Movie Reviews

Why Older Aemond Wanted Revenge On Luke When The Younger Version Didn't

Warning! This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon season 1 and the book Fire & Blood.After having his left eye cut by Luke as a tween, Aemond’s attitude towards revenge changed as he grew older over the course of House of the Dragon. At face value, Aemond’s policy on vengeance looks to have changed abruptly, with the show’s time jumps between episodes making Aemond’s U-turn on harming Lucerys seem jarring. However, within House of the Dragon‘s internal logic, it makes sense for his character.

After all, what might seem like a sudden transition to a viewer bingeing the show actually occurs over many years in House of the Dragon. The character season 1 ends with is a radically different character to the awkward and timid Aemond who had his eye cut by Lucerys during their fight at Driftmark. The proud young man who is introduced in episode 8 is self-confident, pre-possessed, and most relevantly, showing plenty of Targaryen playful cruelty towards Luke, actively relishing how uncomfortable and frightened his young nephew is.

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When Aemond is first introduced to viewers in House of the Dragon episode 6, he is an introverted and frustrated tween, having not had a dragon granted to him as an infant. Yet he shows tremendous bravery in mounting and claiming for his own the massive dragon Vhagar at Driftmark after its previous owner Laena had died. Possessing Vhagar was a turning point for Aemond, reassuring him of his Targaryen power and jolting him with arrogance. That confidence was then combined with his simmering dislike for his nephews Jacaerys and Lucerys after Laena’s children were angered by his claiming their mother’s dragon. That led to the fight which saw Aemond lose his eye, but even as Alicent demanded Luke’s punishment be mirrored with an “eye for an eye” in recompense for the incident, Aemond instead deescalated the situation and assured his mother that he would be okay.

Fast-forward a few episodes, and a few years in-universe, to the House of the Dragon finale, and Aemond has changed his tune. While in episode 8, where Rhaenyra and Alicent’s families meet for the final time before the civil war breaks out, Aemond goads Jacaerys about his implied bastard status, in the finale his malevolent attention is fixed on Luke. After Luke fails to convince Borros Baratheon to join his cause, with Aemond having already promised himself in marriage to one of Borros’s daughters, Aemond demands Luke cut out one of his eyes to, finally, even the odds. Although Borros reprimands Aemond for suggesting such violence in his hall, Aemond’s maliciousness contrasts with his action as a child.

During the time jump, as Aemond explains to Ser Criston in the middle of the search for Aegon in episode 8, Aemond has learned how to fight with his sword, ride his horse and dragon, as well as read his history and philosophy. He has set his sights on becoming a competent and calculating leader, even if Aegon is ahead of him in the line of succession, and it has guided his every decision and interest since claiming Vhagar and receiving his injury. That obsession with becoming a great leader, and potentially king one day, also drives his turn towards cruelty and malice, with power corrupting. There is that famous line in Westeros, “When a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. One side greatness, the other madness.” Aemond suggests throughout the final episodes of season 1 that he is dangerously flirting with the latter.

Where Aemond shows a flicker of redemption, however, and where House of the Dragon changes from Fire & Blood, is in how Lucerys’ death comes about. While the book has Aemond deliberately have Vhagar chase down and murder Rhaenyra’s son, in the show, both boys lose control over their dragons, resulting in the tragedy. Lucerys’ dragon Arrax goes against his master’s wishes and flames Vhagar, who is then rattled into disobeying Aemond and ripping Lucerys to shreds. It is the second incident in season 1 where accident and misunderstanding become the catalyst for season 2’s civil war after Alicent did not realize Viserys in his dying breath was not talking about Aegon as the prince who was promised.

That Aemond is not directly responsible for Lucerys’ death colors in his character effectively. Aemond is not behind Vhagar’s attack, and it becomes clear that he only wanted to frighten Lucerys. While a spiteful character who gets a kick out of psychologically torturing his nephews, murder is a line he didn’t want to cross. The coin which determines which Targaryen he’ll become has not yet definitively landed on a side. How this moment influences his arc in future seasons of House of the Dragon, and how much further the show will differentiate from Fire & Blood, will be fascinating to watch.

Next: Rhaenyra Copies 2 Big Daenerys Moments (& It’s Bad News For Westeros)

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