The King is dead (finally, even though I loved him!), all hell has broken loose, and Ser Criston Cole is still a handsome bastard. The penultimate episode of House of the Dragon, “The Green Council,” has a frenzied pace picking up after King Viserys died in the prior episode. We learn that Otto Hightower and other members of the Small Council (get it, now it’s going to change to Green Council?!) have been secretly scheming behind the King and Queen’s back for their son, Aegon, to take the Iron Throne, despite the King’s expressed wishes nearly 20 years prior for his daughter, Rhaenyra, to be his heir.
When Lyman Beesbury, the over-the-hill member of the Council, protests such treasonous activities, Cole “encourages” him to sit back down, effectively slamming his face into an attendance stone (I’ve been wondering what those were; now I know they make for a killing device akin to the Joker’s pencil in The Dark Knight). Otto, being the bastard he also is, orders the Council to continues its business despite Beesbury’s death and his blood oozing onto the table. All of this is too much for Harrold Westerling, the lord commander of the Kingsguard, who says he takes orders only from the King and until one is in place, he will have no part in such activities, much to the chagrin of Otto, who ordered him to go kill Rhaenyra and Daemon.
From there, the modus operandi is to a.) kill Rhaenyra, or at least, that is what Otto seeks because he knows how dangerous she will be otherwise, whereas Alicent thinks they can somehow placate her at Dragonstone; b.) ensure nobody knows of the King’s death just yet, which means not just imprisoning the servants and such who already know, but even the Queen Who Never Was, Princess Rhaenys; and c.) finding Aegon somewhere in the city, the same boy/man who has not wanted the Iron Throne all this time.
I’m not quite sure why the latter aspect took up a fair amount of the middle section of the episode, and in particular, why Otto’s handpicked men (brothers who are tasked with guarding Aegon) and Alicent’s handpicked men (Criston and Aemond) are at odds with each other or racing to get to him first. They both want the same goal! Sure, Otto is a bit more murderous about it, but still. In the meantime, we learn that Larys Strong has a deeply disturbing foot fetish and for Alicent to get him to do her bidding, she must show him her feet. Ew.
Alicent also has a moment of attempted bargaining with Rhaenys, albeit with her feet covered, where she’s trying to convince her of the righteousness of their plans to coronate Aegon as the new King. Instead, Rhaenys spits back some hot fire about how Alicent is still beholden to men, “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.” Hot damn! And I think Olivia Cooke is expertly conveying exactly that, as well as the tension she has with Rhaenyra, mostly through her facial expressions.
Finally, we arrive at what has been called the “triggering event” for the dance of the dragons, aka the civil war between the Targaryens. All the peasants of King’s Landing, including momentarily Rhaenys, have gathered for the coronation of the new King. An aside, but I always find it interesting that Otto and others can talk to quite literally hundreds of people without a microphone or magic; surely someone in the back is whispering to his peasant friend, “What did he say?” Anyhow, Aegon seems to be warming up to the idea of being King and raises his arm with the dagger in triumph.
Then, Rhaenys, who had slipped away, bursts in riding her dragon, Meleys, in one of the coolest moments of the entire show. The dragon stomps around and causes chaos and the Hightowers, Ser Criston and the newly-minted King Aegon are completely at the mercy of the Queen Who Never Was. I’m getting goosebumps reliving the moment in my head! Because when it happened live last night, I quite literally jumped off of my hotel bed and was like, “Holy …!” To really drive home the point of what she could have done, Rhaenys has the dragon essentially roar directly at them as if to spit fire and instead, it’s merely a roar. Then she flies away, presumably to tell Rhaenyra and Daemon — neither of whom we saw in this episode — of what has transpired.
I would be remiss if I didn’t shout-out the incredible score of this episode by composer Ramin Djawadi that accentuated the unfurling madness after the King’s death. It was heart-pounding and yet, beautiful, if haunting. I know I will be giving it some love on Spotify in the coming days and weeks.
What a great episode and a great set-up for the finale next week! I can’t wait.