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Aemond Targaryen is House of the Dragon’s most tragic character and its best villain

The season finale (and the fate of Westeros) is dependent on what Aemond says to Vhagar.

A Song of Ice and Fire has never been short of memorable antagonists. While the brutal and unrepentant monsters like Joffrey Baratheon or Ramsay Bolton are notable, the ones who make the series distinctive are its ambitious and sophisticated schemers – a diverse group that includes everyone from Littlefinger and Cersei to Tywin Lannister.

On all fronts, House of the Dragon adds fantastic characters to the series’ heritage. The show’s most intriguing addition is Aemond Targaryen, whose combination of intelligence, impulsiveness, and a sapphire eye makes him one of A Song of Ice and Fire’s greatest and most sad characters.

[Editor’s note: This page includes House of the Dragon episode 10 spoilers.]

A Song of Ice and Fire, at least among its most notable cast members, rarely deals in genuine villainy. Instead, it presents us self-interested individuals that are wicked only inasmuch as their desires for power surpass their morals, and when those ambitions frequently clash with the primary characters of the plot. But they’re usually well-reasoned and intelligible, and they seldom resort to open violence.

The plots of the series’ finest schemers, like as Littlefinger or Varys, are essentially vengeance tales, as they seek for power that they believe they deserve but have been unfairly denied by the world. Even when they are the most powerful individuals in Westeros, like as Tywin and Cersei, they seek the respect and title that their power, wisdom, and influence should bring, but seldom do.

Aemond Targaryen is House of the Dragon’s most tragic character and its best villain

When the series does choose to portray a prominent character really evil, it usually does so by emphasizing their aggression. These horrible creatures are the polar opposite of the schemers in that they know their power but have no objectives beyond cruelty. Characters like as Joffrey and Ramsay perceive their authority exclusively as the capacity to use violence against those lesser than them. Such cruelty is rarely retaliatory or motivated by anything other than sadistic desire and a needy display of dominance. They are more interested in the sport of sadism than the game of thrones.

Aemond Targaryen of the House of the Dragon falls somewhere in the middle. He is tremendously ambitious, extremely motivated, brilliant, and skillful, but he is also driven by a desire of vengeance that is inherently violent (particularly in episode 10). Aemond, like House of the Dragon’s other disgruntled second-son, Daemon Targaryen, believes he is more deserving of more than his thoughtless and weak brother, especially after a childhood filled with bullying from that same brother and his (possibly) bastard relatives.Daemon found that power in his proclivity for violence and the might of his dragon, and because Aemond appears to have based his life after his uncle, he looks for it there as well. However, as with most intergenerational relationships in A Song of Ice and Fire, Aemond’s young vision of his uncle’s heroism resulted in an inflated version of Daemon that only exists in Aemond’s memory and only tells half of Daemon’s narrative.

Aemond Targaryen is House of the Dragon’s most tragic character and its best villain

Aemond inherited Daemon’s regal bravado, intelligence, and arrogant pride, but he also inherited the also-ran inadequacy that fuels Daemon’s most destructive tendencies. As a result, he’s smart enough to persuade a house to support his mother’s cause, smart enough to study more than his brother and train harder than him, but also impetuous enough to grab a rock in a fist fight with his small cousins and threaten to murder them.

But the tragedy of Aemond’s position as the series’ villain is that, like the schemers, he is unable to fully understand the power he truly has, which is restricted to violence. Aemond had already won the reward by the time Luke arrives at Storm’s End. Instead of Rhaenyra, the Baratheons will support Aegon as king. But for Aemond, this is also an opportunity for vengeance – an eye for an eye. It may be brutal, but it is also just according to the Bible.

When Luke declines his offer to settle the score, Aemond determines that some price must be paid, even if he does not mean for it to be death. When Aemond loses control of Vhagar during their mid-air combat with Luke and Arrax, and the dragon consumes them both, he becomes one of the few people in A Song of Ice and Fire who vastly underestimates his own ability for causing harm, as well as the implications of his impulses.

“The Black Queen” is quite deliberate in its depiction of Luke’s death: both boys battle to tame their dragons, and sadly neither knows what it takes to lead such a beast to war. Aemond’s calm determination gives way to frantic appeals to persuade the largest and oldest dragon to listen to him. Lucerys’ death isn’t the result of Joffrey’s spoilt royal sadism or a coldly calculated advance up power’s invisible rungs.It’s a horrible accident caused by a youngster who, after a lifetime of being tormented, didn’t realize the stakes had shifted. Aemond now possesses the ability to kill lives and create conflicts after a lifetime of feeling inferior, especially during the coronation of his own worthless brother as king. He is an anime villain, if an anime villain was the one who started World War I. And, with all of Westeros on the verge of war, doubling down on his darkest inclinations may be the only way for him to thrive.

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