House of the Dragon S1E9: “The Green Council” Gets Off on the Wrong Foot

Aegon walking under a procession of crossed swords
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon S1E9, “The Green Council” (written by Sara Hess and directed by Claire Kilner

Oh House of the Dragon…how you frustrate me so. After what looked like the start of a solid run to close out the season, “The Green Council” is a disappointingly subpar outing to lead into next week’s season finale. It’s not as bad as say, “The Princess and the Queen,” but it’s another weak showing that somehow manages to take two events that should be thrilling to watch and make them feel downright boring.

“The Green Council” is almost entirely focused on these two events: the political coup, and the covert search through the city for the missing Aegon. Now, political coups and covert missions are by and large exciting things to watch, so it’s astonishing for all the wrong reasons how bored I was watching it. First off, the coup. When Alicent brings the news to the council that Viserys’ final words were that he wanted Aegon to be heir, it comes as a great shock to—oh wait no of course not, it turns out that Otto, along with most of the small council, has already been planning for years to install Aegon as heir anyways! Naturally, this is news to Alicent, who of course is but a silly little woman who doesn’t need to concern herself with those sorts of things.

The coup itself is a very paint-by-numbers endeavor: people say that what’s happening is treason and are then killed, people fall in line, people resign their posts in protests, important people become political prisoners who are then secretly led out of the city. If you’ve ever seen a political coup in a film or a television show, you know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s certainly ominous to see the bodies of dissenters being hung throughout the Red Keep, but it doesn’t feel as thrilling as it should and it’s yet another example of agency being taken from a woman. I get that the whole theme is “misogyny is bad,” and “misogyny is bad” is a good theme to have, it’s just that House of the Dragon doesn’t seem to have much else to offer thematically, and it’s also undercut by the fact that we know it winds up leading to the world of Game of Thrones, where things were just as bad—if not worse—for its women.

Then, there’s the covert mission to find the missing Aegon. Instead of a desperate, frantic scramble through the city with informants being shaken down and fistfights with lowlifes, “The Green Council” shows this as literally just two groups of guys going around and politely asking proprietors of various shady establishments if they’ve seen the prince, carried on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes or so. It doesn’t even feel like there’s any sense of real danger the way that peak Thrones had—Aegon is found no worse for wear, and there’s never a moment where you think he’s actually going to wind up injured or dead.

Ser Westerling announcing his resignation
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Finally—and here’s where I can’t help but get onto my soapbox for a moment—the whole hunt for Aegon is just a thinly veiled excuse to show off more of Aegon’s awfulness and how unfit he is to be king. Apparently, the showrunners didn’t think that Aegon sexually assaulting the servant girl last week was enough proof of his awfulness and decided we needed “oh yeah Aegon enjoys watching dogfights but with starving children instead of dogs and also by the way many of those children are his bastards” just for it to really sink in.

It’s one of the many issues I had with Sansa’s sexual assault at the hands of Ramsey in the original Game of Thrones—which, in hindsight was the moment that really made me stop enjoying Thrones as much. At a certain point: I get it, this character is an awful person. After two seasons of watching Ramsey torture Theon, I didn’t need more evidence to tell me he was an awful person! After watching Aegon mock his brother for not having a dragon, sexually assault a servant girl, and get into all matters of other drunken escapades, I don’t need any more evidence to suggest he’s perhaps not fit to be king! The whole sequence just feels unnecessary, and it’s time that could have been spent on more interesting or at least more exciting things.

We do get one…sort of cool reveal? It turns out the mysterious White Worm—Otto’s longtime source of information we’ve heard mentioned a couple of times—is none other than Daemon’s old companion! I can’t remember her name…or the last time we actually saw her…or really anything besides her atrocious accent, but the reveal is…cool, I guess? She’s stashed Aegon away for safekeeping, but will only give him up if he puts an end to the whole thing with the child fights. Otto says he’ll “look into” it, in that slippery slimy bastard way of saying things where you know perfectly well he absolutely will not do a thing to stop the problem. And so, Aegon Targaryen comes back safe and sound, and this time he actually manages to stay in place long enough to actually make it to his coronation ceremony.

But, all is still not well in King’s Landing. Alicent is rightfully not enthused about the schemes being plotted behind her back, so it’s off to confront her father to finally give him a piece of her mind. Not only does she tell him in no uncertain terms that she will do everything she can to avoid Rhaenyra being killed, she also admits that for years she’s been little more than an empty shell for what her father wanted, which was my major complaint about her character the whole time! Has House of the Dragon secretly been…self-aware this entire time? Doesn’t make any of the complaints I’ve had about her character having no defined goals of her own go away, it just shifts those complaints a little bit away from “this is bad character writing” to “this is intentional but it being intentional doesn’t make it less bad.” Otto, naturally, responds to Alicent unloading years of things she’s kept bottled up inside by telling her she looks like her mother in certain lighting, and oh boy howdy gee whiz I’m starting to suspect that Otto Hightower doesn’t really care for women or their silly little opinions!

Rhaenys sitting on the back of her dragon
Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO

Then, it’s back to Alicent’s own chambers and a late-night meeting with one of the few people she can still trust, the ever-loyal Larys Strong. But it turns out, even Larys has a deep, dark secret he’s been hiding from us: remember the whole thing about him having a club foot and needing a cane to walk? Well, as it would turn out, dear Larys has naturally developed…a foot fetish. Yes, “The Green Council” makes foot fetishes canonically a thing that exists within the Game of Thrones universe, and the scene between him and Alicent is one of the most awkward/uncomfortable/hilarious things I have seen on TV. It’s glorious.

It’s also, oddly enough, a genuine tour de force of acting: Alicent’s resigned expression knowing exactly what Larys wants. Larys’ pause and subsequent look that Alicent knows means “the socks come off as well.” The whole is even capped off by the Alicent’s feet basically being shoved in the camera as Larys sticks his hands down his pants in the background. I don’t know what “The Green Council” was thinking with this scene, but good god am I tickled pink that they went there. Weirdly enough, this also makes Larys one of the more relatable characters in House of the Dragon—as anyone who’s ever heard of Amouranth or Pokimane knows, there are very many guys who will do any number of crazy things just to get a glimpse of an attractive woman’s feet.

Finally, it’s time for the main event: Aegon Targaryen, Second of His Name, is crowned king. After spending the entire episode running away from the idea of becoming king, he certainly seems to take to the idea pretty quickly after receiving the adoration of his subjects. The coronation goes off without a hitch—that is, until Rhaenys Velaryon, once again asserting her role as the best character in the show, makes her escape on dragonback, with some indiscriminate dragon carnage thrown in to make her intentions known. More indiscriminate dragon carnage is always good.

Next week’s finale “The Black Queen” promises to be an exciting affair, as news of Viserys’ death and the subsequent seizure by the Greens making its way back to Rhaenyra will certainly result in much hell being raised. I just wish that “The Green Council” hadn’t been yet another middling episode I had to watch before getting there. See you next week, when we can hopefully bring this thing home.

Written by Timothy Glaraton

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