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Aegon your face! Everything that went down in House of the Dragon episode 9

Spoiler warning for House of the Dragon episode 9

The king is dead, long live the king! After two months of Paddy Considine slowly decomposing as the good king Viserys, the inevitable has finally happened on House of the Dragon. In an opening that echoes the famous sequence in the ‘The Winds of Winter’ (the episode of Game of Thrones where the crypt goes boom) juvenile spies relay the message of the king’s demise to the sound of Ramin Djawadi’s tremulous score. The reason for that note of tension is clear: what happens next?


Well, what happens next is that the Queen (Olivia Cooke) makes the decision to push through her son Aegon’s claim. “I saw [Viserys] last night,” she tells her father. “He told he wished for Aegon to be king.” And so the wheels spring into motion – and, as ever with House of the Dragon, those wheels spin with the fury of a hula-hooper at an eight-year-old’s birthday party. The small council consents to Aegon’s rise – revealing, in fact, that they had been scheming in his favour all along – except for sweet Lord Beesbury (Bill Paterson) who upholds Rhaenyra’s claim. He is promptly dispatched by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) who has become, over the past few weeks, one of the least appealing characters on television today.

Swords are sharpened, battle lines are drawn. But nobody can find Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney). Ser Criston and Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) head off into the bowels of King’s Landing to track down this wayward heir (“His tastes are known to be… less discriminating,” they’re told when they knock on the door of a brothel) but they are in a race against time. Identical twins Arryk and Erryk Cargyll (Luke and Elliott Tittensor) are pursuing the new King on the command of the Kingsguard, but are increasingly unsure of his suitability for the role.


Through all this, Alicent and Otto (Rhys Ifans) are back in the Red Keep, consolidating power. “I am no oath breaker,” one rogue Lord tells them. “I will not bend the knee.” He is promptly arrested. But the greatest indignity of all is reserved for Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best), grandmother in the alternative regal line. She is locked in her bed chamber; her dragon guarded down in the pits. “I will do you the considerable courtesy of assuming there is a good reason for the outrage of my treatment this morning?” she tells Alicent when, finally, the Queen visits her. And Alicent – who has been working overtime on political machinations– makes her pitch: should Rhaenys support Aegon’s claim, she will lift House Velaryon up with her. A rising Hightide lifts all boats.

Aegon has been found. He was being held hostage by Daemon’s ex-lover Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), now calling herself The White Worm. “I want an end to the savage use of children in Flea Bottom,” she says, making her demands to Otto. “There is no power but what the people allow you to take.” And so the truculent new king is restored. “Have the decency to look grateful,” Alicent tells her horrible sprog. “My father never wanted this,” the sulky brat replies. “He didn’t like me.” Are we supposed to feel sympathy for this proto-Joffrey?

It is not only in the sombre opening notes that this episode strikes a comparison with “The Winds of Winter”. It made me think also of the death of poor Tommen. Tommen, who we had barely known for five minutes, had just become King when he decided to throw himself out of a window, for no good reason. This is what every scene in House of the Dragon feels like: a plot that, through relentless propulsion, is driving you away from character development, or emotional investment. And when the people of King’s Landing gather in a teeming mass in the Red Keep to proclaim Aegon King, flashes of bright green wildfire will burn in the back of your mind.


But Aegon is successfully anointed. “All hail his grace, Aegon, second of his name!” yells Otto. “Aegon the King!” the crowd responds in loyal affirmation. Olivia Cooke, the 28-year-old actress (who barely looks that) has been superb in this episode. She kisses the head of her son, played by a 27-year-old Tom Glynn-Carney. After all the attention lavished on the show’s cast changes and time leaps, it all feels a bit weird, but hey: that’s show business!

The bells toll; and bells can mean nothing good in Westeros. Rhaenys, who has escaped her house arrest, explodes from the crypt below (possibly not a sensible place to store your imprisoned dragons) astride Meleys. She has a chance to incinerate the Targaryen/Hightower clan but her calculation, in that moment, is to let them live. Will she come to regret it?

There is a quality to this episode that Jack Bauer would appreciate. It all unfolds within the space of a single day, from the death of Viserys the Peaceful to the coronation of Aegon the Little Perv. And through all this, the real absence has been Rhaenyra and Daemon. When it arrives, their claim will be backed with dragonfire. And even on the home front, there are murmurings: Alicent pleads mercy for Rhaenyra, while Larys (Matthew Neeedham) poisons the Queen against her father. “Well played,” Otto tells his daughter of a good way’s work. “None of this is a game,” she responds coldly. It’s hard, at times, not to wish this series were more of a game (of Thrones) than it is willing to be.

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