[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Fire & Blood, which, by nature, will spoil later events in House of the Dragon. It also discusses the pilot episode of House in detail. Ye be warned.]
King Viserys, the first of his name, is not going through the best of times when we catch up with him on HBO house of the dragon. Though he eagerly awaited the birth of a new son and heir, he is quick to mourn the death of the newborn alongside that of his wife, who died in childbirth (more on that later). Shortly thereafter, he finds himself betrayed by his brother, who spoke callously about the Queen’s death. When it rains, it pours down, and Viserys is caught in a torrent.
Of course he’s not there for long. Visery’s reign ends relatively quickly in Fire & Bloodthe prequel book written by George RR Martin a house based on. In a way, Viserys gets the Ned Stark slot: a season one father who hopes to prove his children right, ultimately leaving behind incredible chaos for them and the realm.
Aware the connection exists, Paddy Considine, who plays Viserys, doesn’t look well for his Targaryen ruler.
“Ned Stark and what Sean [Bean] was kind of in my head when I was playing this,” Considine tells Polygon. “It was sort of part of the makeup of Viserys for me. He’s not an easy man, Viserys, and I think the situations around him create complications for him.”
Viserys, the fifth ruler of the Targaryen family to sit on the Iron Throne, is instantly disconnected from the needs of the world and is acutely aware of how he falls short. In a series marked by people born into the Force who only crave more of it, Viserys ascends the throne at a time of relative stability – and consequently, to him, power is literally nothing but trouble. He is a peacetime king, anxious to keep it that way, even at the cost of burying growing problems (see: Lord Corly’s Council presentation on the triarchy). When his wife Aemma dies in childbirth along with his newborn son Baelon, the rifts of the realm have begun to pierce the inner world of Viserys as well.
“I think all Viserys ever wanted to do was make the right decision. And that’s not possible,” says Considine. “You can’t please everyone as a person. But above all as a ruler. […] He’s just someone who sincerely wants to serve people as best he can, but this world just won’t allow it.”
That doesn’t mean he’s progressive. The best that can be said for his actions in the pilot episode house of the dragon is that he killed his wife in childbirth because he thought she was going to die anyway, and that he might be able to save his son. Viserys rose to power past his cousin Rhaenys simply because he was a man and she wasn’t. Because of the patriarchy he lives in and doesn’t question, Viserys has lived a life of privilege.
“There’s a lot of misogyny in this world and in this kingdom, but it’s not — you can’t transfer your modern ideas to a character who lives in an old world,” Considine says of his “father of daughters.” “That was the way of the world back then. And I don’t think Viserys made Rhaenyra his heir for progressive reasons. It’s not, it wouldn’t apply to the world.”
While Ned Stark obviously benefited from the same system, his virtue and strong moral code made him more of a role model, even if he acted a bit stupid. Ultimately, right or wrong, Ned Stark was determined and incorruptible. And Viserys is far less sure of himself. Even his great moment of innovation when he proclaimed Rhaenyra heir to the throne reads Considine more as sadness: he loves her, he trusts her, and she is the last remnant of the “love of his life”.
And so the Big Get for Westeros feminism becomes something twisted. Rhaenyra is given a target on her back and a life that (at least on one reading of the pilot) she doesn’t want too surely. And Viserys – well, he thinks he just cursed another person he loves with the ultimate burden of the Force.
“After watching [Game of Thrones], which seems to have driven most people. And it corrupts people,” says Considine. “But it corrupts Viserys in other ways. It doesn’t corrupt his morale, but the burden of it becomes so great that he begins to unravel. […] It’s not power that corrupts him. It is the responsibility that destroys him.”
https://www.polygon.com/23289594/house-of-the-dragon-viserys-ned-stark Paddy Considine knows his House of Dragon Kings is no Ned Stark