The king is dead. You already know that if you saw the teaser for episode 9, titled The Green Council, which announced the monarch's passing. Just before Viserys died, he when he accidentally gave Alicent the impression he wanted their son Aegon to be king.
A classic mix-up! This wouldn't have happened if the Targaryens didn't insist on naming every second newborn Aegon.
The Green Council is the penultimate episode of House of the Dragon's first season. (The title is a reference to the Hightowers, whose house color is green.) It was one of the best, too. A few characters got to shine like never before, while others showed their true colors for the first time. Caution: House of the Dragon spoilers ahead. In addition, this recap references sexual coercion.
The king is dead
We begin this week with the end of King Viserys Targaryen. The old chap has seemingly been knocking on death's door for years, even back in the day when Milly Alcock was playing Rhaenyra. Queen Alicent is notified of his passing in the opening moments of the episode, and quickly seeks the council of her father, Otto Hightower.
"I saw him last night, before he … he told me he wished for Aegon to be king," Alicent tells him. "It is the truth, uttered with his own lips, his last words to me and I was the only one to hear it. And now he's dead."
The queen and the Hand call together a Small Council meeting, where Otto reveals King Viserys' apparent last words. That's a gift for them all, as it makes their succession plan easier: It turns out Hightower had been plotting with members of the Small Council to install Aegon as King after Viserys' death all along. Viserys' purported wish is just an extra weapon in their arsenal.
Among those not involved in the plan are Lord Beesbury, Master of Coin, and Queen Alicent herself.
"Am I to understand that members of the Small Council have been planning, secretly, to install my son without me?" Alicent asks with indignation.
Even more outraged is Lord Beesbury, who calls their plot theft, treason and seizure.
"I am six and 70 years old, I have known Viserys longer than any who sit at this table, and I will not believe that he said this on his deathbed alone with only the boy's mother as a witness."
Beesbury accuses the group of regicide, of being party to the king's passing. Ser Criston Cole takes it upon himself to handle Beesbury in an orderly fashion: By smashing Beesbury's face onto the table, killing him instantly.
Lord Commander Westerling orders Criston to lay down his sword, but Ser Criston refuses, until Queen Alicent orders him to. Otto Hightower says no one leaves the room until the business is sorted, and Alicent brings up Rhaenyra.
"The former heir cannot of course be allowed to remain free and draw support to her claim … she and her family will be given the opportunity to publicly declare obeisance to the new king."
Alicent rightly points out that Rhaenyra and especially Daemon would never bend the knee, and realizes the true plan is to have Rhaenyra and Daemon killed. Hightower demands Lord Commander Westerling take his knights to Dragonstone and murder the rival Targaryens.
Westerling refuses. He says he takes orders from the king, but there is no king. He takes off his cape and leaves it on the Small Council table.
All that's left to do is inform Aegon about his new duty. But there's a problem: No one can find Aegon. Aegon isn't in his chambers, and Ser Erryk, the Kingsguard knight sworn to protect him, doesn't know where he is either. Otto Hightower orders Erryk to go into King's Landing and find Aegon, and make sure the prince is brought to Hightower and Hightower alone. The queen, Hightower says, cannot know.
The queen, for her part, puts Ser Criston on the case. "Aegon must be found, and he must be brought to me. The very fate of the Seven Kingdoms depends on it."
Aemond, Aegon's brother, says he wants to go with Ser Criston, that he knows Aegon better than anyone. Naturally, the first place Aemond thinks Aegon will be is a pleasure house. But Aegon isn't there.
In the meantime, Otto Hightower has assembled King's Landing's lords and ladies in the Great Hall. It's a shakedown: He's forcing them to bend the knee to the new king.
"You once swore your banners to Rhaenyra, you must now pledge them to the future king," Hightower decrees.
One lord and one lady object, saying they won't break their oath to Princess Rhaenyra. The guards escort them out of the Great Hall.
Ser Erryk and his brother -- whose name, in all seriousness, is Arryk -- go into a fighting den the prince is known to frequent. It's like a cockfighting ring, except instead of roosters fighting it's peasant children. The prince spends many a night betting on fights, Ser Erryk says. Nodding to a small, silver-haired boy, he says Aegon gets up to much worse. "One of many" of Aegon's bastards, Ser Erryk says.
While Rhaenyra and Daemon sailed back to Dragonstone after the events of last episode, Princess Rhaenys is still in King's Landing. However, earlier in the episode, we saw that her doors were locked, making her a prisoner in her own chambers.
Now, Queen Alicent pays her a visit. She informs Rhaenys that the king is dead, and asks her to support Aegon over Rhaenyra. The Velaryons' pact with Rhaenyra has meant only bad things: Laena's death, Laenor being cuckolded and then ostensibly killed. But Rhaenys shoots back that Velaryon oaths are not so easily broken.
Queen Alicent says that Rhaenys should have been made ruler over Viserys -- that Viserys was better suited to being a country lord who spent his time hunting and reading history books. Probably true, but rough. The bloke just died!
"We do not rule, but we may guide the men who do," Alicent says, "away from violence and sure destruction, and instead toward peace."
Rhaenys turns it back on Alicent. "You are wiser than I believed you to be … and yet you toil still 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. Have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?"
Alicent rejects the hypothetical and tells Rhaenys to call her when she's made up her mind.
The queen and the hand
While at the children's fight pit, Ser Erryk and his brother are approached by a mysterious woman who says she knows where Aegon is. That woman takes the brothers, and Otto Hightower, to her master:.
Mysaria, who you may remember as Daemon's fling in early episodes, returned last week, showing herself to have informants deep inside the Red Keep. She now goes by the name of "White Worm."
She promises to take them to Aegon if Hightower promises children will stop being used for entertainment in King's Landing. The City Watch are meant to protect the children, she argues, but they're too easily bribed into ignoring the children's plight. Hightower mouths a somewhat empty-sounding platitude about looking into it.
Erryk and Arryk are sent to the Great Sept, and find a kidnapped Aegon underneath the central pillar. They drag him out, but when they get outside, they're met by Ser Criston and Aemond, who have been following the brothers all along.
A sword fight ensues, with Ser Criston besting Arryk. Erryk watches on, mysteriously not coming to his brother's aid before retreating. Aegon himself tries to run away, yelling that he's not cut out to be king, but Aemond chases him down.
"I was hoping you'd disappear," Aemond tells his brother.
"I have no wish to rule, no taste for duty, I'm not suited," Aegon squirms. He promises to board a ship and never be seen again if they let him go.
Aemond seems into the idea, but Ser Criston interjects. "The queen awaits."
Hours later, having outmaneuvered her father in kidnapping her son first, Queen Alicent visits Otto Hightower. He reprimands her for treating the succession like a game, and says they need to stay unified.
"Our hearts were never one, I see that now, rather I've been a piece that you move around the board," Alicent says. "I wanted whatever you impressed upon me to want. And now the debt comes due, a debt you are happy enough to pay."
Hightower says Rhaenyra and her family need to be sacrificed for the stability of the realm -- sacrifice the few for the many -- and that Alicent is being weak by not acknowledging this truth. The queen shouts that reluctance to murder is not a weakness.
She says she has Aegon, so they'll proceed as she sees fit. The next day, she says, Criston Cole will be named Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Aegon will be anointed and will take Aegon the Conqueror's crown and sword.
Most crucially, they'll send terms to Rhaenyra, fair terms that she can accept without shame.
"My husband would have desired this mercy to be shown to his daughter."
This was a great scene, arguably Queen Alicent's best yet. And it led to a much more distressing scene of sexual coercion.
When Queen Alicent gets back to her chambers, she finds "Clubfoot" Larys Strong waiting for her. He has news. Alicent sits on the couch across from him, takes her slippers off and puts her stocking-covered feet on the table. Larys tells her there's a web of spies in the Red Keep, one that Otto Hightower is aware of and has left in place because it has occasionally benefited him.
Larys says he has even worse news, but stalls for a moment. Alicent sighs, removes her stockings and puts her now bare feet on the table. Larys continues, explaining that Alicent's lady in waiting is one of the spies -- and that there are more like her. To stop the espionage, they need to take out the Queen Bee, something he's capable of if the queen wishes it.
Alicent sighs again, puts her feet up on a chair and looks away. Larys sneaks his hand in his pants and starts masturbating to her feet. Clubfoot has a foot fetish -- makes sense, I guess. It looks like the price Alicent pays for Larys' intel and services is … yeah.
King Aegon, second of his name
On the morning of Prince Aegon's ascension, Rhaenys is woken up by Ser Erryk. He says he can't stand for this treason -- now we know why he didn't help Arryk -- and wants to escort Rhaenys out of King's Landing. On their trip, we see what appears to be a hanged servant, and what appears to be Mysaria's old headquarters lit aflame. It's what appears to be Larys' handiwork.
Unfortunately, before Rhaenys can make it out of the city, she's obstructed by the throngs of people charging toward the Dragon Pit to see Aegon crowned.
Aegon himself is not keen at all on the whole enterprise. Riding toward the ceremony with his mother, he complains that Viserys never wanted him to be king, that Viserys upheld Rhaenyra's claim, that he's only being made king because that's what Alicent and Otto want.
When Alicent says the king changed his mind, that in his dying breath Viserys asked for Aegon to be named king, Aegon laughs.
"Do not toy with me mother."
Alicent opens a nearby box, which houses Viserys' dagger, the one that was once wielded by Aegon the Conqueror. She tells Aegon that, once he's king, Otto Hightower will implore him to execute Rhaenyra. Alicent pleads with Aegon to reject her father, that Rhaenyra is Aegon's sister and needs to be treated with civility.
Inside the Dragonpit, Otto Hightower speaks to the people of King's Landing.
"Today is the saddest of days. Our beloved king, Viserys the Peaceful, is dead. But it is also the most joyous of days, for as his spirit left us, he whispered his final wish: That his first-born son, Aegon, should succeed him."
Aegon is introduced, and led through a procession of knights onto the stage. Aegon was named king, with Aegon the Conqueror's crown placed on his head. The people cheered their new king.
The ceremony went off without a hitch, and peace washed over Westeros. It turned out to be an incident-free succession.
Starting the party
Yeah so obviously that last bit was a lie.
After Aegon was named King, a gigantic dragon burst up from under the floor. Amid the dust and debris, we see the dragon is being ridden by Rhaenys Targaryen. She managed to sneak off during the ceremony and retrieve Meleys, her dragon.
Everyone runs out of the Dragon Pit, except for the king and his gang -- including the queen, the hand and Ser Criston. Rhaenys and her enormous dragon approach them. She could burn them alive, and teases doing so by making Meleys let off a huge roar.
But instead of killing them, Rhaenys scoffs and flies away -- to Dragonstone, to alert Rhaenyra so that she can start mounting forces in the fight for the throne.
Let the Dance of the Dragons begin.
House of the Dragon has really hit its stride. Last week Viserys got to be the star, giving an impassioned speech that stole the show. In episode 9, it was finally Alicent Hightower's time to shine.
After being pushed around the chessboard, as she put it, she's playing a more active role in shaping events. Alicent has shown honor. She pushes Aegon for king, as she believes Viserys to have wanted, but her resolve to safeguard the princess in the process is admirable. It's Ned Stark-esque. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to end well. It's easy to see Alicent's attempts at civility to be spat back at her by Rhaenyra and Daemon who, rightfully, will feel burned by the whole "Aegon is the new king" thing.
Alicent wasn't the only character to get some shine in episode 9, as Rhaenys also ruled here. Her scene with Alicent was great, and her power move of erupting from under the floor with a giant dragon will be hard to top.
By keeping Rhaenyra and Daemon off the screen and out of the loop, episode 9 did a great job at building suspense for the finale. But if it had one flaw, I guess I'd have to say it's Larys Strong masturbating to the queen's feet.