'House of the Dragon' Recap: Penultimate Season 1 Episode Sets Scene for Chaotic, Bloody Finale

With only one episode left in the first season, the Game of the Thrones prequel series clears the way for the massive civil war that will ultimately undo the Targaryens

Rhys Ifans, Olivia Cooke, Fabien Frankel HBO House of the Dragon Season 1 - Episode 9
Photo: Ollie Upton/HBO

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the penultimate episode of season 1 of House of the Dragon.

The king is dead — seriously, this time. King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) bought the farm in the last episode of House of the Dragon, and the scene was set in this week's episode — titled "The Green Council" — for all hell to break loose concerning his succession.

The penultimate episode for the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series opens with Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) discovering Viserys died. A shocked and grieving Alicent told her father Otto that Viserys' final words were his wish that their eldest son, Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), succeed him on the Iron Throne.

Of course, viewers know that was not what Viserys meant, but the queen had no idea his message got crossed in his dismal state of mind before he died. Whether Otto believed her or not, he was plenty delighted by the news, as he knew Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) taking the crown would bring a world of hurt to the Seven Kingdoms.

Bill Paterson HBO House of the Dragon Season 1 - Episode 9
Ollie Upton/HBO

Alicent and Otto quickly and quietly informed the small council that Viserys died, and his final words were for Aegon to be king. The group admitted to a shocked Alicent that they already made a pact to supplant Rhaenyra with Aegon — so if that was indeed the king's final wish, so much the better.

Alicent was pretty disgusted to learn of the plotting behind her back, but that was nothing compared to the news that the council, along with Otto, also prepared to sail soldiers to Dragonstone to murder Rhaenyra, Daemon (Matt Smith), and their children to assure there was zero challenge to Aegon's royal ascension. Master of Coin Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Paterson) was the only council member to protest the plan and accused Alicent of lying, for which he was "accidentally" killed by Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Oops.

Alicent and Otto discovered that Aegon — who'd grown into just the most despicable person — was MIA after he snuck out of the castle for his usual seedy debauchery in town. Alicent, livid over the plan to murder Rhaenyra and her family, ordered Criston to find and return Aegon to her. He was joined by Prince Aemond (Ewan Mitchell). Otto ordered two members of the Kingsguard to find and return Aegon to him, so he could tell the future king the murder plan. Alicent aimed to get ahead of that situation and implore her eldest son to be peaceful in the transition.

Aegon was finally found after a price was paid to Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), who had the teen hidden, so she could exchange him for coin and her own agenda in a sit-down with Otto. Later in the episode, Mysaria was murdered by Larys (Matthew Needham) in a fire at the behest of the queen. But not before a creepy Tarantino foot thing between Alicent and Larys.

Ewan Mitchell HBO House of the Dragon Season 1 - Episode 9
Ollie Upton/HBO

The four men ordered to find Aegon eventually crossed paths and squared off, which was when Aegon told his younger brother he had no interest in being king. What's more, if they would let him go, he would just disappear and live happily ever after as a swine human being. Having already confided in Criston that he believed himself fit to be king, Aemond seemed to consider the offer for a split second before Aegon was brought to their mother as Criston bested — but did not kill — his fellow guardsmen.

Alicent informed Otto she had Aegon and ordered his coronation the following day in front of King's Landing to make clear to all his subjects that a new king was in place, thereby peacefully supplanting Rhaenyra. An impressed Otto agreed. Lords of the houses in the Seven Kingdoms were quickly assembled in the castle, where Otto told them they would now bend the knee for the king's son, not Rhaenyra. Nearly all agreed. Two refused and were imprisoned, and one who lied and then tried to escape to warn Rhaenyra was killed.

While all the events of the episode were unfolding, Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) was being held captive in her room at the castle. Alicent informed her the king — also Rhaenys' cousin — had died and of his last wishes. Rhaenys did not buy it and took great affront to another would-be queen stepped over just as she had been ages ago in favor of Viserys. One of the members of the Kingsguard, who was tasked with finding Aegon — but knew he was just the worst, which made the guard sympathetic to Rhaenys' situation — helped her escape the castle.

Eve Best HBO House of the Dragon Season 1 - Episode 9
Ollie Upton/HBO

As she was making her way through the city to the port, Rhaenys got swept up in the mass of everyone in King's Landing being herded to Aegon's coronation at the Sept of Oldtown. While riding with his mother to the coronation, a dejected Aegon told the queen he did not believe her concerning his father's final wishes and held a grudge he was not named heir years ago. She promised him it was real, but balked when he asked if she loved him.

In the final scene, Aegon is crowned the new king, and the more the throngs of subjects cheered him, the more he got into the moment and seemed to realize all the power he now wielded. Rhaenys watched for a few minutes but then was able to slip away. As the ceremony was coming to a close and everyone seemed super stoked, Rhaenys, atop her enormous dragon, Meleys, smashed apart the Sept. Rhaenys spared all the royals' lives, but she had made her point: "the Queen That Never Was," would be Team Rhaenyra in the ensuing civil war for the throne— and she would be a formidable foe on that side.

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The season finale of House of the Dragon airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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