House of the Dragon Episode 9 Ending Explained: This Means War - IGN (2024)

Full spoilers ahead for Season 1, Episode 9 of House of the Dragon.

The king is dead. Long live the new king whether you like it or not. That’s the position of Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the late King Viserys I, and his fellow conspirators on the Small Council as they set in motion nothing less than a coup against the true heir, Princess Rhaenyra.

Due to Viserys’ deathbed mistake, Queen Alicent wrongly believes he changed his mind and named their son Aegon II as his new heir. Once the king is dead, Alicent tells her father, Otto Hightower, of what she believes was the king’s final wish. Whether Otto truly believes it or not doesn’t matter as it turns out to be precisely the justification he and his fellow co-conspirators need for seizing the Iron Throne.

This penultimate episode of House of the Dragon Season 1 (review) differs from its source material, George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, in some key ways, although the overall gist remains mostly true to the book. In Fire and Blood, Alicent comes across as an active schemer whereas on the show she is stunned that her father and his cronies had long been plotting to install Aegon II as the next king. She was left in the dark so as not to sully her but now Alicent is involved whether she likes it or not. Otto believes Rhaenyra will put her half-siblings, Otto’s grandchildren, to death as a threat to her rule so seizing power now is their only recourse.

Lord Lymon Beesbury cries treason and is immediately killed by Ser Criston Cole. This, in turn, sparks a stand-off with Ser Harrold Westerling, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, who ultimately quits rather than betray his oath. In their secrecy and swiftness to secure the throne for Aegon II, the conspirators lock up anyone outside of the inner circle with knowledge of the king’s death or any noble they suspect won’t play ball.

Otto and his allies on the Small Council also determine Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon must die. Alicent is aghast at the notion that her late husband would want his beloved daughter put to death in order for Aegon to rule even as she acknowledges that neither Rhaenyra nor Daemon will bend the knee. Alicent truly doesn’t want Rhaenyra to die; her father later points out she only wants to show Rhaenyra mercy because they were childhood friends.

House of the Dragon Episode 9 Book Changes

This tension between Alicent and Otto is not there in Fire and Blood, which portrays them as a far more united front than the TV series does. House of the Dragon adds nuance and emotional complexity to Alicent’s arc that wasn’t evident in the book, casting a tragic pall over events even as Alicent still chooses to play politics and manipulate people.

An even bigger difference between the events of Fire and Blood and House of the Dragon when it comes to the depiction of the Greens’ coup d'etat is the presence of Rhaenys Velaryon, the Queen Who Never Was, a character absent from King’s Landing before and after Viserys’ death in the book. Rhaenys, a Targaryen who in HotD Episode 8 backed Rhaenyra’s claim, finds herself locked in her chambers within the Red Keep. She is visited by Alicent, who insists it was Viserys’ dying wish that Aegon II be made king. Naturally, Rhaenys doesn’t believe her. To Rhaenys, this is nothing less than the Greens usurping the throne.

Alicent wants House Velaryon’s support and asks Rhaenys what her alliance with Rhaenyra has actually gotten her except grief. She claims it's Rhaenys’ husband, Corlys the Sea Snake, who has “grasped so heedlessly for the throne. And even he has abandoned you, gone these six long years.” But the Queen Who Never War says the word of her house “is not fickle.” In one last-ditch effort to win her over, Alicent concedes Rhaenys should have been monarch, not Viserys. “The Iron Throne was yours by blood and by temperament,” Alicent said, adding that Viserys would have been content to have lived his life as a simple country lord rather than to have been king, but that’s now how things turned out.

The real reason why Rhaenys now finds herself a political prisoner is that she has a dragon, Meleys the Red Queen. If Rhaenys and her dragon were to return home then Rhaenyra would be tempted to attack them as the dragons the Blacks possess outmatch those of the Greens. Without that additional dragon, Alicent wagers, Rhaenyra may be persuaded to negotiate. She even promises Rhaenys and her granddaughters Driftmark in perpetuity. But still, Rhaenys refuses. She says Alicent just serves the men in her life, that she doesn’t want to be free but to make a window inside the wall of her prison. “Have you ever imagined yourself on the Iron Throne,” Rhaenys asks Alicent in her own attempt at mind games.

House of the Dragon: Episode 9 Ending Explained

Rhaenys eventually escapes, but gets swept up in a crowd and arrivies incognito to Aegon II’s coronation. Maybe it was seeing Lord Caswell's corpse (he was hanged for attempting to flee the castle after the coup) or the massive skull of Balerion the Black Dread on her way out of the Red Keep, but something inside Rhaenys clicks as Aegon is being anointed. She leaves the ceremony, sneaking downstairs to where the dragons are kept.

Riding atop Meleys, Rhaenys and her steed smash their way into the Dragonpit, sending debris and people flying everywhere as if a bomb exploded. Pandemonium envelops the crowd as Meleys swings her tail and lays waste. Notably, in Fire and Blood, the Dragonpit is chosen as the site for the coronation because it is deemed defensible. House of the Dragon very quickly shows that's not the case.

Alicent quickly stands in front of her son Aegon, a mother protecting her firstborn with her life. She closes her eyes and accepts what appears to be her fiery fate. But Rhaenys never utters “Dracarys!” so Meleys simply unleashes an ungodly shriek at Alicent and Aegon. Alicent and Rhaenys lock eyes, and then Rhaenys flies off to presumably inform Rhaenyra that her half-brother has stolen the Iron Throne.

None of this happened in the book.

Every Dragon in Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon

Dance of the Dragons: Who Started the Targaryen Civil War?

Fire and Blood is very clear on this matter: "All three chronicles agree on one particular: the first blood shed in the Dance of the Dragons belonged to Lord Lyman Beesbury, master of coin and lord treasurer of the Seven Kingdoms." House of the Dragon, unlike GRRM's book, isn't told from the perspectives of three different unreliable narrators. It is meant to be the definitive truth of what happened, but even then pin-pointing the exact start of the civil war may be open to interpretation by fans.

Who fired the first shot in the TV version of the Dance of the Dragons? Was it Alicent marrying Viserys? Larys Strong killing his father and brother to aid Alicent? Alicent wearing that green dress to Rhaenyra’s wedding? Was it Otto even broaching the idea of a coup with his allies on the Small Council? Or was it Aegon II being crowned king? All of these are pivotal steps but nothing is more dramatic or consequential than a dragon attack on civilians and royalty at King’s Landing.

Rhaenys would rather watch the realm burn than see Aegon sit on the Iron Throne.

During her sales pitch to Rhaenys, Alicent explains, “We do not rule but we may guide the men that do, gently, away from violence and sure destruction and instead toward peace.” In her decision to mount Meleys and literally crash the coronation, Rhaenys not only rejects Alicent’s patriarchal definition of a woman’s role in the royal family but also sends the clearest message that she doesn’t intend to gently guide anyone on her side toward peace.

The Queen Who Never Was is not about to see another woman – even one she wrongly believes killed her son – get screwed out of her chance to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Rhaenys would rather watch the realm burn than see Aegon sit on the Iron Throne.

While that may be what Rhaenys believes was the righteous or only choice, she immediately went for the nuclear option, taking any political solution off the table in what the Greens can now only see as an act of war. (For her part, Princess Rhaenyra may rightly see the very act of usurpation as a declaration of war.)

Alicent may have thought she could, by holding Rhaenys and her dragon hostage, negotiate a relatively bloodless settlement with Rhaenyra, one that could spare the life of her childhood friend. Rhaenys’ actions have now made that nonviolent path impossible.

The Dance of the Dragons has begun and both the Blacks and the Greens will undoubtedly suffer the tragic consequences of their actions taken in this episode for seasons to come.

What did you think of Rhaenys’ party-crashing? Let us know in the comments.

House of the Dragon Episode 9 Ending Explained: This Means War - IGN (2024)
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