The king is dead. Long live the king. House of the Dragon Episode 8 ended with the passing of King Viserys Targaryen, presumably kicking off the conflict that will define the rest of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel series. Rhaenyra Targaryen might be the official heir, but the king’s last words to his wife Alice might be misconstrued as an endorsement of his son Aegon II.
So who will be king? Aegon II or Rhaenyra? In the Fire & Blood books by George R.R. Martin, which HBO adapted into House of the Dragon, the immediate aftermath of King Viserys I Targaryen’s death is brimming with betrayal. It’s safe to assume the show will be no different, but who will come out on top?
Spoilers ahead for the books and possibly also House of the Dragon.
In the books, Alicent Hightower and her father Otto almost instantly begin plotting against Rhaenyra’s rightful claim to the throne, opting instead to crown Alicent’s firstborn son with Viserys: Aegon II Targaryen. It’s rather easy for them and their supporting faction of “Greens” within the Red Keep to set in motion a coup d'état since Rhaenyra is pregnant at Dragonstone at the time of Viserys’ passing. While the old king’s body rots and bloats, Alicent and Otto try their damndest to hide the news of an empty throne room from Rhaenyra and her supporting faction of “Blacks.”
Will House of the Dragon Episode 9 follow in the book’s carefully laid-out footsteps? We can’t be sure, but we at least know what is canon (and what isn’t).
How does Aegon II Targaryen become king?
Here’s what happens in the books...
King Viserys I Targaryen’s body was kept in his bed chambers for seven days until the preparations for Aegon II Targaryen’s coronation were complete.
Queen Alicent Hightower wouldn’t allow anybody to treat the king’s body or see it until she and the small council — comprised of her father, Otto Hightower, Ser Criston Cole, Ser Harrold Westerling, Kurt Egyiawan, Grand Maester Mellos, Ser Tyland Lannister, and Lord Lyman Beesbury — came to a consensus that Aegon should be king. Only one man in the council, Lyman, disagreed. As such, he was murdered under vague circumstances. Nearly all of the heads of the Great Houses of Westeros were subtly or overtly threatened to back Alicent’s flimsy demand for Aegon’s so-called birthright.
Meanwhile, Aegon was nowhere to be found. Criston was sent out looking for him. There are two separate accounts about Aegon’s whereabouts. The first notes that Aegon was found at the Flea Bottom rat pit, a place where “feral children” wrestled each other to the death for the amusement of wealthy watchers. The second account notes that Aegon was found in bed with a lover, the daughter of a wealthy trader. According to both accounts, Aegon did not want to be king but was convinced by Criston, who stressed that should he refuse the crown, Rhaenyra would kill Aegon, his siblings, and his children.
Ten days after Viserys’ death, the prince insisted that he be made king. Viserys’ passing was finally announced to the Seven Kingdoms and to a large crowd of King’s Landing citizens. Ser Criston placed Aegon the Conqueror’s crown on Aegon II’s head, hands him the Valyrian Steel sword Blackfyre, and proclaims him the King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, while a Faith of the Seven septon blessed him.
How does Rhaenyra Targaryen find out Aegon is king?
Rhaenyra is informed of the treasonous actions taking place in the Red Keep by Ser Steffon Darklyn, a knight of the Kingsguard who flees for Dragonstone as soon as Aegon is crowned.
Initially, Aegon demands that Rhaenyra, Daemon Targaryen, and all their children should be executed to remove any threat to his rule. Grand Maester Orwyle convinces Aegon to give peace terms to Rhaenyra, but Rhaenyra refuses the terms. And thus, the Dance of the Dragons began.
The Inverse Analysis— Will House of the Dragon stick with book canon, or take creative liberties with Aegon II's coronation? While we have no way of knowing what will happen in Episode 9 of the Game of Thrones spinoff series, we’re sure that not only will the show attempt to tackle Aegon II’s first coronation, but also his second. We won’t spoil the surprises to come, but rest assured that the Greens will have their victory — before the opposition steals it away from them.
House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9 on HBO and HBO Max.