Eve Best in House of the Dragon (2022)

Like Issa Rae, I’m Rooting for Everybody Black on ‘House of the Dragon’

HBO’s House of the Dragon has one episode left, and despite my empathy for Queen Alicent Hightower and love for actual angel Helaena Targaryen—I have found myself solidly Team Black.

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Following the semi-sudden death of King Viserys I, we return in the penultimate episode of the season with Alicent and her Green Council figuring out where to go next. Alicent finds out that her father, Hand of the King Otto Hightower, has been planning to place her son Aegon on the Throne for a while. Last week, in a semi-conscious state, Viserys talked about the “prophecy of Ice & Fire.” Still, because Alicent is unfamiliar with it, she interprets these statements to mean him anointing his son as heir.

Of course, a few people mention that is inconsistent with Viserys’s over twenty years of publicly supporting Rhaenyra as his chosen heir. One loyal person, Lyman Beesbury, brings up this treason only to be murdered by Ser Criston Incel. Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Harrold Westerling resigns to protest Cole’s murder and the actions taking place. Despite being determined not to kill Rhaenyra, to secure Aegon the Elder’s position, Alicent attempts to get Princess Rhaenys, who is being held captive in the castle. During this attempt to win Rhaenys over, the Queen Who Never Was delivers the boldest indictment of Alicent: “And yet you toil still in the service to men. Your father, your husband, your son. You desire not to be free but to make a window in the wall of your prison.”

I know some of my colleagues have called Alicent a “Karen,” and the narrative has painted her in a conservative light. Despite those things being true, despite being Team Black, I think it would be detrimental to ignore that, as a victim of the same patriarchy that steps on Rhaenyra, it will not make Alicent a better person. She has worked for decades to make peace with her position and has leaned on religion and duty. It has not made her a perfect mother, but it has given her the tools to protect her children the best she can—even if her kids (sans perfect angel Helaena) are kind of shitheads.

We then watch Otto and Alicent send their two sides to get Aegon back from his “adventuring” in Flea Bottom. Aegon doesn’t want to be King and feels unloved by his parents, but the lure of the Throne is too powerful. Rhaenys escapes and, during the coronation, arises from below with her dragon, Meleys. Despite having the chance to end the conflict right now, she is somehow moved by Alicent moving to protect her son. So the Greens are alive, some smallfolk got squashed, and Rhaenys is on her way to Dragonstone to warn the Blacks of the developments.

The less said about Lord Larys Strong jerking off to Alicent’s feet—before she has Mysaria’s house burned down due to the spying in her household—the better.

Now, as book readers might know, the scene of Rhaenys at the end was made up for the show. The question is, why? Well, writer-producer Sara Hess explained to The Hollywood Reporter why the princess didn’t just end it there.

“I think she just can’t do it. It’s not her war,” Hess says. “The fight is between these two sides and she’s kind of not in it. She doesn’t feel like she’s the one to come in and do that. But you’re right. If she had just incinerated everybody, it’s game over, Rhaenyra wins and we’re done here. But the cost is huge. I also feel like that moment, she looks Alicent in the eye and Alicent walks in front of her kid to shield him. It’s one mother to another. Rhaenys is angry, but in her previous scene with Alicent, she respected her, even if she doesn’t agree with her. So she’s not going to kill another woman like that.”

When the meaningless deaths of civilians are mentioned, Hess says, “It’s Game of Thrones — civilians don’t count!” I take a bit of umbrage with this because it is not true. Or it shouldn’t be true. Many things that happen early on in the books happen because of the way the smallfolk act and feel. The people add legitimacy, and ignoring that is dangerous.

One awesome insight into the choices made to make both Alicent and Rhaenyra more sympathetic on the show is shared by Hess again:

“And as far as the sympathetic thing goes, in [George R.R. Martin’s Targaryen history book Fire & Blood] the history was written by these unreliable narrators and nobody really knows what happened in those rooms. They know the big events that happened historically, but they don’t know what anyone’s intention was. And history is often written by men who write off women as crazy or hysterical or evil and conniving or gold-digging or sexpots. Like in the [book], it says Rhaenyra had kids and got fat. Well, who wrote that? We were able to step back and go: The history tellers want to believe Alicent is an evil conniving bitch. But is that true? Who exactly is saying that? That’s part of the thing we’re playing with in this and in season two.”

That question of the narrator is interesting, and it certainly complicates the dynamics readers might expect. In any case, Greens have not presented a better argument for their claim yet, and Aegon the Elder sucks, so … Team Blacks for now.

(featured image: HBO)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.