Movie Reviews

Why House Of The Dragon Changed The Book With Alicent & Rhaenyra's Meeting

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3, “The Burning Mill.”


Summary

  • Alicent and Rhaenyra reunite in House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3.
  • The sequence is a major departure from George R.R. Martin’s book, Fire & Blood, but was a necessary one for the story and their character arcs.
  • Rhaenyra now knows for sure that a war fought with dragons cannot be avoided.


House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3 makes a big change to the book with Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen’s story, but it’s an important one. Alicent and Rhaenyra reunited for the first time since House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8. When they had last seen one another, the former had declared the latter would make a fine queen; now they are opposing sides of a civil war that will become known as the Dance of the Dragons.

Alicent and Rhaenyra’s meeting sees them both come to terms with how much has happened, and the events that led them there. Crucially, it makes Alicent realize there was a misunderstanding, and that Viserys was speaking about Aegon the Conqueror’s dream on his deathbed, not proclaiming that their son, Aegon, should be king. It’s an emotional scene and, while it differs from George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, it was necessary.


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Alicent & Rhaenyra’s King’s Landing Meeting Doesn’t Happen In Fire & Blood – But HOTD Needed It

House Of The Dragon Had To Get Alicent & Rhaenyra Back Together

In Fire & Blood, both Rhaenyra and Alicent are more passive participants at this point in the Dance of the Dragons, and Rhaenyra does not leave Dragonstone until she and Daemon make their move for King’s Landing (which should happen in House of the Dragon season 3). Their relationship is more distant throughout the book than it is in the show, because there’s a much bigger age gap between them, so it’s understandable they don’t need to try and reach one another. But that doesn’t work for the TV series.


Because their stories are intertwined and so reliant upon one another, the show needed to get them back together in some way, hence inventing Rhaenyra sneaking into King’s Landing.

Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship is at the center of the Game of Thrones prequel. Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy lead House of the Dragon‘s cast, and they are the main characters, even in such a large ensemble. It was their friendship and falling out that drove a lot of season 1’s narrative and their respective character arcs, and yet the story inevitably had to separate them. Because their stories are intertwined and so reliant upon one another, the show needed to get them back together in some way, hence inventing Rhaenyra sneaking into King’s Landing.


This was also vital for Rhaenyra’s arc moving forward, and rewards her passivity so far. House of the Dragon season 1’s ending may have set up her vengeance for Lucerys Velaryon’s death, but season 2 changed that. When she spoke the words “I want Aemond Targaryen,” giving in to her rage, an innocent child had his head cut off. She understands the pain of losing a child, and can’t take that lightly. She had to know, beyond any doubt, that there was no turning back. And, well, now she does. Speaking with Alicent was the only way to achieve that.

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How House Of The Dragon’s Book Change Sets Up The Dance Of The Dragons

Now There Is Absolutely No Way A War With Dragons Can Be Avoided

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra looking down while disguised as a Septa in House of the Dragon season 2, episode 3

Now that Rhaenyra knows exactly what happened, and that Alicent won’t turn back from war even with full knowledge of her misunderstanding, it means the Dance of the Dragons will truly begin. Admittedly, I feel like that’s been a promise ever since the end of season 1, but this time it really does ring true. The dragons on both sides are going to be loosed, with the full support of Rhaenyra for that happening.


House Of The Dragon Season 2’s Remaining Release Schedule

Episode #

Release Date

4

July 7

5

July 14

6

July 21

7

July 28

8

August 4

It will also be interesting to see if this eventually leads to a bigger change for Rhaenyra. She’s accepted the dragons need to be unleashed, but will that include her own, Syrax? Will she sit by and let others fly to danger – and death – for her? Her going to King’s Landing already shows she is willing to take a more active, riskier role, and that could be something that leads to her becoming a bigger part in the war as House of the Dragon continues.

New episodes of House of the Dragon release Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO and Max.


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