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House Of The Dragon's Good King Jaehaerys Explained

"Game of Thrones" may have (rather unceremoniously) ended its run in May of 2019, but now, "House of the Dragon" is bringing fans back to Westeros — though this time, they're watching a story set just shy of two centuries before the original series. Focusing on the powerful, dragon-riding Targaryen family many years before their descendant Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) ever traveled on dragonback, "House of the Dragon" kicks off even earlier than that, with a council that chooses Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) as the new monarch when there's not a clear line of succession.

Chosen over his cousin Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) as the next King of the Seven Kingdoms, Viserys is, on the surface, a fair, just king with a good heart who's always trying to do what's best for the realm. With that said, it seems like those around him don't take him particularly seriously, and everyone from Rhaenys to her husband Corlys Velaryon (Steve Touissant) to the now-former Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) frequently outsmart and manipulate the king for their own purposes.

So who chooses Viserys as the next ruler of the realm? Well, that would be Jaehaerys I Targaryen, briefly played by Michael Carter in the series premiere of "House of the Dragon." Why does Jaeherys loom so large over Viserys, and what exactly was his legacy?

Jaehaerys was one of Westeros' most beloved kings ever

Known by the nickname "Good King," it's pretty obvious that Jaehaerys was one of the most popular kings in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Though his fellow beloved king Aegon the Conqueror was known as a fierce warrior and was the first King of the Seven Kingdoms to boot — and the start of the royal Targaryen dynasty — Jaehaerys held an important record as the longest monarch in the history of the realm.

Jaehaerys ruled the Seven Kingdoms for, according to George R.R. Martin's source material "Fire and Blood," a whopping fifty five years, and by all accounts, they were pretty uniformly good ones as well. (He's also, kind of rudely, referred to as "The Old King.") Jaehaerys' legacy is also pretty storied; he's credited with keeping the realm peaceful and prosperous, and he also was able to forge truces between warring houses to keep things level, including one between House Bracken and House Blackwood, two houses of the Riverlands.

In his youth, Jaehaerys was also a formidable fighter, facing off personally against Dornish forces during a skirmish known as the Third Dornish War, and in the early days of his reign, he more or less created a system of laws that would govern the realm for centuries to come. Finally, he was also famous as a dragon-rider; he rode Vermithor, who was the third-largest dragon in Westerosi history behind Balerion — whose skull resides in the crypts of King's Landing — and Vhagar, whose whereabouts are unknown during the events of "House of the Dragon."

Why does Viserys fall so short?

Faced with a lack of direct heirs, Jaehaerys eventually chooses his grandson Viserys over his granddaughter Rhaenys, but did he make the right choice? As the series opens, Viserys is awaiting the birth of his second child, whom he hopes will be a son; though it is, the infant dies along with Viserys' first wife Aemma (Sian Brooke), leaving him heartbroken. Though he then names his daughter and only child Rhaenyra (played in her younger years by Milly Alcock) as his official heir, he goes on to marry again and produce a son, Aegon II Targaryen, whose mere existence eventually kicks off the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.

Viserys is, for the first five episodes of "House of the Dragon," in miserably poor health and seemingly ineffective. He's unable to shut down the armies of the free folk at the Stepstones, leaving his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) and Corlys to clean up his mess, and he faces constant injuries and physical ailments, needing frequent treatment. At the end of "We Light the Way," the fifth episode, the king flat-out collapses, and it's reasonable that this is the end of Considine's journey as Viserys, since the sixth episode promises a massive time jump that brings viewers towards the Dance of the Dragons.

Jaehaerys may have chosen Viserys as his heir, but apparently, it might be one of the only mistakes he ever made. You can learn more about Jaehaerys in "Fire & Blood," and as for "House of the Dragon," it airs on Sunday nights on HBO and HBO Max at 9PM EST.