Matt Smith as Daemon and Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra in House of The Dragon season 2

In ‘House of The Dragon,’ It’s Not About Green vs. Black, It’s the Men Who Clamor for War and the Women Doing Everything They Can to Avoid It

Blame the patriarchy!

It’s ironic that audiences have been eagerly waiting for war sequences on House of The Dragon, yet the show’s biggest message remains anti-war. In fact, Rhaenyra Targaryen’s recent meeting with Queen Alicent proves just how much they don’t want war to break out. But the men … oh, the men.

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Browsing X like we do the day after a new HOTD episode has aired, I came across tweets from fans displeased that once again, we get an episode where everyone’s just talking about war, and the actual war isn’t being fought. “Why didn’t Baela Targaryen let Moondancer ‘dracarys’ Ser Criston and Ser Gwayne?” “What happened to Rhaenyra’s rage after losing Luke? Why is she making pleas to the enemy to stop the war?” “Why was the Battle of the Burning Mill not shown?”

Davos Blackwood (Kieran Burton) in 'House of the Dragon' 2.03

These seem valid questions purely from the point of entertainment. But when you look at House of The Dragon, as we looked at Game of Thrones—as a mirror to the cyclical nature of human weaknesses, follies, and hubris—you realize that the writers of the show are trying really hard to impress upon us the horrors of a family strife between those who wield power, that’ll soon transform into a civil war across the Seven kingdoms.

And once again, it is the women, both powerful and inconsequential, who are trying to hold the world back from utter destruction. And it is the men—Daemon, Ser Criston Cole, Aemond, Aegon, the Blackwood and Bracken boys—and patriarchy that is rushing forth, like a fool, to burn it all in dragon fire.

Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) scowls in a scene from HBO's 'House of the Dragon'

There are several instances where the female characters have tried to mitigate any war-mongering and exercised caution. And the men have gone ahead and made rash decisions to ensure that war becomes inevitable. In the scene where Prince Aemond is at the brothel, the woman he is sleeping with tells him how war, born of the rage of princes like him, affects the smallfolk like her.

There’s the stoic inner strength of Princess Rhaenys, passed over for the Iron Throne, the Queen That Never Was, who peacefully complied instead of having her husband’s house declare war on her behalf. She had dragons too, In fact, before Lady Laena’s death, House Velaryon didn’t just have the biggest naval fleet, they also had the fiercest dragons—Vhagar, Meleys, Seasmoke. Yet, Rhaenys has always refused to start a war and has advocated for peace.

Rhaenyra and Rhaenys Targaryen, played by Emma D'Arcy and Eve Best, have a discussion in the second season of House of the Dragon

She even tried to appeal to Rhaenyra, which made her consider a meeting with Alicent over blindly retaliating to the assassination attempt on her, which would tangibly mean war. In her council meeting, as her bannermen repeatedly advise her to be on the offense, Rhaenyra is hesitant and seeks time to find an alternative, which Rhaenys presents to her.

On the surface, the Dance of the Dragons kickstarted with tensions between two women—Rhaenyra and Alicent. Both queens, now that King Viserys, who tried to keep the peace in his own way, is no more. Both women have immense love for each other (there’s a reason why some fans are already shipping them!), even as their other stronger emotions get in the way of them expressing it.

For Rhaenyra, it is her birthright, the secret her father shared with her about Aegon’s Song of Ice and Fire dream,  taking her role of Protector of the Realm seriously, and the fear for her children’s lives that keeps her from giving it all up for the love she bears for Alicent and her father’s family. 

For Alicent, too, it is her duty—to her father, her husband, and now her children. Even though she has been used and abused as a tool by all these men, Alicent has never been able to separate duty from love. And that is why, any threat to her children, which is now imminent no matter what happens, turns her into a Queen who will let this war happen, as opposed to just Alicent, who was sweet, sensitive, and loved Rhaenyra. 

Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen at the sept in House of the Dragon

This dynamic is why Rhaenyra puts her ego and her grief aside to come to King’s Landing and speak to Alicent in person. And this is why Alicent doesn’t call the guards on her. There’s love there, and hope that perhaps war can be avoided, and both their duties fulfilled. Alas, they’re forced to make a choice.

This is a patriarchy, and these women’s powers, though lethal, can always be subdued and sabotaged by men who are in a better position to get what they want, merely because of their gender. We saw that with Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones—powerful rulers who could play the game and burn down entire cities. But they both saw how easily their councils and supporters turned their favor the moment there was the slightest possibility that a man could take over.

If you think House of The Dragon is about both sides being raging genocidal, you’re probably right. But you cannot deny that this war is also about gender. It began because men decided they didn’t want a woman on the Iron Throne, when in fact, she was qualified, rightful, and she could’ve brought them peace. Another irony, the Prince that was Promised was always thought to be a man. And yet, it took a Queen Daenerys Targaryen to help stop the coming of winter.

Phia Saban as Helaena Targaryen in House of the dragon season 2 episode 1

When Viserys let the maester risk his wife Aemma for the baby, when Ser Otto put Aegon on the Iron Throne and snubbed Rhaenyra, when Aemond killed Lucerys, when Daemon ordered a hit that killed infant Prince Jaehaerys, who suffered the most? Aemma, Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Helaena. With war happening right now, in the real world, we see the parallels in suffering: Women, raped, left with unwanted pregnancies, watching the children they birthed die—always the collateral in the wars of men.

So support the Greens or support the Blacks, but know that it was always men against women, and men who caused this war to actually come to pass.

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Jinal Bhatt
Jinal Bhatt (She/Her) is a staff writer for The Mary Sue. An editor, writer, film and culture critic with 7+ years of experience, she writes primarily about entertainment, pop culture trends, and women in film, but she’s got range. Jinal is the former Associate Editor for Hauterrfly, and Senior Features Writer for Mashable India. When not working, she’s fangirling over her favourite films and shows, gushing over fictional men, cruising through her neverending watchlist, trying to finish that book on her bedside, and fighting relentless urges to rewatch Supernatural.