TV Review: ‘House of the Dragon’ Season One Episode Nine: ‘The Green Council’
Series Plot: Set approximately 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon chronicles the events of The Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war that nearly tore the entire Seven Kingdoms apart.
Episode Plot: In the wake of King Viserys death, the members of the Small Council implement a lethal strategy. Otto and Alicent send out their respective minions to seek out Prince Aegon who has vanished from the Red Keep. Queen Alicent presents Princess Rhaenys with an opportunity that could forever alter the future of House Velaryon.
Review: With the King dead, the gossamer thin webbing that was barely keeping the Greens and the Blacks at bay, has now been swept away like so much dust into a bin. Of all the episodes of House of the Dragon thus far, “The Green Council” stands out in a unique manner. It’s almost a mini movie, a thriller with chase elements that borders on the Hitchcockian. If last week’s episode was the calm before the storm, this week’s is the coup d’état we’ve all been dreading.
The opening few minutes is a visual feast that’s at once ominous and intriguing. Every area of the Red Keep, most notably the Small Council chambers is shrouded in black. It’s as if Viserys’ death hangs dark amid the rafters, a portent of dark days ahead. Alicent becomes the first one to know as she’s informed by her maidservant Talya. I liked this little scene because for all her faults, Alicent truly loved her husband, and she feels his loss. Those tears are sincere. I’d even go so far as to say that Otto’s wet eyes are sincere as well. Is he a plotting, grasping, overly ambitious worm? Yes. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t care for Viserys. I appreciated Talya’s relay of the king’s death to the White Worm via candles. It felt reminiscent of when Sansa tried to signal to Brienne, except this time the message was received.
Alicent wastes no time in telling Otto that Viserys’ final wish was for Aegon to be king. Otto convenes the Small Council immediately and informs them adding that Viserys “left us a gift” by telling Alicent he wished Aegon to ascend the throne. It is in the next moments that the depth of Otto and the Small Council’s scheming comes into the light as they reveal that they’ve been preparing for this day—behind Alicent’s back no less—for years. They NEVER intended Rhaenyra to ascend the throne and had been plotting all along, much to the chagrin of Alicent. The look on her face is priceless and credit where it’s due, Olivia Cooke’s performance continues to get better with each week. What she’s able to convey in her face whether it is desperation or scorn is simply amazing.
Of course, the one person to resist this outrage is Lyman Beesbury, the man we all thought was some doddering old fool. Slightly senile he may be, but that doesn’t prevent him from calling out the actions of the Small Council for what they are—the vilest of treasons. Bill Patterson is excellent here, with his character even calling into question how King Viserys died. This is apparently too much for Criston Cole who summarily murders Beesbury by slamming his head into the table. Lord Commander Harold Westerling orders Criston Cole to remove his cloak but Cole refuses.
Before things can escalate Otto interrupts to discuss their plans regarding Rhaenyra. While at first Otto states that Rhaenyra and Daemon will be given the opportunity to bend the knee, Alicent sees right through Otto’s schemes. She knows that Rhaenyra and Daemon will never submit and that Otto plans to kill them both. Otto and the others don’t even attempt to hide it after Alicent’s accusation. This pushes Alicent further than before as she vehemently declares they will not kill Viserys’ daughter. Otto ignores her and orders Harold Westerling to take his knights to Dragonstone and kill them all. In one of the moments of true honor, dignity, and respect, Westerling casts down his white cloak and refuses. One of the big complaints (baffling to me) about this show is that there isn’t anybody to root for. You’d be hard pressed to find a person not cheering for Graham McTavish’s Harold Westerling in this moment.
To actually put Aegon on the throne they have to, well, find him first. Because wouldn’t you know, douche canoe Aegon has once again fucked off to wherever meaning it is a race against time to track him down. The two main participants in this race are Otto and Alicent with Otto employing Kingsguard knights Ser Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) and Ser Erryk Cargyll (Elliott Tittensor) to find him and Alicent using Criston Cole and Prince Aemond. It’s of course a very hush hush escapade with all parties involved hiding their true identities. What’s fascinating about this whole situation is that the fate of Princess Rhaenyra is hanging in the balance, and she has no idea it is even happening.
Believing that Aegon may have gone to a brothel, Criston Cole and Aemond travel to an establishment where Aemond lost his virginity—thanks to his brother—several years ago. However, Aegon hasn’t been there in years and according to the madam has “less discriminating” tastes, leaving you to wonder what sick, twisted shit Aegon’s into. I did enjoy the nice moment between the madam and Aemond as its pretty clear that’s who took his Aemond’s virginity.
Credit to the editing in this episode as it does a masterful job of cutting back and forth between the doings in King’s Landing and the happenings at the Red Keep. Otto meanwhile is consolidating power. The coup is running smoothly and efficiently with servants being imprisoned and lords and ladies gathered to swear fealty. It’s a sign of long-range planning, trigger actions in the event of King Viserys death. Most bend the knee but not all and it was refreshing to see at least a few lords and ladies refuse to be oath breakers.
A moment ago, I wondered about Aegon’s proclivities, and damn if it wasn’t worse than I imagined. Aegon apparently has been doing his best Michael Vick impersonation, except instead of backing illegal dog fighting, he’s into illegal children fighting. You heard that right. Aegon watches, bets on, and encourages children to file their teeth and nails and fight to the death. Moreover, one if not more are his own bastards. How can everyone be this myopic? How can anyone possibly believe that Aegon should be king? He’s depraved and broken. This scene does a great job of establishing tension between the twins Arryk and Erryk. Erryk sees Aegon for what he is as he’s been his sworn shield for years. He’s disgusted by Prince Aegon whereas Arryk sees it as their sworn duty to defend and protect the royalty no matter what.
At least not everyone is blind when it comes to Aegon. Aemond tersely wonders to Ser Criston why he’s out here looking for a sniveling little pissant that couldn’t give a fiddler’s fart about the ruling when he’s Aemond’s the one studying history and philosophy, the one who’s become a fierce warrior, the one who rides the largest dragon. It’s clear he wants to be king. He might even be good at it. Credit to the writers here because last week Prince Aemond came off as a creepy psychopath one nudge away from drawing blood. This week you nearly empathize with him because we’ve all seen situations where people who were born on third base are handed the keys to the kingdom while others who are truly qualified are passed over and forgotten.
Meanwhile back at the Red Keep, Lord Caswell is caught trying to escape and warn Rhaenyra. Caught in fact by Slimeball McFuckface AKA Lord Larys. The man is a snake and will do anything to benefit his station. This is evident by when Otto comments that he’s been suspending an inordinate amount of time with Queen Alicent. Larys immediately offers his services and secrets to the Hand. Given the right scenario, Larys would sell his own mother for a secret. Did this dude not get enough hugs as a child?
In what may be one of the best scenes of the season, Queen Alicent visits Princess Rhaenys who’s been locked in her room since Viserys passed. Alicent lays it on thick in asking for Rhaenys support, talking about how she’s lost both of her children due to Rhaenyra, with Laenor a cuckhold. What good reason does Rhaenys have to back Rhaenyra? Alicent even says Rhaenys should have been Queen over Viserys and that while they can’t rule, they can guide the men who do. Of course, this is also a tactical move to keep Rhaenys’ dragon Meleys from Rhaenyra’s side. Princess Rhaenys ultimately doesn’t buy it wondering why Alicent still “toils in the service of men.” House Velaryon is not fickle, and she sees Alicent’s actions as the coup that it is. Rhaenys even goes one step further wondering if Alicent’s going to usurp power, why hasn’t Alicent gone for the throne? Eve Best 100% owns this in entire episode and it was great to see her shine.
Ultimately it looks like Otto is going to win the Carmen Sandiego equivalent of “Where in King’s Landing Is Aegon Targaryen” as he meets with the White Worm. Mysaria chooses to meet with Otto in person for two reasons. One, she wants Otto to know that when Aegon is put on the throne she could have easily killed him. Second, Mysaria wants the kid fighting ended. Say what you want about Mysaria, even a person who profits off the dark secrets of others has a line. It’s also kind of ironic that someone who by Westeros standards has questionable morals must remind the fine “upstanding” citizens in power to act like decent human beings.
While the Arryk and Erryk find Aegon (hiding out in a sept no less) the victory is short lived as Prince Aemond and Criston Cole intercept them outside of the sept. It’s quite the multilayered scene. On the one hand Criston Cole fights Ser Arryk with zero help from his brother. The schism between the twins widens and its almost the entire Greens and Blacks story writ small. Meanwhile, Aemond tries to corral his brother Aegon who reiterates that he doesn’t want to rule, even going so far as to suggest hopping on a boat and fleeing. It’s a contrast in personalities here for everyone observant enough to see. Tom Glynn-Carney’s Aegon is a truly tortured and twisted soul who wears his pain like a towel. Meanwhile, Ewan Mitchell’s Prince Aemond is also tortured but he hides it behind a thick veneer of cold, emotionless calculation. Credit to both actors for bringing some nuance and depth to Aegon and Aemond.
Otto and Alicent finally have the confrontation they’ve been building toward maybe their entire lives. Alicent finally sees herself for what she’s always been to Otto, which is a piece on a chess board, nothing more. Otto throws it back in her face that if that is so, he made her Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. There’s a plethora of great lines in this episode but maybe my favorite is Alicent saying, “Reluctance to murder is not a weakness.” It’s a rational statement that no one will listen to. Regardless Aegon is in her hands now and she’s in control. Alicent plans to send terms to Rhaenyra and show mercy without murder.
Furthermore, Alicent plans to crown Aegon the next day with the crown of Aegon the Conqueror on his head and the Aegon’s sword Blackfyre in his hand. It’s a brilliant tactical move. If you’re going to have people embrace a new king, you have to show them the new king. Therefore, it has to be public and full of pageantry. Giving Aegon II the symbols of his ancestor helps legitimize his claim and makes it more difficult for the commons to favor Rhaenyra. As Mysaria says earlier in the episode, you have no power except that which the people allow you to take.
Speaking of power dynamics, we can’t overlook the fascinating (yes I know I spelled gross wrong) relationship between Larys and Alicent. How ironic that a person with a distinct club foot has a foot fetish that would make Quentin Tarantino blush. Lord Larys reveals to Alicent that Otto was able to find Aegon so quick because of the web of spies that he’s allowed to exist in the Red Keep. The only way to stop the web is to burn out the Queen. (Something that a hooded someone eventually does.) Larys of course offers to take care of the matter himself, provided that Alicent shows her feet so he can jerk off. This clearly isn’t the first time either as Alicent’s look of disgust suggests. Here however, is where I believe Larys’ ultimate plans come into play. He doesn’t want to destroy the web; he wants to control the web. Spiders, birds, bees—why it almost sounds like someone is trying to become the first Master of Whisperers.
Ser Erryk officially reaches his breaking point as he decides to turn against the Greens and free Princess Rhaenys. His plan is to get her to the harbor even though Rhaenys wishes to take her dragon Melelys. Fortunately for Rhaenys, the crowds in the streets end up pushing her to the Dragon Pit where Aegon’s coronation is set to begin.
Alicent and Aegon have a pointed conversation on the way to his coronation. Aegon utterly refuses at first to believe Viserys wanted him to be king, claiming Viserys never liked him. It isn’t until Alicent reveals Viserys’ knife to Aegon that he truly begins to believe. It’s clear that Aegon’s been starved for approval and validation his whole life. That doesn’t justify his bullshit, but you can almost see the person Aegon could have become. Yet when he seeks for validation from Alicent, an answer to the simple question of “Do you love me?” she calls him an imbecile. Listen, Aegon is an adult and accountable for his own actions but looking at how Helaena, Aemond, and Aegon turned out I’m questioning the parenting abilities of Viserys and Alicent.
The actual coronation ceremony itself is breathtaking, a visual feast more impressive than some dragon shots we’ve seen this season. The swords, the oils, the trumpets—it’s all a brilliant display of pageantry, pomp, and circumstance. Aegon is truly shocked at the crowd’s response, they clap for him, cheer for him, praise him. This is the validation he’s been seeking all his life and you can see the change take place on Aegon’s face. He’s gotten a taste of adulation and he likes it. I feel like this will be a turning point for him. He won’t be a good king, but I believe that he’s at least going to embrace the office which is a truly terrifying thought.
It’s almost as terrifying as when Princess Rhaenys busts up the party by flying Melelys through the floor, killing dozens. It is truly a boss-bitch moment for Rhaenys. She’s triumphant, decked out in armor atop a beautiful red dragon and every inch the monarch she never got the opportunity to be. It’s in this tense moment that Princess Rhaenys had the opportunity to burn all of them on the dais. Doing so would have assured Princess Rhaenyra’s ascension. In fact, it looks like she’s about to utter “Dracarys” but at the last moment she changes her mind and flies away. It’s a decision that speaks to the moral fiber of Princess Rhaenys. Choosing not to murder sets her apart from Otto and his ilk. She also couldn’t kill Alicent’s children in front of her, already knowing what it’s like to lose a child. I also don’t think that Rhaenys wanted the monikers of “Kingslayer” and “Kinslayer” to follow her the rest of her life. For better or ill this is a decision that could turn the course of the upcoming war.
Well, one more turn of the bend. One more page to read. One last drink to quaff.
The coup is over.
And now fire and blood will reign.
House of the Dragon Episode Nine ‘The Green Council’ rates: 9/10 Balerions