys and Corlys support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne? Will Alicent and Otto fight even harder to crown Aegon with Viserys gone? We’ve got two episodes left in the season, folks. It’s gonna get ugly. 

House of the Dragon drops new episodes every Sunday at 9 pm EST on HBO and HBO Max

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