The team behind House of the Dragon have explained the final scene in episode nine, amid viewer frustration that it was something of an anti-climax.
On Sunday (16 October), the HBO show broadcast its first season’s penultimate episode, which explored the fallout from the death of King Viserys (Paddy Considine) in the previous episode.
* Spoilers follow – you have been warned *
Incorrectly believing Viserys’s dying wish was for their son Aegon to succeed him as ruler, Alicent (Olivia Cooke) informs her father Otto (Rhys Ifans), who jumps to action in order to prevent Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) from taking her rightful place on the Iron Throne.
Throughout the episode, the Hightowers attempt to convince the people on King’s Landing, including Viserys’s sister Rhaenys (Eve Best), that, in the final moments of his life, he went against his steadfast wish to have Rhaenyra succeed him.
Rhaenys attempts to escape King’s Landing when she realizes the Hightowers are fasttracking the coronation before Rhaenyra has a chance to prevent it. Disguised in a shawl, Rhaenys slinks away as Aegon is being crowned – only to return on dragonback, dressed in silver and red armor.
She rides Meleys from the Dragonpit, landing directly in front of the Hightowers, with Alicent shielding her son, believing death to be imminent.
However, instead of ordering Meleys to breathe fire on the usurpers, which would have put at end to any civil war about to begin, she flies off, presumably to Dragonstone to inform a clueless Rhaenyra and Daemon (Matt Smith) about everything that’s happened.
This act left viewers feeling underwhelmed and frustrated. However. Best has explained Rhaenys’s motivations behind her decision of lei in a post-episode interview, telling Entertainment Weekly: “It’s the moment when she shows herself to be the greatest possible ruler.”
Best said the moment was “the most merciful and most graceful act”, adding: “It’s because she’s so intelligent and in the end chooses to do the right thing, which is not to destroy. It’s a truly forgiving moment and sort of a loving moment, in a weird way. “
The actor continued: “She’s suffered so much loss, and for her own sake and on behalf of so many others, the urge to destroy is so strong. And yet the choice not to destroy becomes even stronger. That’s the mark of greatness and [a] truly inspiring moment. “
Best also said that an earlier scene between Alicent and Rhaenys inspired the decision to spare her life, as well as Alicent’s immediate protection of Aegon in what she believes will be her final moments.
“She steps up as a mother – I think Rhaenys sees that and respects that,” Best said.
Discussing the debate with The Hollywood Reporter, writer-producer Sara Hess said: “I think she just can’t do it. It’s not her war of hers. The fight is between these two sides and she’s kind of not in it. She doesn’t feel like she’s the one to come in and do that. But you’re right. If she had just incinerated everybody, it’s game over, Rhaenyra wins and we’re done here. But the cost is huge. “
Meanwhile, fans have been left in disbelief over a scene involving Larys (Matthew Needham) and Alicent’s feet.
‘House of the Dragon’ continues in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 2am, before repeating at 9pm later that day. It is also available to watch on NOW.
Find all the talking points from the latest episode here.