Spoiler Warning: The following article contains spoilers for House Of The Dragon, through episode 6. There are no book spoilers, as I haven't read the Fire & Blood. There is also an early spoiler from Downton Abbey that comes up in an off-handed reference.
The Game Of Thrones franchise has a long history of killing off healthy people with little to no warning. For every Maester Aemon Targaryen who died peacefully after a life fully lived, there’s about ten Robb Starks who got murdered in their primes while trying to eat dinner. That’s why I remain constantly suspicious. I watch every episode of House Of The Dragon on the lookout for possible causes of death. Oh, that dude is drinking wine? That’s how King Joffrey died. Oh, there’s a crossbow on the wall? That’s how Ros went. The God Of Death lingers in the background of every interaction.
Except, for some reason, he’s not paying any attention to King Viserys. This dude has been on death’s door for basically the entire show. If he even looks at the Iron Throne, he accidentally stabs himself. His flesh is rotting. He falls asleep in the middle of conversations, faints after routine bits of exertion and vomits when he’s on a boat — all while being crushed by the pressures of being king and the stresses of having a messy family that cannot get along or sometimes get along too well.
And yet King Viserys persists. With numerous potential causes of death whispering into his decaying ears, he coasts through every single time jump. At this point, I’m half convinced he’s just going to survive the entirety of House Of The Dragon's run. The overarching narrative is going to be people preparing to make moves, waiting and then dying of old age because this fleshy ghoul inexplicably outlives them all.
Good for him. I should probably just admit he’s going to be around the rest of the season, but a man cannot change his true nature. Some dudes prefer roast duck. Some dudes prefer goose. I prefer to sit on the edge of my couch and loudly say, “He’s about to die” in the direction of my wife. That’s who I am and I will never change. So, I decided to just lean into it and put together a complete list of all the moments I thought King Viserys was about to die…
That Time King Viserys Cut Himself On The Iron Throne (Episode 1)
HERE WE GO! That’s what I shouted at like a 6/10 volume when this happened. The very on-the-nose symbolism seemed to be telling us the Iron Throne was literally rejecting King Viserys. I mistakenly assumed his cut was going to get infected Khal Drogo-style, and we were almost immediately going to jump into the Game Of Thrones. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I’m not sure I’m willing to give his immune system credit for fighting off this infection, given the prick seems to have begun his spiral of ill health, but the dude has survived more than a decade since this happened. Clearly this cut did not set off a new battle for the Iron Throne, and my shouting of HERE WE GO was premature.
That Time We Saw King Viserys' Finger, And It Was Gross (Episode 2)
YUP, IT’S INFECTED! That was my thought as the bandage on the finger slowly got unrolled. Just look at how disgusting it is in the above picture. Thank God this is House Of The Dragon so the scene is dimly lit. If this was in fully bright HD, I’d look like a young Sansa Stark that time she saw a dude get a piece of a jousting pole put through his neck.
Real talk though: how did this not kill him? As we’ve repeatedly seen, medical care in Westeros isn’t exactly Johns Hopkins-level. You’d think a finger like this would be a death sentence. Even if they proactively cut it off, we’ve seen how they sever limbs before (shoutout Talisa Stark). It’s like Civil War-era cleaving. But nope. King Viserys fought it off and survived like a withered, beaten down and disillusioned hero.
That Time He Got Real Drunk (Episode 3)
IS HE GOING TO DRINK HIMSELF TO DEATH???? We kept getting shots of the king imbibing like he was participating in a case case. By the end of his hunting party, my guy was waffling back and forth between zoning out in a drunken stupor and rambling about visions he had that still haunt him.
Getting drunk on a hunting trip is what did King Robert in, and for a hot minute, I was thinking that might be what was going to happen to King Viserys too. Turns out, however, that he doesn’t actually hunt himself and has everyone else do the dangerous part for him. Still, even after his heroic kill of that tied up and defenseless stag, part of me continued to wonder if his drinking would factor into how he passes. I still think it might.
That Time 2 Fingers Were Gone (Episode 4)
TWO FINGERS ARE GONE! This seemed like a pretty innocuous bath scene for awhile until they switched angles. Far be it from me to be the finger police or shaming people over losing appendages, but clearly, the infection is spreading and the leeches are not working as well as expected. This felt like a subtle acknowledgement that we were still hastening toward a necrotic endgame, but this dude is absolutely determined to wake up everyday and play with his model of Old Valyria.
I’d also like to point out here real quick that essentially what House Of The Dragon Season 1 is doing so far, according to the showrunners, is provide us with background and/ or key moments prior to when the show begins in earnest and the real passing begins. The fact that cutting off multiple fingers isn’t important enough to make this list is a pretty good indication of how bad Viserys’ health is.
That Time He Gave Us A Disgusting Sex Scene (Episode 4)
WTF IS WRONG WITH HIS BACK? AND ALSO, SHOULD HE BE HAVING SEX? I’m still uncomfortable about this scene for so many reasons. First of all, she clearly wanted no part of this sexual interaction, and it’s messed up that he just did it anyway. Second of all, his back is filled with open wounds that probably smell weird and ooze. Third of all, I’m shocked his heart can handle the physical labor of having sex at this point.
This is not to be taken as a shot at older people. I know many in the elderly community have robust sex lives, but I don’t understand how Theo James couldn’t get through sex with Lady Mary without having a heart attack on Downton Abbey and yet, King Viserys, literally decomposing, can still be sending ‘you up?’ text messages to his wife.
That Time He Vomited On The Boat (Episode 5)
OF COURSE HE'S VOMITING! Of course this dude get sea sick on his way to Driftmark. I'm not trying to put down anyone who needs to pop a few Dramamines before traveling. Some people just don't do well on water, but not a single one of us was surprised to see King Viserys vomiting his guts out over the side of the boat. It would have been weird if he handled everything like a champ.
Now, in all fairness, I didn't think he was going to literally die in this moment, but I took this to be a clear sign his health was spiraling and he was going to leave us later in the episode. Nope. There were certainly way more signs, which we'll get to, but as per always, this was another false alarm.
Those Times He Coughed And Moved Around Real Slowly (Episode 5)
HE SOUNDS LIKE HE HAS COVID! We have watched this dude labor around and cough like he accidentally swallowed one of his LEGO pieces. Do you think there's any way he could break 20 minutes if he was running a mile? I doubt it. It's like just existing is an exhausting inconvenience for him.
It also didn't help that the Sea Snake apparently scheduled his meeting with King Viserys in the absolute furthest conference room from whatever dock he landed on. That's a really mean-spirited move, but then again, on the House Of The Dragon scale of obvious shade, that's barely a blip.
That Time He Fell Over After Returning From Driftmark (Episode 5)
DID HE JUST FALL OVER? Of course he did. He was just way too tired from (checks notes) riding in a carriage. Maybe it was more of a balance issue than a being tired issue? Maybe he was just mentally exhausted from traveling? That happens sometimes. But whatever it was, he needs to thank God he's not ruling the Dothraki. They would have elected a new Khal 5 episodes ago.
It's also probably not a good sign that Queen Alicent didn't exactly seem surprised by watching her husband wipe out like he was playing Family Double Dare. Some of that is obviously because of larger issues in their marriage, but even if someone I didn't like fell down in front of me, I'd react, unless, of course, I'd already seen it happen repeatedly.
That Time He Fell Asleep While Talking About His Legacy (Episode 5)
I THINK HE'S ABOUT TO DIE IN HIS SLEEP! I legitimately thought this was some poetic moment where he reflected on his mediocre, unexciting reign, closed his eyes and went to sleep forever. It seemed like a fitting end. I even reflected for a second mentally on the time we spent with him as a character.
Turns out that solemn time of reflection was pointless. We immediately cut to a wedding where he was very much alive. The man just needed a nap so he had enough energy to smile at dumb Jason Lannister stories and fret over his wife not showing up on time and then waltzing down the aisle like she was the one getting married.
That Time He Started Bleeding During The Wedding Brawl (Episode 5)
HE'S BLEEDING! THIS IS IT! If I told you a fight broke out at a wedding and one of the characters was bleeding, you'd probably assume they got punched. Not King Viserys. He just got a little too worried and/ or mentally stimulated and his nose started bleeding on its own. No one touched him.
I was kind of thinking he might fall over and have a heart attack here. As soon as he bent over, I was thinking this was going to be the big death we were going to get at House Of The Dragon's first big wedding. Nope. He obviously survived like the partially maimed, chronically ill, indestructible force he is.
That Time He Fell Over During Rhaenyra's Wedding (Episode 5)
HE FELL OVER! VISERYS JUST DIED! I ended episode 5 of House Of The Dragon thinking King Viserys had just died. I was even plotting out the next possible moves in my head when my wife was like, 'Uh, I think he just fell over.' Yup. Turns out he wasn't dead at all. He was just a little worn down by the wedding and couldn't support his own weight anymore. It happens to the best of us.
Fortunately for Viserys, no one will even remember him fainting at this wedding. Normally if someone just fell over in the middle of the vows, that would be the thing everyone remembers from the wedding. That's not even in the top 5 here so he's good.
That Time He Survived A Huge Time Jump (Episode 6)
HE'S STILL ALIVE? With the snap of the fingers and a mid-childbirth scream from Rhaenyra, House Of The Dragon suddenly jumped forward ten years. You'd think, given all of the close calls above, King Viserys couldn't possibly still be sitting the throne a decade later, right? Wrong.
He might not have one of his arms. He might look like Baron Afanas from What We Do In The Shadows. He might sit down most of the time and need help getting a blanket, but he's still among the living. I never would have guessed that six weeks ago, but he refuses to die and as Tywin Lannister would say, I respect that.
Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.