House Of The Dragon Crowns A New Ruler In 'The Green Council'

In the penultimate hour of "House of the Dragon," the only person who speaks a lick of sense is the despicable man-child that the Greens are hellbent on crowning the new King of Westeros. Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), who everyone knows to be a useless drunk with horrifying proclivities, is the man of the hour, not just because he has the sense to remind everyone that he isn't suited to rule, but because he's one of few to see through Alicent's mistake. The dowager Queen's insistence that Viserys' final words were used to name Aegon as his successor earns a hearty laugh from the Prince who reminds her, "He had 20 years to name me heir and never did. Steadfastly, he upheld Rhaenyra's claim."

There are so many tragedies contained within this single episode: lords forced to choose between honor and their own lives; a bloodsport that sees children being tortured for entertainment; twin brothers on opposing sides of a war; innocents slaughtered over a squabble between royals. And why? Because a simple misunderstanding has incited a war.

What is duty? What is sacrifice?

It would almost be easier to swallow these tragedies if Alicent (Olivia Cooke) was just making a hungry grab for power — at least we'd have a clear villain to resent (ya know, besides Criston Cole). But Alicent isn't crowning her son just for the sake of it. Hell, she isn't even crowning him because she believes in his leadership skills. But she does sincerely believe that this was her husband's dying wish. And so the woman who values duty above all else is now dedicated to denying Rhaenyra's birthright, in favor of seeing Aegon installed as King.

We always knew that this treason was coming, but not quite like this. Alicent seizing power out of fear for her children is one thing — understandable if short-sighted — but doing it because she failed to make sense of Viserys' final words is another. It's unfortunate enough that we can sympathize with her: in the previous episode, it was a huge weight off her chest to finally back down from the battle and accept Rhaenyra as heir. Now that healing has been stopped in its tracks.

But on the other hand, it's hard not to yell at the screen every time she insists that this is what Viserys wanted. Where are her critical thinking skills? That's not even close to what Viserys was saying and even if it was, the drug-addled words of a dying man probably shouldn't take precedence over the refrain he spent his last 20 years repeating — which is that Rhaenyra should sit on the Iron Throne.

Alas, this episode is not about Rhaenyra's ascent. It's about the power vacuum that allows the Greens to succeed, and the inevitable chaos that will come on its heels.

The Green Council convenes

The King is dead. "The Green Council" begins on this solemn note, quietly taking us through the halls of the Red Keep where Viserys' death seems to echo, an ominous calm before the inevitable storm. Few people are privy to the knowledge of his passing but by now we're well aware that there are rats in this castle: Alicent may think that the truth is contained to her, a handmaiden, and the Hand of the King, but thanks to Talya, the cunning White Worm (Sonoya Mizuno) is already in the know. Clueless to this fact, the sincerely mournful Queen has other concerns and shares them with her father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans): with his dying words, Viserys named Aegon his heir.

Alicent must assume that she's severely altering the course of events by sharing this because when the small council is called forward, she's shocked to discover that Aegon's ascent was always on the agenda. Dying words or not, Otto and his colleagues have been conspiring to crown Aegon all along. Technically that's treason but now that they have the moral high ground, they're all good! Right? No! Of course not!

Their scheme debuts to a mixed audience. Everyone who was in the know is decidedly pleased; Alicent has a mild existential crisis; the Commander of the Kingsguard, Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish) looks aghast; but it's our old friend Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) who completely loses his s***. Appalled by the treason, Beesbury berates the rest of the council for scheming and outright accuses them of regicide.

Is it the yelling or the mere concept of integrity that triggers Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Fraknel)? The world may never know. But something about the speech unleashes Criston's untethered rage: he grabs Beesbury by the shoulders and slams him down, cracking his skull on an ornamental small council ball.

What of Rhaenyra?

Beesburys death sets the tone for this ascension: you are either with the Greens or you will feel their wrath. It's unsettling, to say the least (and worth taking note of who is troubled by the murder and who takes it in stride). While the Green Council makes its plans, ignoring Beesbury's dead body, it is Alicent who voices the most pressing issue: "And what of Rhaenyra?"

Alicent, you sweet summer child, what did you think would happen to Rhaenyra in this situation? Otto tries to placate her with some unconvincing bulls***: Rhaenyra will be asked to bend the knee and will hopefully fall in line. He isn't fooling anyone, though. Rhaenyra will not go quietly and uh, don't forget who she's married to: Daemon Targaryen is a leaner, not a kneeler. His beloved brother is one thing, but there's no way he's bowing down to Aegon. And Otto knows that. The real plan is to have Rhaenyra killed.

For all her anger at the thought, Alicent seems incapable of brainstorming an alternative. At least she's not the only one reluctant to commit a murder. When Otto orders Westerling to sail to Dragonstone and slaughter some Targaryens, the Lord Commander yanks off his white cloak and effectively resigns.

The question of Rhaenyra's fate brings them to an impasse but if there's anything that the Green Council can agree on, it's the plan to make Aegon their king. This is utterly absurd given everything we know about that dumpster fire of a man but they've picked their horse, now all they have to do is find him. The future King has a thing for sneaking out to frequent Flea Bottom brothels and their inability to locate him provides ample opportunity for two factions to emerge. While Otto sends hilariously named twins Erryk (Elliott Tittensor) and Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) to find him, Alicent dispatches Criston and Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Whoever finds him first will be in control.

A clash of Queens

As the search for Aegon begins, big moves are made in the Red Keep. Otto calls forth the lords of the court, informs them of the change in leadership, and demands that they swear fealty to Aegon. This, my dear Otto, is a terrible way to make friends. It all has an ominous air of wrongdoing. Still, some bend the knee without hesitation. Those who don't are escorted to the dungeons. And then there's poor Lord Caswell, who bends the knee but immediately tries to escape and warn Rhaenyra. Caught in the act, he's hung as an example: The King's justice, or so Otto says.

Upstairs, Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) is locked in her room. Wandering Dragonriders is a big no-no, and she has recently made it clear that she's leaning toward Team Rhaenyra. But that doesn't mean she can't be convinced otherwise.

This is extremely conflicting for Rhaenys. For all the reasons that Alicent points out, she has plenty of reasons to be anti-Rhaenyra: the Princess cuckolded her son, allegedly murdered him, and then married her daughter's ex-husband. But on the other hand, everything that the Greens are doing is just a more deceitful echo of exactly what happened to Rhaenys — they are passing over Rhaenyra to avoid a woman on the Iron Throne.

To her credit, Rhaenys doesn't show her cards. It's hard to say which way she's leaning, especially as she bites back at Alicent, scornful of the way that she "toils in service to men."

"You desire not to be free but to make a window in the wall of your prison. Have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?"

Alicent may not dream of wearing a crown, but she has decidedly grown tired of being used as her father's pawn. So she seizes control, deciding that their next move will be crowning Aegon publicly and sending Rhaenyra fair terms. And if the Princess refuses? "Then she shall not return."

All hail Aegon, first failson of his name

Just in case you weren't quite sure how to feel about Aegon, we find out that he spends a lot of time in a Flea Bottom underground fighting ring, where children are forced to fight to the death with filed teeth and sharpened nails. Thankfully, not everyone shares his taste in entertainment. Mysaria, the White Worm (who secretly squirreled Aegon away) strikes a deal with Otto: she'll give him the Prince, if the crown shuts down the fighting ring. The Hand makes a very noncommittal promise to look into it and Mysaria reminds him to never forget this moment: that when they crown Aegon king, it will be because she didn't have him killed. 

"There is no power but what the people allow you to take," she tells him. It's a powerful sentiment that I doubt Otto will remember. After all, he can't even recall the fact that he's already met Mysaria: he stood across from her at Dragonstone and called her Daemon's whore.

Thanks to her, the Cargyll's are the ones to find Aegon — but it's Criston and Aemond who seize him in the end. Realizing what's happening, Aegon makes a surprising plea, begging his brother to let him go so he can board a ship and escape his duty. Aemond, a second son who believes himself better suited as king, sincerely considers it. But he never gets the chance to choose. Criston interrupts the brothers and it's off to Alicent they go.

The very next day, before a crowd of thousands, Aegon Targaryen II is crowned the new King of Westeros.

The ancient strength of House Targaryen

This isn't quite what we expected from episode nine, huh? We figured that "House of the Dragon" would follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, which made a habit of violently blowing things up, only to spend its final episode setting the pieces in place for its following season. But while there's no big battle or bloody massacre in "The Green Council," things have certainly been blown up.

"Let the people remember the ancient strength of House Targaryen," Alicent declares to her father. It's a powerful sentiment, but it seems that she forgot what it truly means. Their strength isn't about ceremonial words, family swords, or ancient crowns. It isn't even about Aegon's platinum-blonde locks. Targaryen strength is fire and blood. It is ruthlessness and dragons. Having escaped in the night with the help of the defective Cargyll twin, Princess Rhaenys seizes an opportunity to reunite with her dragon. And then she gives King's Landing a lesson in Targaryen power.

Princess Rhaenys (literally) crashes the crowning, killing innocents in the process. And she does so without a second thought. That is what Targaryen power looks like, and it's what the Greens have ultimately unleashed upon the realm.

There's a hazy, harrowing moment where in the wake of the death, destruction, and shock, it looks like Rhaenyra is the culprit. Has she already arrived to reclaim her throne? No. This isn't the Princess decimating the world to win back her birthright. At least not yet. This is just a taste of what's to come.

Stray thoughts

  • The absolute worst part of any romantic comedy is when the couple is torn apart by a silly misunderstanding. I now see that "House of the Dragon" is just a romantic comedy about Rhaenyra and Alicent, except instead of a temporary breakup they're gonna burn down the world.

  • Otto styles the dead King as Viserys The Peaceful. He's right, Viserys did reign over a time of peace but ironically, it's his final words that sparked this civil war. Can we maybe workshop some other names? Viserys The Unclear? Viserys The Very Good Model Builder? Viserys The Guy Who Spent Years Wanting A Son Then Weirdly Pretended His Firstborn Didn't Exist Which Gave Him Really Bad Daddy Issues That Have Thoroughly Messed Him Up?

  • "The king was well last night." Beesbury, bestie, I am so with you, these conniving jerks are up to no good, but let's be honest, the King was not well last night. The king has not been well in like 15 years. How Viserys even lasted 8 episodes remains a mystery.

  • Hot off of her reluctance to murder speech, Alicent all but asks Larys to murder the White Worm! But not before pulling back the curtain on an intimate detail of their relationship: Larys Strong ... has a foot fetish? In their post-time-skip late-night dinner scene, I thought her taking off her shoes was a hint at how close they'd grown as friends but uh, my bad? This also puts a fascinating spin on her relationship with Criston. She asked him for a favor based on "everything you feel for me... as your queen." Both of these me are murderous sociopaths! Alicent, get better allies!

  • Speaking of the White Worm, her home base being set ablaze means next to nothing. The TV rule never lies: no body = no death.

  • "There's a beast beneath the boards." Not only are Helaena's prophecies always right, they have a tendency to pay off one episode later!

  • I just can't imagine that House Beesbury, House Caswell or any of the other houses whose lords have been hanged or imprisoned will be too pleased about the Green Council's actions. If anything, they've just added fuel to the rebellion fire.

  • I know we wouldn't have a show if she did but dammit Rhaenys, you just had a shot to end all of this (or at least speed up the process) with a single command. One Dracarys later, Rhaenyra would've had no challengers left.

Who is winning the Game of Thrones?

WINNER: Aegon Targaryen - Congrats to Aegon, the least likable member of this family and the new king of Westeros. But let's call this a very tentative win because about 20 minutes before that crown is put atop his head, Aegon is still pleading to not have this responsibility. His tune kinda changes once he gets to hold the family dagger and he seems thrilled when the crowd cheers him on as king, but once Rhaenyra gets wind of this insanity, it will not be smooth sailing from there.

LOSER: Viserys Targaryen - As far as Viserys knows, he died having mended the conflict between the warring factions of his family. Unfortunately, whatever peace he brought them to was promptly undone by him that very same night. Yikes.

LOSER: Rhaenyra Targaryen - By all accounts (except one), Rhaenyra has always been the official heir to the Iron Throne. The lord of Westeros swore fealty to her and everyone knows it. Yet here we are, watching the realm cheer for a king. Every legitimate sign of power is at the disposal of the Greens. Aegon wears a crown, sits on the Iron Throne, holds King's Landing, lives in the Red Keep, and has loudly declared himself the King of Westeros. Should the majority of this kingdom choose a king in place of a queen, Rhaenyra will look like nothing more than a disgruntled rebel and Otto will have the excuse he needs to have her killed.

LOSER: Alicent Hightower - I know her son is king and all, but this episode ends with Alicent literally accepting death, only to be left alive with the promise of a battle ahead. She was so relieved to let this whole thing go, only for Viserys to accidentally burden her once more. Alicent doesn't even like her son! But she feels beholden to protecting him. Thanks to him, she's almost certainly gonna have to rule this kingdom herself because if you think a crown will stop Aegon from being a useless drunk, you're dead wrong.

LOSER: The entire population of Westeros - War is a pretty inconvenient concept for the Rhaenyra's and Alicent's of the world. They obviously have many stressful days ahead. But for the smallfolk? For the commoners of King's Landing, the boys who will populate their armies, and the people trying to escape the fight, they will be inevitably caught in the crossfire. They will be the victims of food shortages and rogue dragonfire. You thought s*** was bad when Daenerys unleashed her single dragon on a city? Just wait until the family of fire ad blood is at war.