WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon season 1, episode 7!Viserys slips up by calling Alicent “Aemma” in House of the Dragon episode 7, which sets up his ending and Rhaenyra’s future. Marriages in the world of Game of Thrones are rarely for love, and while some arrangements end up fostering love, this isn’t the case for most couples. House of the Dragon proves that Viserys and Aemma were one of the rare couples who would never stop loving each other even after one dies, with this tragedy having notable effects on the King’s subsequent marriage to Alicent Hightower and his dedication to his daughter Rhaenyra.
The most obvious answer for why Viserys accidentally refers to Alicent as “Aemma” is that his mental capacity is quickly declining, meaning it won’t be long before the Stranger takes him and he can finally be reunited with his first wife. As the effects of his ailments and rapid aging take over, Viserys struggles with associating the correct words and names with those around him. It’s also extremely telling of where his feelings of love truly lie, as Viserys clearly associates his “wife” with Aemma rather than Alicent. She’s always in the back of his mind, even though Rhaenyra’s mother has been gone for around 15 years by House of the Dragon episode 7’s timeline. Viserys’ continued devotion to Aemma also underscores his fierce protection of Rhaenyra, as she’s the last piece of Aemma that the King still has left. Consequently, the name mix-up will certainly anger the Queen further in House of the Dragon, as it subtly exposes Viserys’ loyalties to Rhaenyra over Alicent and her children.
Did Viserys Ever Love Alicent?
Following Aemma’s tragic death, Viserys was expected to remarry, with his two main choices being the 12-year-old Laena Velaryon and 14-year-old Alicent Hightower. Hand of the King Otto Hightower had already been making moves to increase Alicent’s favor, with Viserys eventually choosing to take her as his wife due to their familiarity and ease. Viserys’ marriage to Alicent was certainly not out of a romantic love, nor did their relationship foster such deep feelings. King Viserys Targaryen and Alicent certainly share a love for one another, but they are not in love with each other as Viserys was with Aemma. Alicent isn’t naive enough to believe that Viserys loves her like he did Aemma, but maintaining appearances is extremely important for the members of House Targaryen. Slipping up by calling Alicent “Aemma” doesn’t hurt her because it exposes that he’s still in love with his first wife; it hurts because it undermines Alicent’s authority as Queen and the past two decades that she has spent caring for him and bearing his children.
What Viserys’ Undying Love For Aemma Means For Rhaenyra
Despite the clear indication that Viserys’ mental capacity is declining and his weakness as a King is growing, the person who benefits most from the name mix-up is Rhaenyra Targaryen. Viserys continuing to love Aemma above his new family reveals how desperate he’ll be to continue uplifting Rhaenyra and her children’s claims to the Iron Throne. He’ll undoubtedly be angry with Rhaenyra for marrying Daemon without his consent, but Viserys will still maintain that Rhaenyra is his heir due to the fact that he swore so on Aemma’s memory.
Viserys’ desire for a son ended up driving Aemma to an early grave, with the King not realizing until this point that she had already given him a suitable heir. Naming Rhaenyra his heir and protecting her is his penance for essentially driving Aemma to her death, meaning until the day he dies, it will always be Rhaenyra who he prioritizes. The same goes for Rhaenyra’s bastard sons, as they may not be legitimate, but they’re of the same flesh and blood as Aemma. Protecting Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey goes hand in hand with defending Rhaenyra and upholding his promise to Aemma’s memory, which is why Viserys has essentially chosen them over Alicent and her children.
Viserys’ Name Mix-Up Makes Alicent’s Resentment Even Worse
Alicent is already finding any reason to antagonize Rhaenyra, with the disrespect of Viserys calling her “Aemma” only making matters worse. Rhaenyra is an extension of Aemma, so since Alicent can’t be angry at Viserys for misremembering names in his frail state, she’ll take it out on Rhaenyra and her sons. Rhaenyra’s legitimacy is somewhat amplified by Viserys publicly exposing his continued love for his first wife, which leaves Alicent, Aegon, Aemond, and Helaena in a more vulnerable position ahead of Viserys’ death.
Part of the reason why Alicent attacked Rhaenyra in House of the Dragon episode 7 was that Viserys was openly demonstrating his preference for Rhaenyra and her children over Alicent and her kids. Alicent is continually blaming Rhaenyra for such developments, which is really because she can’t be angry with Viserys or else risk losing the Hightowers’ power in King’s Landing. This resentment will continue building until the moment Viserys dies, at which point the tensions boil over and the Targaryen civil war begins.
When (& How) King Viserys Targaryen Dies In HOTD
House of the Dragon has been building to Viserys’ inevitable death since the premiere, with it being quite shocking that the King has survived two major time jumps. After House of the Dragon episode 7’s ending, the series sees another time skip of around six years, which picks up with King Viserys being even closer to death. It’s unclear exactly what episode King Viserys will die in House of the Dragon, but it seems most likely that it will be episode 9, “The Green Council,” as the title indicates this includes the moment when Alicent, Otto, and Criston crown Aegon over Rhaenyra. Episode 9 is remembered as having the most twists and shocking moments in almost every season of Game of Thrones, so it would make sense for Viserys to die in this House of the Dragon installment.
While King Viserys I Targaryen had been suffering from illness for around two decades by this time, the manner of his death is still somewhat ambiguous in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood book. All that is said in the book is that King Viserys finally dies during a nap in the Red Keep, with Alicent and House of the Dragon’s green council concealing his death from the public for a week. It’s rumored that Alicent had poisoned Viserys’ wine that day in order to speed up the process of his death, but House of the Dragon will likely add a twist to this if it’s true. No matter the cause, once Viserys dies in House of the Dragon season 1, chaos and war will officially ensue.
New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO/HBO Max.