Only 2 episodes remain! That went by too quickly but with some impact. They’d have to completely botch the ending to change the standing of HOTD from one of the best shows to have come out in a while. While I still don’t think it better than The Game of Thrones, despite some social media polling results, HOTD has offered action, drama, scheming, and intrigue that is synonymous with the Thrones Universe.
Let’s get into the episode. Rhaenys sits the Driftwood Throne for the past 6 years as Corlys is still engaged with the Triarchy in the Stepstones. Baela, now played by Bethany Antonia, is her ward while her twin Rhaena, played by Phoebe Campbell, is with their father and stepmother on Dragonstone. Maester Kelvin informs Rhaenys they received a raven from Evenfall informing them that Corlys was injured during an ambush from a falsely abandoned ship. He was slashed in the neck by a corsair’s dagger and has become ill with the fever, referred to by Vaemond as blood fever. Vaemond uses the information to challenge Rhaenys on who should sit the Driftwood throne should Corlys not recover.
Baela interjects that Rhaenys is doing well on the throne to which Vaemond points out she only sits it in Corlys’ absence but in his death it would pass. Rhaenys reminds Vaemond that the seat would pass to Lucerys Velaryon as is Corlys’ wish. Vaemond, who made jabs at Lucerys’ lack of Velaryon blood during Laena’s eulogy, points out that he has more right to the throne as he is of true Velaryon blood, unlike the Strong Pups. Rhaenys warns him his words are treason but he persists even insulting Corlys saying his ambition has brought calamity to their house. He tells Rhaenys he doesn’t need her support implying he has the support of Queen Alicent, who is regent due to Viserys’ illness worsening.
Baela sends a raven across Blackwater Bay to Dragonstone to alert her father of Corlys’ health and Vaemond’s plan. I think it is great, and will likely be crucial, that Baela serves as a connection between Rhaenys and Daemon/Rhaenyra. Daemon receives the letter after scaling the walls of a mountain volcano cave to collect 3 hot slimy dragon eggs from Syrax’s clutch. He most likely intends for one to go into the crib of baby Visenya, his 3rd child on the way with wife Rhaenyra. We are introduced to the 2 children later in the episode but they are named Aegon (after the conqueror), Viserys (after his grandfather and uncle, the King) and Rhaenyra is pregnant with their 3rd to be named after Aegon’s sister-wife, Visenya.
Jace, now played by Hary Collett, is getting lessons in High Valyrian from Maester Gerardys, he struggles but is committed to learning about Aegon’s arrival in Westeros and cutting down the weirwoods. Joffrey is also in this scene and should be about 6. Rhaenyra asks for the room as Daemon returns to discuss Baela’s letter. Daemon believes Rhaenys would back them which Rhaenyra doubts because Rhaenys believes they killed Laenor. They see their only option is to go to King’s Landing and petition for Lucerys’ claim to Driftmark.
Much like Viserys’ arrival to High Tide in episode 5, there is no fanfare for the heir’s arrival to King’s Landing. Lord Caswell, who we saw in episode 6 show loyalty to Rhaenyra, greets her at the doors of the Red Keep.
The courtyard is the quietest we’ve seen it on both House of the Dragon or Game of Thrones, almost like it was purposefully quiet or a symptom of the new faith influenced King’s Landing. Rhaenyra and Daemon are both struck by the redecoration of the castle from Valyrian inspired décor or Targaryen heraldry as Daemon later refers to it, to 7 pointed stars everywhere, including around Alicent’s neck.
The Small Council is interrupted and made aware of Rhaenyra’s arrival. Tyland Lannister, Master of Ships and Jasper Wilde, Master of Laws, appear to support Vaemond’s claim to Driftmark, while Lord Beesbury and Master Orwyle comment on Corlys’ wish for Lucerys Velaryon to be Lord of Driftmark. Alicent excuses herself as the council continue to discuss a tax on wool; however, before she can go to meet her guests, Kingsguard Erryk Cargyle, not to be confused with twin Arryk Cargyll, redirects Alicent to a pressing matter concerning Aegon.
Rhaenyra and Daemon have made their way to see Viserys who we saw in the trailer was bedridden. The room is filled with burning incense to cover the stench of sickness. Emma D’Arcy, who plays Rhaenyra, mentioned on the inside the episode that the scene was essentially a hospice scene. Viserys’ face is bandaged, his teeth are rotted, he is thin, only a few wisps of hair remain and he can barely move at all. Daemon is apprehensive to look at his bother and tries to cope with his sadness by focusing on Corlys and the reason they are in King’s Landing to begin with. It is clear Daemon is uncomfortable with emotions, particularly grief.
Viserys is exhausted and confused and tells Daemon that Alicent and Otto handle all the business aspects now. Daemon presses the matter and Rhaenyra stops him as she can see Viserys is not in the right mind and body to deal with this information now. She changes the subject and announces to Viserys she has someone to introduce him to. She introduces her 2 children Aegon and Viserys, drawing particular attention to his namesake Viserys, he remarks “now that is a name fit for a king” which is of course a proud moment his grandson having been named for him, but is also a some foreshadowing and a bit of an easter egg as the baby will be king and is the ancestor of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. The introductions are cut short as Viserys is in too much pain, calls for his tea, which Daemon smells and observes is milk of the poppy.
Alicent has been taken to meet with a house maid named Dyana who has been raped by Prince Aegon. Alicent is genuinely saddened by the news; however, it is clear this is not the first time she has dealt with this situation as she immediately goes into damage control also instilling some fear into Dyana. Talya brings in Moon tea and a bag of money is given to Dyana for her troubles. Alicent confronts a nonchalant Aegon, played by Tom Glynn-Carney, who doesn’t seem to get what all the fuss is about. She slaps and disowns him to which Aegon cries that he didn’t ask to be prince and he would never be enough for Alicent and Viserys, followed by his sister-wife, Helaena, played by Phia Saban, coming in to see if anyone has seen Dyana who is supposed to dress hers and Aegon’s children. From the rape to the clean up, this scene is one of my most hated events of the episode.
Shocked at Viserys’ deterioration, Rhaenyra and Daemon discuss bringing in their own Maester Gerardys as Alicent finally makes it to see them. Alicent comments on how long it has been as the camera shows Rhaenyra’s scar from their last meeting when Alicent slashed Rhaenyra’s forearm. It is understandable that they have not seen each other in the last 6 years; however, it doesn’t make it less sad that they had not seen Viserys. The contention between the 3 show as Daemon and Rhaenyra both let the sarcasm fly. Alicent slyly reminds them it is she, guided by The Father (of the seven as well as her own), who will hear and decide upon their claim for Lucerys tomorrow.
Lucerys, played by Elliott Grihault, and Jacaerys enter the training yard amidst whispering and staring which seems to more affect Luke than Jace who is excited and nostalgic. They go over to watch their uncle Aemond spar with Criston Cole, who still hasn’t aged but gladly appeared very little this episode. Aemond, now played by Ewan Mitchell, wears an eye patch as a result of Lucerys taking his eye last episode. Aemond appears to be a great fighter and has a menacing look, Lucerys appears to be hiding behind other on lookers to avoid eye contact. Jace and especially Luke have the awkward moment avoided by another awkward moment as Vaemond’s enters escorted by both Hightower and Velaryon guards with more fanfare than their own arrival to King’s Landing.
Alicent meets with Otto and Vaemond as they try urge her towards Vaemond’s claim and quell her anxiety around the decision to be made on Driftmark’s succession. Rhaenyra meets with Rhaenys in the God’s wood to assess her position. Rhaenys says she is on team Rhaenys and does not accept Rhaenyra’s vow that she had not been involved (directly or indirectly) with killing Laenor. For a brief moment I was hoping Rhaenyra would let Rhaenys in Laenor’s secret but she did not. Instead she suggested betrothals between Jace and Baela and Luke and Rhaena. Rhaenys appears to dismiss Rhaenyra and her her proposal regardless of it being one of strength for both houses.
Rhaenyra makes a final plea to her father who again is out of sorts mistaking her for Alicent, who isn’t in bed despite it being night. She asks him about the prophecy but is unable to get a direct answer from him, he calls her his only child, seemingly lost in time.
The following morning we see the maesters treating Viserys’ frail, pale, sore covered body. He is so thin and frail they have to hold him up as he sits. He tells Otto he wants to have supper, who assumes Viserys is lost in time again, but Viserys corrects the hand and confirms he wants to have dinner with his family later that night. Otto agrees and tries to give Viserys Milk of the Poppy but he declines as he wants to remain clear headed.
During the hearing, Vaemond is first to have his petition heard, which rests on Lucerys not being the true born son of Laenor Velaryon and his own being true Velaryon blood. Rhaenyra follows insisting Lucerys is Laenor’s true son and heir to Driftmark. She is immediately interrupted by her father, The King.
Viserys enters the throne room to the chagrin of Otto, Vaemond and Alicent. He literally drags himself to the throne, refusing all help save Daemon picking up his crown as it falls and helping him the final few steps to his seat on the throne. It is probably the most emotional scene of the entire season thus far. Knowing their history and Daemon’s position towards his brother in the previous episode, Daemon displays an immense act of love, humility and care for his brother.
Viserys condemns the hearing as unnecessary as the matter had already been decided and notes that if they insist the only person present that can speak on the matter is Rhaenys, the lady of Driftmark and wife of Lord Corlys. Rhaenys reconfirms Corlys’ support of Lucerys despite her own feelings towards Rhaenyra, that we saw displayed in the God’s Wood earlier, and despite her own desires to have the throne passed to Baela, likely the reason she took her to ward. Rhaenys adds in open court, the mention of the betrothals of Jace and Baela and Luke and Rhaena.
As Otto’s joy turn to ashes in his mouth, when Viserys reaffirmed Luke as the rightful successor to Driftmark, the Driftwood throne and the next Lord of the Tides. Vaemond immediately expresses his disdain for the king and his choices. He continues to challenge the king and immediately questions the legitimacy of Luke despite Viserys having decreed to take the tongue of anyone who dared to bring it up again. Daemon dares him to say the word, and Vaemond calls Rhaenyra’s children bastards and her whore, knocking the wind from Viserys.
Viserys rises and says “I will have your tongue for that“, drawing Aegon the Conqueror’s Dagger. Daemon immediately swings Dark Sister decapitating Vaemond, leaving his tongue with this body stating “he can keep his tongue “. Otto calls for the Kingsguard to disarm him to which Daemon says no need sheathing his sword. Not sure what Otto’s point was since Viserys was clearly about to at a minimum cut his tongue out, but ok Otto. Viserys is exhausted and in pain but refuses to take Milk of the Poppy as he wants to remain clear headed to put things right.
In the next scene, Rhaenys watches on as the silent sisters prepare Vaemond’s body to return to Driftmark for burial. Maester Orwyle warns Rhaenys it is bad luck to look at the face of death to which Rhaenys dismisses having suffered many losses including her twin children days apart. The scene is short but reminds me of Arya’s time with the faceless men and seems ominous of some ill will headed Rhaenys’ way.
Viserys is carried into dinner with his family. All his children and older grandchildren are present, as well as his wife, brother and the hand. For the moment, things are civil and nice speeches are made. Out of Viserys’ earshot, Aegon antagonize Jace and flirts with Baela as his Wife Helaena sits at his side. Viserys removes his mask so his family can see him as he is, he is missing an eye and part of his cheek. It reminds me of Rhaenyra telling Alicent last episode that now they see you as you are, also Alicent calling for an eye for an eye and Viserys has lost an eye much like Aemond. Viserys pleas for the house of the dragon to no longer stand divided. Rhaenyra responds with a toast to Alicent expressing her gratitude and apologies for any ill will between them as she is gracious for how Alicent cares for Viserys. Alicent responds in kind acknowledging Rhaenyra would make a fine queen. Otto doesn’t speak but appears concerned by the niceties shared between Rhaenyra and Alicent. Otto makes eye contact with Aegon who then takes his antagonistic behavior towards Baela and Jace to the next level causing Jace to react and alert Aemond who stands ready for a fight. Jace is quickly redirected by Baela and choses to make a toast to his uncles good health.
Helaena makes another prophetic statement “Beware the beast beneath the boards.” which my initial thoughts, not having read Fire & Blood in its entirety, seemed to be another rat reference and possibly related to Larys’ surveillance, but popular opinion on social media seems to be that it foreshadows a future book event called Blood & Cheese. You’ll have to search that on your own as I’ve chosen not to look it up. Helaena goes on to make a speech regarding Baela and Rhaena’s upcoming marriages including references to her bad marriage to Aegon.
Jace then asks his aunt to dance , either out of pity given her speech or to get back at Aegon for his earlier digs at him and Baela. Either way, Helaena appears to enjoy dancing with her nephew. We observe the room from a Viserys’ point of view and everyone is smiling and enjoying themselves either because this is the pain clouded perspective of Viserys or because they’re enjoying themselves for a brief moment. Viserys feels at peace enough to leave the dinner and be taken back to bed where he can finally take some Milk of the Poppy.
As Viserys leaves a pig is brought in for dinner and placed in front of Aemond causing Luke to giggle recalling the Pink Dread prank. Aemond responds by making a final speech including references to Jace and Luke as being Strong/Strongs much like how Cole instigated Harwin to react in the courtyard, bringing an end to the merriment they’d put on in Viserys’ presence. A fight ignites as Jace punches Aemond and Aegon slams Luke’s face into the table. Guards only restrain Rhaenyra’s children as Alicent chastises Aemond for his words. Things are only de-escalated when Daemon steps in between. Rhaenyra decides to take the family back to Dragonstone and says she’d return on dragon back when Alicent expresses sorrow for them leaving so soon. Otto, again, does not appear to like the kindness Alicent and Rhaenyra share this episode.
Dinner is followed by a quick scene in flea bottom as Talya appears to be an informant for the Whitewyrm Mysaria, likely bringing information from the castle not limited to but including the happenings between Aegon and Dyana we saw Talya involved in this episode.
Back in the red keep, Alicent brings Viserys more Milk of the Poppy and he is out of sorts again like we’ve seen him many times during the episode, mostly when he’s under the influence. He mistakes her for Rhaenyra and attempts to finish the conversation from earlier when Rhaenyra asked him about the prophecy. Alicent is only able to make sense of Aegon and prince that was promised and assumes he was talking about their son. Never having heard him speak about this before she assumes it was meant for her to make Aegon king. Knowing that he is under the influence and having experienced his thoughts straying before, she believes it to be a clear message for her, she responds “I understand, my king”. After she leaves, Viserys drifts off to the other side and whispers “my love” as he is reunited with Aemma.
My favorite things this episode has to be Daemon beheading Vaemond, the betrothals and Viserys coming in to reaffirm Lucerys as heir to Driftmark. Not so favorite parts, having to see Cole’s face even for the short time we saw it, Aemond and everything about him and of course Aegon. Alicent’s sons are vile and even she thinks so. Which doesn’t make sense why she’d even want Aegon on the throne when she disowned him earlier this episode. Poor Helaena having to be around them.
Episode 9 is titled The Green Council and it’s clear from the preview that Alicent will take her misinterpreted information and use it as a basis to try to usurp the throne. It looks like Rhaenys is prevented from going back to Driftmark for fear she’d let Rhaenyra know her father died. Talya looks like she’s in a cell probably found out for snitching. Only 2 more episode before a 2 year wait for season 2 as filming doesn’t begin until spring 2023.
Let me know if you disagree with any of my interpretations or opinions of the episode in the comments below.