Paddy Considine's House Of The Dragon Performance Is The Ultimate Balancing Act

When "Game of Thrones" first premiered over a decade ago, it was widely praised for its morally ambiguous characters, and a world without clear distinction between right and wrong, just a choice between lesser of two evils. Yet for the most part, "what you see is what you get" still applied to most characters. Despicable characters behaved despicably, honorable ones acted honorably (to a certain extent), and jerks with a heart of gold were still jerks.

But that's not Paddy Considine's Viserys I. The grandson of Old King Jaehaerys I, and the fifth Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne, Viserys is unlike any ruler we've seen in this franchise before. The "House of the Dragon" patriarch constantly acts like the most unlikable idiot with no sense of decency, and is a frustratingly stubborn man with zero charisma and seemingly no opinions of his own. As a father, he leaves a lot to be desired, as a husband he is the absolute worst, and as a leader of men he inspires little confidence.

And yet, at the same time, Paddy Considine's performance makes Viserys a compelling character. Viserys constantly has both hands tied behind his back, and may do the wrong thing, but say the right thing (though not at the right time). He may not be the king of Westeros that we need, but it's hard not to root for him.

A man bound to tradition

The thing about Viserys is that he is all about duty and tradition. He doesn't appear too happy about being king. He doesn't have political ambitions, or goals for his rule, really. Following a beloved and grand king who accomplished many things, including the construction of roads in Westeros and bringing peace to the continent, there is rather little that Viserys really needed to accomplish or even do. The result is a king with little interest in using his station to accomplish anything, but with a strong sense of duty; one that resigns himself to be a tool of tradition and to serve in his post until his death.

In some ways, Viserys is the "House of the Dragon" equivalent of Eddard Stark, another character who never seemed to have political ambition and simply rolled along with the requirements of his post. When given the opportunity to take the Iron Throne for himself, Eddard refused, because he had no ambition to rule all of Westeros. When asked to serve as the Hand of the King, he only agreed because his friend and king ordered him to, not because he thought it was an honor. 

And also like Ned, Viserys is prone to making increasingly stupider decisions that inspire no confidence in his intelligence or judgment — from forcing his wife to get a C-section, to ignoring the threat of the Crab Feeder, to marrying his daughter's best friend, and trying to marry his daughter off to a Lannister. Viserys is easily manipulated and doesn't seem to have the ability to make decisions for himself, but he also dismisses his Small Council at every turn, ignoring every piece of advice he gets. 

The fun king

And yet, despite his many mistakes and flaws, the third episode of "House of the Dragon" makes Viserys a very fun and likable character. For one, even if he doesn't really voice any opinions loudly and in public, he does speak out on behalf of his daughter and reaffirm she is his only heir. Then there's the decency he shows by declining the horrible idea of his dear scheming Hand, Otto Hightower, to marry Viserys' daughter to his 2-year-old son.

There's the balancing act Paddy Considine pulls off in "House of the Dragon," playing a character that you should in theory hate, but end up rooting for and having fun watching. It helps greatly that Considine channels arguably the single best king Westeros ever had, and certainly the funniest: Robert Baratheon, aka Bobby B.

Bobby B started out as your archetypical fantasy hero, a man who rises up and leads a rebellion for noble-ish reasons and ends up defeating the evil king. But rather than bring upon an era of peace and happiness, he has zero interest in leading, is trapped in an unhappy political marriage, and only finds happiness at the bottom of a wine glass or at a brothel. And yet, he was the most fun ruler we got in "Game of Thrones," a man who knew what a big farce the whole game of thrones really was, a man who constantly made fun of those around him (breastplate stretcher, anyone?) and definitely knew how to party.

Like Robert, Viserys is a very messy king, a very messy person, but also one that is absolutely delightful to follow. He may lead the kingdom into chaos and doom, but man, he is funny.

"House of the Dragon" airs new episodes Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.