Understanding the Conversation Between Rhaenys and Alicent

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-9 of House of the Dragon.For those who have remained loyal to the Greens, house of the dragon The penultimate episode of the season seems to have made it a little difficult to stay there. Beginning in the first few cold and quiet moments, we were immediately thrust into the midst of different variations of intrigue, from subtle exchanges of information between servants to revealing an all-out coup that was presumably years in progress. On Viserys’ (Paddy Considine) last breath, bloodshed was sure to follow quickly. It’s Westeros, after all. The only glimmer of hope lies in Alicent (Olivia Cook), who seems to be doing her best to keep everything peaceful, despite her gross misunderstanding of Visery’s last words. Unlike her father Otto (Rhys Ifans), Alicent’s rose-colored glasses allow her to continue to believe in the possibility of a peaceful succession after Rhaenyra’s usurpation (Emma D’Arcy) as heir to the throne.


If the world of Westeros has taught us anything, it’s not to underestimate the women who move the chess pieces as vigorously as the men in power. Behind the Blacks and the Greens are women with opposing ideologies who struggle for power in radically different ways. Alicent sees following tradition as a path to her ultimate freedom, while the likes of Rhaenyra and Rhaenys (Eva Best) choose to exercise their own agency outside of established social norms. Both game of Thrones and house of the dragon have intricately laid the groundwork to depict parallel motivations of women who have attempted to gain the power of the Iron Throne in different ways. One is rooted in patriarchal tradition, the other determined to seize power with her name alone. Although the events of both shows are 200 years apart, it’s incredibly difficult to see the similarities between Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) as they watch the matriarchs of the two warring Targaryen factions chart the paths to their own endeavours. The conversation between Rhaenys and Alicent is essential to laying out this dichotomy and the implications behind Rhaenys’ power move at the end of the episode, which cements her earlier reference to Alicent.

RELATED: ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 9 Explained: Let’s Talk the Dragon in the Coronation Room

Alicent offers Rhaenys a chance to join the Greens

Once the coup is in full swing, Alicent arrives at Rhaeny’s chamber with the intention of bringing her to the side of the Greens. To do this, Alicent attempts to appeal to Rhaeny’s feelings by undermining the benefits of her loyalty to Rhaenyra. Alicent quickly points to Laenas (Nanna Blondell) Death, Laenor (John MacMillian) Bastards and Corlys’ (Steve Toussaint) supposedly selfish bid for the throne to win Rhaenys over to her side. Talk about a triple punch to the chest. However, it is worth noting that the basis of Alicent’s appeals to Rhaenys lies solely in ideas regarding woman’s duties in Westeros, where she remarks, “And even him [Corlys] has failed you… and left the Lady of Driftmark to chart her course alone.” Up to this point, the entire basis of Alicent’s petition to Rhaenys focuses on how Rhaenyra undermined her position as wife and mother, but does little to understand Rhaenys as an individual outside the confines of her femininity. In many ways, this exchange underscores how deeply rooted Alicent is in her family responsibilities as a wife and mother that she can’t see the hypocrisy in what follows like Rhaenys does.

When the above statements don’t work, Alicent desperately directs her points to Rhaenys’ pride, where she proclaims that despite her love for Viserys, it was Rhaenys who should have sat on the throne. Rather surprised, Rhaenys replies, “I hardly thought I’d hear those words from you.” Within minutes, we see Alicent hitting Rhaenys with a hook, line, and plumb line, but it all falls short when she says the words : “We don’t rule, but we can lead the men who do.” Just then, in desperation, Rhaenys tears her hands away from Alicent. It becomes apparent that Alicent doesn’t really believe in Rhaeny’s previous claim to the throne. In the same breath she claims that Rhaenys should have been queen; She also restores her perceived purpose as wives and mothers to empower the men in her life, rather than striving to gain that power for herself. In those moments, Rhaenys becomes quite clear that despite Alicent’s kind words, she isn’t really given a choice on the matter. Or, given the choice, either bend the knee or be hanged alongside the other lords who have stood steadfastly loyal to Rhaenyra’s claim.

Rhaenys realizes Alicent’s illusion of choice

Although Rhaenys is currently imprisoned by the Greens, the second half of their discussion reveals that Alicent is just as imprisoned as she is. When Alicent references her own status as Queen, Rhaenys is quick to quip, “Yet you still slave away for soldiers.” It is at these moments that Alicent and Rhaenys find themselves at odds. Rhaenys continues to turn the tables on Alicent, following her initial observation with, “You don’t want to be free, you want to put a window in the wall of your prison. Have you ever imagined sitting on the Iron Throne?” Despite being physically confined, Rhaenys can envision a world where women’s desires can take center stage. Alternatively, despite her high status, Alicent cannot afford to think outside the box that she is allowed to. Between Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), Otto and Criston Cole (Fabian Frankel), Alicent’s power derives from her ability to appeal to or control the men around her. When the men in her life look the other way, like her father or sons, she becomes effectively powerless.

As Rhaenys notes, Alicent possesses no power other than what is freely given to her by the men who actually wield it. Even if Alicent never misunderstood Viserys’ last words, episode 9 shows that the coup would have happened anyway. So Alicent remains yet another pawn in the games with only the slightest illusion of agency. In reality, Alicent’s mistake was just a fluke to Otto’s existing plans. Likewise, despite achieving Aegon (Tom Glynn Carney) before Otto, how much will Alicent’s influence on him before the coronation really affect the blood-soaked civil war to come?

The conversation between the two women deeply complicates Alicent as a character and sheds light on her decades-long disrespect for Rhaenyra’s alleged conscientious objection. To an even greater extent, this conversation questions what their duties as women are, or should be. This mid-episode conversation made it clear to Alicent that her livelihood is completely at the mercy of those around her, forcing her to look beyond the world perspective that tradition has imposed on her. Though Alicent leaves Rhaenys to ponder her “choice,” their conversation doesn’t end until the episode’s explosive final moments.

Rhaenys decides to show mercy to the newly crowned Hightower-Targaryens, but not before making a point of looking Alicent in the eye. With Rhaenys now perched high above the royal family, the power dynamic that existed earlier in the episode changes in an instant. While her decision to show mercy is widely disputed, by the end of the episode, Rhaeny’s actions served to show Alicent what a woman’s true power can actually look like. It is not a crown, nor does it boast of the exploits of their husbands or sons, but resides in the ability to surrender the reins of their own destiny.

https://collider.com/house-of-the-dragon-rhaenys-alicent-conversation-episode-9/ Understanding the Conversation Between Rhaenys and Alicent

Sarah Ridley

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