Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the ninth episode of House of the Dragon Season 1.
HBO’s House of the Dragon is following in the grand tradition of Game of Thrones and delivered some massive game-changers in the penultimate episode of a season. This may not have been Ned Stark losing his head or the Red Wedding, but the Hightower contingent at court stealing the Iron Throne for Aegon with only Alicent really believing that it was what Viserys wanted is a surefire step toward civil war. Even without Rhaenyra and Daemon in the hour, the episode drew first blood between the Greens and the princess’ supporters, and there are some big takeaways to remember for the finale.
So, in the wake of the incredibly unqualified Aegon being crowned King Aegon, Second of His Name and then his coronation being quite literally crashed by an angry Targaryen, let’s look at the standout elements of Episode 9!
Otto Hightower And The Small Council Were Already Conspiring
If Alicent thought that she’d have an uphill battle in trying to convince her father and the small council that Viserys changed his mind about his heir in his dying breath so that they would seat Aegon on the Iron Throne, then she was very wrong. With the exception of Lord Beesbury and Alicent herself, the entire council had already been planning to steal the throne for Aegon, and those plans included the murder of Rhaenyra and her family. Beesbury was killed for calling out their treason, and Alicent found herself without allies willing to speak up. They planned to steal the throne no matter what; Alicent coming in with her interpretation of Viserys' final words was just convenient.
Alicent Doesn't Want Rhaenyra Killed
Although Otto claimed that they would offer Rhaenyra and her family safety if they bent the knee to Aegon, the prevailing opinion on the council was that Rhaenyra and hers needed to be killed, to the point that Otto ordered Ser Harrold Westerling to go to Dragonstone and take care of it. The Lord Commander of the Kingsguard removed his white cloak and refused, and Alicent never changed her mind, knowing that Viserys wouldn’t want Rhaenyra murdered even if he had changed his mind about her as heir. She intends that Rhaenyra be sent terms of surrender that she would not be ashamed to accept, but at this point, it seems that for as long as the Targaryens on Dragonstone remain unaware of what has happened, whoever controls Aegon controls their fates.
The Greens See Daemon As A Particular Threat
While Otto’s top priority seemed to be killing Rhaenyra, it quickly became clear that the Greens see Daemon as an immediate and unpredictable threat. The Hand swiftly moved to get rid of the two City Watch captains still loyal to Daemon from his days as their commander, and specifically said “and then there is Daemon to consider” when listing reasons why that half of the family needed to be murdered. No elaboration was really necessary, based on his actions in the first eight episodes. In fact, given that Daemon recently beheaded a man in open court to defend his stepson, Otto's fears about what the prince would do if his wife was usurped were undoubtedly well-founded. “Daemon to consider” indeed!
Characters Already Have To Choose Sides
Even though the Greens already had a plan in place for the transfer of power from Viserys to Aegon, they weren’t unopposed, and several characters showed that their loyalties truly lay with the heir who they’d sworn oaths to two decades ago. Lord Caswell was executed for his loyalty to Rhaenyra, and other nobles were taken away for refusing to declare for Aegon. The twins Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk wound up on opposite sides despite both being knights of the Kingsguard, with Erryk helping Rhaenys escape and presumably joining Rhaenyra’s side. (Possibly Ser Harrold as well, considering his reaction to the plot to kill Rhaenyra.) Blood has already been shed, and Rhaenyra’s side doesn’t even know that war has started yet.
Rhaenys Remained Loyal, But Could Have Ended The War
Rhaenys had the bad fortune to still be at King’s Landing when the quiet coup happened, and was locked in her room until Alicent came to try and persuade her to declare House Velaryon (and her dragon Meleys) for Aegon. Instead, Rhaenys held out until Ser Erryk came to free her, and she used the distraction of the coronation to get to the Dragonpit, free Meleys, and crash the ceremony at the Sept of Baelor. She could have ended the whole conflict then and there by roasting the Greens, but instead chose to fly away from King’s Landing after a staredown with Alicent. She’s presumably heading to Dragonstone, which means Rhaenyra and Daemon won’t be unaware that the Greens crowned Aegon for much longer.
Aemond Wants To Be King
Episode 9 revealed another player in House of the Dragon's game of thrones, as Aemond told Ser Criston that he felt he should be king over his older brother due to his studies of history, philosophy, and swordplay, plus his claim on the largest dragon in the world. Considering that pretty much nobody likes Aegon – with the exception of Alicent, who really only seems to love him out of obligation, and the smallfolk who don’t know him enough to dislike him – there may be many who would gladly swap Aemond for Aegon.
Interestingly, Aemond claimed that he was next in line after Aegon, but the Targaryen family tree tells us that Aegon is father to three children, two of them boys. (The twins at least were seen in Episode 9.) Aemond seems to be the Greens’ version of Daemon, but without the genuine family loyalty that is one of Daemon’s redeeming qualities. Daemon never would have overthrown Viserys; can the same be said of Aemond and his brother Aegon’s line in HOTD?
Vhagar Might Not Be Enough For The Greens
As Aemond boasted, he rides the biggest dragon in the world, but Alicent’s conversation with Rhaenys suggests that Vhagar might not be enough for the Greens to be confident against Rhaenyra’s side. In fact, when we look at who has which dragon in the Game of Thrones prequel, it’s easy to see her point. The only dragon controlled by the Greens to appear so far is Vhagar, and the only other two are Aegon’s Sunfyre and Helaena’s Dreamfyre. On the other side, Rhaenys has Meleys, Daemon has Caraxes, Rhaenyra has Syrax, and Jace has Vermax. Luke, Joffrey, and Baela all also have dragons that haven’t appeared yet.
Though Vhagar is the biggest and oldest, the younger dragons may be faster, and both Caraxes and Meleys have seen action. The Greens might have had the advantage if Rhaenys had flipped on Rhaenyra, at least enough for her to consider negotiating; as it is, Vhagar can’t be everywhere all at once, and neither Aegon nor Helaena seem like the type to go riding off into battle as bravely as their younger brother. (Their youngest brother is still MIA.)
Only Rhaenyra Knows The Full Prophecy
Unless Rhaenyra already told Jace about the “song of ice and fire” prophecy (which seems unlikely) or Viserys told Daemon about it when Daemon was still his heir (which seems even more unlikely), Rhaenyra is currently the only one who knows about Aegon the Conqueror’s dream about a Targaryen needing to sit the Iron Throne to defeat those who will “destroy the world of the living.”
Episode 9 made it clear that Alicent has no idea that what she heard was a snippet of the larger prophecy; Rhaenyra may want to pass the message along now that Viserys is dead and the Greens want her head. Plus, Aegon the Elder (as opposed to Rhaenyra and Daemon’s Aegon the Younger) has the dagger with the message on it.
The Season 1 finale of House of the Dragon airs on Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and streaming with an HBO Max subscription. The Game of Thrones spinoff has already been renewed for Season 2, but fans may have a while to wait to see what happens next. For some viewing options in the not-too-distant future, be sure to check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).