House Of The Dragon Has Made Paddy Considine's King Viserys One Of The Great Fantasy Characters Of All Time

This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of "House of the Dragon."

In fiction, depictions of monarchs tend to go in one of three ways. There are the hagiographies, where we are meant to look in awe at the noble ruler who looks out for and defends their people. There are the tyrants, where their love affair with power drives them to perform terrible acts, both personally and politically. And there are the gluttons that are disinterested in ruling and only care about fulfilling their own vices. Stories, both wonderful and atrocious, have been written about these archetypical royals for centuries. "House of the Dragon" looked to carve a brand new path in the stories of monarchs with King Viserys I, portrayed by Paddy Considine, who finally took his last breath at the end of the show's eighth episode, "The Lord of the Tides."

As someone who has had quite a few problems with how "House of the Dragon" has decided to tell its story, I have no qualms about how it has handled Viserys. In fact, this character is a pure triumph. The writers and Paddy Considine have created a character burdened by guilt and pain, both self-inflicted and brought upon him, that has spent his life either destroying himself or looking for love from others to cope. He's a profoundly layered character that Considine brings to life in such an unexpected and heartbreaking way. For all the political machinations at play, King Viserys is the real human being anchoring all of the plot mechanics to something deeply emotional. 

Let us celebrate what a remarkable creation he is.

A genuinely human king

More often than not, kings are symbols rather than people. Their stature and power that few could ever possibly attain allows them to be commentaries on the state of the world whenever a particular story is written. "House of the Dragon" gives King Viserys the space to be a human being, and then makes him agonize over and endure all manner of human decisions and crises. In the very first episode of the show, he effectively kills his wife for the slight possibility the baby she is giving birth could live, which it doesn't. In the moment, he recognizes what a barbaric thing this is to do, but he still makes the call. It's what eats him up inside and out for the roughly 21 years that the first eight episodes of the show takes place over. Something that drastic and extreme would not be something a person could ever truly get over.

But Viserys, like most people, has his admirable qualities too. Due in part to the emotional fallout of that decision, he does have a veritable love for his family and seeing them fight hurts him. His big speech at the family dinner in "The Lord of the Tides" captures that better than anything. This man strives for peace and love in his house because he realizes that's really all that matters. He firmly stands behind Rhaenyra as heir to the Iron Throne not as some progressive political statement or a want to be controversial. He does it because he loves his daughter. Viserys was a below average king, but a complicated, loving person. And that's all he needs to be.

Externalizing his pain

When one decides to change the appearance of a character to reflect how they feel inside, it could come across as heavy-handed and obvious. But in "House of the Dragon," the progressive withering away of King Viserys feels like the only way that character could move forward. From the jump, Viserys' body has seemingly rejected his role as king, with the Iron Throne causing sores, cuts, and infections all over his body that won't heal. It's as if the throne itself knows he is not the best person to be running a kingdom and wants him gone. You could also see this decaying as some sort of cosmic punishment for what he did to his first wife, where he comes out of that situation alive but has to deal with a pain that only grows exponentially over time. By the time he meets his end, he can barely walk, his body resembles Christian Bale in "The Machinist," and his face is literally rotting away. It's an astonishing and horrifying transformation. 

Even though his physical form crumbles, his spirit remains intact. Despite looking like a zombie in his final days, it's a testament to his will to improve and support those he loves that he makes it this far into the show's timeline. Far healthier folks meet their ends far before he does. There were several points over the course of this season where I assumed the episode ended with his death, only for him to show up the next episode after a rather large time jump. How the writers have balanced the internal and external with Viserys has been an incredibly moving journey, and you cannot give enough props to the hair, makeup, and visual effects departments for bringing it to life.

The void of Viserys

King Viserys I leaving the show will obviously create a major shakeup in the trajectory of "House of the Dragon," taking the show's central conflict from the theoretical into reality. For me, though, it removes my favorite character from the show, and I couldn't be more bummed about that. Viserys was the person on "House of the Dragon" I understood the best and felt for the most. Whenever I found myself struggling to fill in time gaps or wondering which actors were replacing which characters from the previous episode, I always found myself drawn back to Viserys. He was the one character I could always track from episode to episode. I watched his progression as a person.

We also just lose a truly phenomenal performance from Paddy Considine. I am glad that this show has finally opened the eyes to a lot of people to see just how open-hearted and varied an actor Considine can be when given the opportunity. I know awards are stupid, but I hope the Emmys recognize the detailed and emotionally vulnerable work he put on display this season. The death of King Viserys leaves a void both in the context of the story and the show as a whole, and in both cases, filling that void will be exceptionally difficult. However they do it, I hope it is with as much raw humanity as Viserys.