The death of King Viserys the Peaceful ends his reign as well as the peace that he ruled over -- now, the brutal war for the Iron Throne.
George R.R. Martin recently revealed that he believes it would take four seasons of ten episodes to properly tell the story unfolding on "House of the Dragon," so it's not likely to end with next week's finale -- but things are going to get pretty hot!
This week's penultimate episode of the first season was a pressure cooker, picking up in the immediate aftermath of King Viserys' death in the previous episode. Suddenly, things were moving fast and furious in King's Landing.
In fact, things were moving even faster than Queen Alicent expected because she just doesn't seem to be quite as far down that path of darkness as it sometimes seems. She dreams dark at times, but does she have the stomach for it?
Her stomach was definitely put to the test this week as her father, Otto, quickly began to make his moves toward installing his grandson Aegon as the next king. For the first time, Alicent finds herself seeing him with open eyes, but does it even matter at this point?
There are so many powerful moments in this episode, it's amazing they packed it all into an hour. And while it was a quieter episode than we expected, there were nevertheless some major developments.
There was also a pretty significant death, that set the stage for the path we're on, as well as an explosive climax that was definitely a sight to see. These are the big moves this week that set the stage for next week's epic season finale.
Famous last words has never been more appropriate, as a misunderstanding is poised to tear the kingdom apart. Actually, that was probably going to happen anyway. What this did was secure Alicent was on board with crowing her son, Aegon, against Viserys' wishes. That's because he thought she was Rhaenyra on his deathbed and talked about the "Song of Ice and Fire" and he was referring to Aegon the Conqueror, not his son. Nevertheless, he's gone and here we are. So, with this new information making her believe Viserys now wants Aegon on the throne, Alicent understandably went to her father, the King of the Hand.
Tyland Reveals Plans to Usurp Throne Underway
Otto immediately called a meeting of the Small Council and there Alicent learned that they'd been planning for who knows how long to usurp the throne from Rhaenyra and put Aegon upon it, regardless of Viserys' wishes. So they were thrilled to hear that this is now with the king's blessing... if you could believe it. Sometimes, when it fits your agenda, it's easier to believe.
Criston KIlls Beesbury After Objections
Unfortunately, Lord Beesbury is a man of honor and truth and he knows good and well that Viserys would not have suddenly had a change of heart on his deathbed. And so, he doubts Alicent's words (which she genuinely believes to be true) and thinks it's only to legitimize this illegal seizure. And so, as you do, Criston smashed his head into the table to shut him up, killing him instantly. As much as Alicent hasn't quite fallen completely into the abyss, Criston seems to be as far down it as you can go. Talk about holding onto a bitterness.
Harrold Resigns After Ordered to Kill Rhaenyra's Family
Things were moving quickly now with the small council, and Otto refusing to let anyone leave until the whole matter is finished. That included the order to go to Dragonstone and kill Rhaenyra, Daemon and all of her children to eliminate any possible threat to Ageon's claim. Alicent was absolutely horrified by this, not just because she knows Viserys would never have wanted that, but also because of the friendship they once shared -- not to mention there are kids involved. Did we say Criston was deep in the abyss? Otto might be at the bottom of it.
Erryk and Criston Sent to Find Aegon
The first problem with this whole plan -- because they need to move quickly before word gets out that the king is gone and Rhaenyra moves to make her legitimate claim -- is that no one seems to know where to find Aegon. With different ideas on how to handle Rhenyra, Otto sends twins Erryk and Arryk Cargyll to track him down, while Aemond joins Criston to figure out where he is. Otto wants to impress upon him the importance of killing Rhaenyra's family before Alicent can encourage him to, you know, maybe not kill his own sister.
Otto Makes Lords Swear Fealty to Aegon
Before Aegon has even been found, Otto summons the various lords in King's Landing to swear fealty to Aegon, even though they'd already sworn fealty to Rhaenyra twenty years ago. While most of them get the hint of what will happen if they don't, a few firm stand strong. They're immediately arrested on sight. If they knew Otto was planning to kill Rhaenyra's whole family, we have a feeling they'd have all knelt, or been prepared to die to make a public statement. It was clear that Otto was working through a precise plan to usurp and consolidate power quickly.
As they're tracking down Aegon, Erryk brings his brother to a child fighting ring where they see children with long nails and teeth filed down to make them more dangerous. He tells Arryk that Aegon frequents this establishment, so this is the kind of man they're dealing with. Oh, and it gets even worse, he notes, pointing out a clear bastard of Aegon's among the children fighters. He assures his brother that there are likely many of them. So not only is Aegon unfit to rule, but he's a pretty disgusting and callous human being as well.
Aemond Reveals His Ambitions for Throne
While the twins are looking in wanton violence, Aemond takes Criston to wanton lust, where he finds out Aegon hasn't been there in years. Apparently, sex just wasn't cutting it for him anymore. During their search, Aemond makes it clear that he believes he is more fit to rule than his brother. He's actually studied and trained and taken life seriously whereas Aegon does thinks like this, and worse. He stops short of stating his ambition to be king, but just like that, we have another person vying for the throne, making the coming "Dance of Dragons" even more complex.
Larys Sells Alicent Out to Otto
If there's one thing we can count on Larys for, it's for being a snake. Or perhaps that's more of a spider. He is reminiscent of another "Spider" of Westeros in that he seems willing to work with whomever whenever, always full of information, overlooked and ready to strike. And yet, we don't ever really know what he wants. When he told Otto that there's no reason all his hours spent with Alicent couldn't benefit Otto, we've no idea what he's getting at. What is it that Larys wants out of all of this? We already know he'll go to any lengths to get it, making him one of the most dangerous men in the realm.
As soon as Viserys was dead, one of the first things done was the imprisonment of Rhaenys in her chambers. When Alicent finally deigned to visit her, she first insulted her family and her for supporting Rhaenyra (and look what it cost her). Then she tried flattery, saying that Rhaenys should have been queen over Viserys. Ultimately, she wanted Rhaeny's support for Aegon as king, and barring that -- well, the doors would stay barred. As we said, not quite as far down the pit as Criston and Otto, but she's definitely in it. Ambition is a powerful motivator. But Rhaenys called her out for still doing the will of men all these years later. Doesn't she want the throne for herself? Does she? Is there yet another with that ambition?
Mysaria Wants Child Fighting Rings Over
Mysaria has been busy since leaving Daemon's service, reshaping herself as the White Worm. If Larys isn't the spider himself, Mysaria may well be, as she certainly knew that Viserys was dead. We do have to give her credit for part of her bargaining tool to turn over Aegon being that she wants the chlid fighting rings shut down. Varys (the "GoT" spider) always said he served the realm, and this is for the good of the realm, not Mysaria herself -- at least, not that we know of. Her journey should be interesting to watch as it progresses.
Criston and Aemond Steal Aegon from Arryk and Erryk
As Otto was getting intel from Mysaria about where Aegon was, Criston and Aemond were looking on. As such, they were able to follow the twins. It was there that Arryk fought Criston, but Erryk notably did not. Perhaps the two of them could have dispatched him, but Erryk's reluctance to support Aegon as king appears to be eating him alive, to the point he was willing to risk his brother's life to not interfere with Criston and Aemond taking custody of Aegon, and thus taking him to Alicent.
While Criston and Arryk tussled, it was Aemond who finally had to take down Aegon, who tried to run the moment anyone's back was turned. While holding him, Aegon told him that he didn't want to be king, he didn't have the temperament or desire for it, to which Aemond could only agree. We're not sure Aemond is much better in regard to his overall character, but at least he has some discipline about him. Aeogon is a lecherous mess who follows his own worst impulses at every turn. It's at least in part because he believes Viserys never loved him and that's why Rhaenyra remained his chosen heir all these years. His father didn't believe him worthy, or so he believed, so why should he be worthy?
Alicent Agrees for Larys to Kill Weaver
We have a feeling that Mysaria is the spider that Larys is referring to, part of the network of spies within the Red Keep that are filtering informaiton out into King's Landing, albeit controlled. He tells her that her own lady-in-waiting, Talya, is one of them. He then tells her that if she wishes it, he can dispatch this "weaver" of this web. What he doesn't tell her is that we've a feeling he'd simply replace her, as like Varys, Larys trades in information (even the name is similar). We won't even get into him getting off on seeing Alicent's feet, or her letting him do it right there, because gross. The less said the better, and we've already said too much!
Erryk Attempts to Rescue Rhaenys
Everything is going so smoothly for Otto and Alicent to this point, despite their slight differences in strategy. Aegon is on his way to being crowned and all those who aren't on board, or might warn Rhaenyra, or either locked up in their chambers, or hung in the Red Keep. It's going well, that is, until conscientious objector Erryk reaches his breaking point and decides to free Rhaenys. He steals into her room at night and attempts to steal her out of the city. Unfortunately, his timing is terrible as he does so just as the Kingsguard are literally sweeping the citizenry together for the big coronation of their new king. Rhaenys, in disguise, is swept right along with them, getting separated from Erryk along the way. With every step, she's in danger of being caught, exposed and either imprisoned again or perhaps even executed. With the coronation so close, no chances will be taken!
After Alicent got her hands on Aegon first, she told Otto that they were going to do things her way from now on. She also said that for the first time, she fully sees how he's been using her his own life. He doesn't deny it, but he did make her queen, right? Pretty good? Yeah, women are just pawns in the games of men so she should be grateful he didn't do worse. On the way to the coronation, though, with Aegon in her possession, Alicent still worries about Otto's influence. She urges Aegon to reject any counsel from his grandfather that he kill Rhaenyra and her family. Aegon, in turn, asks her if she loves him. His needs are so small right now. She's thinking grand scale and this reluctant king wants to know if either of his parents ever loved him or thought him good enough.
Aegon Crowned King
With Rhaenys herded in alongside the citizenry of King's Landing, a surprisingly uneventful coronation took place. Aegon came in to a grand entrance after Otto introduced him. Criston placed Aegon the Conqueror's crown on his head and he hoisted his sword above his head. The crowed was a little reluctant, but they got on board. Rhaenyra didn't even know her father was dead, and her brother was already crowned king. These Hightowers move quickly when motivated!
Rhaeny Does Not Kill Aegon
This is a Westerosi story, though, and no ceremony can happen without all hell breaking loose one way or the other. When Erryk was trying to help Rhaenys escape, she really wanted to go back for her dragon. He didn't think it safe. Now that she was back in the castle for the coronation, and no one knew who she was at that moment and everyone was distracted, she stole away. As Aegon brandished his sword, the floor suddenly erupted, sending people flying as Meleys broke free, with Rhaenys on her back. There was a moment where she could have ended everything. Standing there with Meleys feet away from Alicent, standing in front of Aegon and trying to protect him, Rhaenys could have laid waste to the entire threat to Rhaenyra's claim with one Dracarys. Instead, she simply had Meleys scare the living daylights out of them by roaring at them before she turned and took off. Their attempts to get her to support Aegon flew off with her, and worse, Rhaenyra was about to find out everything they'd just done.
Let the dance begin as "House of the Dragon" wraps its first season next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.