Saturday, November 23, 2013

Viserys, Third of His Name, and an Extremely Misunderstood Character

One of the things I have been doing in an attempt to Keep Writing (that's my mantra, just keep writing, just keep writing) has been to defend some of the more vilified characters in some of my favorite book series.

Any writer, almost, can write a villain.  They're easy.  They want world domination, they want power, etc, etc, yadda yadda yadda.  It takes a truly gifted writer to create a bad guy that you can sympathize with.

George R. R. Martin is a writer I've been a fan of since the days where he wrote lines for Linda Hamilton and Ron Pearlman as they starred as the title characters in the original Beauty & The Beast television series.  His latest opus, "A Song of Ice and Fire", is a massive series spanning many characters, and many miles.  Summers last for years, and Winter can span decades, and many noble families squabble over the right to rule.

If you have not read the books, or seen Game of Thrones, HBO's hit series that they serve as the basis for, you may not want to read any further, because here be spoilers for the first book and the first season of the show.

Viserys Targaryen, the last dragon. is widely regarded as a "bad guy".  He abuses fan favorite Daenerys (aka Dany) from early in the first book, and continually threatens her, beats her throughout his short stint in the series, before eventually being killed by his brother in law, Khal Drogo, who pours molten gold over his head.

Seriously misunderstood creatures, dragons are.

Viserys is truly a tragic character if you think about it.

He has genetics working against him, his family has a clear history of inbreeding and mental illness, so he was probably struggle with his inherited issues from a young age.

He was plucked from a life of wealth, opulence,  and privilege, first to Dragonstone, which in my imagination looks like a Disney Villain's base of operations, then exiled to the free cities after the death of both of his parents and the ruin of his house, and then finally, on to the streets with his young sister, his only surviving blood, whom he must now take care of, raise, feed, clothe, and shelter.

He essentially grows up constantly looking ove his shoulder, in fear of what he's been told about Robert Baratheon, knowing that his entire family has been wiped off the face of the earth.

He has to sell practically everything he owns just to survive, every trinket, every memory he was able to keep with him.

He becomes a joke in the free cities, and he probably knows it, but during all of that, he never gives up the thought that one day, he'll take back what belonged to his father, and what should be his. For his father, his mother, his brother, and everyone else that he believes slain by Robert Baratheon.

Finally, someone seems to want to help him. A wealthy man, loyal to him. Can you imagine how it must feel, after so many years of wandering streets and alleys begging for help?

Magister Illyrio must have seemed like the savior from the Gods. He "helps" Viserys, he takes the burden of caring for himself and Dany away, and offers up a plan to put The True King back on the throne. Something Viserys has waiting for, for so long, he can practically taste it. He wants it so badly, and it's just beyond his reach. All he has to do, is sell his sister. The woman he probably assumed he would one day marry. His last, and likely most prized, possession.

So he does, expecting to immediately be given what he bargained for, but then, he is told he must wait until the Khal decides to return the gift. Who knows how long that will be, and what if Dany becomes sick and dies? What then? Will he get his gift? What if she fails to please the Khal after a few months of marriage?

Now, I'm not saying that these difficulties and stress excuse him from his cruelties, but think about how we as humans process stress and hardship. Some of us use anger as fuel to get through when things get tough. Given that Viserys was also likely mentally ill, I can understand, if not condone, his "difficulties" with people. I know some people will argue that he was evil, but I honest think that he was the victim of a perfect storm that created his downfall.

VIserys is not a villain.  He's a victim.

A crown for a king.