Unravelling the Mess That Is Aegon’s Reign on ‘House of the Dragon’
The dragon family is THE messiest of Westeros. I love them all so much.
*** Spoilers ahead for the ending of season one of House of the Dragon and future episodes as well, directly from the pages of Fire & Blood. Be warned. ***
The entire first season of House of the Dragon, set in the same world as Game of Thrones but almost two centuries before the events of the show, laid the groundwork for one of the bloodiest civil wars to ever shake the very foundations of Westeros—the Dance of the Dragons, a dynastic conflict for the Iron Throne that resulted in the death of pretty much all the dragons in possession of House Targaryen.
While most of the eight episodes of season one took great care in detailing the differences between the Seven Kingdoms we came to know at the time of the War of the Five Kings and the ones during the golden age of Targaryen rule, the last two—”The Green Council” and “The Black Queen”—really ignited the spark of the Dance.
In episode 9, the Hightowers and their allies at court—known as “the Greens,” from the distinctive color of House Hightower—rally around Dowager Queen Alicent (aged up from her teenage years, where Emily Carey played her, and now portrayed by Olivia Cooke) and her father, the Lord Hand Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), after the death of King Viserys I Targaryen (played by a brilliant Paddy Considine).
Otto in particular has been wanting to get as close as possible to the Iron Throne for years, as we’ve seen since episode 1 of House of the Dragon. He wasted no time in thrusting his teenage daughter onto a newly-widowed Viserys and his efforts have only amped up ever since Alicent gave birth to not one, not two, but three male heirs, as well as a girl to marry one of them off to.
Not that Viserys ever particularly cared about any of them, despite the fact that he quite literally gutted his first queen (Aemma Arryn you did not deserve any of this) in an effort to secure a prince to whom he could pass his throne—but my issues with Viserys being a Certified Horrible Father™ are better left for another day.
With Viserys dead and his chosen heir, his firstborn Rhaenyra (played as a teenager by Milly Alcock and as an adult by Emma D’Arcy), away on Dragonstone, the Hightowers make their play for the Iron Throne and stage what can be very well considered a coup. They withhold the news of the King’s death and bide their time so that they can locate their heir (lost in his debauchery somewhere around the least savory parts of King’s Landing) and crown him.
The issue is that the heir in question has no taste for rule. Prince Aegon (whom we saw as a boy played by Ty Tennant and then as a young man by Tom Glynn-Carney) has a list of daddy and mommy issues that go from Sunspear to the Wall and has to be quite literally dragged to his coronation by the rest of his family—his younger brother Aemond, whom very much believes he would be a better fit for the crown, especially. Not that Aemond (played first by Leo Ashton and then by Ewan Mitchell) is any less messed up. He’s also my beloved, though, so there’s that.
Still, Aegon gets ultimately crowned as Aegon Second of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. The ceremony is very public and charged with symbols and meaning—from the new King’s name, the same as the one who started the Targaryen dynasty in the first place, to the use of the Conqueror’s crown and Valyrian steel sword. Sure, then Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best) bursts through the floor of the Dragonpit in a wanted-to-be-badass-but-just-seemed-stupid moment, but the damage for the opposing faction has been done.
Aegon’s half-sister Rhaenyra and her uncle-husband (because these are the Targs we’re talking about), Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen, both understand this very well. The fact that Aegon was crowned in front of the smallfolk of King’s Landing is something they immediately remark on when they finally receive news of what has happened in the capital. And it’s easy to see why—dealing with an uncrowned pretender is definitely less messy than having to face a King who was anointed by the High Septon in front of the people.
Then Aemond and his dragon Vhagar accidentally (or so it seems) make a snack of Rhaenyra’s second son Lucerys and his dragon Arrax so the whole situation devolves from “thorny” to “unsalvageable”—and we’ll see just how much in the following seasons of the show.
Does Aegon become king?
So yes, Aegon II becomes king. The question, though, maybe shouldn’t be that—but whether he remains so or not. We’re entering spoiler territory here, but George R.R. Martin already laid it all out in the book that serves as the source of House of the Dragon, Fire and Blood.
Even though Aegon II appears in the official list of Kings of the Seven Kingdoms—and Rhaenyra doesn’t, despite being crowned as well, thanks in no small part to the general misogyny that holds Westeros in its vice grip—his three-year reign is spent warring his half-sister. One might think that Rhaenyra’s death would end it all, but even then it isn’t easy to put together a kingdom split down the middle by a bloody civil war that has turned a good chunk of the Seven Kingdoms into piles of ash.
The time between Rhaenyra’s death—which happens towards the end of 130 AC—and Aegon’s own demise—sometime in 131 AC, so no more than a year later—is spent with the Small Council trying to convince their King that it would be better to start making amends with the lords who supported the Blacks (Rhaenyra’s supporters) because otherwise there’ll just be more fighting and more death. Plus the Northern army is descending down the Kingsroad and we really don’t want to face Cregan Stark in the field, Your Grace, said Lord Corlys Velaryon (probably).
Too bad that Aegon doesn’t listen—which might also sort of be understandable, considering the great personal toll the Dance has taken on him and the entire Targaryen family tree. So ultimately his end comes at the hands of his own councilors, who decide to poison him to bury the civil war with him and start anew with a younger and hopefully more peaceful ruler—another Aegon, would you believe.
All of this is to say that I really can’t wait for the heart-wrenching drama and bloody battle scenes that await us in the future season of House of the Dragon. Oh my (seven) god(s). How soon before it’s 2024?
(via: AWOIAF; featured image: HBO)
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