House of the Dragon primarily concerns itself with who will sit on the Iron Throne, but another royal competition is brewing beneath this main conflict: Who will be crowned the true drama king of the Seven Kingdoms?
There are a few prerequisites to being a drama king. First, and most obviously, you must have a flair for the dramatic. Second, you must be fun to watch. And third, you must commit to wringing every ounce of drama out of every second you’re on screen. A famous example of a House of the Dragon drama king 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 has stolen a dragon egg, charged alone into enemy territory, named himself King of the Narrow Sea, romanced his niece at her own wedding, and murdered his wife while rocking a sinister murder cloak. He’s been racking up drama points left and right, but as of episode 8, “The Lord of the Tides,” a new challenger has made himself known.
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That challenger is Prince Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell), who combines the volatility of a young Daemon with extreme pettiness and the aesthetic of an anime character. The result is appropriately unhinged, 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’s bullied by his brother and nephews for not having a dragon. A scene where they gift him with a pig with wings is genuinely 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’s gained a dragon, the eye-gouging still remains a wound between Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent’s (Olivia Cooke) families.
Credit: Ollie Upton / HBO
In the six years between episodes 7 and 8, that wound lingers and festers, and Aemond grows from dragon-obsessed child to adult menace. Suddenly, he’s beating Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) in fights. He’s giving Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon (Harry Collett and Elliot Grihault) a piercing blue stare of death. He’s accessorizing with a trendy leather eye patch. In short, he’s committing to the demeanor and the look of being a drama king.
Do yourself a favor and watch back through “The Lord of the Tides,” this time paying extra special attention to Aemond whenever he’s onscreen — even in the background. He is just oozing high drama. Mitchell is pursing his lips and smirking like his life depends on it, and it is glorious villainous fun. Seriously, the look of admiration 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 is delivering, and he is taking notes! When these two drama kings face off… Worlds will change.
Aemond’s best moment in “The Lord of the Tides” comes when he gives a toast insulting his nephews. He calls them “handsome, 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 make a toast, starting with compliments, pausing oh-so-intensely before delivering the killing blow. It’s like Aemond was reading my mind and found everything I want in a chaotic side villain.
The excellence doesn’t stop there: Jace (rightly) punches Aemond in the face, but does Aemond seem fazed? Hell no. Instead, he shoves Jace right back, all without spilling a drop of his wine. Cersei Lannister, famous lover of wine, would surely be impressed.
Keep in mind that Aemond’s toast spoils the conciliatory feast King Viserys (Paddy Considine) fought so hard for in his last hours alive. Things were looking 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 headed into the Dance of the Dragons. Yet to sow that much discord with just a few well-placed words? I have to admire it. Keep doing you, Aemond: You’re a bastard (figuratively; I would never question your parentage), but I can’t wait to see what you do next.