This post will be talking about Game of Thrones. In particular, I’ll be discussing king-in-exile Viserys Targaryen. This has been your spoiler warning.
There’s precious little that can be said positively in regards to Viserys Targaryen.
Unless we want to talk about his death in Season One. That was quite epic and oh so satisfying.
But otherwise Viserys was just all around awful. Entitled, abusive, and creepy. The worst big brother ever.
My boss hadn’t read the books and told me of his surprise that the show had finished off Viserys so quickly. He’d previously predicted to me that the season finale would no doubt end with the unpleasant beggar king landing on the shores of Westeros with his foreign cavalry. (My boss was a sweet summer child. How adorable!)
I don’t know if Viserys could have logistically pulled of my boss’s predicted invasion timeline, but it’s not unreasonable to imagine an event like that happening. Viserys was just missing one simple thing.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
Unlike Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton, our lad Viserys was just not willing to wait for it. (That will be the only time I make an indirect comparison between Viserys Targaryen and Alexander Hamilton. Or will it be?)
After years of living in exile, having kept on the move to avoid being assassinated, Viserys was so close to getting what he wanted. He’d found protection from a sympathetic-to-his-claim patron, Magister Illyrio. Illyrio had brokered a deal with Khal Drogo, the mighty Dothraki warlord who could provide Viserys with an army. Viserys’ sister, the princess Daenerys, would wed the Khal and in return the Khal was expected to offer his people as cavalry for Viserys to reclaim his Targaryen birthright.
Illyrio suggested to Viserys that he should remain secure and comfortable in the city of Pentos while the Khal celebrated his marriage. The magister was certain that eventually Drogo would repay Viserys with the gift of an army. But Viserys felt uncomfortable letting his investment out of his sight.
Illyrio: Just wait for it.
Viserys: I’m not throwing away my … shot!
Illyrio: I never should have gotten you tickets to Hamilton.
Ser Jorah Mormont, the exiled Westerosi knight who had offered Viserys his sword, also recommended that his fellow exile and monarch stay behind. After all, Ser Jorah was used to Dothraki ways and could keep a watchful eye on the situation in regards to the Khal and the fulfillment of the bargain.
But Viserys, being a hands-on guy (no further comment), refused to delegate and insisted on traveling with the horde.
In doing so, he quickly lost Ser Jorah’s respect and then his life when Drogo got tired of dealing with his crap.
But let’s imagine a world where Viserys made different choices.
Jorah: I got this, your grace.
Viserys: Illyrio is planning an epic party for this weekend, anyway. Enjoy the saddle-sores, suckah! King Viserys, out!
Viserys, the King Who Waited and Watched
Some things would have undoubtedly remained much the same had Viserys remained in Pentos.
Daenerys would have traveled to Vaes Dothrak. She would most likely have gotten pregnant along the way, passed the examination of the Dosh Khaleen, and then started in on Khal Drogo to consider returning to Pentos to put Viserys on the throne.
I’d assume that the Khal would postpone this a bit, since there seemed to be a plan for Dany first to give birth and provide her husband a son as a requirement before warfare and conquest.
There still would have been an assassination attempt, which would have fired up Drogo for vengeance, regardless if it had succeeded or not.
And the attempt might have succeeded. With Viserys not around to fire up Dany’s resistance to her brother, Jorah might not have found her as compelling, and abandoned his parson to save her. Or he still might have. I continue to entertain the idea that Jorah had been planted in the exiled Targaryen retinue by Lord Varys to protect Dany from any assassination attempts that might be ordered by the Baratheon administration.
Ser Jorah is a complicated dude.
It’s possible that had Dany been poisoned, Drogo could have just decided to cut his losses and simply remarried, but it feels more likely that he’d be motivated for revenge. But would he feel obligated to support Viserys at the same time? Uh. I’m not seeing that.
So – to sum up:
- A failed assassination attempt on Dany would get the horde moving west, probably to support Viserys
- A successful assassination attempt on Dany would probably get the horde moving west. Maybe the Khal would be interested in coordinating this with Viserys, but probably not.
But let’s assume Jorah saves Dany, as before.
With Drogo on the warpath and Dany by his side, supporting a Viserys who hadn’t come along and made a mess of things would still be a factor. That doesn’t necessarily mean the same events would take place. In the normal course of events, with Viserys dead in Vaes Dothrak, Drogo was looking to finance the invasion on his own and so opted to enslave a large amount of Lhazarenes to sell them in Slaver’s Bay for arranging passage to Westeros.
Drogo’s warriors might not have needed to attack the Lhazarene if Viserys and Illyrio were waiting in Pentos for a Dothraki army. One assumes that Illyrio had already secured financing and worked out the logistics.
If the Lhazerene were not attacked, then Drogo might not have been subsequently injured and no treachery/blood magic from Mirri Maz Duur. Dany would have no detour and delays in Essos.
The biggest change: the dragons would have remained stony eggs. This is a fairly big deviation, even if Viserys got his army of hardcore horsemen.
Again, in summation:
- Drogo might have still attacked the Lhazarene, been wounded, received improper medical treatment from the maegi, went comatose, etc. Dany burns Drogo but hatches the dragons.
- Drogo might have just rode on to Pentos without needing to engage in risky side-ventures along the way. Dany arrives in Pentos with an army for Viserys, but without dragons.
If Drogo did die and Dany traveled to Qarth with her dragons as before, she might have then sent word to Viserys for aid, or she might have handled things on her own. After all, she did have a patron of sorts in Xaro Xoan Daxos.
But Viserys might not have needed dragons at that point, since the Seven Kingdoms were about to break apart. He might decide not to wait for her.
Regardless, Viserys would have the expectation that any forces Dany had amassed, either Dothraki, dragons, or even Unsullied, would be his to command ultimately. (This might be a false expectation on his part.)
If we ignore Dany’s storyline for a bit (let’s assume Viserys is being uncharacteristically hands off and letting Dany move through her narrative in Slaver’s Bay with the assumption that she’d eventually make her way to Pentos to support him…) the situation in the Seven Kingdoms after the first season would have been very much to Viserys’ liking.
Viserys, you died too early to be able to appreciate the disruption about to befall Westeros.
The War of the Five Kings kicked off early into King Joffrey’s reign, and Westeros was no longer unified under Robert Baratheon, the epitome of anti-Targaryen sentiment.
Viserys seemed to believe, at least according to what he would tell Dany, that the people of Westeros secretly longed for the return of the three-headed dragon banner.
Until recently, I was very skeptical that the people of the realm would so quickly rush to support a misanthropic, tantrum-prone, entitled, bullying, delusional man-baby with clear foreign entanglements and who was looking forward to reversing long-held civil liberties.
But now I can believe it.
Because of the change of stability in the Seven Kingdoms, it’s possible that Viserys could have convinced Illyrio, rather than waiting for the Dothraki, to seize the day and fund a small conventional army to establish a beachhead in Westeros while a public relations campaign kicked off to inflame the populace in favor of the old rulers. (This was the Blackfyre’s usual strategy, right? You World of Ice and Fire scholars can correct me on this.)
After all, the center of Westeros was getting all of the attention as warfare raged in the Riverlands. No one had time for stuff happening on the periphery – something Balon Greyjoy was taking advantage of in the Iron Islands.
Balon Greyjoy: I am not throwing away my … shot!
Tywin Lannister: You’ll be back.
I doubt that would really work, but let’s pretend that Lannister-hating Dorne could be persuaded into supporting the return of a Targaryen king.
This form-a-beachhead-and-hold action could have happened, but it seems like a very risky move. Especially since it might cause the warring factions to at least call a truce until this newest clear danger could be dealt with. (I’m kind of assuming Viserys doesn’t have the Dothraki army at his disposal in this scenario; otherwise his best move would be to go on the offensive with the Dothraki instead. The horselords wouldn’t want to just be sitting around.)
Go North, Young Man
But Viserys might have more success if he worked from a different direction, with a different group of non-conventional warriors. Depending on if he could beat Stannis Baratheon to the punch.
No, I’m not suggesting that Viserys attack King’s Landing before Stannis. I’m suggesting Viserys attack the Wall before Stannis.
With a small army (the conventional one I suggested that Illyrio might finance), Viserys could have taken Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and then moved on Castle Black from the east, south of the Wall. Once Viserys had secured the gate at Castle Black, he could then let in the wildlings from beyond the Wall.
Viserys had no love for the northmen since he blamed the Starks for supporting Robert Baratheon; the name he used for them was the Usurper’s Wolves. Most of the North’s fighting force was in the Riverlands, and cut off from the North by the Ironborn occupation of Moat Cailin.
Viserys would be letting in a large population of scrappy anti-northmen Free Folk.
So how could Viserys in Pentos have coordinated things with Mance Rayder? A move like this would have required a certain amount of planning and assurances.
If Viserys had gotten word that Mance Rayder was mobilizing the wildlings (it wasn’t a secret, Jeor Mormont was telling everyone in Westeros about their need) the exiled Targaryen might have arranged to work out some messages to and fro. It might have been rare for men of the Seven Kingdoms to go North of the Wall and return, but it wasn’t unheard of.
Recall that once upon a time, Tyrion, Bronn, and Shae were playing a drinking game.
Tyrion (to Bronn): You’ve been north of the Wall.
Shae: What brought you up there?
Having Viserys Targaryen occupy Castle Black would make for some interesting dynamics. First of all, there’s this guy Alliser Thorne…
The dreaded ranger and arms instructor was sentenced to serve at the Wall for being an unrepentant Targaryen supporter during Robert’s rebellion. As a brother-in-black, he swore an oath to forgo political concerns as a member of the Night’s Watch, but his sympathies might lie with the young Viserys. (Particularly if some kind of pardon was possible.) But Viserys was bringing in wildlings, and Thorne would not be so quick to embrace that. Regardless, Ser Alliser would likely make sure to cause trouble for Jon Snow.
Thorne never had much affection for Jon and as mentioned before, the Starks were the Usurper’s Wolves in Viserys’ account of the rebellion. Jon being Lord Eddard Stark’s acknowledged bastard would not be kept a secret from Viserys.
But action taken against Jon would not be viewed favorably by the old maester of Castle Black, Maester Aemon. (And not just because he’s blind.)
The ancient Aemon was also Viserys Targaryen’s great-great-uncle, or something like that. It would be very interesting if Maester Aemon suspected that Jon was not just the nephew of First Ranger Benjen Stark, but also the nephew of Viserys as well.
I’m not saying things would work out swimmingly for Viserys if he made a move to occupy the North. Once Mance’s people were south of the Wall, I don’t think the leader of the Free Folk would be interested all that much in assisting Viserys, unless it served to safeguard his own people.
But it would certainly shake things up.
Viserys the Disruptor
Honestly, shaking things up would probably be the most that Viserys could accomplish, no matter how much he could take advantage of Westeros’ chaotic state, or make use of the military assets Danerys managed to accumulate, assuming she was willing to remain subordinate to him.
Viserys gotta be Viserys, you know? If Drogo hadn’t been the one to pour molten gold on his head, he would have probably been poisoned, or pushed off the Wall, or something equally career-ending.
But I think we all agree that his hanging around with the Dothraki was certain death. As Tyrion said “Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.” Had Viserys been more patient and let things play out a bit without him rushing headlong into his doom, he would have have more opportunities to take advantage of these possibilities.
Viserys: I am not throwing away my … shot!
Ser Jorah: Targaryen, lower your voice. You keep out of trouble and you double your choice.
April is almost over, and usually at this time we’d have had several episodes of the newest season of Game of Thrones to enjoy.
Sadly, we’re still waiting and I’ve resorted to talking about Viserys Targaryen. (You can tell I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for topics to opine about. Sorry about that.)
Next week, I’ll be talking about another topic that might not get anyone all that excited: Dorne.
Sand Snakes: RISE UP!
(Season Seven cannot get here soon enough.)
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)
I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text. Just not the text that’s riffing on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics from Hamilton. So there.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
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