As anyone could’ve guessed, the untimely (but is it?) death (finally!) of King Viserys Targaryen has opened up a pandora’s box of treachery. Audiences learned – as did the young Queen Alicent – that the king’s own council had been secretly plotting efforts to seize the throne once he expired (what show has she been watching so that this came as a surprise?); and this shocking (not really) realization split King’s Landing’s cultural betters into two sides. Ser Criston Cole showed just how far he’s willing to go for a seat at the table when he murdered in cold blood the council’s most vocal dissenter. And the Hand – Ser Otto Hightower – could no longer avoid showing his true back-stabbing tendencies as he tried to pull the tapestries out from under his own daughter’s feet in her bid to do what she believes was her legacy.
I’m guessing this group’s next family reunion isn’t going to be that cordial. And holiday cards? Those are likely a thing of the past.
Even though this franchise (but perhaps not this particular incarnation) boasts some of the biggest action sequences ever conceived on television, the Thrones universe has always been more about personal politics than it ever was shock and awe (though it’s certainly delivered on that as well). Love – true love – is damn near impossible to come by because every player has his or her eyes fixed on either the pursuit of power or a proclamation of authority, so the resulting relationships more often than not take the shape of ‘means to an end’ as opposed as a ‘means to happiness.’ To paraphrase a popular American president, “Ask not what you can do for your neighbor but ask what your neighbor can do for you.” If your neighbor – or brother or sister or father – has nothing of value, then further relations is baseless, and you’re better off looking elsewhere.
For example, Alicent Hightower’s attempt to maintain even a small measure of moral control over the Iron Throne – a good thing given her recent turn of heart with Princess Rhaenyra where the two childhood friends kinda/sorta reconciled – was dashed away when Princess Rhaenys crashed the royal party with her faithful dragon in tow. Knowing what little I know of this George RR Martin saga, I can assure you every time something positive appears the horizon, Hell itself is about to break loose … and that’s what happened. The show – the one with ‘dragon’ even its name – finally gave us more dragon action, and it was pretty glorious, though short-lived.
Still, the overall structure of “The Green Council” was that of a chess match. Pieces were put on the board. A strategy has evolved. Moves were made, but the true action it would appear remains in what’s to transpire: even the coming attraction for the season finale was a bit more interesting than this hour. While it’s fun to watch players positioning and posturing for big moments, there really wasn’t much reward to “Council.” Alicent took a stand against her daddy – a character I thought seemed duplicitous since the beginning – but they’ll likely be reconciled now that they’ve no choice but to cooperate in the conflict looming.
So … I’m forced to offer little substantive reflection on the whole affair. A sorry state, indeed.
Don’t get me wrong: performances were fine, situations were handled with some interest and curiosity, the effects work was good (still, not that impressed with the handiwork this season), and the small surprises here and there were nice touches. But “Council” as a whole? Well, it’s almost like a ‘what if’ episode: ‘what if’ the king dies and everyone has to now take their respective stands? What will occur? What clash will this precipitate? Who will align with whom? Well, we did that, just now, and it’s up to the other side to enter the fray. This is what happens when you give audiences so much filler: you tease them with an incomplete meal, but the main course will come next week. Hopefully, it’ll be glorious.
At this point, I’m expecting a lot of exposition, though.