The Greens: Aegon, Aemond, and Helaena Targaryen, with Alicent and Ser Otto Hightower

The Terrible Family Dynamics of Team Green Are the Highlight of My Week, Honestly

They’re all wretched! I love it!

The terrible, tragic aftermath of Blood and Cheese was obviously the highlight of House of the Dragon’s second episode, “A Son for a Son,” and it really brought us into the grief, rage, and guilt that the Greens were feeling—making for one of the best episodes the show has put out to date, in my opinion.

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One thing highlighted by the death of little Prince Jaehaerys and its effect on his closest family members is that there really is no family dynamic more twisted than that of the so-called Targtowers. Sure, the Targaryens don’t marry anyone who isn’t related to them and that’s its own major issue, but the way every single member of the Targaryen-Hightower household is an emotional wreck that interiorizes pain and then just spreads more pain around them is just delicious to me. I love seeing them go deeper into it every week. It’s such great storytelling.

The sins of the father

While the damaged, bleeding heart of the Greens is undoubtedly Alicent it all actually starts from her father and tickles down from her to her own children. In this episode, we saw Otto Hightower first immediately plotting to twist the brutal murder of his own great-grandson into a political advantage for his side and then descend into a blind rage—with Rhys Ifans brilliantly playing the first time Otto lets his control truly slip loose—as he perceives everyone around them ruining the plan he has spent decades building.

So he lashes out at Aegon where he truly hurts like all the best manipulators perfectly know how to do, by telling him what Aegon likely already knows deep down—that Viserys didn’t want him to succeed him, that it was all maneuvering from Otto and the rest of the Greens. And while we all love that Aegon is getting some sense smacked into him we have to remember that Otto has no one to blame for this but himself and his own thirst for power. He wanted his own blood on the throne, which is why he crowned Aegon and why he essentially sold Alicent out to the King so that she could produce said Aegon.

And oh, the terrible knife that is the father-daughter relationship between Otto and Alicent. He has raised her to believe that doing her duty is the most important thing, taking precedence over everything else, forever keeping his emotional distance from her just like we see him do in this episode when he plainly tells her that he doesn’t want to hear what she has to confess when it’s clear that she’s spiraling and she desperately does need someone to listen to her.

The neglect drips down the generations

That’s the same rhetoric that Alicent in turn unloads on her children—children who are barely ten years younger than her, children who she was maritally raped to conceive, children whom she fundamentally didn’t want and while those are not excuses for neglect they are certainly important context to keep in mind. Her father refuses to comfort her and she refuses to comfort a crying Aegon, whom she walks into literally in the next scene. She detaches herself from Aemond, who has to seek refuge in the arms of the only person whom he perceives cares about him. And she forces Helaena into the same cage she herself was forced into.

This whole mother-daughter relationship is absolutely heartbreaking, and their scene together during Jaehaerys’s funeral procession is one of the most compelling—and anxiety-inducing—of the entire episode. Alicent has been taught pretty much since forever that everything she is is a body for the men in her life to manipulate and use, and while it’s clear she despises this at the same time she can’t help but turn around and do the same thing to Helaena.

Neither of the two wants to take part in the procession but Alicent knows that she has to grind her teeth and get on with it and makes Helaena do the same—as if duty can make this terrible pain any more bearable.  As if duty is a noble sacrifice in the name of something beyond them instead of violence that has both been taught to them and that they also inflict upon themselves and makes them miserable.

Alicent’s relationship with her children is so beautifully, tragically complex. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of the show and brilliantly played week after week by Olivia Cooke, who encapsulates just how much Alicent loves her kids because they are her kids but also hates them because they were forced on them, knows them fundamentally but also has no idea who they are, has no other way to approach them except through the same abusive patterns she herself was raised in and from which she also doesn’t know how to break free.

Doomed siblings

That’s also why the three Targtower kids—whom we’ve seen, who knows, maybe Daeron has slightly escaped all of this by being in Oldtown—can’t comfort each other.

Aegon and Helaena are particularly tragic in this, and the show makes it a point to let us see how they are the only two people who truly understand this grief the whole family is passing through since Jaehaerys was their son but they barely make a move toward each other. Not even they can give each other some respite from the pain, not as parents, not as husband and wife, not even as siblings.

The contrast between them and the family dynamic that instead Rhaenyra has built with her children—who were all wanted, it should be noted. Rhaenyra offers immediate comfort and reassuring physical touch to Jace after Lucerys’s death, and he in turn hugs Joffrey as they burn their brother’s clothes and belongings. That’s not to say that Rhaenyra doesn’t have her own fair share of trauma, of course, but that there are definite differences there that shouldn’t be used to have a contest on who is the better mother but to understand the characters, their actions, and their thought processes.

It’s perfectly encompassed in one of my favorite Tyrion quotes from A Storm of Swords, which appears in Chapter 70—or Tyrion X. “It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our own strings and dance in our steads.”

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.