This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 9.
In a moment foreshadowed by Queen Alicent’s daughter Helaena, the “beast beneath the boards” was finally revealed in the ninth episode of House of the Dragon, when Rhaenys Velaryon, the Queen Who Never Was, and her dragon Meleys burst through the floor of the Dragonpit during Aegon II’s coronation. It’s only fitting that the beast in question would be a dragon. Yet, in a scenario where it might’ve actually had made sense for an almost-queen of House Targaryen to burn King’s Landing down, Rhaenys chose not to.
It was frustrating to watch, especially if you’re rooting against Alicent’s loyal greens (and at this point who isn’t?) but viewers who watched closely might have a better understanding as to why Rhaenys showed restraint.
As viewers saw in the previous episode, Rhaenys was forced into a precarious succession of her own in Driftmark, House Velaron’s ancestral seat, after her husband Lord Corlys had been potentially mortally wounded. Cornered by her hot-headed – well, for as long as he had a head – brother-in-law and Alicent’s desire to bring Driftmark’s considerable naval fleet onto her side, the Lord of the Tides title was decisively, unexpectedly, reaffirmed the moment King Viserys made his iconic entrance in the throne room. A clever Rhaenys realized her best hope of keeping her line’s blood on the Driftwood Throne was to take Princess Rhaenyra’s desperate earlier offer to marry her handsome, strong sons to Rhaenys’ granddaughters.
Basically, Rhaenys was wise enough to know when to quit while she was ahead.
Her fate was much less certain after Viserys died and the greens’ plot to crown Aegon began in earnest and Rhaenys became a political prisoner. If she swore loyalty to Rhaenyra’s claim, she very well would have been executed like the other blacks in the castle. Luckily, Rhaenys was aided in escaping that sentence thanks to Erryk Cargyll. But no good Mother of Dragons would ever leave her baby in enemy hands.
But when Meleys and Rhaenys crashed Aegon’s party, there was a moment when Alicent and House of the Dragon fans thought for sure Rhaenys would roast a few royals. The suspense was enough to make even Alicent brace herself. But when no fire came, the now Queen Mother and the Queen That Never Was shared a very weighty look, with the latter clearly implying with a single arched brow “Oh, I absolutely could turn you into a kebab if I wanted.”
Earlier in the episode Alicent came to Rhaenys with a desperate plea of her own, asking Rhaenys to support Aegon’s coronation, which she mistakenly thinks was Viserys’ dying wish. Without a hint of irony, Alicent tries to play the sisterhood card, suggesting that because they’re both women, they know what little power the patriarchal world will allow them, but smart women like them can guide the men who sit on the Iron Throne. Like, Alicent can’t honestly believe that a badass Targaryen woman wouldn’t recognize the phony riot grrl plea for what it was. And Rhaenys wasn’t hearing it, knowing from her own personal experience how the green queen had secretly thought of taking the Iron throne for herself if she had the realistic opportunity.
Incinerating Alicent and her sons in the Dragonpit was not that realistic opportunity, nor a way to win the hearts and minds of the smallfolk to Rhaenys’ cause. It would also only sow more chaos and legitimacy questions on Princess Rhaenyra. Rhaenyra’s rightful claim to her father’s seat is still Rhaenys’ best bet for keeping some Velaryon blood on the Driftwood and Iron Thrones. And perhaps Alicent was right, after all; clever women like Rhaenys can be useful in guiding her queen and lead from behind.
No stranger to The Stranger, either, Rhaenys clearly spent a long time in contemplation while watching Vaemond’s corpse be prepared in last week’s episode. The numerous heartbreaking deaths she has witnessed might’ve also killed her desire to see so many more. Or at least forfeit the battle and flee to Dragonstone and stand a chance to win the larger war. Because after this episode, the war is here and Rhaenyra and her supporters are going to need all the allies she can get. And those allies will be highly rewarded in victory.
But we can still be pissed that Rhaenys didn’t at least let Meleys spit a little fireball at creepy Lord Larys Strong on her way out the Dragonpit door.
New episodes of House of the Dragon premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max in the U.S. and Sky Atlantic in the U.K.