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Viserys Targaryen, Kylo Ren and the Weight of a Lineage

This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is dominating the pop culture conversation this holiday season. Love them or hate them, the new batch of Star Wars films has an interesting villain in the character of Kylo Ren. After seeing the latest film for the first time, I commented to my husband how much he reminded me of Viserys Targaryen, the last surviving son of the Targaryen dynasty in Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones, at its heart, is all about family. Carrying the last name of one of the great houses is a huge honor, as well as a responsibility. None of the names in the show has as much weight as Targaryen. Up until Robert Baratheon overthrew the Mad King, the Targaryens had ruled Westeros for hundreds of years. In fact the land is referred to as the “Seven Kingdoms” because there used to be seven separate kingdoms. They became one when Aegon Targaryen, also known as Aegon the Conqueror, flew across the sea on a dragon and made everyone bow to him. That’s a lot to live up to, and at the start of the series, that legacy rests squarely on the shoulders of the exiled Viserys.

Kylo’s Burden

In Star Wars, Kylo Ren also has a lot to live up to as well. He’s the last of the Skywalker bloodline. The name Skywalker carries even more weight in the Star Wars universe than Targaryen does in Game of Thrones. Though Ren doesn’t carry the actual name, it sets expectations for him all the same. Supreme Leader Snoke says he took an interest in Ren because of his family and the potential to become the next Darth Vader, a man as powerful in Star Wars as Aegon Targaryen is in Game of Thrones.

Viserys’ Burden

Viserys Targaryen and Kylo Ren both respond to this family pressure with the same amount of grace, which is to say, not much. Perhaps it’s because they’re not old enough to handle the responsibilities maturely, but you can see the same sort of anger and frustration emanate from them both. While Kylo Ren’s fits of rage usually target inanimate objects, Viserys’ directs his at his little sister, Daenerys.

The major way in which Viserys Targaryen and Kylo Ren differ is in power. Ren possesses a vast amount of power, while Viserys essentially has none. He fled Westeros at a very young age and has been living in exile ever since. He’s spent most of that time stewing over the fact that he’s the true king of the Seven Kingdoms. He thinks he’s powerful, but comes to the realization that he’s not when he witnesses the Dothraki worship Daenerys. This dose of reality comes as a shock to Viserys, who lashes out at his sister for the last time before Khal Drogo gives Viserys his “crown.”

To Discuss

What do you think? Are Viserys Targaryen and Kylo Ren similar or different in other ways?

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