Every episode of Season 1 of House of the Dragon we say it surpassed the previous one. In fact, what is clear is a consistent debut, tied and engaged, which did not disappoint fans with too many surprises and yet still maintains general curiosity. In 7 episodes we run almost 25 years in Westeros, a quarter of a century in which the seeds of discord were planted and watered little by little until civil war between the Targaryens breaks out and costs almost all of them their lives.
If in Game of Thrones it was said that there were no good guys, Jon Snow raised the flag of integrity and responsibility above everything and everyone, including himself. In House of the Dragon it is difficult for us to cheer without guilt because literally everyone is in one way or another committed to their own interests, no one thinks about the big picture.
Much is said that the problem was born in the antagonism between Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen, but it is the patriarchal society that divides women (Rhaenys and Rhaenyra do not understand each other 100%). It is also realized that too much ambition is toxic (Daemon, Corlys, Otto) and too little contributes to problems (Viserys). The next generation really suffers, children thrown into a universe of conflict, hypocrisy and mutual accusations, who will grow up with resentments and hatred fueled by their parents and bring destruction to them and the people around them.
The ambiguity and lack of pulse of Viserys I, a man who wants the best for all, sewed the seeds to the future civil war known as the Dance of Dragons. The problem with Viserys is never the intention, which is always correct, but being “a man of his time”. His only modern attitude – declaring his daughter the successor in a society that does not accept female leadership – was out of a manipulated move from Otto Hightower as well as out of insecurity towards his own brother, Daemon. The clear lack of conviction in his choice left Rhaenyra in a vacuum. The princess already had a rebellious fire in her, but she was resigned to her role. With the possibility of being Queen, she glimpsed a freedom never imagined, but equally untrained.
Rhaenyra was present at the King’s council, but serving the men. When she spoke, she was silent or ignored. When she took the initiative, she was considered impulsive. Her father, trying to remain popular with men, contributed to the conclusion that a woman would not have the capacity to be a good Queen. To make matters worse, Otto, the great player, had already planted his obedient and repressed daughter in the lives of the Princess and the King. Alicent ended up catalyzing the separation of father and daughter at a crucial moment for both, yet another shrewd move by Otto, calmly building the narrative for the coup d’état.
Thus, orphaned and without a mentor, Rhaenyra began to act impulsively, never considering the consequences of her steps (and contributing to her crisis with Alicent, who was doing the opposite). As a modern audience, seeing a young woman defy society is cool, but for the position of a leader, we never saw her worry about the people she was going to rule. In fact, the only thing he said is that what people crave “makes no difference”. This is the Queen we root for.
All of Rhaenyra’s youthful mistakes, including the night at the brothel with her uncle and the night of lovemaking with Ser Criston Cole, were made because she chose to be happy, but at no point did she consider giving up the Crown that would limit her in her life decisions. It’s easy to understand Alicent, looking at this scenario. As a consequence of having abused the freedom she received, Rhaenyra was forced into a marriage that ended up shaking the life of another innocent, Laenor Velaryon, a homosexual who faced parental prejudice and was forced to play the game.
The agreement made between the two – not to judge and to keep up appearances – was heartfelt, but flawed. Rhaenyra clearly found true love with Ser Harwin Strong, but once again proved reckless as she had three children whose paternity was undeniable. When she lost both allies (her husband and lover), she found herself alone in a lair. At the moment she’s clearly just about to take over the Iron Throne. And again, her choice reinforces her image of being insensitive to the outer circle.
So we saw in episode 7 Rhaenyra finally understand that having the Crown is not having the game won. Laenor has become a problem, Ser Harwin has been killed, and her father is just steps away from eternity. The in-laws are not so much partners, Ser Corlys is, but out of self-interest. There remained the only man who was the reason she became successor: her uncle Daemon. The union of the two could mean a future defeat of Otto Hightower, but paradoxically supports the Greens’ narrative of psycopathic people, after in the series they get hitched immediately after the deaths of Laena and Laenor Velaryon. If that isn’t a scandal, what is? Too bad it’s hiding the single sympathetic innitiave of Rhanyera’s: releasing Laenor from a life of sacrifice, hipocrisy, danger and solitute. It was beautiful that she made this for him.
As the purest Targaryen couple, there is no questioning the blood legitimacy of Rhaenyra and Daemon, even less of their (future) children together. Now Rhaenyra is level in the game… but will she have the agility on the board? The Greens have the upper hand.