In the next episode of House of the Dragon, we will reach the middle of the first season and say goodbye to the two actresses who have had the most projection so far, Emily Carey (Alicent) and Milly Alcock (Rhaenyra). That’s right, in the 6th episode, it will skip no less than 10 years in history and leave us face to face with the conflict that is the heart of the plot: the civil war between the Targaryens.
As I shared, it was leaked on Reddit as the facts reported in the book Fire and Blood are schematized, and it proved to be true. For those who read the book, you know that the series has been effective in staying true to the story, as well as bringing depth and another perspective to the side of the Greens, who are minimally dubious in ignoring (apparently) the order of succession and bringing chaos to Westeros. . In other words? It’s been sensational.
In the book, Rhaenyra and Alicent had an age difference that made them friendly but not intimate. Therefore, when the factors that separate them begin to prevail, it does not seem so “sudden”. The series focused on the effects of a misogynistic society separating two female friends, with roles and expectations being pulled to opposite sides, always by male motivation. Which makes the reactions of both not necessarily wrong or right.
Alicent Hightower is lovingly treated like a chess piece to her family. She accepts this reality that practically prostitutes her and keeps her in a luxurious cage. From within this prison, her role is that of a parent and supporter, of total submission. To make matters worse, Alicent has a sweet, conciliatory nature that is manipulated by her father, Otto Hightower, to achieve his House’s goal: to (virtually) take the Iron Throne from the Targaryens. How to do this? Breaking incestuous tradition and inserting Hightower blood into the order of succession. Through Alicent, Otto achieves this important breakthrough, but victory will only come by eliminating any threat from Targeryens that could delay or deprive the Hightowers of absolute power.
The series implies that Alicent agreed to play the game until she bore the children for the king, but unlike in the book, she didn’t immediately force any radical changes to prioritize her children. Otto’s ambition, so close to the dreamed prize, accelerated the bloody conflict that we will see in the future, with Alicent’s full support. What will be revealed in Episode 5 is how she comes to have the motivation to do so.
Alicent, for her sweetness and shyness, has been underestimated in the game of thrones, but good observers can see that she has been effective in leading both Rhaenyra and Viserys. Unlike her father, she does not force her hand and does not openly oppose anyone. She plays the role of conciliator because, in this first stage, that was what she wanted. All happy, something in common that she shared with her husband. However, unlike Viserys, she does not waver in her attitude.
In time: I thought that the union of Viserys and Alicent was even of love, as far as possible. I was wrong. In the series, it is suitable because both have the conciliatory urge as a moral guide, both understand each other’s roles in society and therefore do everything to avoid confrontation. However, Alicent lacks passion, pleasure, or freedom, which makes her 1st to self-mutilate (scraping her metaphorically bound hands) and 2nd to drink? Was it a drink or tea?
Her effulgent happiness is not in taking care of her children or being with her husband or even with the other women of the Court. She enjoyed being with Rhaenyra, who had the life she wanted for herself, who she read with and watched life go by. Resentments will turn what was once brotherly love (not sexual, as some saw it) into hate.
Young Rhaenyra, in the series, has a less sympathetic presentation than in the book. Bearing in mind that the Greens win the game (at the same price of a feeling of defeat) and later bring out the worst in the Princess, here we find it difficult to sympathize with her pain. Milly Alcock‘s charisma makes up for a lot, but she is a very flawed heroine.
Unlike Alicent, at first, it seems that Rhaenyra’s Targaryen blood puts her in a higher perspective of power. However, misogyny takes away from her the right to dream of the succession order for the throne. Her gender makes her “lose” what would otherwise be hers and this frustrates her from an early age. Her father loves her unconditionally but obsessively seeks a son, creating in her a sense of inadequacy and frustration that is hard for other women to understand (except for Rhaenys). To make matters worse, the increasingly risky births end up costing her mother her life, so Rhaenyra knows her role in society, but unlike Alicent, she has internal conflicts about it.
Even realizing that it was the convenient possibility of cutting off her uncle Daemon’s ambitions that brought Rhaenyra the chance to break patterns, she clings to the tooth and nail gesture, which Rhaenys warns her is dangerous. At this point, with a father consumed by guilt, the future Queen doesn’t let her opportunity change. Her anger is a constant pain for Viserys, who hates confrontation and feels indebted to his daughter. This troubled relationship gets even worse when he chooses Alicent as his wife. Finally having the male child he dreamed of, he and Rhaenyra find themselves in an even more delicate field.
After genuinely trying to earn the trust of men and her father that she could be a good Queen, Rhaenyra gradually becomes even more aligned with her complicated and fickle uncle, Daemon. The two, with Targaryen blood but a secondary role, dream of protagonism and see clearly how Viserys has been swallowed by the Hightowers’ ambitions. “Protected” by her title and name, she acts impulsively and refuses to be put back into the role of a breeder.
Acting spoiled, spiteful, and even inconsequential is the reaction of a shy, isolated and hopeless young woman. Not trusting Alicent, Rhaneyra doesn’t have a female figure by her side who can guide her (and refused Rhaenys’ mentorship). It loses precious time of observation and even concealment. Very intelligent, she saw that the strategy of the Queen Who Never Was ended up ineffective when she questioned the order of things, within the rules that defined female annulment. So she starts to believe in little and practically no one. We know that “a Targaryen alone in the world is a dangerous thing”. The definition remains perfect.
Reactions to what is expected of both sets Alicent and Rhaenyra on a collision course. It will be violent and complex because neither of them can demand moral answers from the other at this point. Alicent omitted to Rhaenyra that she was building a relationship with her friend’s father, now her husband and father of her children. Rhaenyra lied to her about her relationship with her uncle and omitted her sexual encounter with Ser Criston Cole. Glass roof for both. Who will once again provoke the split is Otto Hightower.
Otto has complete control over his daughter and knows that, even slowly, it is his command that governs Alicent’s steps. She “comforted” Viserys, wore the clothes he recommended, and spent the night with the King when needed. She immediately fathered the male child and accepts Viserys’ bed calls as soon as he “requires” her. However, Otto has been pushing her to be more assertive in changing the game and Alicent has been evasive. With her father’s resignation from the position of trust, she is now exposed.
Viserys, who has pretended not to understand how things have turned out, is aware that his wife was planted in his life by the Hightowers’ ambition, but he also seems to see that she has a kindness that her kin does not. Still, it won’t be a relationship of complete trust when Alicent puts pressure on him to defend his children. As we will see, circumstances change and the Queen will have to join the game.
We saw an allusion to this female conflict in Game of Thrones, with less development, but when Sansa Stark opposed Daenerys Targaryen. Sansa, who passed the worst into the hands of her enemies, brings together the elements of both Alicent and Rhaenyra. Just like the princess, her innocent and thoughtless actions contributed to the decimation of her family. Worth a separate analysis.
For now, it will be difficult to say goodbye to Milly Alcock as well as Emily Carey. The work of both of them, to plant this seed for us to appreciate how Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy are opponents was crucial. They are to be congratulated. They will be missed.