Episode 9 of House of the Dragon marks the first official blow against Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne as the Greens attempt to usurp her seat of power.
We are one week away from the season 1 finale of House of the Dragon, and episode 9, “The Green Council,” sees chaos ensue in King’s Landing as the Hightowers usurp the Iron Throne from its rightful ruler, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy). With King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) dead, Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) informs her father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) about Viserys’ dying wish for their son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) to be King, which we know to be either a misunderstanding or Alicent manipulating his final words to fit her own narrative. Servants of the royal family are locked into cells to prevent word getting out of the King’s passing, including Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) who is imprisoned in her own room.
The Green Council is formed to discuss how they will proceed to keep the King’s death a secret until they make the necessary changes in King’s Landing to secure Aegon’s ascension to the throne. Otto and Tyland Lannister (Jefferson Hall) share their intentions, which troubles Alicent as she realizes she was not invited to be a part of their schemes beforehand. Lord Beesbury (Bill Paterson) is the first to protest against the Green’s objective, accusing them of treason for trying to usurp Rhaenyra. Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) is bothered by his demur and kills the old man by smashing him onto the table. Ser Harold Westerling (Graham McTavish), Commander of the Kingsguard, opposes Cole and the Green’s actions and renounces his position after learning Otto and Tyland plan to have Rhaenyra and her family assassinated.
We quickly learn that the Hightowers’ plans aren’t as straightforward as they might’ve hoped for when they discover Prince Aegon has escaped from the Red Keep. A game of cat and mouse follows as Otto sends the Cargyll twins Ser Erryk (Elliot Tittensor) and Ser Arryk (Luke Tittensor) to go into the city and find the future King, while Alicent sends Cole and her son Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Both father and daughter are in a competition with each other to track Aegon down, since whoever gets to him first will be able to handle the succession as they see fit. Otto is not afraid to get violent, whereas Alicent is hopeful they can use diplomacy to avoid any further bloodshed.
While Otto Hightower forces the lords of the realm to bend the knee in support of Aegon, Aemond and Cole’s search is unlucky. Aemond expresses his frustration with his older brother since he never cared about studying history, training to be a warrior, or about his birthright. In the meantime, the Cargyll twins uncover a trafficking ring in Flea Bottom where children are obligated to fight one another for money. Here, we are exposed to a silver-haired toddler, implying to be Aegon’s bastard child. Throughout their search, we are hinted to a sort of disagreement between the twins, as Erryk seems disgusted by the Prince’ actions, while Arryk remains loyal to the Greens. Their bickering is interrupted by a woman who offers them information about Aegon’s whereabouts.
After finally wrapping Viserys’ body and briefly mourn his passing, Alicent pays Rhaenys a visit in her chambers. She tries to win the Princess to her side, telling her that it was the King’s wish to name Aegon his heir, and to not feel forced to support Rhaenyra because it is what Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) would do in her place. Alicent goes so far as to give Rhaenys compliments about how she was better fit to rule over Viserys, and that she only wants to guide her son to be a good monarch since women are better advisors than men. Rhaenys mocks the Queen by pointing out the obvious that all Alicent has done in her life is either serve the men around her, or be manipulated by them.
Aemond and Ser Criston Cole encounter the Hand of the King in the company of the Cargyll twins and Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno). Their meeting’s purpose is to exchange information regarding Aegon’s location for a price. Mysaria does not only seek gold and Otto’s favor, she wants him to put an end to the exploitation of children in Flea Bottom once Aegon is placed on the throne. Otto swears he will look into the issue, but not before Mysaria reminds him that she could’ve had the Prince killed and because of her help his grandson will be King and that the royal family owes the power they hold to the smallfolk.
Arryk and Erryk are able to find Aegon and try to take him back to Otto, but they’re stopped by Aemond and Cole. A fight breaks out between Arryk and Ser Criston Cole, since both parties have orders to deliver the Prince to different people. Erryk does not intervene in the quarrel, almost unfaded by the conflict within House Hightower. While both members of the Kingsguard continue their fight, Aegon begs his younger brother to let him sail away from Westeros so Aemond could be King, but Criston interrupts before they can come to an agreement and takes the Prince back to his mother.
Otto and Alicent meet once again to discuss the hunting game they played on each other, as the Queen reassures her father they will proceed with her peaceful terms as she originally wished for after gaining control over Aegon. Shortly after, Larys (Matthew Needham) is seen awaiting for Alicent’s arrival at her bedchambers to inform her of how Otto’s men managed to find the Prince first. He tells her about Mysaria, her web of spies in the Red Keep, and how the Hand of the King has allowed for her operations to continue. It is here where we learn how the Queen has been able to maintain Larys loyal to her: by letting him masturbate to the sight of her feet, as he has a foot fetish following his own disability with his clubfoot. As another favor, Larys sends men to burn down some of Mysaria’s manse and her helpers.
Erryk Cargyll finally reveals his true allegiance by helping Rhaenys to escape the Red Keep and warn the Blacks about the Greens usurping the throne away from Princess Rhaenyra. On their way out, they encounter a noble lord hanged to death after showing his support for the Blacks. Rhaenys eventually finds herself trapped in the Dragonpit as Aegon II Targaryen’s coronation is in place. She seizes the opportunity to free her dragon Meleys from the Dragonpit, interrupting the new King’s celebration and causing a rampage that costs the lives of many present at the event. In a demonstration of power, Rhaenys intimidates the Greens by making them think she would burn them alive, only to back down at the last minute.
Episode 9 of House of the Dragon plays out almost as a thriller, with our characters racing against time. Following Viserys’ death, everyone’s true intentions are revealed. All members of House Hightower and their most loyal allies want the same thing, but they want to get there using different methods. That makes for such a fascinating inner conflict as it shows that even within one side of the war there are still disagreements happening that make things more complicated than they should be.
Alicent finally overpowering her father is a great bit of character development, leaving that scared little girl behind, despite it being for the wrong reasons. What’s great about her arc between episodes 8 and 9 is that I think Alicent deep down knows Viserys wasn’t talking to her when he spoke of Aegon on his deathbed. King Viserys didn’t drag himself from his bed to defend his daughter one last time in front of court just to change his mind a couple of hours later. So, I believe Alicent thinks she’s doing the noble thing, when in reality she’s creating more chaos because of her own ambition. I don’t believe she completely misunderstood the situation, but moreover interpreted it to fit her own interests.
What I didn’t expect this week’s episode to do is make me interested in Aegon’s character. Look, I dislike Aegon just as much as the next person, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy his characterization in this episode. He’s a man who refuses to be King, but the minute he gets a taste of power and love (the kind he never got from his own family) from the people his entire demeanor changes. Aegon is a product of his actions being enabled by his family. Alicent paying the servant girl to keep quiet about the abuse she suffered under her son is a great example of this. So, seeing this man-child, who has never been loved by his parents, get what he wants is such a fascinating storytelling decision.
Next week will see the conclusion to House of the Dragon’s first season. Judging from the preview shown after episode 9, the finale will give us lots of controversial things to discuss. It will be chaotic, emotional, leaving the audience eager for season 2 of the Game of Thrones prequel series.
Episode 9 of House of the Dragon is now available to watch on HBO Max. Find out why you should be excited for House of the Dragon and come back next week for our next review of the series.