Dragon House is mainly concerned with who will sit on the Iron Throne, but another royal competition is brewing under this main conflict: who will be crowned the true king of the drama of the Seven Kingdoms?
There are a few prerequisites to be a drama king. First, and most obviously, you need to have a flair for the dramatic. Second, you have to be fun to watch. And third, you have to commit to pulling every ounce of drama out of every second on screen. A famous example of Dragon House the king of drama is the Crabfeeder (Daniel Scott-Smith), whose striking gold mask and carnivorous crabs scream Westerosi Bond villain.
Then there’s the original drama king, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). Throughout the show, Daemon stole a dragon egg, accused only in enemy territory, named himself King of the Narrow Sea, romanced his niece at his own wedding, and murdered his wife while wearing a sinister murder cape. He racked up dramatic points left and right, but starting in Episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides,” a new challenger rose to prominence.
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That challenger is Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), who combines the volatility of a young demon with extreme pettiness and the aesthetic of an anime character. The result is perfectly unbalanced and, as is the case with many villains, extremely fun to watch.
When we first meet Aemond as a child (played by Leo Ashton), he is bullied by his brother and nephews for not having a dragon. A scene where they give him a pig with wings is really sad – you can’t help but feel for him! However, Aemond way overcompensates by claiming and taming Vhagar, the largest and oldest of the living dragons. A fight with his Velaryon nephews and cousins ensues, during which he loses an eye. Although Aemond triumphantly points out that he won a dragon, the gouged out eye remains a wound between the families of Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent (Olivia Cooke).
He lost an eye, but gained a dragon.
Credit: Ollie Upton/HBO
In the six years between episodes 7 and 8, this wound lingers and festers, and Aemond grows from a dragon-obsessed child to an adult menace. Suddenly, he defeats Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) in fights. He gives Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon (Harry Collett and Elliot Grihault) a piercing blue stare of death. It accessorizes with a trendy leather eye patch. In short, he engages in the behavior and the look of being a drama king.
Do yourself a favor and look back through “The Lord of the Tides,” this time paying special attention to Aemond whenever he’s onscreen, even in the background. It just oozes high drama. Mitchell purses her lips and smiles like her life depends on it, and it’s glorious, wicked fun. Seriously, the look of awe and excitement on his face after Daemon slices Vaemond Velaryon’s (Wil Johnson) head in half is something to behold. Aemond sees what dramatic legend Daemon delivers, and he takes notes! When these two kings of drama collide… Worlds will change.
Aemond’s best moment in “The Lord of the Tides” comes when he toasts his nephews insultingly. He calls them “beautiful, wise…strong” in a not-at-all-subtle jab at their illegitimate father, Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). Everything about this moment is drama king perfection: seizing the moment to toast, starting with compliments, taking such an intense pause before delivering the killing blow. It’s like Aemond read my mind and found everything I wanted in a chaotic villainous side.
The excellence doesn’t stop there: Jace (correctly) punches Aemond in the face, but does Aemond look confused? Surely not. Instead, he pushes Jace away, all without spilling a drop of his wine. Famous wine lover Cersei Lannister would surely be impressed.
Keep in mind that Aemond’s toast spoils the conciliatory feast that King Viserys (Paddy Considine) fought so hard for in his last hours of life. Things seemed tentatively decent for Rhaenyra and Alicent’s families before he went ahead and mocked his nephews. I wouldn’t blame you if you yelled at him to shut up while watching the episode — I certainly did. Now, because of him, tensions between the Targaryen children are higher than ever in the Dance of the Dragons. Yet, sow so much discord with a few well-placed words? I have to admire it. Keep doing you, Aemond: you’re a bastard (figuratively speaking; I would say never question your parentage), but I can’t wait to see what you do next.
New Dragon House episodes are available every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.(opens in a new tab)