Not my favorite episode but the ending made up for it. Knowing that this was the penultimate episode of the season, I was hoping for more interaction between both factions but with the episode taking place solely in King’s Landing we did not get that. In HOTD fashion however, the dramatic finish makes up for the slow burn for the majority of the episode.
The morning following the death of King Viserys, first of his name, the Red Keep was quiet and gray. The throne room was reminiscent of Dany’s dream. It is not yet dawn but somehow you know the castle is quieter than usual. A small boy is seen coming out of Viserys’ room and traveling the empty halls and stairs through the kitchen to whisper a secret to Talya, who we know to be working with the Whyte Wyrm Mysaria.
Talya brings the message to Alicent, who still in bed sobs. Alicent instructs Talya not to leave or tell anyone and to help her get dressed. Alicent informs Otto, who immediately asks who knows. Alicent tells him only a few including Talya and other servants. Talya lights 7 candles in the window and we know this to be a signal as we’ve seen window candles being a messaging system before between Sansa and Brienne in Game of Thrones. Alicent tells Otto of her last conversation with Viserys, that he wished for Aegon to be King and she was the only one to hear him say those last words.
The Small Council meet early, probably an hour before sunrise given that Tyland Lannister asks what could not wait an hour and japes if Dorne has invaded. Otto tells them that the king, Viserys The Peaceful, is dead and made deathbed confession to have Aegon succeed him. Tyland proceeds to initiate their long-laid plans or Project Usurp confirming that they would’ve installed Aegon regardless of Alicent’s misinterpreted news. They discuss the 2 City Watch Captains that need to be replaced because they are loyal to their founder Daemon. Tyland assures Otto the gold is being divided for safe keeping and Otto is ready to send ravens to their allies in Riverrun and Highgarden to call the banners.
Alicent appears genuinely shocked and unaware by the council’s plan and she is against Otto’s schemes. One can almost believe her to be the good guy here. She is better than Otto but no innocent here, as unaware as she may appear she has been telling Aegon that he needs to be ready to rule since her father told her to prepare him. There is denial and delusion going on inside Alicent, she says one thing and does another and all her motives appear full of hypocrisy.
Lyman Beesbury, 76 and longest acquainted with the king, refuses to accept that Viserys changed his mind on his death bed never having ever shown any interest in Aegon being king, to conveniently tell only Aegon’s mother that Aegon should be king. Not to mention that he only hours before confirmed Lucerys’ legitimacy to uphold not only his claim to High Tide but support Rhaenyra’s claim to the throne.
GrandMaester Orwyle, tries to calm Lord Beesbury, unfortunately Beesbury goes on to suggest perhaps Viserys didn’t die naturally and Criston Cole appeared behind him slamming him back to his seat simultaneously smashing his head against his amber small council attendance orb.
Lord Commander Westerling orders Cole to stand-down and remove his white cloak, Cole ignores his boss and only lowers his sword when Alicent asks him to stand-down. Not only is Cole not reprimanded, again, Otto chastises Westerling. Orwyle tries to have Beesbury removed since he is bleeding out on the conference table but Otto says the doors will remain locked until they’ve finish planning the coup. Tyland awkwardly continues informing them that Lord Boros in Storms End may not be on their side but maybe they can set up some betrothals with his 4 daughters.
Alicent is slowly catching up with the entire plan which includes murdering Rhaenyra and her family to avoid any challenge. Alicent does not agree still showing some glimpse of either care for her friend or aversion to murder, either way Jasper Wylde almost got sent to the wall for interrupting Alicent’s ineffective plea. Otto orders Lord Commander Westerling to be quick and clean (in murdering the heir and her family) and Westerling refused, in a fashion comparable to the honor of Ser Barriston Selmy in Game of Thrones, removing his white cloak as he only answers to The King.
Following the meeting, Alicent and Otto go to Helaena’s room in search of Aegon. As Helaena watches her twins play, she explains to their handmaiden that people will always want what they see another has, you get the impression that there is something more to it than just her children’s sharing habits. Everything Helaena says should be written down. As Alicent begins telling her Viserys has died, Helaena interrupts repeating, slightly rephrased, last week’s prophecy/dragon dream phrase “There is a beast beneath the boards” and swats away Alicent’s attempt to hug her as we’ve seen her do before when Alicent’s tried to touch her.
Alicent and Otto are in a race to find Aegon. Otto has team Erryk & Arryk and Alicent recruits Criston Cole and Aemond, well Aemond recruited himself to join Cole because he knows Aegon’s doings as well as Ser Erryk, Aegon’s sworn guard. The wheels are turning, Rhaenys is locked in her room and the majority of the household are locked in the dungeons, including Talya, observed by not only Rhaenys from her window but also The Lord Confessor, Larys as they are put into the cells.
When Alicent recruits Cole, she whispers “everything you feel for me, as your queen…” as a means to encourage Cole to try his best to find Aegon first. Their relationship is not above board. Similarly, in a later scene with Larys, we see the lengths to which Alicent is willing to go to have her minions be her minions.
Operation recover Aegon is quite strange because regardless of who finds Aegon the plan is still to put him on the throne. It does not prevent either from ever speaking to or advising Aegon in the future. It makes sense that they are trying to find him quickly before he disappears to Yi Ti or something, but the race against each other makes less sense in the overall story. However, they appear to be racing towards gaining the initial advantage to arrange how Aegon responds to Rhaenyra.
In Flea Bottom, Aemond takes Cole to the Street of Silk to a brothel Aegon took him to on his 13th name day. Aegon is not there but the madam, who remembers Aemond, suggests Aegon is into darker stuff these days as he doesn’t come there anymore. Aemond shows his disdain for his brother’s behavior towards his birth right, Aemond tells Cole he is more suited to be King than Aegon and if he has the opportunity he wont be as hard to be found.
Simultaneously in the Red Keep Otto is in the Throne room with the Lords and Ladies of the kingdom present at court. He tells them they need to bend the knee to Aegon and all do so save the Lady of House Fell and a Lord we are not given the name of; however, going by his pendant appears to be Lord Merryweather of The Reach. Given the earlier conversation in the small council Otto was depending on High Garden’s support, they are banner men of Merryweather so I wonder if that means High Garden will also align with the blacks. Lord Caswell initially didn’t bend the knee but when he sees Lord Merryweather and Lady Fell escorted out to probably die, he does bend the knee, for now saying “Long Live the King” as Larys observes the scene from above and keeping him under surveillance. Caswell later tries to escape to presumably warn Rhaenyra; however, he is stopped in the courtyard and then hanged on Otto’s order. Otto mentions he knows Larys and Alicent spend many hours together and Larys tells him that he can also benefit and is now working for both Alicent and Otto.
Erryk is trying to convince his brother Arryk of Aegon’s unworthiness while on a Depravity Tour of the city including a kids’ fight club where they file the nails and teeth of 10 year olds to make them more vicious. In the fight club we also see the little boy from the episode trailer who is one of many of Aegon’s bastards. Following Erryk and Arryk is one of Mysaria’s workers who tells them the Whyte Wyrm will only meet with Otto.
Alicent, crying over her late husband’s body, leaves to go speak with Rhaenys who is still imprisoned in her room. Alicent urges to Rhaenys to take her side, saying Rhaenys should’ve been queen. Rhaenys points out Alicent is still playing at freedoms and power as she is still only working in service to men. Rhaenys whispers to Alicent “have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne” . Alicent leaves but it seems likely to come up later if Alicent grows disappointed in the actions of Aegon and Otto in the future.
Mysaria meets with Otto and informs him she has hidden Aegon away. She gets Otto to negotiate with her by admitting she knows Viserys is dead to Otto’s surprise, having received Talya’s message. She asks that an end be put to the child fight clubs in flea bottom in exchange for Aegon’s location. Otto appears to agree and she gives Aegon up. Erryk and Arryk find him hiding under a table in the Sept where we saw Alicent take Rhaenyra to pray in an earlier episode. Cole and Aemond observe the meeting with Mysaria and followed the twins to Aegon.
Aegon is hung over and is also aware of his father’s death but has no desire to be his successor. He tries to flea his guard and his brother but is caught. As he is being escorted out, Cole confronts Ser Arryk who is now alone as Ser Erryk looks on from above. Cole betters Ser Arryk and Cole and Aemond bring Aegon back to his mother, despite his begging to be left to runaway. It is a little hard to keep up with which one is Erryk and which is Arryk but Erryk has been trying to convince Arryk all day that Aegon is unworthy, the subtitles refer to the brother calling to for help while fighting Cole as Erryk but it was probably an error as Erryk’s cloak is a little different than Arryk’s and it is Erryk not engaging Cole as he’s had enough of Aegon.
Alicent comes in as Otto is writing letters. Otto concedes to Alicent for having captured Aegon first. Alicent expresses her anger towards her father for his endless manipulation of her all her life. She tells him they will show Rhaenyra mercy, Criston Cole will be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and the coronation will take place tomorrow at dawn. She will have Aegon use the crown of Aegon the Conqueror and carry his sword Blackfyre, to remind the people of ancient Targaryen strength.
Alicent, ready to go to bed, finds Larys in her room. He tells her that Talya is a spy for Mysaria, amongst others in the Red Keep and Otto is aware. In exchange for Alicent showing him her feet as he masturbates, he agrees to have Mysaria killed and we later see her home on fire but do not see her in it. Larys and Alicent’s arrangement has clearly been going on for some time because he doesn’t have to say anything but she knows when to show more and explains the creepy way he is always looking at her in previous episodes.
As the castle prepares for bed, Ser Erryk goes to Rhaenys and helps her to escape saying he can’t let the treachery stand. As they leave they see Lord Caswell’s body still hanging and Rhaenys stops to looks the skull of Balerion. She pleads with him to go get Meleys but he hustles her through the streets saying there is no time. Soon the streets are crowded with citizens as the bells toll as dawn approaches.
Aegon and Alicent are on the way to the coronation. Aegon laughs as he does not believe Viserys changed his mind to make him heir, saying his father didn’t like him. He seems somewhat interested when she presents him with Aegon the Conqueror’s blade. She tells him to ignore Otto when he tells him to kill Rhaenyra, when in earlier episodes she tried to impress upon him his sister would have him killed. I don’t know if this is inconsistent or purposefully done as Alicent often does one thing and says another vice-versa.
As they travel towards the coronation at the dragon pit, Rhaenys is separated from Erryk as the crowd grows and are herded towards the coronation, she smiles as she realizes where they are headed.
Otto addresses the crowd informing them that Viserys The Peaceful’s final wish was for Aegon to succeed him. The guards line up and present arms for Aegon to walk towards the coronation. Aegon visibly doesn’t want it even as he’s being crowned. Rhaenys sneaks out of the crowd as the septon blesses Aegon. Not until he raises Blackfyre and the people begin to cheer does Aegon show for the first time that this might be fun, he raises his sword several times to receive their praises. Both his brother Aemond and sister-wife Helaena appear to know this is a bad idea.
The cheers turn to screams as The Queen who never was and the Red Queen burst through the floor boards in the center of the room, bringing to life Helaena’s warning “beware the beast beneath the boards“. Alicent steps in front of her son, closes her eyes and prepares for dragon fire. Meleys instead only roars before she and Rhaenys turn and fly off.
Episode 9 was not my favorite most of the way through probably because there were no scenes from the blacks but Rhaenys bringing the heat at the end was worth it. The other scene that left me speechless was the foot fetish scene between Larys and Alicent. It was unexpected but fitting Larys’ character well. While I was shocked at Alicent, her hypocrisy has been building through the entire season so it was also fitting for her to have allowed this arrangement to carry on as she was benefiting from the information. Nothing Otto or Criston Cole does surprises me so to see Otto suggest killing the blacks, ordering the death of Caswell and Cole actually killing Beesbury was in line with their characters. I was a little nervous for Ser Westerling when he removed his cloak but was relieved to see him walk out alive. As I mentioned before, I don’t think Mysaria is dead but hopefully she sells her information to the other side now that the greens attempted to kill her. It will be interesting to see Arryk and Erryk on opposing sides going forward as well. Helaena seemed pleased when Rhaenys interrupted the coronation so it will be interesting if we get anything further from her next episode.
Next week we have Episode 10 – The Black Queen – run time 63 minutes. The preview for the season finale will give us Rhaenyra’s response to her brother usurping her throne. Rhaenys left the coronation to warn Rhaenyra that the greens are coming for her and her children. Rhaenyra is getting counsel from Daemon, Rhaenys, her sons and several Lords on how to respond. Dragons are flying, Daemon is standing off on the Dragonstone bridge again and Ser Erryk is pledging fealty to Rhaenyra having brought her her father’s crown. It looks like it will be a great 63 minutes.
Let me know if you disagree with any of my interpretations or opinions of the episode in the comments below.