Pro tip: don’t hold your coronation ceremony in a dragon pit. Especially when you’re usurping a throne. Oh well, those Hightowers need to learn their lesson, and Rhaenys was quick to remind them that they’ve just started a war where treason will not be met uncontested.
No doubt, episode nine was an explosive set-up for the beginning of an epic chapter in Westeros’ history — the Dance of the Dragons — which is sure to have us all reeling next week in the finale. Without further ado, let’s dive into the penultimate episode of House of the Dragon season one.
We pick up shortly after the events of episode eight. The King is dead, and the castle is eerily quiet and still. However, news travels quickly. We see a young boy descend into the bustle of the castle kitchens and inform Talya, Alicent’s handmaiden, of The King’s death.
Although Alicent doesn’t know it yet, Talya is one of the spies in Mysaria’s (aka the White Worm’s) circle. Thus, even from the earliest hours of the morning, while the greens attempt to convene in secret, the news of Viserys’ death has already escaped outside the castle walls.
(Fun Fact: the actress playing Talya, Alexis Raben, is the wife of HoTD showrunner Miguel Sapochnik!).
The first official council of the Greens, to which this episode is named, was very illuminating in terms of the internal politics within their own cause. Otto has been planning a coup for years and is ready to move forward, full-steam ahead, by murdering Rhaenyra, Daemon, and their children to remove any sort of opposition.
Alicent stands alone, in opposition to such an idea – saying that is obviously not what her late husband would have wanted.
Most of the Lords at the table are already on board and have been aware of the treasonous scheme for a while. This catches Alicent off guard, and it quickly becomes clear that she is going directly up against her father in terms of who will dictate the path forward for Aegon’s succession.
That said, the last two loyal men in the room take a stand. One of which, Lord Beesbury, has his head slammed into the table by Ser Criston Cole, killing him instantaneously. The other, Ser Harrold Westerling, removes his King’s Guard cloak, refusing to take any orders from Otto Hightower.
For an episode entirely about the greens, there was definitely a significant spotlight on Alicent’s role and how her character has evolved (or, rather, how it has stayed the same). One particularly insightful moment was her conversation with Rhaenys, who had been locked in her room since the early morning.
Though Alicent seemed to think she could approach Rhaenys as some powerful, regal, swaying force to convince her join their cause and swear fealty to Aegon, she only seemed to expose her own long-entrenched position of being in over her head. As much is clear from her frantic detective mission to rival her father’s efforts to locate Aegon, as well as her nervously picking at her nail beds yet again (a childhood habit she just can’t kick).
In her conversation with Rhaenys, she takes an odd and ineffective “girl-power” approach, being the millionth person to tell Rhaenys that she should have been queen. What Alicent is seemingly missing entirely is that by clinging to the ideas of duty and morality, she has deluded herself over the years into accepting her own repression. Thus, why she so deeply resents Rhaenyra, who found a way to find personal fulfillment and freedom amidst a patriarchal system.
In their exchange, Rhaenys ultimately reads her like a book and spins Alicent’s own argument right back at her, dropping a line for the ages: “And yet you toil in service to men. Your father, your husband, your son. You desire not to be free, but to make a window in the wall of your prison.”
Definitely a mic-drop moment from Rhaenys, the MVP.
A Beast Beneath The Boards
Ever since the episode six time jump, most fans have picked up on the fact that Alicent’s daughter, Helaena, appears to hold the power of dragon dreams. She’s somewhat odd and eccentric, detached from most of the family, including her mother. She speaks in vague bouts of prophecy that, as we’ve seen with Aemond (“he’ll have to close an eye”), eventually come true.
Since the previous episode, Helaena’s newest phrase claimed that there was “a beast beneath the boards.” Early fan guesses regarding this line circled around the individuals known as Blood and Cheese (those familiar with the book know they will come to be important later in the war).
However, the prophecy came to fruition in an entirely different way during Aegon’s coronation at the dragon pit.
Filled to the brim with the King’s Landing commonfolk, Aegon bears the Conqueror’s crown, and is soaking up the cheers from the dais – his frail ego finally satisfied by the inheritance he literally ran screaming from – when all of a sudden, the middle of the pit explodes. It’s Rhaenys and her dragon, Meleys, crashing this farce of a coronation in a truly epic fashion.
Dressed in armor, Rhaenys looks like the queen she was meant to be. Many fans (myself included) were screaming for her to set fire to the whole Hightower clan. However, Rhaenys’ character is noble and moral. She decides to leave them stunned and shaken, and instead takes off to fly to Dragonstone and warn Rhaenyra.
On that incredible note, the finale cannot come soon enough! The greens have made their first move, and now it’s time for Team Black to step into the fray. I don’t know about you, but I’m with Rhaenys, going Team Black all the way.
Until next week, check up on our House of the Dragon Tweet round-ups here.