Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen

Let's Unpack Rhaenys' Unexpected Choice In HOTD Episode 9

She had her chance and she blew it!

by Ani Bundel
Ollie Upton/HBO

In the final moments of Episode 8, King Viserys I Targaryen drew his last breath. His passing set off a long-planned chain of events inside the Red Keep that Otto Hightower had been planning, perhaps since Aegon was born. The goal was to coronate his eldest grandson in a speed run, installing the boy on the throne before Viserys’ daughter-heir Rhaenyra even knew her father was gone. But there was a wild card he didn’t anticipate in Rhaenys. And yet, Rhaenys didn’t attack the Green faction when she had a chance, leaving House of the Dragon viewers puzzled.

Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 9 follow. Otto Hightower’s plans almost went off without a hitch. Alicent came to him when she learned Viserys had passed, and he called the Small Council immediately. Her wildly improbable claim that Viserys changed his mind and wanted Aegon to rule merely gave him cover for his already-planned usurping of the throne via Aegon. But there was one obstacle: Rhaenys, Viserys’ cousin, the Queen Who Never Was. The day before, Rhaenys allied with Rhaenyra by engaging her granddaughters to Rhaenyra’s sons. Believing Rhaenys would run to Rhaenyra to stop his plans, Otto had Rhaenys locked in her room.

When Ser Erryk came to bust Rhaenys out, the plan was to get her on a ship to Dragonstone to warn the other Targaryens. Unfortunately, the two got swept up in the crowd to witness Aegon’s hasty coronation. Rhaenys watched the Hightowers begin the ceremony — until she remembered the sept was connected by underground passages directly to the dragon pit. She slipped down the stairs and headed to grab her ride, Meleys.

Ollie Upton/HBO

Known as the “Red Queen,” Meleys is an old, wily dragon and not a happy camper when her rider is mad. She drove straight up through the floor of the sept, decimating most of the onlookers, directly facing the entire ensemble on the stage. Alicent stepped in front of Aegon and cringed, waiting for the dragon fire to burn them all. But Rhaenys did not summon the flames. Instead, Meleys roared, Rhaenys stared down Alicent and the rest of the Green faction, and the two took off.

Technically, Rhaenys would have been within the law to put the whole group to the flame; the Hightowers were traitors to the queen, having just usurped the throne. And yet she did not. Though Otto saw Rhaenys side with Rhaenyra in the throne room, Rhaenys is not exactly Team Black. She’s Team Rhaenys and always has been. Rhaenys has never believed Rhaenyra would be able to hold the throne. Whenever Corlys brought up Rhaneya’s inheritance in earlier episodes, Rhaenys insisted that Viserys’ desire to see Rhaenyra inherit was a pipe dream. The moment he was gone, Rhaenys knew the male leaders of Westeros would find a reason to pull Rhaenyra down.

And yet, Rhaenys is almost certainly flying to Dragonstone, putting her on Rhaenyra’s side, at least for now. But by leaving the Greens alive, it suggests she believes Rhaenyra ultimately can’t win.

House of the Dragon’s Season 1 finale airs on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.