WARNING! This article contains SPOILERS for Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8!House of the Dragon director Geeta Patel has revealed what went into House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8’s shocking beheading scene. The prequel series, set roughly 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, has all the stunning violence its predecessor is known for. Airing on HBO Max, House of the Dragon has two episodes remaining in its first season and the on-screen gore has picked up as the series approaches its climax.
The tension in King’s Landing is mounting as House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8 featured the end of a slow death by leprosy for King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). His daughter and heir Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) is due to ascend to the throne, but her one-time friend and present rival Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) has a close circle of conspirators aiming to prevent her rise. Much of the Westorosi court, including the powerful Velaryons, take issue with Rhaenyra because the illegitimacy of her children is an open secret that even King Viserys himself was in denial of. Rhaenyra, now married to her violence-prone uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), has no intention of ceding the throne and will punish those who attempt to discount what she and her children are owed.
King Viserys held his last meeting from perched on the Iron Throne in season 1, episode 8. King Viserys arrived hobbled and weakened by his disease, and needed the assistance of his brother Daemon to take his seat. Before the King’s court, Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson) brazenly slandered Rhaenyra’s children while trying to claim the satellite throne of Driftmark for himself. In one of the series’ most gratuitously violent scenes yet, Vaemond’s head is sliced off by Daemon as punishment. House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8 director Geeta Patel appeared on The Official Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon to unpack what went into Vaemond’s beheading both stylistically and narratively. Read Patel’s comments below:
“Since I read the script I had always seen the head just coming off while he was talking. In my head, it was always that element of surprise. When I think of Daemon, he’s quick. When I think of the moment, everything was so charged, and you just never knew what someone was going to say, how it was all gonna happen. So, that was always what I story-boarded first, just the simplicity of it. That Vaemond is arguing with Viserys, and all the sudden, Vaemond’s head comes off. There is no special shot for that moment, per se, after yes, but in that moment it’s literally just his close up shot. He could’ve kept talking, he could’ve kept arguing, and I think there is something great about that. Because it was an important moment, we shot also it in a way that we followed Daemon from where he was standing, and you would see him go across, and then he would come and chop off Vaemond’s head.
A lot of times, we’ll shoot something, if its very important dramatically, we’d want the options in edit. So I usually shoot more than one version, because I think it’s good for the showrunners to have that. It still makes me smile, I love it. Viserys is yelling at him, and the guys head just comes off, it’s great. How many jobs can you do that on? This is why I love Game of Thrones. You can do stuff like that, and its Game of Thrones, its House of the Dragon.”
What Vaemond’s Death Means for House of the Dragon Season 1’s Remaining Episodes
Vaemond, as a character, was of modest significance. Brother to Lord Corlys (Steve Toussaint), Vaemond was of a family that was sure to be wedged out of power by Rhaenyra’s children, who are not of his blood but carry his name. Vaemond’s graphic death represents the seriousness with which accusations against Rhaenyra’s children will be treated without King Viserys around to keep the peace. For years, slander towards Rhaenyra’s children had resulted in raised voices, scrapes, threats, and backroom operating. An ailing King Viserys had suggested removing Vaemond’s tongue for his slight and Daemon took his whole head. As Patel explained, his death serves as an imporant inflection point in the series. The House of the Dragon season 1, episode 9 trailer reveals that is is indeed a new day in King’s Landing.
House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8 also revealed that Vaemond’s nieces, the daughters of Daemon and his now-deceased wife Laena (Nana Blondell), were betrothed to Rhaenyra’s sons Jace (Harry Collett) and Luke (Elliot Grihault). With Vaemond dead, and Lord Corlys in critical condition, there will be no vocal, male Velaryon voice to resist the marriages that will further the strength of Rhaenyra’s cohort. The Velaryon family’s loss of power is still felt 200 years later, as House Velaryon is of minor influence in the Game of Thrones series.