Moments in television shows and movies that often frustrate fans are those when a character has an opportunity to « end » the conflict, usually by killing someone. In House of the Dragon, Princess Rhaenys, aka « The Queen-Who-Never-Was, » had that opportunity. Ironically, Rhaenys not killing Aegon and the rest of the Green Council stays true to her character.
Since House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 1 « The Heirs of the Dragon, » Rhaenys has been depicted as a woman who « lost her birthright » when her cousin Viserys succeeded The Iron Throne. Over the course of the series, she lost both of her children Laena and Laenor, and her husband Corlys is gone and presumed dead. Another Targaryen with a birthright to the throne might resort to violence, even for the série. Rhaenys, however, truly does hope to break the cycle of violence and death involved with line of succession. From that lens, Rhaenys wrecking the coronation but not killing Aegon or anyone else makes perfect sense.
Princess Rhaenys and House Valeryon have not always been the most loyal allies to King Viserys. In fact, Corlys Velaryon backed Daemon when he challenged his brother’s decision to name Rhaenyra as his heir and not unite their houses by marriage. Ironically, both Daemon and Rhaenrya eventually ended up marrying Rhaenys’ children much later on. Unfortunately, Laena dies by self-inflicted dragon fire after failed childbirth and before a c-section could be done. Laenor fakes his death to pursue a life of freedom, though lets his mother believe he’s dead. This calls back to an earlier conversation between Rhaenys and her husband about the fear of losing their children and grandchildren over claims to the throne.
Ironically, early on in the season, one of the chief « villains » of House of the Dragon, Otto Hightower, offered up the solution of betrothing Rhaenyra to her brother Aegon, which would’ve left the Hightowers and Valeryons not worried about the lives of their descendants. Things obviously didn’t turn out that way and Rhaenys’ worst fears have come true. As such, the pain of her loss weighs on her. It would have been easy for Rhaenys to just channel her rage into her dragon Meleys’ fire and make the other Targaryens pay. Yet, the women of House of the Dragon seem to be the only ones who don’t actively seek out murder. Everyone from Prince Daemon to Otto Hightower resorts to killing first when considering how to solve a complex problem. This is reinforced by their murdering of anyone who objects to Aegon’s ascension to the throne.
In « The Green Council, » Rhaenys is briefly held prisoner by Alicent, until the dowager queen comes to her begging for support. At Aegon’s unlawful coronation, Rhaenys has the opportunity to kill both him and Alicent when she crashes the hall on Meleys’ back, but chooses mercy instead. This is her way of showing how queens do things a little differently, which is as much a political statement as anything. After all the losses that have plagued her, it’s likely Rhaenys did not want her last act to be killing a mother and her son.
Instead of revenge, perhaps the Queen-Who-Never-Was chose to embarrass the new king instead. Rhaenys might have assumed that embarrassing the boy king would be enough. Perhaps the citizens of Kings Landing and the Lords of Westeros would even handle the problem of Aegon II before Rhaenyra could muster her forces. On the other hand, it’s also possible this « attack » rallies them to the king’s side instead, potentially exacerbating the likelihood of civil war.
Dedicated viewers of House of the Dragon know that not killing Aegon and the rest of Team Green was a bad idea. Her compassion will most likely come back to haunt her, Rhaenyra’s Black Council and the whole of Westeros. To Rhaenys, however, it was a chance to show her power and show her mercy. Like when Alicent came to her to beg for her support, Rhaenys is hoping her message helps them all avoid needless bloodshed. As such, not killing Aegon and the Green Council is a decision that works on both a personal and character level.
House of the Dragons’ Season 1 finale debuts Oct. 23 on HBO and HBO Max.