House of the Dragon – Inauguration Day

Ah, the penultimate Game of Thrones episode. Kinda goes without saying, House of the Dragon has A LOT to live up to. Episode 9 has been historically (in)famous for shaking up the chessboard. Big battles ensue, major players get GOT, and the season-long machinations are executed with precision, finally. “The Green Council” doesn’t quite do all three here—and that makes it its own game-changer.

THAT SCORE THO

Even if HotD’s ep 9 didn’t do it for you, there’s no denying that composer Ramin Djawadi didn’t come thru. A eulogy for Viserys by way of mournful piano keys, yet something sinister lurking beneath with each sustained violin note. “Fate of the Kingdom” subtly evokes “Light of the Seven” as we intercut between two separate groups in the same location. At this point, Djawadi is a major component of this song of ice and fire’s identity, the same way Howard Shore was for Lord of the Rings. The compositions are emotional, grandiose, and inseparable. When the track resurfaces towards the end in the closeup montage of each Hightower mourning by the fireplace, silently plotting schemes that will only result in bloodshed. Magnifico 🤌

SMALL COUNCIL SHAKEUP

The king is dead. But it’s not a time for pause or reflection than it is an opportunity. As we’ve seen countless times before in this saga, when the king dies, the realm scatters; the United States Seven Kingdoms becomes a free-for-all in the power grab. Pledges of allegiance are tested, and houses come apart at the seams.

Alicent and Rhaenyra seemed to reconcile their differences last ep. A familiar gesture between two former friends can do that sometimes – make you feel like there’s a way back. It would’ve been temporary, to be sure, because Rhaenyra is still Viserys’s heir and Alicent’s son is still her challenger to the throne. But for the sake of Viserys’s health, they could’ve enjoyed a peaceful spring. Instead, that lasted about 12 hours and we’re back to our regularly scheduled back-stabbing.

“He wished for Aegon to be king.” Viserys played things too close to the chest. A prophecy is misinterpreted, and the realm will fall into chaos. At least he doesn’t have to deal with that nonsense anymore. Queen Regent Alicent seeks a way to smooth things over with Rhaenyra. But Otto Hightower hears all he needs to hear, and he’s been waiting for decades. Turns out the rest of the small council has been waiting all this time too. Unbeknownst to Alicent, they’ve been dealing under the table, had a plan in place, and now it’s time.

Lord Beesbury will hear none of this tomfoolery and it’s the last thing he ever does. (RIP, Fleabag’s father. Wished you could’ve uttered “gangbang” one last time.) Ser Criston’s thuggish side comes rearing again, and it draws Ser Harrold Westerling’s sword. How the hell did Criston manage to keep his post following his straight up murder the last time at Rhaenyra’s wedding? Ser Harrold is wondering the same thing. But the last straw comes when the Lord Commander is asked to assassinate Rhaenyra. The only noble man in the room resigns from his post, taking nobility with him.

The small council loses 3 members in one day, the table sits divided, and nobody got to break for lunch. Just a bad meeting overall.

BEN D. KNEE

Hand of the King quickly proceeds to get other Houses in line with the next king. Otto reiterates that proclaiming Aegon over Rhaenrya was in fact Viserys’s last wish. But it’s not all 90 degree knees right away. Somebody should’ve checked those ballots very carefully.

Otto, in the end, uses threats and sheer force to get those oaths of fealty. Some maintain their oaths to Rhaenyra, others know there’s no leaving the room if they don’t bend. Otto hears what he wants and gets what he wants in the throne room. All this for a guy who’s nowhere to be found.

AEGONE

All this power grabbing and Aegon doesn’t wanna rule. Bro’s been neglected by his father and raised by a mother to do one thing all his life. Now he just wants to party and vibe in Flea Bottom. Aegon, needless to say, is lost.

There are two competing agendas searching for the next monarch. Otto sends Erryk and Arryk Cargyll (these names I swear to god) and Alicent dispatches Criston Cole and Aemond. The Cargyll twins find one of Aegon’s bastards—and a mistress of whispers who knows this too. Aegon’s coronation gets messier and messier by the brothel.

Another power grab simmers in the search party: Aemond wants to be king. (Hey, you claim Vhagar, you get to level up and think you’re hot shit. Those are the rules.) It’s a brief and interesting moment between Aemond and Criston. They are searching for a shithead who’d rather flee from responsibility, and here’s a Targaryen who’s grown into the role before Ser Criston’s very eyes. Criston gets the moniker of “Kingmaker” follower the Hightower’s usurp of the throne. But if the choice fell solely to Criston, which king would HE make given the chance?

Much has been said about House Targaryen being divided. The Hightowers are too. We’ve been watching the gradual dissolution between Otto and Alicent all season long. Alicent only did as she was bid; she was never regarded as an equal player. Even when things came to a head at Driftmark, where father Otto praised his daughter, the scene still ended with him telling her what to do. Now, with Aegon in her custody, daughter tells her father how this is gonna go. Their ends are the same – get the imbecile Aegon on the throne – but their means and modes diverge.

They might take the stage at the dragon pit together, but them Greens are split.

THE GREAT RHAENYS ESCAPE

Otto might’ve locked all the lords and ladies in the throne room, but Alicent knows that the real get here is Rhaenys. Because she has a dragon, which Alicent makes abundantly clear. Thing is, the Queen Regent is an episode too late to ask.

When Rhaenyra made her desperate plea in the godswood, Rhaenys said she’d stand apart from her niece. She might’ve followed thru on it too. Then Viserys crossed the throne room to defend his daughter, and he propped up Rhaenys’s own authority as the Lady of Driftmark. Alicent is saying all the right things here about Rhaenyra’s sons being bastards. But she tries too hard by making a Corlys move: “You should have been queen.” Rhaenys is tired of hearing that, the same way Alicent is tired of being manipulated by Otto whenever he cites her mother’s memory.

The Queen Who Never Was sees right through Alicent: “You desire not to be free but to make a window in the wall of your prison.” Rhaenys made her fealty 24 hours ago. That, and the Hightowers locked her in her room. Terrible conditions to be doing this all around.

Erryk (or was it Arryk? Fuck idc) fortunately helps Rhaenys escape – a sympathy that will come in handy later. Rhaenys finds her own damn way to the dragon pit and it’s all smiles despite the usurp. She knows what she’s gonna do just like we know what she’s gonna do.

Then she doesn’t do it. It’s the moment in the penultimate ep that had everybody debating in the past week: “RHAENYS SHOULD’VE BURNED THEM ALL AND THERE’D BE NO WAR.” See, I hear y’all. But you realize we wouldn’t get a show either.

The stand-off in the dragon pit is not between an aunt and a crowned nephew—but between Rhaenys and Alicent. Kind of a quiet compliment being paid from one powerful woman to another. Rhaenys on her dragon recognizes Alicent as the real power in King’s Landing, not Otto.

Could Rhaenys have killed everybody? Yes. (In fact, she did. Lotta commonfolk perished there in the spectacle.) But would she have? Should she have??? Absolutely not. Because then she’d be the Mad Queen Who Never Was.

Rhaenys isn’t a killer, not yet anyway. I think it’d be out of character if she did, and the same complaints we all had about Daenerys going mad in GoT Season 8 would start all over again. People are complaining anyway, so, whatever. We all have our ideas of what went down (and what should’ve gone down). My girl was locked in her room—made to be a Disney Princess there for a sec against her will. She just wanted out, so she got OUT with some cinematic flair to fulfill the spectacle quota of the “penultimate episode.”

As far as this Episode 9 goes, “The Green Council” feels like a clear breaking away of the show’s reputation. I think it’s for the best. GoT had so often backloaded its final stretches with the game-changing moments. Why build to one giant episode when you can have giant moments across the whole season?

HotD has the benefit of learning from GoT. While penultimate eps prior gave us The Red Wedding and Battle of the Bastards, I think it’s a mistake to keep that structure when you can do so much more with 10 episodes.

They’ve already done so much with 9 so far that only one question matters now: can House of the Dragon stick the landing?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s