They say that time heals wounds, but for people who are resentful (and repressed!) the effect is the opposite. In 10 years, Rhaenyra has seen the balance of power shift off balance thanks to the various circumstances of her father’s weakness as regent. A shy and insecure Alicent is today an involved, active Queen with a force of command that the Princess herself can no longer deny. Far away from that sweet friend who still felt guilty about having secretly seduced the princess’s much older father and had two children with him, begging in the garden for the two to get along. No, we start the episode with Rhaenyra approaching the birth of her third child like a professional and immediately being asked to show the child to the Queen. Not a second of rest, not a feminine sympathy. Alicent is in charge now and Rhaenyra knows she needs to “respect” her. Hence the title of the episode, The Princess and the Queen which gives us the perfect perspective on how Westeros is divided.
Rhaenyra’s strategy failed
We say goodbye to Rhaenyra in Episode 5, burying her youth in a loveless marriage, her uncle’s exile, her discovery of sex with Sir Cristian Cole, and the princess’ decision to deal with her reality by doing what all men have done before her: behind the scenes with freedom, on the facade following the rules. But Rhaenyra is not a man…
In this way, her two main allies rallied against her when they encountered common resentments. In which universe Cristian and Alicent lived he is the one of pure hypocrisy. Rhaenyra had underestimated both, in wishes and forgiveness and spent so many years acting like a spoiled teenager that she wasted precious time at the game. Ser Cristian never understood his place or relationship with his superior in rank and birth, Alicent, conniving and obedient to her father, Otto Hightower, thought that Rhaenyra would be too and so the two would try to survive together the harsh reality of women of their time: just bearing children and seeing time pass. With Targaryen blood and using her father’s guilt to her advantage, Rhaenyra defied them all. A miscalculation as she knew her father, but thought she would beat Otto. In the end, she only managed to wound her opponents in the ego – worst place! – and be vulnerable.
Rhaenyra has the support of her kin-by-law, the Velaryons, and half of House Strong, to help her support herself, but of course it’s not enough. The Strongs’ head, Ser Lyonel, is like Ned Stark, with too much integrity and his (right) decisions jeopardize the fates of Viserys and Rhaenyra. Had he married his son, Ser Harwin Strong, to the princess, as it came as a possibility, they would at least have come to an understanding about producing heirs, something that the union with Laenor Velaryon failed to achieve, not even with the couple’s mutual agreement to try.
Laenor and Rhaenyra know their sexual preferences are too similar for them to do what it takes and in that time jump we miss how that dynamic didn’t work. Apparently Laenor spends more time away and hasn’t even challenged himself to fulfill his role. In the meantime, a relationship developed between the woman and Ser Harwin, with three children exposing the trio to a conservative society. As Alicent points out: one could be a mistake, three is a shame.
So when we meet the princess again in childbirth, she has to immediately embrace the unhappy life Alicent wanted her to have from the start: without Harwin and isolated from the Court. Some things will turn “in favor” of Rhaenyra, but at the cost of a lot of pain. We talked about Viserys’ mistakes, but as a future Queen she also lacked vision and strategy. You will pay dearly.
Evil trio, the position advantage
Alicent Hightower still mourns her father’s absence, but is a more than efficient player now. She has a Court apart from her husband, with Ser Cristan Cole and Ser Larys Strong in private meetings and conversations where they are working hard to remove Rhaenyra from the position of heiress. Viserys’ health is increasingly fragile, as is his will to reign less and less. Toxic and retrograde, the three work to separate the next generation, nonstop.
Unfortunately, the series’ alternative to having cast Ser Joffrey’s death as public murder leaves a gap in the narrative. Even with Alicent’s support, Ser Cristian could never have been so comfortable in a leadership position or slapped Sir Harwin away without a hitch. Naturally, this relationship would raise doubts about the Queen and him, or, at the very least, it would be easy to sow gossip. But no, he acts like a rejected lover and is used by Alicent as her brute strength. That option was bad, but it’s the one we have.
Alicent doesn’t even need Otto, but is desperate for his return. The real villain of the story, Ser Larrys, realizes this and takes action. He has his own father and brother killed, stripping Rhaenyra of emotional support, of the King’s conscience, and allowing the Queen to achieve her immediate goal of having her father back in the position of Hand of the King. It’s not too bad that he also becomes rich as a result, becoming the sole heir to House Strong.
Larys is the only one who sees Alicent for what she is, cultivates her to flourish, and now has her in his debt. Something she should be terrified of…
Daemon: the return is near
Daemon Targaryen tried to be a better person in the decade since his exile in Westeros after he lost his niece in a move that forced his hand a lot, but has a happy domestic life alongside Laena Velaryon, with two daughters and another on the way. From the conversation of the two, the union is not having its best days, thanks to Daemon’s unstable moods. And everything changes in the blink of an eye.
Completely innocent in his actions, but apparently devising some alternative, Laena realizes that she may soon be in danger if she gets in the way of her husband’s life. She knows him well, knows he’s hesitating, but an unhappy Daemon is a bad sign. When the delivery of her child brings us to the same situation as in the 1st episode – only a C-section can solve it, but it is lethal for the mother – Laena doesn’t think twice. Asks her dragon Vhagar to end her pain. It’s an exciting and vital time for Rhaenyra’s side.
Laena’s death parallels Ser Harwin’s death and the return of Otto Hightower will give the Black side the focus and unity that was weakening their side. The question now falls on the shoulders of weak Viserys.
A legacy of weakness
Viserys spends more time in a world of the past, where he builds a city destroyed by time and where he lives in his imagination as the kingdom he wishes he had. A man who sees himself as good but a bad King and an absent husband, a father without authority. He is only loved by Rhaenyra, who also resents him a bit. All the decisions he made as regent were wrong: breaking with tradition by placing his daughter as heir, but not acting to strengthen her; erring in the decision to sacrifice his wife for a son who does not survive; exile the brother who performs the dirty deeds he doesn’t like to do (but needs to do); wrongly choosing a second wife; not controlling your daughter or wife… the list goes on. Broken, armless, aged and tired, Viserys will not last long, nor be missed.