Why was Viserys missing an eye?

Viserys Targaryen, brother of Daenerys Targaryen and claimant to the Iron Throne, was missing one of his eyes in the HBO series Game of Thrones. This was a notable physical characteristic that set him apart from the books, where he had both eyes intact. There are a few possible explanations for why the showrunners made this change to the character.

Quick Summary

In the books, Viserys has both his eyes. The showrunners likely gave him a missing eye to:

  • Make him appear more threatening and unstable
  • Visually distinguish him from other Targaryens like Daenerys
  • Foreshadow his eventual painful death

Show vs Books

In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Viserys Targaryen is described as having the traditional Targaryen looks – pale skin, silver-gold hair, and purple eyes. He has no major physical deformities or missing body parts. However, in the HBO adaptation of the books, Game of Thrones, the character is portrayed by actor Harry Lloyd with one of his eyes covered by a gruesome melted hole where his eye should be.

This was a change made specifically for the show, possibly made to make Viserys appear more physically unhinged and threatening. Having a missing eye added to his overall deranged appearance and behavior, visually distinguishing him from the typical Targaryen look shared by his sister Daenerys. It also acted as a physical symbol of his instability and penchant for violence.

To Appear Threatening and Unstable

One of the main reasons for Viserys’ missing eye seems to be to make him look more physically intimidating and mentally unstable. Even though Viserys is arrogant and cruel in the books, he is still described as having a typically handsome Targaryen appearance. Giving him a gruesome missing eye wound suggests there is something physically and mentally unhinged about him underneath.

Throughout Game of Thrones Season 1, Viserys is portrayed as a dangerous and delusional figure, growing increasingly violent and irrational in his behavior. His missing eye adds to his threatening physicality – he looks like a dangerous, hardened warrior. The melted flesh around the eye wound indicates he has seen violence and pain. Overall, it gives the impression that he is mentally and emotionally Scarred, contributing to his volatility and vicious behavior.

Distinguishing Him from other Targaryens

Another reason Viserys may have been given a missing eye was to visually distinguish him from the typical Targaryen physical traits – traits that his sister Daenerys bears strongly. With his silver hair and one remaining purple eye, he still shows his Targaryen lineage. But the missing eye also symbolically sets him apart from Daenerys and their ancestors. It shows that while he shares their bloodline, he is warped and defective in a way they are not.

Daenerys remains strong and pure with the classic Targaryen looks. Viserys’ missing eye is symbolic of his moral corruption – he is damaged goods. It also acts as a physical representation that while he desires the Iron Throne, he is not a rightful ruler like his ancestors were, nor is he dragonriding material like Daenerys proves to be. The missing eye shows he is one step removed from being the perfect Targaryen monarch.

Foreshadowing a Painful Death

Lastly, giving Viserys a gruesome, damaged eye seems to foreshadow his eventual excruciating death. He threatens Daenerys that if she wakes the dragon, she’ll regret it – but it is him who ultimately suffers for his violent acts and threats.

At the end of Season 1, Khal Drogo gives Viserys a torturous “golden crown” by pouring molten gold over his head. The full damage is not seen, but it is clear his skull and face are melted away, with smoke rising from his head. This direct melting of his face and head are tied to his existing head wound – his missing eye is a precursor to his agonizing death by molten gold poured onto his face and head, destroyed the damaged eye area further..

Theories on How He Lost the Eye

While the show never reveals exactly how Viserys lost his eye, fans have come up with some theories:

  • He lost it in battle – Viserys claims he fought in wars and conflicts as he and Daenerys fled enemies across Essos. Perhaps he took an injury to the face in one of these battles.
  • An infection or disease is responsible – Living in exile his whole life, he may have developed an untreated infection that led to loss of an eye.
  • It is a birth defect – Some fans think Viserys was simply born this way, possibly affected by inherited Targaryen incest and madness.
  • He injured himself – Viserys shows signs of madness and volatility. In a fit of rage he may have damaged his own eye, scratching or gouging it out.

While the backstory is never fully explained, the disfigured, painful-looking eye wound hints at a history of violence and suffering – things that shaped Viserys into the bitter, angry man he became before his death.

Significance in Game of Thrones

While a small detail, Viserys’ missing eye holds narrative significance in Game of Thrones:

  • It makes him appear more intimidating, dangerous, and unhinged.
  • It visually distinguishes him from his sister Daenerys, hinting he is unworthy of Targaryen rule.
  • It foreshadows his agonizing death by molten gold poured onto his face and head.
  • It hints at a backstory of violence, suffering, and instability.

For these reasons, the showrunners likely felt giving Viserys a gruesome missing eye added deeper meaning and complexity to his physical appearance and character arc. It made him more than just another typical Targaryen villain.


Viserys Targaryen having a gruesome missing eye was a notable change from the book character. While the backstory was never fully revealed, it served as an important visual symbol of his threatening instability, distinguishing him from other Targaryens like Daenerys who had the classic family looks. The wound hinted at a history of suffering that made him bitter and violent, and ultimately foreshadowed his excruciating death. For these layered narrative reasons, the eye injury added deeper complexity and meaning to his character in the adaptation.

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