House Of The Dragon Fully Breaks From Its Younger Alicent (Is That Good?)

Warning: This article contains spoilers for House of The Dragon episode 7.

Alicent Hightower has been one of the most intriguing figures in House of the Dragon season 1, as her younger character is initially portrayed as tragic but her older version has been changed to a villain. The initially sympathetic portrayal of Alicent has been cast aside in favor of a depiction that is increasingly self-righteous. This change is deliberate, as the showrunners clearly want audiences to side with Rhaenyra and her camp in the forthcoming conflict. The older iteration of Alicent (Olivia Cooke) has changed more than Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) so far, but House of the Dragon season 1, episode 7 hints that further development is imminent for both characters.

The younger version of Alicent (Emily Carey) is treated with sympathy and consolation in House of The Dragon episodes 1-5. Viewers are able to empathize with Alicent’s predicament as she is utilized as a pawn in her father’s scheme for power. Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) successfully manipulates his daughter into forming a relationship with King Viserys (Paddy Considine) so that she can be anointed as Queen. Although Alicent may genuinely care for Viserys, her detest for all that comes with this role is explicit, especially the burden of bearing his children. By season 1, episode 7, Alicent’s commitment to virtue and duty at the behest of her father reached a boiling point, as a more menacing side to her character began to emerge.

While the depiction of Rhaenyra’s character has remained relatively consistent, Alicent has been painted as a villain in House of The Dragon. The fabric of their relationship has shifted significantly as Alicent loathes the fact that Rhaenyra’s continually questionable decisions lack consequences. Alicent’s symbolic entrance in the green dress at the engagement ceremony and her refusal of Rhaenyra’s proposal to further join their two houses are the beginnings of her shift in character. Alicent is unwillingly subjected to precarious situations by those around her, whether caused by her father’s machinations or the schemes of Larys Strong (Matthew Needham). Her allegiance with Larys and his subsequent conniving maneuvers cast Alicent in a villainous light, but ultimately, the choices she does have a say in are made from a logical standpoint, to protect her family. By season 1, episode 7, Alicent’s actions are intentionally less subtle, as she directly confronts Rhaenyra with the catspaw dagger.

Why Older Alicent Has Changed More Than Rhaenyra (So Far)

Although Alicent’s decision to confront Rhaenyra at knifepoint seemingly condemns her as villainous, her actions are somewhat justified. As Alicent has aged, she feels increasingly threatened by Rhaenyra’s looming ascension to the throne, and this development has hardened her into a more protective character. Rhaenyra’s perpetual mischief has been willfully ignored, particularly by King Viserys. Rhaenyra’s deeds are unfitting, especially for the heir to the Iron Throne. Her poor choice to sleep with Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) and the overt infidelity in her marriage with Laenor (John MacMillan) are inconsequential, meanwhile, Alicent has acted with nothing but integrity.

Where previously Alicent acted in deferential to the wishes of others, after Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys takes Aemond’s eye, Alicent fully breaks from her once tragic and pitiful character, transitioning to a cutthroat villain. Lucerys’ actions are consistent with his mother’s unchanging obstinance to the rules of Westerosi culture which Alicent has so diligently adhered to. After a direct assault on her child, however, Alicent has had enough.

Are House Of The Dragon’s Older Alicent Changes A Good Thing?

House of The Dragon‘s changes to older Alicent have been divisive, but the recasts for Alicent and Rhaenyra and their subsequent changes in character are ultimately a good thing. The new portrayal has allowed for a more sinister and self-righteous image of Alicent to materialize. This duality emphasizes George R. R. Martin’s original vision for the House of the Dragon characters, the fact that most of them are unlikeable and morally gray. Alicent’s anger towards Rhaenyra is an understandable perspective given the treatment of her younger character up to this point. Conversely, where Alicent’s previous choices were rooted in subtlety and nuance, her overt act of violence against Rhaenyra once again turns the tables in favor of Rhaenyra’s camp.

These themes of dichotomy will persist throughout the show, as Rhaenyra and Daemon’s treacherous plan could sway favor back in the direction of Alicent. The ending of House of the Dragon season 1, episode 7 reveals the true intentions and capabilities of both the greens and the blacks. Alicent’s change from pawn to Queen has brought out a villainous edge that will lead some to side with Rhaenyra. Regardless of which house comes out on top in the Dance of the Dragons, it’s evident that both of the key matriarchal members of House Targaryen and House Hightower are prepared to go to extreme lengths to ensure their legacy lives on.

New episodes on House of the Dragon release Sundays on HBO & HBO Max.

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