A Game Changer: House Of The Dragon Episode 2

After last night’s episode of HoTD, the Targaryen family rift is fully in motion. Let’s discuss Alicent Hightower’s role in this vital turn of events.

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There were many fantastic moments in yesterday night’s episode of HoTD. Rhaenyra singlehandedly saved the day at Dragonstone, we got grisly glimpses into the Crabfeeder villain and, of course, Viserys’ TERRIBLE marriage announcement. I, like most of Twitter, have been in quite a tizzy over the latter. So, if I may, here are my two cents on Alicent’s character, who is quickly shaping up to be Cersei 2.0 (or worse). Plus, the recent input of actress Emily Carey on one of the fandom’s most pressing questions.

Before I dive in, let me preface with a major spoiler warning. If you’re not caught up on HoTD yet, go grab some snacks and watch the episodes before reading on!

Climbing The Ladder

Episode 2 honed in on the tensions regarding Rhaenyra’s appointment as heir alongside the political pressures on King Viserys to remarry. It was, on the whole, a well-crafted episode of character-building and political intrigue. The most important dynamic we glimpsed in this episode centered around young Alicent Hightower, who has been quietly maneuvering between her friendship with Rhaenyra and her alone time with the King.

Image via HBO

These maneuvers invoke a world of duplicity and secrets that is classic GoT, where double-crosses cut deep, and the climb to the top of the ladder of political influence is ever-shifting. All of which I found to be subtly embodied via Alicent’s costuming. I may be reaching a bit, but that cut-out design on her dress sure resembles a ladder! And, as established at the end of the episode, King Viserys’ decision to make Alicent his new wife has cemented her ascent.

Power Politics

As Littlefinger once said in GoT: “Chaos is a ladder.” This famous line is certainly of continued significance in all of this Targaryen family drama. However, regarding this metaphorical ladder, I found myself wondering whether it was really Alicent’s sole motive to begin this climb. I mean, was she always planning to betray her best friend? I don’t think. At least, not at first.

I say this because, in the premiere, it is her father, Otto Hightower, who instructs her to go visit the King in his chambers (wearing one of her mother’s old dresses). Ew!

Alicent, dutiful to her father, follows his instructions. Though, no doubt, it is Otto Hightower’s motives at work here, orchestrating a swift pivot in political strategy. Supporting this takeaway is actress Emily Carey’s statement on her character’s first visit with the King: “I was confused as an actor in not knowing what Alicent should be feeling, and then I also realized that’s exactly how she’s feeling.”

Rhaenyra and Alicent

Clearly, Alicent was not a calculated mastermind from the get-go but simply a young girl with an anxious habit of biting her nails. That said, last night’s episode raised some eyebrows about how her character motives have changed over that 6 month time jump. For instance, the scene between Rhaenyra and Alicent in the Sept came across as an example of her, dare I say, “snake-like” behavior, insincerely preying upon her best friend’s grief.

At that point, it was immediately obvious that a betrayal was cooking (and had been for months). Thus, I think HoTD is doing a brilliant job of storytelling through the time jumps, making it intruiging to infer what’s been going on since we last looked in on the Red Keep.

Additionally, regarding the intricacies of HoTD’s storytelling, fans readily picked up on the undertones of Rhaenyra and Alicent’s relationship from the premiere. The discussion swirled around the apparent flirtations between the two girls, and debate ensued about how the nature of their feelings for one another should be perceived.

On this topic, Emily Carey (she/they) weighs in:

…you think your best friend of 14 is going to be your best friend for the rest of your life. It does toe the line between platonic and romantic. But I also think, at 14, you don’t know what those words mean. You don’t know what the feelings mean. It’s just love. That’s all it is. Whether it’s friendship or more than that, I think it’s up to how you want to see it, but it was talked about for sure. As a viewer, I like to read into it because I also think that it makes the demise of the friendship more heartbreaking to watch… I would love if they were a little bit fruity, but it’s up to you how you want to read it. It’s just a beautiful bond between two young girls, let’s put it that way.

Emily Carey for Entertainment Weekly

Ah, well, that “beautiful bond” certainly crashed and burned last night when King Viserys dropped that bombshell at the council meeting. It was heartbreaking to see Rhaenyra have to absorb this news, and it certainly fanned a lot of fury toward Alicent. That said, I think that a good chunk of that anger toward Alicent should be directed toward her father, Otto Hightower, whose meddlesome role is so reminiscent of GoT’s Petyr Baelish.


The Chaos To Come

Upon the episode’s conclusion, the weight of Viserys’ marriage announcement was cemented in the preview for Episode 3. The trailer confirms that yet another time jump is in store. Most notably, we glimpse Alicent and Viserys’ new child, Aegon – whose claim to the throne as a male heir will send the succession dispute spiraling into utter chaos. A game changer, indeed.

Until next Sunday, check out our weekly roundup of hilarious HoTD Tweets here. Dracarys!