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House Of The Dragon Episode 9 Recap: The Game Is Afoot

Back in the original heyday of "Game of Thrones," the penultimate episode of each season meant something. Kicking off in the first season, where the ninth episode, "Baelor," saw the beheading — decade old spoiler alert! — of Sean Bean's supposed hero Ned Stark, the second to last episode of each season was typically reserved for something shocking, while the finale would put in the work to set up the following season. This pretty much continued throughout the reign of "Thrones," considering that major events like the Red Wedding and the Battle of the Bastards both took place during their respective season's ninth episodes... and now, House of the Dragon seems to be trying to follow in those footsteps.

Does it succeed, though? "The Green Council," the ninth and second-to-last episode of season 1, picks up right where "The Lord of the Tides" left off — King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) is dead, and a new ruler must be chosen. After listening to her husband's drug-addled, confused mumblings before he took his final breath, Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) firmly believes that her son Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney) is the deceased monarch's choice for his heir, despite that he named his daughter Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy, who does not appear in the episode) years prior.

"The Green Council" certainly sets the Dance of the Dragons in motion by forming Alicent's faction very clearly, but it definitely lacks the bite of a "Rains of Castamere" or "Baelor." In that case, what does happen?

The Greens gather their forces

The second that Alicent gets word of her husband's death, her father, Otto (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King and now defacto Protector of the Realm, gathers the entire Small Council to announce that the monarch's last wish was to place Aegon on the throne. After neatly disposing of the council's lone dissenter, Fleabag's father Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson), the rest of the council falls in line under Otto's unwavering gaze; meanwhile, Alicent, who is hardly ever naive, is weirdly shocked that her father's forces have been conspiring to place her son on the throne this whole time.

"What of Rhaenyra?" asks Alicent, panicked and seemingly exhausted. That's a great question — what of Rhaenyra? Well, as Otto points out, having a declared heir to the throne loitering around while you're trying to usurp it is probably a bad idea, and Rhaenyra's husband-uncle Daemon (Matt Smith) is a force to be reckoned with all by himself. It's beyond obvious that Otto and his lackeys are out for Rhaenyra's head; whether Alicent hews to his word remains to be seen.

Aegon is AWOL

As for the heir to the throne that everyone is fighting over, he's, uh, gone. That's right: Aegon isn't with his sister and wife Helaena (Phia Saban) and their children, and his sworn protector Arryk Cargyll (Luke Tittensor) doesn't know where he is either. Otto sends Arryk and his brother Erryk (Elliott Tittensor) to find the prince, while Alicent sends her favorite knight Ser Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel) and Aegon's younger yet much older-looking brother Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), and the two pairings race to track Aegon down first.

After making their respective ways through a child-fighting ring and several brothels, Aemond and Criston find an odd sight — Otto, hooded and cloaked, meeting with the Cargylls and Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), Daemon's former lover who now acts as a master of secrets known as the "White Worm." Mysaria promises to return the prince in exchange for the end of that aforementioned child-fighting ring (which, presumably, will bring that whole subplot to an end already?), but after the Cargylls rescue Aegon, they're bested by Criston and Aemond.

Otto Hightower is on his high horse

Despite not getting to Aegon first, Otto is definitely on one in this episode, grabbing power immediately. His big move? Not letting anybody leave a room until he gets his way. At the Small Council meeting that starts the episode, Otto won't even let anybody clean up Lord Beesbury's body until everyone agrees with him — and one other person doesn't. Ser Harold Westerling (Graham McTavish), Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and Rhaenyra's ally and former protector, removes his cloak and prepares to leave the city, saying that without a king, he doesn't really have a job, making Ser Harold a potentially super-powered ally for Rhaenyra if he can get to her before the Greens do.

Later, Otto assembles the head of every family that once pledged their allegiance to Rhaenyra and tells them they have no option other than to bend their knees to Aegon, under threat of some serious duress. (Violence, specifically.) We soon see what he means when it comes to one particular lord who's hesitant about supporting Aegon, who's summarily intercepted by Larys Strong's (Matthew Needham) spies as he tries to leave King's Landing. Not long after that, we see that lord's hanging high above the ground, clearly assassinated for still supporting Rhaenyra. Alicent might be queen and her son may soon be king, but Otto's the one pulling the biggest strings.

Larys' one true love

Speaking of Larys, he's still running little "errands" for Alicent, apparently, including committing murder on her behalf after all these years. The sole surviving heir of House Strong — because, as we all know, he killed the rest of his family — Larys is Alicent's evil lapdog, and he proves his mettle for her once again in a big way in this episode.

Meeting with Alicent, Larys passes on the word about Mysaria and her nefarious wrongdoings, prompting Alicent to inquire if that might be one of the services Larys offers. It is, but apparently, Alicent needs to offer a, well, service of her own. Taking off her shoes and then, with a look from Larys, her stockings, Alicent places her feet in Larys' eyeline and turns her head while he... enjoys the view. This practiced, clearly routine movement makes it obvious that Larys and Alicent have an extremely unorthodox arrangement, but clearly, it's working in Alicent's favor in the grossest way possible.

A crown... with a side of dragonfire

Ultimately, Alicent gets her wish, and her son Aegon — who has transformed from a violent, headstrong kid to a whimpering, weepy boy who asks his mommy if she loves him between episodes — is crowned king in front of a large crowd, officially wearing the crown of his namesake the Conqueror. Before long, though, a very special guest swings by the coronation — and this one definitely wasn't invited.

At the start of the episode, we see Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best), Viserys' cousin and the "Queen Who Never Was," locked in her room at the Red Keep, clearly on Alicent's command. Though the widowed queen shows up in Rhaenys' room and tries to sway her to the Greens, Rhaenys plays it relatively close to the vest, merely asking Alicent why she's never tried to sit upon the throne herself, but neither woman is convinced.

Clearly, Rhaenys has wildly different plans. After attempting to escape her captivity in King's Landing, she ends up shunted into Aegon's coronation, but manages to slip out of a side door. It seems like she's just heading out so she doesn't have to watch, but lest we forget: Rhaenys has a dragon. After asking about it during her confrontation with Alicent, Rhaenys crushes half the room with her Chekhov's dragon — named Meleys — eventually drawing her beast to face Aegon and Alicent directly. They prepare for the worst, but Rhaenys, sitting tall upon her dragon, doesn't kill them, electing to merely have Meleys release a blast of likely terrible dragon breath upon the new king and his mother.

When does House of the Dragon Episode 10 air?

The season 1 finale of "House of the Dragon" airs at 9 PM on HBO and HBO Max, and after this episode, the show probably has plenty in store for an explosive finish. For one thing, we heard Rhaenyra and Daemon's names plenty of times during the episode but didn't see either of these extraordinarily important characters. Beyond that, in the show's eighth episode, Rhaenyra tells Alicent, after the two rekindle their relationship — though that reconciliation has clearly come to an end where Alicent is concerned — that she will return to King's Landing "on dragonback." Clearly, that has a new meaning now.

The series has already been renewed for a second outing — which, hopefully, means we'll get more drinking advice from Cooke and D'Arcy, for one — and this finale has a lot to accomplish if the Dance of the Dragons will be in full swing by the time the show returns. Hopefully, Rhaenyra's side, the Blacks, will fully assemble as well, showing off both sides of the civil war before audiences have to wait for the second season.