It may be Rhaenyra’s birthright, but it’s starting to feel like Alicent’s kingdom. In the latest episode of HBO’s House of the Dragon, titled The Green Council, Olivia Cooke’s Queen Hightower takes a grain of salt and runs with it. Following a crucial error made by her husband on his deathbed, Alicent feels justified in placing their son, Tom Glynn-Carney’s Aegon II Targaryen, on the Iron Throne. Backed by her father, Rhys Ifans’ Otto Hightower – Hand of the King – and a network of deceptive councilmen, Alicent goes on the offensive to support Aegon and discredit her one-time friend. Unfortunately, the would-be Lord of the Seven Kingdoms is nowhere to be found, and the hunt for his Grace gives Eve Best’s Princess Rhaenrys Targaryen just enough time to mount a rather bold counter-attack. With secrets revealed and the dark underbelly of Flea Bottom becoming a genuine problem for the crown, the Dance of the Dragons has only truly just begun.
There is more than enough political action to dig through this week, as House of the Dragon takes a deep dive into House Hightower and their many allies. Not even mentioned above – Fabien Frankel’s psychopathic Ser Criston Cole makes a return to prominence when Graham McTavish’s noble Ser Harrold Westerling steps down as Lord Commander of the King’s Guard, Ewan Mitchell’s strong-chinned Prince Aemond proves he may be the best Targaryen brother, and countless innocent civilians are either killed or made to be prisoners because the Royal Family can’t get themselves together. It’s a whole bunch of drama, but nothing Murphy’s Multiverse can’t sort into distinctive categories. With that being said, it’s time to discuss the best and worst moments of The Green Council.
(Eve) BEST – The Beast Beneath the Boards
Last week, Phia Saban’s Princess Helaena Targaryen gave a frightful premonition to her mother that she should beware “the beast beneath the boards”. It was a wildly cryptic comment that seemed to hint Helaena could see the future, and in The Green Council, fans learn that may be exactly the case. Just as Aegon is crowned King, and starts to get a terrifyingly real feel for power, Rhaenrys bursts through the ceremony on the back of her dragon to let the “Greens” know that Targaryen blood is not burned so easily. It’s a moment that the entire season has been building up to, and it does not disappoint. Best’s performance is incredible, both regal and commanding, and the sweet sweet feeling of watching the duplicitous Hightowers quiver in fear before someone they’ve treated so poorly is enough payoff to hold fans over for at least another year.
Best also delivers in an earlier scene between her Princess and the newly-empowered Queen, in which the former flexes decades of personal trauma in a conversation Alicent should have known not to have. This moment alone probably would have put Rhaenrys in contention for this episode’s most valuable player, even before she went crashing through walls on the dragon’s back to cement her status as The Queen Who Should Have Been. Either way, her title no longer matters, because she’s earned a new one entirely. First Princess, then an almost Queen, and now – the Beast Beneath the Boards.
WORST – A Child Fight Club and The Lord of the Feet
The Green Council pulled back the curtain on quite a bit of the dirty secrets hiding in Westeros’ darkest corners. As such, it was difficult to pick just one as the worst the episode had to offer. As the hour began, it seemed Ser Cole was still a lock for House of the Dragon’s most obnoxious inhabitant, but things changed quickly when Aegon went missing. During the search for his Royal Highness, it’s revealed that King’s Landing is home to an underground fight club where children without homes are forced to sharpen both their teeth and nails before fighting each other to the presumed death. It’s a disgusting scene to watch play out, and anyone who says they didn’t flinch each time one kid landed a claw on another is probably lying. Even worse, it’s implied that some of the children involved are the bastards of Aegon himself, carelessly sleeping his way through the city and leaving his own blood to rot. It’s not a long sequence, but its larger implications are enough to put it at the top of the “worst” list in an episode filled with some pretty bad stuff.
Also, one would be remiss to write about the downsides of this episode and not mention Matthew Needham’s Lord Larys Strong. In a particularly uncomfortable few minutes, the dastardly know-it-all forces the Queen to show him her feet in exchange for important information. It is yet another example of female objectification in Westeros, as even the Queen herself must use her body to get what she wants. The grotesqueness of this doesn’t need that much further explanation, but the fact it feels like this foot fetish might be a recurring thing on House of the Dragon means it needed to get a shout so it would never have to be discussed again. Really, just icky.