Sunday Dragon’s House was a standout episode for HBO’s new show of ThronesTurns the wheel of court intrigue all the way to the 11th. There’s still the usual drama of succession, old rivals facing off for the first time in years, and an unexpectedly humorous beheading.
You know, normal.
[Ed. note: Major spoilers follow for episode 8 of House of the Dragon.]
In this episode, a petition was called for who would inherit Driftmark from Corlys Velaryonwho seems to have suffered a nasty wound in Steps. This petition is organized by Queen Alicent and her father, Hand of the King Ser Otto Hightowerand quite a few potential heirs ready to make their profile.
One of those heirs was Corlys’ brother, Vaemond. Vaemond, played by Wil Johnson with a scene-stealing intensity, has a particularly poignant case, as it is based on the illegitimacy of the children of Princess Rhaenyra, a hot button theme for the program and the court.
Vaemond, like the others, had expected to make his case before Queen Alicent and Ser Otto. He did, but soon after, King Viserys, wearing a sick gold mask, made a surprise appearance on the Iron Throne. When he immediately stopped the proceedings, indicating that the matter had been decided and that he had designated Rhaenyra as his heir (and her children as Driftmark heirs), this angered Vaemond.
Vaemond not only challenged the king’s right to make such decisions, he also called Rhaenyra’s children bastards and the princess herself a “whore.” Viserys replied, “I’ll have his tongue for that!” and, sure enough, his brother Daemon (now Rhaenyra’s consort, who practically begged Vaemond for a chance to kill him) leaves Vaemond’s head from behind.
Vaemond’s body collapses on the ground, and the camera is tilted in such a way that we see the top of his now exposed neck hole – showing his still wiggling tongue and no what else. Daemon, in typical sage style, replied, “He can keep his tongue.”
It’s a brutally hilarious action that effectively breaks the tension of your sitting out in the street with a visual punchline crisscrossed by dialogue jokes. And the fact that the performance was bold enough to combine the beheading with a camera shot turned it from evil to transcendental comedy. The guy was waving his tongue at the king and was shrunk to simply waving his tongue. It’s gold, guys.
The humor of the moment is also greatly supported by Daemon’s Full Deal. Carpenter is at his best as an impression. We saw it in Dragon’s Houseand we even saw it in Morbius when he dances in his apartment. Here he can bring that energy to the dark world of Thrones, causing potential enemies to speak just the right thing to allow him to kill without any reaction, all with the evil grin on his face as he actually begs Vaemond to go there. Thank the gods he did, as it delivered one of the show’s most memorable moments to date.