Set 200 years before the events of the original series, House of the Dragon focuses on the events that led to the fall of the once-great Targaryen dynasty. The series is four episodes in. It stars Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Milly Alcock, and Emily Carey as members of the tangled, twisted family.
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It features Considine as the tormented King Viserys. Viserys has experienced numerous challenges during his reign as king. In House of the Dragon episode 1, he had to choose between his loving wife’s life and his unborn child’s life, only to lose both on the same day. With those devastating losses, he has replaced his wife with a new queen, exiled his younger brother Daemon, designated his daughter as heir, and kept her position despite opposition from his subjects since the birth of his son Aegon.
He’s also battled to find an ideal partner for his rebellious daughter, all while dealing with the regular political concerns facing the realm. Viserys is also struggling with a mysterious sickness, initially shown in episode 1 and worsening throughout the series, in addition to his numerous pressures.
So, what is the cause of the disease in King Viserys?
In a conversation with EW for Game of Thrones podcast West of Westeros, Considine provided some insights on the king’s condition. He explained the cause of the disease as well as the deeper meaning behind the illness. He said:
“He’s actually suffering from a form of leprosy. His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He’s still a young man in there. He’s just, unfortunately, got this thing that’s taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally.”
Considine’s confirmation that Viserys has leprosy removes the mystery surrounding his illness, focusing instead on the metaphor and meaning behind it. Though leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease, is treatable with medication, there was little that could be done in Viserys’ time aside from treating the condition’s slow-healing lesions.
With everything Viserys has had to deal with as king, it’s no surprise that his disease is worsening. Considine’s remarks confirm what the source material’s author, George R.R. Martin, has implied about Viserys: he’s a good man who is unprepared for the pressures of ruling. And based on the events of House of the Dragon episode 4, the pressure is only increasing for the king and it will most likely take a physical toll as the series progresses.