The ‘House Of The Dragon’ Contenders Vs. Defenders Following Those ‘Lord Of The Tides’ Skirmishes

House of the Dragon’s eighth episode, “Lord of the Tides” has everything: a final time jump, a dramatic family dinner, a (deserved) beheading, and a heartbreaking character death. It’s a spectacular hour of television, grounded by a few mesmerizing performances, a visceral score, and another shocking plot twist that left us hanging from the cliff’s edge … of our own sanity.

So, what does all of that mean for the line of succession? Let’s recap.

The Pretenders

Vaemond Velaryon House Of The Dragon

Vaemond Velaryon

Vaemond Velaryon gets to keep his tongue this week but he loses his head instead which, considering the swine that spewed from his mouth in the throne room, is a generosity we didn’t think Daemon was capable of. It’s clear Vaemond has always resented Rhaenyra’s children – he interrupted his niece’s funeral to lob some petty digs at the then prepubescent children in episode seven – but his gung-ho attitude when it came to usurping his brother’s throne before he was cold in his watery grave was surprising all the same. How long was he conspiring with the Hightowers to make this chess move and why did no one notice? His ability to bring the succession dispute all the way to King’s Landing and force Rhaenyra to defend her claim should worry Team Black fans because clearly, one side of this rivalry is better at political gameplay than the other. Thankfully, Vaemond couldn’t suppress his toxic personality for long enough to let House Targaryen implode on itself – instead throwing some pretty unoriginal insults Rhaneyra’s way and getting his head lobbed off in the process. Rest in … whatever the opposite of peace is, my dude.

Otto Hightower

At first glance, it seems Otto is sitting pretty as King Regent while his old buddy rots like a slab of month-old deli meat that’s made residence in the darkest corner of a cluttered fridge. He’s ruling alongside his daughter, he’s creating fissures and fractures in Team Black’s alliance by backing Vaemond’s claim to the Driftmark throne, and he’s installed some god-awful décor in the Red Keep. This is what winning looks like to a scheming, dried-up prune who doesn’t believe a woman should rule the Seven Kingdoms – or that beard oil is really a thing. But he’s only amassed such power because Rhaenyra and Daemon have been absent from Kings Landing and the fact that their mere presence galvanizes the king to do what’s right, sways his daughter’s loyalties, and exposes the weaknesses in his own choice for heir, speaks volumes. This guy is only as dangerous as the Targaryens allow him to be.

Aegon Targaryen

Speaking of royal impotence, Aegon is fully on his Joffrey Baratheon bullsh*t this week, sexually assaulting young chambermaids and crying to his mother afterward. Unlike Cersei, Alicent seems to have a more difficult time excusing her boy’s bad behavior, even disinheriting him at one point – which, let’s be honest, this episode can’t possibly mark the first time she’s done that – but she still protects him from any real consequences meaning he continues to learn zero lessons and make a fool of himself at family dinners. Gods help the realm if this kid becomes king.

The Contenders

House of the Dragon Rhaenyra Targaryen

Rhaenyra Targaryen

We don’t begrudge Rhaenyra a few years of peace with her children and baby daddy on Dragonstone, but this episode proved she’s been away from King’s Landing for far too long. Her father’s a bleached potato, her frenemy has Joanna Gaines-ed her childhood home, and her nephews have been training for battle while her own boys try to perfect their Valyrian accents. Even if the hope is to avoid a war for the throne, you have to be prepared for the worst possible outcome. That comes with the job of being queen. Despite this glaring lack of foresight, Rhaenyra manages to light a spark in her decrepit old dad, reaffirming her son’s claim – and by extension, her own – making alliances with her estranged aunt, and even almost repairing her friendship with Alicent. Things went really, really well for Rhaenyra this week … naturally, we’re terrified.

Viserys Targaryen

Viserys Targaryen was a good man, but he made for a terrible king. That fact is probably the most tragic truth of this show. A sense of morality and justice really has no place in the game for the iron throne and because he lacked the cutthroat nature to command that sharply-pointed seat it eventually killed him. What we will say about Viserys in this episode is that he tried. To make amends for his poor choices. To right the wrongs he’d been complicit in. To mend bridges we thought had been burned decades earlier. Did he succeed? Probably not, but Paddy Considine gave a heartbreaking final performance that highlighted the best of who Viserys was – a man who truly loved his daughter and wanted his family to prosper. Rest in actual peace, my king.

Rhaenys Targaryen

Even after all of that sweet, sentimental b.s. we just said about Viserys, if Rhaenys had been placed on the Iron Throne in his stead, we would not be having these problems, okay? Not only has she competently ruled Driftmark in her husband’s stead – six years fighting in the Step Stones is one hell of a way to have a mid-life crisis, Corlys – but she also uses this question of succession to her advantage, in more ways than one. She gains power over the woman she believes had her son killed, she ensures her granddaughters are heirs to both the Iron Throne and House Velaryon’s seat, and she deposes of a particularly grating nuisance with her brother-in-law’s beheading. All by keeping her mouth shut, letting the vipers around her panic, and speaking little and only when necessary. A true queen.

Daemon Targaryen

Daemon Targaryen is firmly in his malewife era at the moment. He’s hunting for dragon’s eggs, he’s having babies with his niece – yeah, still weird – he’s number one stepdad to Rhaenyra’s sons. Life at Dragonstone is pretty f*cking blissful so, naturally, the chaos at King’s Landing must ruin it. The good thing about more succession drama this week means we get to see a bit of sass from this domesticated dragon while he sizes up his nephew Aemond and pokes holes in the Hightower plot for the throne. Even when he struggles to look upon the melting garbage bag that is his older brother, Daemon is fighting for his family’s legacy, pushing Viserys to defend Rhaenyra’s claim whenever he can, helping the old bag-o-bones crawl his way to the throne, and slicing heads off challengers’ necks. We low-key missed how messy Daemon can be, even without his “time to commit crime” hoodie.

Aemond Targaryen

Someone on social media labeled Prince Aemond the “SHEIN Daemon Targaryen” and we can’t think of a more accurate way to describe this one-eyed sh*tstirrer. He’s like a caged lion afflicted with a touch of rabies – always pacing and prowling and scheming behind that sadly basic eyepatch. He’s clearly being set up as a worthy rival for his uncle – on the battlefield and off – but his motivations are a bit murky. Does he want his brother to rule? Would he like the crown for himself? The ambiguity of this guy is what makes him so menacing and, we have to admit, so fun to watch.

Alicent Hightower

Alicent Hightower is miserable. Normally, that would be cause for celebration, but somehow Olivia Cooke makes us feel for the woman in this episode. Her eldest son is a rapist, her other one is a one-eyed devil, her daughter acts like Luna Lovegood, her husband is missing half his face, and her father is strong-arming her into committing treason on the daily. And then, on top of all of this, her former best friend arrives, glowingly pregnant with her beautifully blended family and a hot side piece who’s so devoted to her he will chop men’s heads off in the throne room without blinking an eye. Let this woman run off to join a convent like she so clearly wants to do. Instead, despite making some headway in her relationship with Rhaenyra this week, she’s forced to, once again, put Viserys’ wishes above her own – even if she is misunderstanding exactly what those wishes are. Alicent will never truly win the game of thrones but she’s playing it the best she can given the circumstances and dammit, we feel bad about that.

House of the Dragons airs on Sunday nights at 9:00pm EST.