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‘House of the Dragon’ recap: Coronation, devastation

Alicent (Olivia Cooke) looks at the wrapped corpse of her late husband, Viserys. (Liam Daniel/HBO)
13 min

The king died? What, how!?

A melodramatic montage, gray hues and sad piano music open the episode. Empty throne room, empty small council room with a white curtain billowing, quiet. A small blonde boy in maroon walks down to a servants’ area. A tall woman bends down to hear his whisper. The same woman soon is in Alicent’s room. The queen’s crying. Alicent commands the woman, “Stay here, tell no one.” But everyone knows the king’s dead, it’s all over SnapServant.

Otto stands tearfully by a fireplace; he was probably tingling before his spies got him the news. “Who knows?” he asks. The Shadow knows. Alicent says handmaidens and some servants know, so pretty much all of Westeros. Viserys was on death’s door for 20 years, his borrowed time earning compounded interest, so why is this a shock? Alicent reveals to Otto that the king told her the night before that he wanted their son Aegon to be king. Let’s not forget that there’s another Aegon, the one Rhaenyra named out of spite, and that Viserys’s prophecy might refer to that younger heir. Alicent swears it came from the king’s own lips. Did he even have lips?

In the small council room, one of the members rolls a golden orb down the table like it’s salted table shuffleboard night at Dick’s Last Resort. Otto tells the council they grieve for Viserys the Peaceful (No Songs To His Name), who was not just king, but a good hang, a real bro. Otto says the king left a gift. Yeah, dead bodies do that sometimes. The gift was telling Alicent with his dying breath that he wanted Aegon to succeed him. Lord Lannister, not so quick on the uptake, says that this means they can proceed with their long-laid plans — plans Alicent didn’t know about.

Getting egg on your face

Otto seeks to remove City Watch captains loyal to Daemon, secure the treasury and send ravens to allies. Alicent and Lord Lyman Beesbury were the only ones made unaware. Beesbury, offended, calls the plans put Aegon in the throne instead of Rhaenyra “theft” and “treason.” He says he has made it “six and 70 years” in Westeros — where the life expectancy is yesterday — and is not about to take Alicent’s word over what he knows to be true. But Beesbury takes it too far, suggesting the king was fine at dinner (he wasn’t). Now it’s a regicide accusation. Ser Criston Cole creeps up behind Beesbury and pushes him down hard. Beesbury is killed by his own orb, which cracks the side of his skull and makes him bleed out on the table. There are no shocked reactions, just a muted, “Well, that happened.”

Lord Commander Westerling draws his sword, a great idea when even decorative eggs could kill you. He asks Cole to draw down and remove his cloak. Cole refuses, cementing his reputation as a feckless layabout. “Has it come to this?” Westerling asks. A suggestion is made to remove Beesbury’s body. He might have a gift to leave them, you know. Otto says the doors remain closed until business is done. He really wants this to be a bottle episode.

Alicent, frustrated, brings up the elephant (dragon?) in the room right now: the king’s daughter. Otto says Rhaenyra and her family will be detained until they publicly show support for the plan that cuts her from the line of succession. “She’ll never bend the knee,” Alicent says. No response in the room. “You plan to kill them,” she tells Otto, surprised. Cole and Otto agree that Rhaenyra will gather support, leading to war. And then there’s Daemon, who is dangerous. Otto agrees it’s unsavory, like a spiceless meatloaf recipe. Alicent hollers that the king did not wish to see his daughter dead and he loved her. A council member mutters and Alicent cuts him off, promising to send him to the wall if he says another word. Why not threaten him with a council egg? It’s right there. Otto orders Westerling to Dragonstone. “Be quick and be clean,” he commands. Westerling pulls and unsnaps his cloak from his armor (it’s a breakaway cloak?) and lays it on the table. As leader of the Kingsguard, he has no place here until there’s a king. Ooh, good logic. He exits alive.

Alicent and Otto visit her daughter, Creepy Helaena, and Helaena’s two small children, looking for Aegon. Helaena is cross-stitching a bug. It wasn’t totally clear from dinner, but Aegon is apparently married to Helaena (his sister, for those still attempting to keep track). Helaena, who’s into incest and insects, says Aegon’s not there. Alicent sits down and tells Helaena that her father has died. Instead of being sad, Helaena hisses that there is a beast beneath the boards.

Have you seen this Jack-White-looking prince?

Elsewhere in the castle, Otto finds Ser Erryk and asks for Aegon (still the one who got with his sister, not the one who is the product of Rhaenyra and her Uncle Daemon, of course). Erryk, Aegon’s guardian, says he doesn’t know where the prince went. Otto says go into town to look for him, but take your twin brother and don’t wear white cloaks, and don’t tell the queen, and hey, why aren’t you writing this down, are you going to remember all this, don’t make me have to send a raven later. Ser Erryk’s brother’s name? Ser Arryk. That’s not a joke.

Rhaenys, still a guest at the Red Keep, awakens. She tries to leave her room but the doors are locked. She looks down from a window to see a bunch of servants being led by guards. Those servants, including the little boy and candle lighter from earlier, are held in a cell. Guess who’s leading the imprisonment? Sneaky Ser Larys Strong.

Cole reports to Alicent that Erryk is searching for Aegon. Alicent sends Cole out to find him. Aegon’s brother Aemond asks to join Cole. He says he knows Aegon better than Ser Erryk. The first place they go is where Aegon took Aemond on his 13th birthday: a brothel. A woman at the door seems confident Aegon hasn’t been there, not for a long time. “His tastes are known to be … less discriminating,” she tells them. As they keep searching, Aemond expresses bitterness that Aegon will be king. After all, Aemond studied history and became a great warrior. Aemond says that he’s next in line and if they come looking for him, “I intend to be found.”

Otto speaks in front of the throne to a group of lords, telling them the king amended his wishes and they must switch allegiance from Rhaenyra to Aegon. A few go on one knee immediately. One lord says he has to consult his house, but Otto stops him, saying nobody’s leaving the room without declaring their intention. This could be a bottle episode; come on, people! “I am no oathbreaker,” the man says. “I will not bend the knee.” Not even a little? Like a curtsy? A woman says her house will keep its oath to Rhaenyra and is not changing that. The naysayers are escorted away. Ser Caswell looks around worriedly. He bends the knee. “Long live the king,” Otto intones. He lived long, all right.

Sers Erryk and Arryk search in town, trying to blend in with their manbuns. They don’t notice a young woman following them. They find a cockfighting ring, but it’s adults betting on peasant children instead of roosters. There’s a little blonde kid in a corner who looks sired by the prince. “Aegon,” says Erryk or Arryk. Yup, likely one of his many children. Just as Arryk and Erryk begin arguing about whether Aegon is fit to be king, the woman following them says she can help; her mistress will only deal with the Hand of the King, but for a price.

Deals or no deals

Caswell tries to discreetly leave the Red Keep, but he’s dragged off his horse. He yells, “Do you know who I am?” We had to Google it. Later, Otto praises Larys for snitching on Caswell. He also points out that Larys has been spending many hours with the queen. Larys says those hours could benefit Otto. Ew.

The queen helps with the wrapping of the dead king near his bed, not the spa where murdered Vaemond went the day before. The Silent Sisters cover Viserys in gauze like a mummy and Alicent places the crown on his chest. She weeps for her dead husband whom she loved despite a massive skin-decay difference.

Alicent visits Rhaenys, who is understandably upset. Alicent, seeking support, tells Rhaenys that Rhaenys should have been the ruler, not Viserys, but the kingdom is super sexist and the best they can do is steer their men toward peace. Rhaenys doesn’t think it’s peaceful to be held prisoner, away from her dragon. Keeping the dragon out of it makes Rhaenyra more likely to negotiate instead of attacking, Alicent says. She promises Driftmark to Rhaenys, which was already promised to Rhaenys’s grandkids (Rhaena and Luke, by marriage), so not much of a concession. Rhaenys thinks Alicent is bold, but still serving men. “Have you never imagined yourself on the iron throne?” Rhaenys whispers. Alicent’s mind is blown.

Mysaria, going by the name “White Worm” these days, meets with Otto. In her super drifty patois, she says she’ll find them Aegon, but only if they put an end to the abuse of children in Fleabottom, where they’re forced to fight and worse. Otto promises to look into it, but only after Mysaria keeps saying things no one will remember.

At the sept, Arryk and Erryk find Aegon under a candle platform. He’s a mess and tries to run. They drag the soon-to-be-king outside in broad daylight. Cole and Aemond are there. Erryk and Cole sword fight on some stairs while Arryk hangs back. Aemond wrestles with his brother, who asks if their father is really dead. “Yes, and they’re going to make you king,” Aemond says with distaste. Aegon spits at him. Cole disarms Erryk. Aegon pleads with his brother that he’s no ruler and they should find a ship and go away together. Aemond doesn’t respond and Cole is there to tell the brothers that the queen awaits.

Alicent goes to see Otto. He tries to give her an “ends justify the means” speech but she counters that reluctance to murder people isn’t a sign of weakness and she feels like a game piece he’s been moving around all her life. Alicent has a plan. She’ll send terms to Rhaenyra that she might actually accept to avoid war. Alicent’s Aegon will take the throne at dawn the next day so the citizens can witness his rise. “You look so much like your mother in certain lights,” Otto creeps. Alicent has had enough of this fool.

Even creepier is Lord Larys, who is waiting in the queen’s chamber. He has news for her: a vast network of spies controlled by Otto operates under his control. This is news? What he’s really there for is the queen exposing her socks and then her bare feet for his pleasure. A foot fetish? Really? That’s his deal? He ends up pleasuring himself while staring at her propped-up feet. It seems so … pedestrian.

Ser Arryk comes for Princess Rhaenys and leads her out of her room. They pass an area where Lord Caswell is hanging dead. He leads her into town using Rhaenyra’s old escape passage. She wants to go to the dragon pit, but Arryk doesn’t think she’ll make it in; he suggests she go to the shore and get out by sea. In town, people are rushing toward the Dragonpit for the coronation. Arryk and Rhaenys lose each other in the crowd.

Also out there, it looks like somebody set Mysaria’s place on fire. This has Larys written all over it.

Pomp and dragonstance

In a carriage on the way to his coronation, a despondent Aegon complains that his father never wanted him to be king. Alicent says that’s not true and he changed his mind. Aegon thinks his father never liked him. He laughs when Alicent suggests the king used his dying breath to choose him. But when he holds the family dagger, he gets more serious. She asks him not to rule with cruelty. He wants to know if his mother, Ms. You’re No Son of Mine, loves him.

Many citizens attend the coronation. Otto explains to the crowd that Viserys the Peaceful chose Aegon to succeed him right before dying. The people absorb that for a moment and then start cheering. The Kingsguard arrive. Horns play. Aegon enters. He seems to hate all of this until he feels the energy and support of the audience. He takes the stage with his family and is anointed and crowned. Rhaenys, who was watching from the audience, leaves hurriedly.

Aegon rises from his kneeling position. He feels the power of his family members bowing to him. Bells toll. The audience applauds heartily and Aegon, looking surprised, draws his sword and pumps it into the air, loving the attention. There’s a sudden crash and debris flies everywhere from the entryway. It’s a giant red dragon. Lots of people die, crushed by rubble or hit by the dragon. It’s Rhaenys! She’s on dragonback, making the grandest of entrances.

The dragon faces Aegon and his entire family, draws breath and roars. Alicent, touchingly, stands in front of her son, ready to die. But instead, the dragon just gives them a dirty look, as does Rhaenys, with no fire involved. She could have killed them all but chose to send a message of her power instead. Rhaenys and dragon exit the building. We fade to black on the relieved faces of Alicent and Aegon.


An earlier version of this article misreported that the coronation was at the Red Keep. It was at the Dragonpit. The article has been corrected.