Warning: This is called Spoiler Space for a reason. The following contains details about key plot points and developments in House Of The Dragon episode 2.
Just in case we needed a reminder that some Westerosi customs are positively medieval, this week’s second installment of House Of The Dragon, titled “The Rogue Prince,” finds King Viserys in the position of having to choose a new wife just six months after the death of his beloved Queen Aemma. While everyone advises him to marry his 12-year-old first cousin once removed, he instead chooses the teenage daughter of his Hand. Somewhat better in comparison, but still not great. This one decision puts the characters on a fateful path with ramifications that will play out over the course of the season, and likely the next one (which HBO has already ordered).
But all this royal engagement talk had us wondering how much of an age difference there is between Viserys and his would-be brides. There’s no answer that’s going to make us comfortable with him marrying a literal child, but just to satisfy our curiosity we looked into it.
According to George R.R. Martin’s book Fire And Blood, which provides the inspiration for the show, Viserys was 28 at the time of his first wife Aemma Arryn’s death. Clearly the show’s writers have been messing with the timeline a bit here. In real life, Paddy Considine, who plays Viserys, is about to turn 49 (his birthday is Sept. 5). We’ll split the difference and estimate he’s around 40 on the show. Stress can cause premature aging, you know, and as a king he’s had more than his share of stress over the years. Plus, that silvery Targaryen hair makes it really hard to pin down an exact age anyway.
In this case we don’t have to go back to the source material or make any guesses about Laena’s (Nova Mosé-Foueillis) age. When Viserys asks Lord Strong for his “unencumbered” opinion, he gives the king a bunch of reasons why he should marry her: she comes from a wealthy, noble house; she has Targaryen blood; and marrying her will smooth things over with her father, the Sea Snake. “What’s to mislike?” he asks. Viserys gives the same answer most of us in the viewing audience would: “She is 12.” Not missing a beat, Lord Strong replies in all seriousness, “She will mature.” Seriously, why is Viserys the only outlier here? Even Rhaenyra and Rhaenys, who both have reservations about the match, just accept it as the way things are done in Westeros.
Once again, Viserys helpfully drops this little factoid during the episode. Speaking to Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) about his estranged relationship with his daughter since her mother’s death he says, “There are times when I’d rather face The Black Dread himself than mine own daughter of 15.” Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) may seem mature for her age—and her responsibilities have grown now that she’s officially the heir to the Iron Throne—but as we saw in this episode, she can’t always reign in the teenage girl inside. Especially in the presence of the very pretty Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Fortunately her father is too concerned with his own marital conundrum to consider finding a suitable match for her yet. When it comes to continuing the royal line, though, it’s only a matter of time.
The Lady Alicent is another character who’s had a change in age for the show. In the book she’s nine years older than Princess Rhaenyra. They are cordial to each other, but not very close. For the show, the writers aged Alicent down, making her and Rhaenyra not just contemporaries but the best of friends. So that puts her somewhere around 15, 16, or even 17. It only makes it more devastating when the king announces his intention to marry Alicent at the end of this episode. The look of betrayal on her friend’s face suggests a wound that won’t easily be healed. Seems like there’s a lot of that going around in the Red Keep right now.