The premise is that King Viserys has finally died and Alicent believes that he named Aegon his heir on his deathbed. She proceeds to go to the Small Council and announce this stunning fact, only to find out they’re already planning on naming Aegon the heir regardless of the king’s wishes. Furthermore, they plan on killing Rhaenyra and her heirs (as well as Daemon) because this was always their plan.
Alicent is appalled by this, which is kind of ridiculous because Otto has been stating that Rhaenyra would have to kill her children for Aegon’s entire life. It apparently never occurred to Alicent in all this time that the reverse would be true. However, the wheels are already in motion for Aegon II’s usurpation and begin with Ser Criston Cole murdering a member of the Small Council. The fact Aegon II is drunk in some brothel or child fighting pit (seriously, King’s Landing is the Gotham City of fantasy settings) and can’t be found is not enough to delay their treason.
I’m going to state that I think all the people complaining about the Greens getting vilified and the Blacks getting whitewashed missed the point that this provides honest-to-God stakes for the conflict. Aegon II is utterly unworthy of the throne and someone who will only bring misery and death to those around him. The fact he’s controlled by Otto and his deluded mother doesn’t make it any better. It means that we actually care how this conflict ends and I think that’s important for this kind of story.
I really like how awful Otto is and he’s not even competant at his scheming. One of the first things he does is start hanging Great Lords of the realm when they refuse to bend the knee. The Lannisters knew this was a mistake when they threw Ned in the dungeon and compelled his obedience through threats to his family. He’s an obvious, foul, and unpleasant manipulator that only got as far as he did thanks to his daughter’s better politicking. Hell, he’s only Hand of the King because of her and Larys working together.
The real MVP of this episode, though, is Princess Rhaenys. The Queen who Never was is being held under house arrest as they try to figure out if she supports Princess Rhanyra’s claim or not. Rhaenyra really doesn’t want to, suspecting her of killing Laenor, but the fact is that she’s also betrothed her children to Rhaenyra’s. There’s also the fact that the Hightowers are scheming, grasping, and repulsive upstarts dancing on her cousin’s grave. She gets both a silly and awesome scene at the end where I can only think, “You are going to regret not saying a single word here.”
I also liked the depiction of Aemond this episode as we find out he’s an erudite, serious, and well-trained man ready to serve the kingdom. In other words, everything his brother is not. I think he even felt out Criston Cole over whether it would be justified to murder his brother but the traitor Kingsguardsman just sort of deliberately ignored it. One of the rare subtle scenes between both and I think worked really well.
Some people are going to be obsessed with the whole “foot fetish” thing but I actually think it actually serves a useful in-story purpose. Alicent has cloaked herself in the “Madonna/Whore” complex with her serving as the holy good one to the evil sexualized Rhaenyra. The fact she’s forced to somewhat prostitute herself to Larys to work against her own father is an important bit of characterization for showing she’s not any better. Indeed, Rhaenys has her number that she doesn’t want to break free but put a window in her prison.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this episode and think it may be my favorite all. The scheming and firm commitment to just what a scummy bunch of monsters the Greens are, finally gives us a reason to care that they be kept from the throne at all costs. We also get some solid politicking and brutal atrocities. If they can keep this up through the Dance then I’ll be all over this series for years to come.