Corlys Velaryon is conspicuously absent from Episode 8 of House of the Dragon. While the whole family is seated at the table for one final meal with King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), the Sea Snake is nowhere to be found.
The explanation we’re given about Corlys’ (Steve Toussaint) absence is vague. He hasn’t been seen by his wife, Rhaenys (Eve Best), for six years, and he’s recently been injured in the Stepstones. The wound is “grave.” We get this information within the first 10 minutes of Episode 8, and it isn’t revisited.
Corlys’ “sabbatical” from his duties as the Lord of the Tides and the Master of Driftmark leads to significant familial tension. His brother, Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), insists he should be proclaimed heir of Driftmark if Corlys were to succumb to his injury. An exasperated Rhaenys tells Vaemond that Corlys’ wish — and by extension her son Laenor’s wish — is for Rhaenyra’s second-born, Lucerys Velaryon, to become the next Master of Driftmark. Vaemond is adamant that it be him, however, as the dubious parentage of Rhaenyra’s three sons with Laenor is an open secret.
If you’ve already watched Episode 8 of House of the Dragon, you know what becomes of Vaemond. But you may still be confused about Corlys’ location.
Where’s the Sea Snake?
We need to untangle what exactly happened between Rhaenys Targaryen and Corlys Velaryon to get to the root of his absence. The couple’s relationship status is murky, but contextual clues from Episodes 7 and 8 of House of the Dragon strongly suggest that the pair, while still legally married, are estranged and have been separated for at least six years.
The demise of Laena Velaryon (Daemon’s second wife, mother to Baela and Rhaena, and former dragonrider of Vhagar), followed shortly by the “murder” of Laenor Velaryon (presumably still alive and hiding in Essos with Ser Qarl Correy), led to an irreparable rift between Rhaenys and Corlys.
Corlys was determined to keep the Velaryon-Targaryen legacies intact and on the Iron Throne, while retaining dominion over Driftmark and amassing wealth through maritime trade and conquest. Rhaenys, meanwhile, was convinced that Daemon and Rhaenyra ordered Laenor assassinated, and that her grandchildren weren’t true Velaryons (as a refresher, Harwin Strong secretly fathered Rhaenyra’s first three sons). Corlys wasn’t in denial about the parentage of his grandsons Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey, but he wasn’t going to abandon them either, as he knew Laenor loved Rhaenyra’s sons as if they were his own.
Neither Corlys’ estrangement from Rhaenys, nor his injury from fresh fighting in the Stepstones, are in George R.R. Martin’s prequel texts. In the books, Corlys spends most of these years adventuring. He sails to almost every location mentioned in the franchise, including the major ports of Westeros and Essos, as well as the Summer Isles and the Thousand Islands in the Shivering Sea beyond the Wall. Corlys could be convalescing almost anywhere in the world (in the books there is no injury, just an illness that leaves Corlys weak for about three years).
Perhaps some of this time apart from Rhaenys will be covered in one of HBO’s planned Game of Thrones spinoffs, The Sea Snake.
Will Corlys Velaryon return to House of the Dragon?
The Sea Snake will likely return to House of the Dragon by Episode 9. In the books, he recovers from his sickness just before the start of the conflict between Aegon II and Rhaenyra Targaryen, so it makes sense to assume he’ll recover in the show as well.
Corlys is an instrumental figure throughout the Dance of the Dragons, serving for a time as Rhaenyra’s Hand during her contested reign. Corlys’ fierce loyalty to his family, particularly his grandchildren, never wavers. After Viserys passes, he tries to keep the Velaryons and Targaryens on good terms. Even if his efforts aren’t always fruitful, his intent is pure. That’s going to be a rarity going forward.
House of the Dragon Episode 9 hits HBO on October 16.