The White Worm’s Business in House of the Dragon Is Not Done Yet

Spoilers below.

Mysaria (played by Sonoya Mizuno) has been lurking in the background for most of House of the Dragon, but now we’re finally starting to see more of who she is. Episode 9 confirmed her identity as the spymaster known as the White Worm, proving she’s a lot more powerful than the brothel worker we were first met in the beginning of the series.

The White Worm’s Role

In George R. R. Martin’s books, Mysaria is also known as Lady Misery, the White Worm for her pale complexion and bloated appearance with age. But in House of the Dragon, the nickname appears to be more of a code name to keep her identity secret. (Or could it be a reference to all the white dresses she was wearing earlier in the season?)

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The first mention of the alias onscreen came in episode 4, when Otto Hightower learned from a spy that Rhaenyra and Daemon were in the brothel together. A soldier told him, “a messenger brings word from White Worm,” and presented the child who spotted the couple. In the next scene, the child is seen giving Mysaria a handful of money (perhaps her cut for providing sensitive information to the Hand of the King). It’s implied that she’s had a longtime working relationship with Otto Hightower. When he tells King Viserys the gossip, he says that his source “as yet, has never led me astray.” However, it’s only in episode 9 when he finally meets her face to face. (“You yourself are the mysterious White Worm, I take it,” he says when Mysaria takes a seat across from him.)

Like Lord Varys and his “little birds” on Game of Thrones, Mysaria wields a network of spies that bring her intel from around the kingdom (or at least King’s Landing). One of them is Talya, Queen Alicent’s lady-in-waiting, who’s been gathering info for the White Worm from within the Red Keep. There are more like her in the castle, Lord Larys reveals, but the exact number is unknown. The intelligence these spies gather can be useful to those in power. In the last episode, The White Worm helps the greens find the missing Aegon Targaryen so he could be crowned king, and she even goes as far as taking credit for putting him on the throne. But she becomes useful to the blacks’ side of the civil war too.

In the books, Mysaria serves as mistress of whisperers—a spymaster—to Rhaenyra Targaryen. For example, she’s involved with hiring the assassins Blood and Cheese to execute a brutal murder in the Red Keep on the blacks’ behalf. (More on that here, but be warned of major spoilers for the show.) And she continues to aid Rhaenyra beyond that. All signs point to her return in future seasons, but currently, Mysaria’s fate is up in the air; in episode 9, her house is burned down after Queen Alicent discovers there are spies in the Red Keep, including her own lady-in-waiting. However, we don’t see Mysaria perish onscreen, which could mean she fled the attack and survived. Considering her expertise in espionage, she could’ve learned of the arson plans early on and planned her escape. This could also be what turns her to side with the blacks.

A Mysaria Refresher

Mysaria hails from Lys, one of the Free Cities in Essos. She’s introduced in House of the Dragon as a sex worker in a King’s Landing brothel and Daemon Targaryen takes her as a lover. He takes her to Dragonstone, where he falsely announced she is pregnant and betrothed to be his second wife, but the ruse was just to mess with King Viserys after choosing Rhaenyra as his heir. Mysaria isn’t happy with the plan. When she returns briefly in episode 4, she says she left the “skin trade” behind.

While we don’t know much of Mysaria’s backstory in the series, she has alluded to a difficult past and life in slavery. “I have been sold as property more times than I care to count, beginning in a homeland I can no longer recall,” she tells Daemon in episode 2.

Perhaps this part of her past is the reason why she defends the smallfolk. “There is no power but what the people allow you to take,” she tells the Hand of the King. And in her negotiations with Otto, she demands an end to the savage use of children in Flea Bottom in exchange for Prince Aegon’s location. It’s a humanitarian move, but one that’s also beneficial to her, in case she wants to use them as spies.

Now, the Accent

Mysaria’s accent has been a hot topic of discussion throughout the series, most notably after episode 9, when she had more speaking lines. Viewers have described it as Jamaican or Caribbean, even with hints of French, which audibly stands out from the British accents spoken by almost every other character on the show. (Mizuno, who is Japanese, British, and Argentinean, speaks with a British accent.) It’s a confusing decision, and if it doesn’t come off as clownish or offensive as Chet Hanks’ Patois, it’s still enough to give one pause.

Attempts to explain the accent lead to more questions. Yes, Mysaria is from Lys, but other Lysene characters we’ve met in Game of Thrones, like Varys and Daenerys’ handmaiden Doreah, do not share her accent, Decider points out. Perhaps Mysaria speaks differently because she’s from 200 years before their time, when the island spoke a different dialect? People on Lys are said to speak a version of High Valyrian, but so do the Targaryens, who speak in British accents too. Martin himself has described the Lysene language as “a musical, flowing, liquid tongue,” given Lys is located on a warm and breezy island. Would Mysaria’s accent be the House of the Dragon team’s interpretation of that description? Martin also said that Lysene has “no exact correspondence to any real-world accents,” so maybe it just supposed to be a mix of various accents after all. HBO and the Dragon team haven’t addressed the accent or whether it will change in future seasons, so viewers continue scratching their heads.

I, for one, was excited to see Mizuno in this series—and am still looking forward to seeing what she’ll do next. Not only is diverse casting much needed in the white-washed Game of Thrones universe, but she’s an incredibly talented actress in her own right. She wowed me as Kyoko in Ex Machina, I wanted to be her best friend in Crazy Rich Asians, and she kept me on my toes in Devs. As Mysaria, she exudes an air of mystery and intrigue that the role requires; but it would be a shame for such a capable actress to be overshadowed by an odd linguistic choice.


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