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House of the Dragon Recap: A Succession to Rival Waystar Royco's

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To borrow from another HBO drama: One member of House of the Dragon’s central family goes full f–king beast, literally, in this week’s episode as the succession to the Iron Throne officially gets underway.

And I welcome it! After eight episodes of talking about who’ll follow Viserys (R.I.P.) in ruling Westeros, things are finally happening in that regard. So without further ado, let’s review what goes down in Episode 9 — and then make sure to check out the finale trailer here and make sure to read our deeper dive into that big moment near the end of the episode.

THE SUCCESSION STARTS | It’s the middle of the night in the Red Keep when Alicent’s handmaiden, Talya, wakes her to tell her of the king’s death. She sobs, dresses and then runs to her father’s quarters, where she reports, “He told me he wants Aegon to be king.” So they call the small council together and let its members know what’s up. Viserys “has left us a gift. With his last breath, he impressed upon the queen his final wish: That his son, Aegon, should succeed him as lord of the Seven Kingdoms,” Otto says. This seems to officially set in motion a plan to which Alicent hasn’t been privy, as she quickly realizes.

house-of-the-dragon-recap-season-1-episode-9Lord Lyman Beesbury wasn’t read in, either, and now he stands and rails about how the plot to put Aegon on the Iron Throne is “treason.” He flat-out accuses the council of committing regicide, and he’s yelling right up until the moment Ser Criston approaches him from behind and slams his skull into the table, crushing his temple on the marble ball before him and killing him instantly. Ser Harrold draws his sword and demands that the younger knight remove his cape and weapon, which causes Criston to raise his own blade against the Lord Commander; only a quick word from the queen defuses the situation — but Harrold continues giving Cole the beetle brow for the rest of the scene.

Otto Hightower won’t let anyone leave or enter the room until they’ve reached an accord, so everyone sits down as if Beesbury’s broken skull isn’t leaking a sticky pool onto the table. Otto says Rhaenyra and her family will be given the opportunity to publicly swear fealty to Aegon, and that they’ll have to be imprisoned in order to keep them from gathering supporters to their side. But Alicent knows they’ll never bend the knee. “You plan to kill them?” she wonders, but she already knows the answer. She rises as she angrily states that the king wouldn’t want his daughter murdered, but then Tyland Lannister asks what she thinks they should do instead, and Alicent doesn’t have an answer.  So Otto commands Ser Harrold to take his knights to Dragonstone, “and be quick and be clean.” But the knight instead rips off his white cape and says he recognizes no authority but the king’s, “and until there is one, I have no place here.” (This backs up our estimation that, in a series full of moral gray hats, Ser Harrold is one of the good guys.)

Next thing we know, Otto gathers those who’d sworn loyalty to Rhaenyra and tells them to vow they’ll support the new king. Most do, but those who do not are led out to a grim fate; Larys Strong watches it all unfold. Later, after he turns in a lord who’d hesitated before swearing fealty to Aegon and who was preparing to alert Rhaenyra to what was going on, Larys lets Otto know that his time in the queen’s company also might benefit the Hand of the King himself.

UM, WHERE’S THE NEW KING? | Oh look, there’s another problem: No one knows where Aegon has gone. So Otto sends Sers Erryk and Arryk Cargyll after him, instructing them to bring the young man directly to him — and not to Alicent. But at the same time, Ser Criston informs Alicent of this plan, and she asks him to locate Aegon and bring him to her. Aemond goes with the knight. Meanwhile, Rhaenys is locked in her quarters with no explanation, and Talya and a bunch of other servants are detained in the dungeon.

Criston and Aemond head to the Street of Silk, where the owner of one of the establishments tells them that Aegon’s tastes tend to be “less discriminating.” While they look, Aemond makes it clear that he should be king: After all, he’s the one who studies the histories, trains with weapons and rides the biggest dragon in the world.

house-of-the-dragon-recap-season-1-episode-9As they’re searching, so are Arryk and Erryk, who wind up at an establishment that forces 10-year-olds to fight each other. They note a platinum blonde child sitting in the corner, and the kid has gotta be Aegon’s bastard. “One of many, I’d wager,” one of the twins notes. Eventually, a young woman approaches them and says she knows someone who can lead them to Aegon… for a price.

That someone turns out to be Mysaria, whom Otto refers to as “The White Worm” when he meets her in town. He’s taken aback when she already knows about the king’s death. In exchange for info on Aegon’s whereabouts, demands an end to “the savage use of children in Flea Bottom” — apparently the Gold Cloaks allow the kiddie fighting, etc., and the Crown does nothing to stop it — and he promises to look into it. Sure, Jan.

Arryk and Erryk follow Mysaria’s intel and locate the prince, who’s holed up under the altar in a sept and VERY unhappy about being found. They haul him outside… and run straight into Criston and Aemond, blades drawn. Eventually Aemond gets the best of his brother, who kicks and screams like a toddler that he doesn’t want to rule. Aegon begs Aemond to let him get away and never come back, and it seems like he’s seriously considering it, but then Criston announces that Alicent is waiting, and that’s that.

YOU’VE PUT YOUR FOOT IN IT THIS TIME | After Viserys’ body is prepared for burial, Alicent visits an irate Rhaenys in her quarters. “You are usurping the throne,” the Queen That Never Was instantly intuits upon learning the king is dead. Alicent makes a hard sell for House Velaryon to change its allegiance and back Aegon. She butters Rhaenys up, saying that the older woman should’ve been queen “by blood and by temperament.” She draws on their commonality: “We do not rule, but we may guide the men that do, gently, away from violence and sure destruction and instead toward peace.” Rhaenys flips the tables, though, calling Alicent wiser than she expected and whispering, “Have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?” The queen doesn’t answer, leaving and instructing Rhaenys to ring the bell when she’s come to a decision.

Following Aegon’s capture, and with the almost-king squarely in his mother’s grasp, Alicent informs her father that she’s going to offer Rhaenyra terms that she can accept without shame or bodily injury. “If she lives, her allies will mass behind her banners, looking for her return,” he warns. The queen ignores him, instead rattling off the details of the ascension. Ser Criston will become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Aegon will be anointed at dawn, with all of King’s Landing watching. He’ll wear Ageon I’s crown and carry Blackfyre as a sword. “As you wish,” he says after she marches out.

She returns to her quarters to take a much-needed breather and isn’t psyched to find Larys there, waiting for her with a query: How does she suppose Otto found Aegon so quickly? “There is a web of spies in the Red Keep. Along its threads travels news of all our doings. Your father knows this, and has left it in place,” he says. And I’m distracted for a moment by how she takes off her shoes and puts her stockinged feet up on the table as he’s talking. But when she asks for names of those on the web, he pauses… until she removes her hose and shows him her bare feet, which he stares at with a not-small amount of lust. AH, SO THAT’S HOW IT IS.

house-of-the-dragon-recap-season-1-episode-9Larys says her lady-in-waiting, Talya, is one of the “little spiders,” and there are more like her. He suggests taking out the central figure in order to disrupt the gossip network, and she realizes that he’s offering to do so. “If you wish it, it will be done,” he says softly. And then, via what I can only guess is a pre-arranged agreement of theirs, she turns away — though her bare feet remain squarely in his view — as he masturbates (thankfully, out of focus in a shot from over her shoulder) and she looks conflicted/disturbed/annoyed at once more being a woman of power who still has to deal with the whims of gross men.

AND UGH, in one of the grossest cuts since Samwell Tarly first started working in the Citadel, next we see Aegon mopping up some shiny sauce off his plate with a piece of bread as he waits for the morning. To quote Sam: Dry heave! Over in Rhaenys’ rooms, however, things are less peaceful: Erryk Cargyll takes down her guard and unlocks the door, asking her to come with him, because “I cannot let this treachery stand.” His plan is to get her to Blackwater Bay and on a ship before anyone notices she’s gone, but they’re thwarted in their attempt as the people of the city are rounded up and shepherded toward the spot where Aegon officially will be named king.

NOT SO LONG LIVE THE KING? | The crowd winds up at the great sept dragonpit, where Otto announces Viserys’ death and his dying wish that Aegon succeed him. There’s a bit of applause, then the platinum-haired jackass walks in, to great fanfare. (I should note that, though Rhaenys and Erryk were separated in the crush of people, she made it into the building. And as Aegon is anointed, she sneaks out a side door.)

After the crown is placed on the new king’s empty little head, the crowd is slow to applaud. But eventually their cheers grow, reaching a crescendo as he draws his sword and lifts it in glory. BUT THEN all of that comes to a quick end when a dragon is suddenly in the middle of the crowd and starts bashing, stamping, gnashing and generally laying waste to the people in its way. And look who’s riding it: Rhaenys! Not real sure how she had the time to do all of that just now, but what is time on this show, anyway?

Eventually, Rhaenys and her beast are left to stare down the new king, his mother and the rest of the family. Alicent draws near to Aegon and bows her head, waiting for the High Valyrian command that will turn them into crispy critters. But instead, the Queen That Never Was merely has her mount, uh, yell at them really loudly? Though the dragon opens its mouth and makes a lot of noise, there’s no fire, no “dracarys,” and Rhaenys gives Alicent a pointed look before she turns and flies off into the wild blue yonder.

Now it’s your turn. Are you ready for next week’s finale? Hit the comments with your thoughts and predictions!

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