Warning: Contains spoilers for House of the DragonHouse of the Dragon showrunner Ryan Condal discusses the layered characterization of Aemond Targaryen after the tragic season finale massacre above Storm’s End. Since his developments in the series, Aemond has been a fascinating figure. Second son to Alicent Hightower, he has presented political astuteness in his acknowledgment that he would do his duty to the Greens, but has also displayed a rogue nature in claiming Vhagar before Laena Velaryon’s daughter could do so. These are but two instances that have highlighted his intellect but also his potential for chaos.
A key aspect of life that has clearly shaped Aemond was his childhood plagued by bullying from his own brother and the two children of Rhaenyra Targaryen, Jacaerys and Lucerys. From their mockery of Aemond about not possessing a dragon in his youth, to engaging in a fight that cost Aemond his eye after claiming Vhagar, it has been evident that a rivalry between Alicent’s son and Rhaenyra’s two boys would likely end with regrettable consequences. Fueled by his anger towards his nephews, Aemond quickly grows into a menacing figure, riding the largest Dragon in Westeros and developing his skill in combat. However, this proficiency for flight and warfare backfired on Aemond in the House of the Dragon season finale, as he lost control of Vhagar and was forced to sit idle while the proud Dragon devoured Lucerys as prey above Storm’s End.
Discussing the tragedy with THR, Ryan Condal states that despite Aemond’s part in his nephew’s death, the young Prince is still a complex figure rather than an outright villain. He even goes so far as to say that Aemond is not a psychopath, even if he is not without blame in what has happened.. See what the showrunner had to say below:
Aemond is definitely not blameless in what happened to Luke. But Aemond was also a kid who was bullied and was made a mockery for part of his life for not having a dragon. Now he does, and he rides the biggest dragon in the world. I think he was showing his rival that he will not be intimidated and trifled with is probably more in play there than trying to become a kinslayer – that would be very un-calculated and stupid of Aemond to do at the outset when the pieces are moving about the board and loyalties are being set and figuring out who is going to make marriage pact to guarantee whose army … for Aemond to launch nukes right out of the gate and go for an all-out dragon war would be very foolish, but that’s exactly what he ends up doing because things get out of hand and out of control. It’s a complex scene. Aemond is not blameless, but he’s also not a psychopath without a logical line of thinking.
The demise of young Lucerys played out in a more nuanced way than Fire & Blood readers likely expected. In George R. R Martin’s novel, Aemond purposefully hunts down his nephew and murders him in an act of vengeance. However, the show version of events does still present Aemond’s menacing and chaotic nature, demanding the eye of Lucerys as a gift for his mother, but emphasizes his relative lack of experience when it comes to true war and violence. Echoing the words of King Viserys I in the series’ opening episode, « The idea that we [Targaryens] control the Dragons is an illusion, » both Arrax and Vhagar reveal the pride and instincts of the flaming beasts as they enter combat despite their riders’ wishes. Arrax and Lucerys suffer the consequences.
This change does add further depth to Aemond and better fits the direction the show has taken in its presentation of the relationships between Dragons and their riders. Equally, it continues to present the idea that this generation of Westerosi is seriously under-prepared for the gruesome realities of war. Ultimately, Aemond is now easier to sympathize with as the narrative continues into House of the Dragon season 2, and the time spent emphasizing his loyalty to his mother and sister could still prove to be redeeming qualities. On the other hand, it could be argued that this change, coupled with the idea that a mix-up between Viserys and Alicent is at fault for starting the Dance of Dragons, shows that the writers are too keen on ambiguity and should indulge more willingly in the evil aspects of certain figures from the novel.