Last week’s House of the Dragon episode foreshadowed the death of King Viserys Targaryen, and that’s precisely how ‘The Green Council’ begins its story. It’s a King’s Landing-centric episode that focuses specifically on Queen Alicent, and the moves she makes in the aftermath of her husband’s overdue death.
The episode doesn’t really manage to do anything significant in the grand scheme of the story, but it does serve as the opening volley of a war that will lead to the fabled Dance of the Dragons, especially when the final scene plays out. The problem – as always – is that House of the Dragon can’t raise the excitement level to capitalize on that narrative.
There seems to be more character development across the board here, and several of them make a return after unexplained (and rather jarring) absences. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but they come hot on the heels of a massive time jump in the story’s chronology, and they don’t fit well as a result.
Larys Strong, for instance, returns to the story to further ply his Littlefinger-like trade, while revealing a foot fetish towards Queen Alicent that doubles as payment in exchange for information. As if Strong’s creepy presence and sinister behavior wasn’t bad enough all on its own.
Aegon, for his part, reveals his reluctance and revulsion towards becoming King, following the death of his father. It’s a sentiment that his brother Aemond seems all-too-willing to capitalize on, even if nothing actually comes of it. How this will play out over time remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Princess Rhaenys is given a choice between bending the knee to Aegon, or reaffirming her commitment to Rhaenyra. The final scene of the episode seems to suggest that she’s chosen a side, even if she’s done so with reluctance.
And finally, Ser Otto Hightower has revealed himself to be far more manipulative than previously thought, and it’s now unclear whether he has the realm’s best interests at heart, or his own. The first act details a plot to murder anyone who might defy the succession of power to Aegon, putting her at odds with her daughter Alicent.
If one thing is made clear by ‘The Green Council,’ it’s that the people involved aren’t all on the same page. Within their ranks are two sides vying against each other for political control, using Aegon as a proxy. Fans of George R.R. Martin’s material know how this will play out, but there’s still room for the showrunners to throw in some unexpected surprises.
‘The Green Council’ ramps up the political tension by finally jettisoning the family bickering, and replacing it with actions that have consequences. There’s no turning back from the paths that both Otto Hightower and his daughter Alicent have taken, especially after Rhaenys picks her side in the final act.
Similarly, the political infighting taking place within Alicent’s family and servant caste makes for some unexpectedly good tension that would have been lost if everyone stood in agreement with one another. Even Aegon’s about-face regarding his future as King is an intriguing step forward.
As stated numerous times before, the visuals, set pieces and character performances are all top notch. It’s difficult to criticize any of it, and the production values are spot on, even if the actual story can’t quite match up the spectacle. The episode revisits several locations seen previously, and maximizes them to great effect.
The best part of ‘The Green Council’ is that it finally allows its characters to do something, after standing around waiting for King Viserys to die. With no higher authority to keep them in check, the stage has now been set for the conflict that will erupt. That’s the most progress the show has made since it debuted.
By far the biggest problem with House of the Dragon is the fact that its source material just isn’t very interesting, especially when compared to Game of Thrones. The leadup of the first eight episodes could have been summarized with a 5 minute flashback sequence akin to the opening of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
The showrunners attempted to craft an exciting and compelling narrative that would lead up to this latest episode, and it just didn’t pan out. Now, with the board set up and the pieces ready to move, the story has free reign to get to the good stuff. That doesn’t change the fact that it did, in fact, take eight episodes to get here.
Therefore, what should feel like an exciting next chapter in the story instead feels like a boat that has already left the harbor, leaving its audience on the dock. The previous episodes failed to create that instant level of intrigue, dramatic persuasion and excitement that would have hooked a large tally of viewers.
Beyond that, the focus on the characters at Kings Landing feels a bit boring, which could have been alleviated by swapping back and forth between Rhaenyra and her camp. There’s something to be said for keeping episodic stories contained to just one locale, but they should only happen under rare circumstances, such as GOT’s fourth-season penultimate episode ‘The Watchers on the Wall.’
Shade must also be thrown at the character of Ser Criston Cole, who once again murders someone in cold blood in front of everyone, yet they scarcely bat a lash. This is bizarre, especially since it leads to Cole being promoted to Lord Commander of the King’s Guard. Yes, his victim wasn’t on board with Otto Hightower’s master plan, but this is a bridge too far.
While the visuals in House of the Dragon are pretty solid, the final scene depicting Princess Rhaenys rising on the back of Meleys and laying waste to the Dragonpit hall is rife with less-than-stellar CGI. The dust and smoke particles alone look like CGI from twenty years ago, betraying the show’s budget.
And finally, the overarching notion of female suppression under a patriarchal system makes a less-than-triumphant return, undercutting its own argument in the process. It’s astonishing to watch the nearly all-powerful Queen Alicent talk to Princess Rhaenys about living in subjection to male authority, while the former plots to supplant the rightful heir, Princess Rhaenyra, in favor of another male.
This level of contradictory nonsense could only have sprung from the confused and immature minds of Woke writers, but here it is, for your viewing pleasure. If nothing else, it’s amazing to watch the characters step on a rake in an attempt to make a feminist statement.
‘The Green Council’ does some things right, and some things wrong, which is typical of House of the Dragon right across the board. The show simply cannot make an exciting story out of its source material, though this latest episode does finally move things along to where that might change.
Will it manage to rise to the heights of Game of Thrones? Certainly not; that’s impossible at this point, meaning House of the Dragon will continue to be little more than a side story piggybacking on top of a more popular main franchise. At this point, there’s no time left for the final episode of the season to make any sort of headway.
That means it’ll be up to season two to try and turn things around, which will be a difficult sell for viewers who couldn’t muster up enough enthusiasm to crawl through the mediocrity of season one. ‘The Green Council’ is too little, too late, and it’ll be up to fans whether the show survives, or falls through the Moon Door.
- The stage is finally set for the story to move forward.
- Interesting political tension within the family.
- Strong character performances, as usual.
- Feels too little, too late to kick things into high gear.
- Pro-feminism message contradicts itself with hilarious irony.
- Underwhelming CGI