Ned Stark remains one of the most iconic characters in all of fantasy, thanks in no small part to Sean Bean’s masterful portrayal on Game of Thrones. And while House of the Dragon is very different, Paddy Considine says his King Viserys follows a somewhat similar path, with both being moralistic characters in an immoral world.
When we first meet King Viserys in “The Heirs of the Dragon,” the debut episode of the show, the king is somewhat in turmoil. Despite seemingly being a popular monarch, he is beset by tragedy as his wife dies during childbirth and their son does not survive. This alone would be bad enough, but the king is soon angered to hear that his own brother, Daemon, has been mocking the tragedy in Flea Bottom.
(Caution: There will be some SPOILERS for House of the Dragon from here on out.)
King Viserys is will “disintegrate” under the weight of royal responsibility
Those who know their Targaryen history will know that Viserys’ reign won’t last long; by the end of the season, he may well have something else in common with Ned Stark: an early exit. Considine was conscious of that connection as he approached the role. “Ned Stark and what Sean [Bean] did was sort of in my head as I played this,” he told Polygon. “It was sort of part of the makeup for me, of Viserys. He’s not a simple man, Viserys, and I think the situations around him create complications for him.”
I think all Viserys ever wanted to do was make the right decision. And you can’t do that. You can’t please everybody as a person. But especially as a ruler. […] He’s just somebody who genuinely wants to serve the people as best as he can, but that world just will not allow for it.
But there are big difference between the two characters. While Ned Stark may have ruled Winterfell and been Hand of the King under Robert Baratheon, he was significantly less powerful than other people in the realm. As a male Targaryen, however, Viserys has an ultimate level of privilege, one that wasn’t offered to his cousin Rhaenys. “There is a lot of misogyny within that world and in that kingdom, but it’s not — you can’t bring your modern-day ideas to a character that lives in an ancient world,” Considine said. “That’s the way of the world at that time. And I don’t think Viserys names Rhaenyra his heir for any progressive thinking reasons. It’s not that; it wouldn’t be true of the world.”
So why did Viserys name Rhaenyra his heir? While the king loves his younger brother, it’s clear to him that Daemon is entirely unsuited to be king, particularly after he celebrated in the wake of the deaths of Queen Aemma and Prince Baelon. If Daemon had been more careful, would Viserys have chosen Rhaenyra?
Having watched [Game of Thrones], [power] seems to be what drove most people. And it corrupts people. But it corrupts Viserys in a different way. It doesn’t corrupt his morals, but the burden of it becomes such that he starts to kind of disintegrate. […] It’s not the power that corrupts him. It’s the responsibility that destroys him.
“The Heirs of the Dragon” is available to stream now on HBO Max. The series continues next week with “The Rogue Prince,” which premieres on Sunday, August 28.