Why didn’t Rhaenys Targaryen kill [SPOILERS]? House of the Dragon Episode 9, explained
“The Queen Who Never Was” had her chance to become “The Queen Who Murdered the Greens” on House of the Dragon. What happened?
Much of Rhaenys Targaryen’s storyline has been radically altered by House of the Dragon’s writers’ room. The HBO show departed from canon, choosing to make Rhaenys closer to her cousin Viserys, estranged from her husband, Corlys, and fleeing King’s Landing on dragonback to warn Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen of this flagrant coup d’état.
But before she goes, Rhaenys (Eve Best) makes one final stand. The question is: Should she have gone further? Let’s dig in.
Major spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon Episode 9
We have at least some faith in the powers that be at HBO. After all, George R.R. Martin, author of the source material and of the book series that gave us Game of Thrones, is one of the show’s co-creators and co-executive producers. But the televised adaptation of the fictitious Targaryen Dynasty that Martin carefully scribed has officially gone (slightly) off the rails by House of the Dragon’s penultimate Season 1 episode.
Rhaenys’ escape from King’s Landing is, perhaps, the first time the show has gone to extreme lengths to differentiate itself from canon.
What happens to Rhaenys in House of the Dragon Episode 9?
Rhaenys is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of being back home in Driftmark, or perhaps spending time with her Targaryen twin granddaughters Baela and Rhaena and “Velaryon” grandsons Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey in Dragonstone, she’s still in the the Red Keep when the coup begins.
Almost as soon as Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) is sent word that her husband, Viserys (Paddy Considine), has finally stopped suffering, she immediately orders the Kingsguard to barricade the Red Keep, imprison anybody who works within the castle’s walls, and locks Rhaenys in her room for good measure. Drastic action is taken so that Alicent, and members of the small council — including Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) — can scheme against Rhaenyra and supposedly honor Viserys’ “last dying wish” to crown Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney), his firstborn son with Alicent, king.
However, Rhaenys is ushered off by a guard who disagrees with the “treachery” being carried out. Cloaked under a gray hood, Rhaenys is just about to reach the docks of Blackwater Bay when swaths of King’s Landing denizens stampede from all sides. They were all being whisked into The Red Keep to witness Aegon II’s ascension to the Iron Throne.
While the crowd is oohing and aahing, Rhaenys scurries off to find her dragon, Meleys. She and Meleys break through the floor. Alicent and company shiver in fear as the dragon inches closer and closer to them, but Rhaenys never screams the fiery command: “Dracarys!” Instead, Meleys menacingly roars and flies then off with Rhaenys, leaving nary a scratch on any of the Greens.
What happens to Rhaenys Targaryen in the books?
Much is different about Rhaenys Targaryen’s storyline between the A Song of Ice and Fire prequel texts and the HBO show.
Not much is recorded about Rhaenys’ involvement with the Targaryen side of her family after the back-to-back deaths of her children, Laenor and Laena Velaryon, which made her deeply sorrowful. About a decade of her whereabouts in the books are unknown until the Dance of the Dragons begins. Princess Rhaenys is on the Black Council of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), who does eventually sit on the Iron Throne and become queen.
Getting further into Rhaenys’ canonical fate may spoil key moments ahead in House of the Dragon’s Season 1 finale and its greenlit Season 2 episodes. But Rhaenys is never the one to, presumably, fly off to the princess in Dragonstone to warn her of Aegon II’s betrayal. Instead, Ser Steffon Darklyn (Anthony Flanagan), a knight of the Kingsguard, takes it upon himself to alert Rhaenyra.
So why didn’t Rhaenys Targaryen kill Aegon II?
The answer to the question of why Rhaenys Targaryen didn’t kill Aegon, Alicent, and the rest of the Greens is obvious (there wouldn’t be a Dance of the Dragons if she did)! The better question is: Why would HBO swap Rhaenys for Steffon?
Our best guess is that Rhaenys is getting a swan song of sorts — a final badass blaze of glory — before she is eventually killed on her way to reach Rhaenyra and Daemon in Dragonstone on Meleys. Or Rhaenys is being given the spotlight to do her most “queenly” act as “The Queen Who Never Was” and save the Targaryen Dynasty from imploding on dragonback. Even if it isn’t canon, it was still pretty gnarly to see Rhaenys take the high road on Meleys, even when she had the power to destroy all of her enemies in one fell swoop (or rather, blaze). The result is a memorable scene that’ll go down in Game of Thrones franchise history.
House of the Dragon’s Season 1 finale airs on Sunday evening, Oct. 23 on HBO.