Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of House of the Dragon.House of the Dragon takes the theme of inheritance from game of Thrones and expands upon them. if game of Thrones questioned what qualities defined a good leader, House of the Dragon considers the factors that have prevented rulers from ever taking the throne. Obviously, societal stigmas based on sexuality, gender, and race are a huge factor, but House of the Dragon also deals with the inherent tragedy of being a “second son.” daemon (Matt Smith), Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), and Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) all live within the shadow of older brothers who they must show reverence for.
Having to respect someone as a ruler might make it hard to love them as a sibling. While Daemon and Lucerys ultimately find a common cause with their older brothers, Aemond has a hard time connecting with his family. It’s fitting that the season is initiated with a passing insult that Daemon made about Viserys (Paddy Considine), and it ends with the slaying of one “second son” at another’s hand. Aemond may have been responsible for starting the Dance of Dragons, but the series has not turned him into a clear-cut villain.
Like many of the characters in the series, Aemond is both a victim and an abuser. He was relentlessly bullied at a young age and adopts his fearsome personality in order to prove that he has the strength to endure. While this complexity wasn’t present in George R.R. Martin‘s original text of Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon indicates that Aemond never intended to thrust his family into a civil war. He’s forced to fight for a dynasty that has never respected him; Aemond has become one of the most tragic and terrifying characters heading into Season 2.
Aemond Might Seem Like Daemon But His Issues Run Deeper
although House of the Dragon has been done at some points for its time jumps, the flashbacks featuring a younger version of Aemond (Leo Ashton) are pivotal in setting up his character arc. Aemond is relentlessly bullied by his older brother, Aegon II (Ty Tennant), who mocks him for not having a dragon. Aegon II is already one of the most unlikeable characters in the series, and Aemond’s childhood wounds last with him into adulthood. Daemon has a complicated but ultimately loving relationship with his brother Viserys, but Aemond shows no respect for the older Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) when they both grow up.
It’s important that Aemond is not just a carbon copy of Daemon; while Daemon does n’t actually want the Iron Throne for himself, Aemond realizes that he’s more suited to lead than his abusive older brother. He knows that anything that Alicent (Olivia Cooke) tells Aegon II will fall upon deaf ears; their mother is helpless to prevent her son from acting out. There’s a part of Aemond that is deeply insecure; if he is a member of the “House of the Dragon,” why has he not been given a beast of his own?
An Eye For A Dragon
Another passage from Fire & Blood that is expanded with more detail in House of the Dragon is the beautiful sequence where Aemond claims Vhagar. Although dragons were featured heavily in the marketing campaign for the series, the first season managed to bidet its time setting up the show’s true stars. The moment when a bold young Aemond walks onto the beach to approach the former dragon of Laena Velaryon (Nanna Blondell) is anxiety-inducing. The viewer knows that Vhagar is not only the largest and oldest dragon in the world, but might also question how quickly Vhagar would adjust to a new rider.
However, Aemond’s awe, fear, and joy as her rides Vhagar for the first time is truly wondrous. He shows the same reverence for the mighty creatures that Daenerys (Emilia Clark) showed for her children in the early seasons of game of Thrones. He’s obviously clumsy and awkward but he stays strong because he knows the importance of what he’s done. While Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) later claims that this was an important strategic move, it’s doubtful Aemond saw it that way. He simply wanted to be an equal within his family. He did not have the privilege of riding a dragon at a young age like his older brother, sister, or cousins and he was mocked for it.
The confrontation between Aemond and the younger Jacaerys (Leo Hart), Lucerys (Harvey Sadler), Baela (Shani Smethurst), and Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) represents the best of what game of Thrones could be; it’s a challenging skirmish between two sides that the viewers are equally invested in. Obviously, Baela and Rhaena feel that Aemond has disrespected their mother’s memory, and Rhaena herself, also dragonless, wanted to claim Vhagar for herself. However, Aemond has been transformed from bonding with Vhagar and stands up to the four other children when he might not have before.
The Dance of Dragons
The second time jump does a great job at adjusting Mitchell into the role of an older Aemond. In the years that have passed, Aemond has trained himself to become someone who will never be mocked again. He looks to instill fear into others, in the same way that he was fearful as a boy. Aemond’s callous remarks at the dinner table in “The Lord of Tides” are clearly words he’s been stewing on for a long time; he strategizes his comments in the same way that he might plan a battle.
It’s notable that Aemond doesn’t immediately give his brother any more respect once he’s named as King; he even remarks to Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) that he “intends to be found” if someone came to him with the crown instead. However, Aemond serves dutifully, honoring his family first. The opportunity to confront Lucerys at Storm’s End isn’t one he accepts because of familial loyalty; he does so to get revenge.
However, it’s clear once the dragons take flight that neither cousin has complete control over the situation. Aemond is unable to control Vhagar’s actions, similar to the confusion he experienced during his first flight. Aemond only gradually realizes the gravity of the situation; his desire for revenge may have thrust the entire Targaryen dynasty into a war that they may not endure. Will he be up to the task, or will he be one of the first victims of the conflict? It will be interesting to see how Aemond develops in Season 2. Will he take ownership of his actions and tell the truth of what happens? Or will he keep it secret, claiming the kill for his own, despite likely garnering the title of a kinslayer?