King Viserys has finally died, and Alicent has misunderstood his final words. She thinks he has changed his mind and wants their eldest son Aegon to be King. This episode is fully focused on “The Greens” and their response on the day after the death. Everyone is on the search for Aegon, both Alicent and Otto wanting to influence him before the other. Unsurprisingly, Ramin Djawadi started the episode strong with another killer score. The music matches so well to the gravity of the situation, and I could not be more thankful he’s the composer.
Although Olivia Cooke is doing an excellent job with her performance as Alicent, some issues are clear when examined deeper. When Alicent and Otto announce to the rest of the small council that Viserys had changed his mind and confessed to her that Aegon is named heir, almost everyone is ready to put what they’ve been conspiring to do into action, much to the surprise of Lord Beesbury, Lord Commander Westerling, and Alicent herself. It is baffling that Alicent would be surprised when in episode 6 she tells Aegon that everyone in Westeros knows that one day he will be king. Even further, considering the way that Viserys was off milk-of-the-poppy and fully defended Rhaenyra and Luke earlier, why would Alicent assume that is what he meant and not just the mumbles of a heavily medicated man? And finally, she knew Rhaenyra would not believe that is what her father said, that she and Daemon would never swear obeisance to her brother Aegon as king, and admitted in public that Rhaenyra would be a good queen (especially over Aegon who she claimed was no son of hers in episode 8). Why is she surprised when Otto says they plan to kill her? Alicent ruled Westeros in Viserys’ place for several years, so she is not stupid, but the logic behind how she acts in this episode is lacking. Clearly, the writers are trying to not villainize these women, but Alicent is coming off as ridiculous as a result.
During this council meeting, Lord Beesbury is the only member to stand up for what was right, and Criston Cole murders him. How often his behavior has been overlooked is insane. While we’ve known just how horrible he is for a while, when he drew arms against Lord Commander Westerling, any possible inkling of honor truly went out the window. We can hope that when Westerling leaves, he heads straight for Rhaenyra. On a side note, Ser Criston hasn’t aged a day in the decades the show has spanned. A few gray hairs would have been logical since they decided not to change actors.
Both Otto and Alicent send people to go find Aegon when they are unable to locate him in the Red Keep. Alicent sends Ser Criston and Aemond, and Otto sends Ser Erryk and his twin brother Ser Arryk. The fact that their names are so similar is an absolute nightmare. In Game of Thrones, they did the viewers the courtesy of changing Asha Greyjoy’s name to Yara in the show so it wasn’t confused with Osha, the wildling woman. Erryk and Arryk are identical with no discernible difference in appearance, are often in the same shot, and their names sound exactly the same. Of the many things that have been changed from the book to the TV show, why couldn’t this have been one of them? I can’t tell which one of them has this opinion, but one of them does not support Aegon and feels that he exploits his authority.
Aemond and Criston first start to search for Aegon in a brothel on the Street of Silk. They are seemingly close friends, both of which believe they are both “decent men with no taste for depravity.” Aemond even admits his jealousy of Aegon’s position to be King. He has studied and trained hard all his life, yet he is another second son that cannot rule, which finally gives the character some depth rather than just relying on his aesthetic. Apparently, Aegon has more perverse proclivities than simple prostitution, so the pair must keep searching for him.
While that is happening, Otto is announcing to the lords and ladies that “Viserys changed his opinion” and they cannot leave the throne room unless they bend the knee or they will be killed. A couple of people refuse, but Lord Caswell, who is loyal to Rhaenyra, bends the knee, though this is a lie. He later attempts to leave to warn Rhaenyra, but he is ratted out by Larys.
Alicent goes to Rhaenys, who has been locked in her room, to attempt to persuade her to support Aegon’s claim. She comes in with this very innocent hope to get Rhaenys’ support, but it is once again silly writing that makes Alicent look bad. Why would Rhaenys support a man taking over a woman’s crown when a similar thing happened to her? Not to mention that her definite biological grandchildren, Baela and Rhaena, are a part of the family that is going to be murdered. Alicent even says, “We do not rule but we guide the men who do,” as if that is some special consolation prize. Despite the frustrating scene, Rhaenys does say something that finally gets through to Alicent, which is that she toils in service to men and that all she hopes for is a window in the wall of her prison. This is the crux of Alicent’s role in the story in comparison to Rhaenyra who is trying to break out of her prison and get into power.
Erryk and Arryk find a child-fighting establishment that Aegon frequents, evidenced by the little blond bastard boy close to the fighting arena. This is where Mysaria’s apprentice finds them and demands that they get Otto to meet with her, which he does. Mysaria kidnapped and hid Aegon with the desire to trade his location for Otto to end the abuse of children in Flea Bottom. This is an interesting request, especially considering how her old paramour Daemon was very tough on crime when he was Commander of the City Watch (and people believed him to be savage). She also knows that Viserys is dead, much to Otto’s surprise. Talya is part of that underground network of spies Otto left in place that has now come to bite him in the butt. She reminds him, “There is no power but what the people allow you to take.” He agrees, and Erryk and Arryk find Aegon.
Aegon rejects their attempts to take him. He weirdly calls out for his mother, which seems out of character because she has done nothing but despise him. He runs straight into Aemond and Criston. Aemond and Aegon tussle, and he admits he has no desire to rule and begs his brother to let him run away, which is everything that Aemond wishes for in his heart. Criston defeats one of the twins, and they take him to Alicent who is concurrently confronting her father for pushing her into marrying Viserys, becoming Queen, and losing her best friend. She was simply a player on his chessboard. Her love for Rhaenyra is affecting her, and Otto is not having it.
One of the most disturbing scenes of the show so far happened between Larys and Alicent in her bedroom. On the first watch, I couldn’t tell if Alicent was simply getting comfortable in her room because he’s been in her private area before. I thought the foot moment was just unfortunately timed undressing, especially because he is so quiet at the end of the scene. I kept wondering, “Does she know what is happening?” and “Has this happened consistently?” On a second watch, it seems more likely that she is aware of what is happening. Alicent becomes more and more pathetic. At least she gets confirmation of the web of spies in the Red Keep that Otto has kept in place that he has used to his advantage (aka episode four with Rhaenyra).
As they travel to his coronation, Alicent tries to make conversation with Aegon. He is proven to have a brain when he refutes the claim Alicent tries to make about his father. He knows that his dad didn’t like him and that his father wouldn’t have named him heir with his last breath when he had years to do so. He asks his mother, “Do you love me?” and when she replies, “You imbecile” I couldn’t help but feel badly for him. Even though Alicent has been manipulated on all sides, it doesn’t excuse her inability to show love toward her son, which clearly damaged him greatly. In fact, he only seems to enjoy the idea of being King when the crowd cheers for him. It is probably one of the few times he has been shown any love or adoration in his life.
Earlier, one of the twin knights tried to sneak Rhaenys down to the docks to have her warn Rhaenyra, but the coronation crowd forced her away. She does get her chance to sneak away to her dragon Meleys, who is proven to be the beast beneath the boards that Helaena predicted would come to be. For some reason, Rhaenys is okay with killing the civilians that she was just standing around, but felt a moral quandary when it comes to killing the family that is trying to usurp the throne. She lets her dragon roar and leaves. Of course, we need to have the Greens alive, so there is a Dance of Dragons, but it wasn’t required to have the Meleys stand there and roar for no result.
The best things about this episode are easily the brilliant acting performances, especially Olivia Cooke and Tom Glynn-Carney, but there were so many logical fallacies and spectacle over story in this episode. Hopefully, this episode is a fluke in what has been a relatively solid first season. Next week there will be more action in the season finale which will focus on the Blacks’ response to the usurping of the Iron Throne.