House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 9: Wait, What?

Breaking from the tradition of dramatic penultimate episodes, “The Green Council” left us with a whole lot of questions leading into the show’s finale next week.

A still from House of the Dragon episode 9
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

When Game of Thrones fans sat down to watch episode nine of House of the Dragon on Sunday night, they likely tucked in and prepared for an hour of intensity and blood shed. Throughout its tenure, the original series set a precedent for jam-packing their penultimate episodes with action every season, leaving the finales to then close up storylines and prep for the next season to come. In many ways, Dragon has proven to mimic its predecessor, but when it comes to this specific pattern, the prequel opted to mix things up. Instead of a gore-filled, intense sixty minutes, “The Green Council” was a confusing, mad dash around King’s Landing with too many moving parts and only a few solid scenes to hold the episode together. Personally, the whole thing left me saying, “What?” every few minutes as I tried to tell identical twins (with virtually the same name) apart, parse out everyone’s motives, and just, in general, make sense of what was in front of me. Unsurprisingly, I ended the evening with many questions, and I assume I’m not alone in my failure to grasp large aspects of this episode. So, here are all of the questions still floating around in my brain following episode nine of House of the Dragon. Hopefully, some of them will be answered when the first season reaches its conclusion next week.

How are we supposed to tell Arryk and Erryk apart?

OK, is this for real? How are we supposed to tell these medieval Winklevoss twins apart? According to IMDB, the two of them have been in a total of five episodes this season (including next week’s finale), but I must have glanced over these duplicates, because as soon as I saw them in “The Green Council,” I got stressed out. Immediately, I knew this was going to cause issues for me when it came to following along their storyline this episode. If only their names could differentiate them, but, George R.R. Martin—who seems to love to torment his fans with confusing monikers—dubbed these twins Erryk and Arryk. In the book, this likely wasn’t a problem, as they are spelled differently, but in the show, they are seemingly both pronounced “Eric.” This means there is pretty much no way to tell these two apart. Now, in the beginning of the episode they more or less move as one, making their identical nature a none issue. By the end, however, one of them rebels, and decides to side with Team Black. Which one is it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Erryk and Arryk...or Arryk and Erryk...

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Why is Rhaenys still in King’s Landing?

After Viserys’ death, Alicent and Otto jump into action to try to control the flow of information as they plan for their coup. One of the steps they take is locking Rhaenys into her chamber. That begs the question, why is she even in King’s Landing at this point? Everyone else has gone home following the Driftmark succession issue of last episode. Her granddaughters are now both promised to Rhaenyra’s sons and, assumedly, are living in Dragonstone. She could have gone with them, or returned home to Driftmark. Didn’t they say Corlys was on his way home to attempt to recover from his injuries? Sometimes I have a hard time following conversations with all these odd names, references, and the thick accents, but I’m almost positive that’s what I heard. Instead, she remained in the center of the storm, leaving her to become a chess piece in Alicent’s game.

How did the White Worm get Aegon?

A big portion of this episode is spent trying to locate Aegon following the news of King Viserys’ death. In the end, it turns out that Mysaria, now known as the White Worm, has the Prince in her possession, and she uses him has a bargaining chip to get something from Otto. But how did the White Worm get Aegon? A cold open of the Prince drunkenly stumbling through King’s Landing before getting nabbed by one of the Worm’s “little spiders” would have helped, but instead, we’re just supposed to accept that she got him and, for some reason, placed him in the Sept where seemingly anyone going for a nice midday worship could have heard him screaming, right?

There’s also the question of what Mysaria gets out of this deal. The Prince is a huge bargaining chip, especially considering he’s on the precipice of becoming king. Mysaria could have asked for anything in return, but her request is to end the child fighting ring in Flea Bottom. A noble cause, of course, but we didn’t even know about this practice before the episode, and now it’s being used in this massive deal. Plus, couldn’t Mysaria have asked for that as well as say, power in Aegon’s new administration? Up until now, Mysaria seemed to be very cunning, but she may have downplayed her hand a little too much here.

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

WTF is going on with Larys and Alicent?

Larys and Alicent’s relationship has been odd from the beginning. Larys is an admittedly creepy character, always sneaking around and providing the Queen with information, seemingly in the hope to one day get paid back (I always assumed by being appointed Hand following Otto’s retirement). Now, though, it’s clear that Larys is playing the short game, getting immediate payment in the form of feet. The Thrones universe is known for pushing the boundaries sexually, but for some reason, Larys’ fetish took me completely off guard.

What was that burning building?

Near the end of the episode, we see a building in King’s Landing burning as a hooded figure leaves the scene. Is this Otto upholding the end of his deal with Mysaria and burning down the child fighting ring? Or, is it Larys taking down the White Worm’s network by burning down her headquarters? The latter seems more likely, but then, is that Larys leaving the scene of the crime? There seems to be a slight clang to his gate, but he’s not limping nearly as much as normal, right? Is this a Keyser Söze situation? Is Larys playing up his limp in order to come off as non-threatening and to get some foot action from the Queen? Or, am I thinking was too much into this?

Photograph by Liam Daniel/ HBO

Does Alicent believe her own lies?

In the beginning of the episode, Alicent seems like a true believer in the fact that Viserys named their son, Aegon, his heir on his deathbed. Throughout the hour, however, there is evidence that she might know the King was simply rambling on in a milk of the poppy haze, and she’s using his nonsensical statement to further her cause. When she steals Blackfyre from Viserys’ chambers and gives it to Aegon, it seems like a calculating move that will convince Aegon that Viserys wanted him to be king. But if Viserys really wanted that, wouldn’t he give Alicent Blackfyre to give to Aegon? She had to consider that, right?

Over the season, Alicent has turned from a naive girl to a cunning Queen, and if she is in on the lie, that move would fit into her new, Machiavellian persona. Olivia Cooke, however, recently revealed that she thinks Alicent is sincere in her belief. “When Viserys says that, I genuinely think she thinks he’s talking about Aegon, her son,” she told the New York Times following last week’s episode. “...Viserys is on his deathbed; that’s what he requested, and so she must follow it through. Whether that’s unconscious wishful thinking, I don’t know, but that’s how I played it.”

How is Aegon the only sensible one in this episode?

Aegon has been a (for lack of a better word) tool for the entirety of his existence on screen, and in this episode we learn even more information about the Prince that solidifies his awful character. For some reason, though, he’s the only one speaking with any sense following the Kings’ death. He makes it clear that he knows he isn’t fit for the throne, showing awareness, and he fights back when Alicent insists that Viserys made him the last minute heir.

“My father never wanted this,” he says to the Queen. “He had 20 years to name me heir and never did. Steadfastly, he upheld Rhaenyra’s claim.” Alicent insists Viserys changed his mind, which causes Aegon to laugh. “No, he could have, but he never did.” If Aegon recognizes this, why can’t Alicent, or anyone else in King’s Landing for that matter? Of course, they’re all just using Alicent’s convenient story for their benefit.

So, Aegon has a moment of cognizance, but it ends fairly quickly. Just like Lady Gaga, Aegon lives for the applause, and once he’s placed in front of the people of King’s Landing, Aegon the Conquerer’s crown on his head, he goes back to being the pompous, awful man we all know him to be, and order is restored.

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Why didn’t Eve Best get more of a moment?

As noted before, “The Green Council” didn’t have many of the heart-stopping moments characteristic of other penultimate episodes in the world of Thrones. There was one especially dramatic moment at the end of the episode, however, when Rhaenys escapes with the help of Arryk/Erryk, manages to sneak down to the Dragonpit, and grab her dragon, Meleys. She then bursts up through the floor of the Pit, disrupting Aegon’s DIY coronation. The dirt clears, but just as Rhaenys comes into view in all her dragon-riding glory, the camera cuts away. Where was the long hold on this triumphant moment? I want a wind machine, a music build-up, a slow-motion shot of Rhaenys smirking in defiance. Instead, the most dramatic moment of the episode is more or less skipped right over. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the episode’s director, Clare Kilner, mentioned she “wanted [Rhaenys] to be rising like a phoenix from the ashes," but all I got was an uninspiring moment for a woman who deserves so much more.

Did Alicent really think she could save Aegon?

So, we arrive to the point where Rhaenys is riding Meleys, facing Alicent and her family, with all the power in the world to burn them to a crisp and stop this war before it even begins. What does Alicent do in that moment as she and her family face death in its eyes? She steps in front of Aegon to protect him. A noble act, yes, but does she actually think that will save him? This is dragon fire, it will burn right through the both of you. Come on, Alicent, you’re smarter than that.

Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Why didn’t Rhaenys burn Aegon?

That also begs the question. Why didn’t Rhaenys kill Aegon when she had the chance? Clearly, she’s at least partly Team Black as she ends the episode riding off to Dragonstone to inform Rhaenyra of what’s coming her way. When she gets there, though, and tells the story of how she escaped King’s Landing, won’t Rhaenyra question why Rhaenys didn’t end it all there by killing Aegon? Or will Rhaenyra understand and accept that Rhaenys’ moral compass kept her from making the necessary move?

"It's the moment when she shows herself to be the greatest possible ruler,” Eve Best, who portrays Rhaenys, told EW about the controversial decision. “It's because she's so intelligent and in the end chooses to do the right thing, which is not to destroy. It's a truly forgiving moment and sort of a loving moment, in a weird way. She has all the ammunition, and the desire for revenge is so great. She's suffered so much loss, and for her own sake and on behalf of so many others, the urge to destroy is so strong. And yet the choice not to destroy becomes even stronger.”

Rhaenys took the peaceful route, but isn’t it ironic that her decision will likely cause much more bloodshed as now war is all but inevitable?

Are Rhaenyra and Daemon holding this show together?

The episode came and went without so much of a shot of Rhaenyra and Daemon who, throughout the season, have become the Internet’s favorites, despite their odd incestual relationship. After this lackluster episode, however, it’s clear why Rhaenyra and Daemon are so loved, because I was missing my blonde-haired friends quite a lot in these 60 minutes. Luckily, the finale is titled “The Black Queen” and will likely take place solely in Dragonstone, showing Rhaenyra’s reaction and response to everything that went on this week, and after “The Green Council,” it will surely feel nice to once again be around friends.