Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-7 of House of the Dragon.In House of the Dragon Episode 7 “Driftmark” Prince Aemond (Leo Ashton) the youngest son of Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and King Viserys (Paddy Considine), claims the dragon Vhagar for himself. When Rhaena (Eva Ossei-Gerning) and Baela (Shani Smethurst) find out that Aemond has taken the dragon that belonged to their recently deceased mother, Lady Laena (Nanna Blondell) they bring their cousins Jacaerys (Leo Hart) and Lucerys (Harvey Sadler) down to confront him. A fight breaks out and after Luke’s nose gets broken, he uses Jace’s weapon and strikes out at Aemond, taking his eye. In the aftermath, the adults convene to discuss what happened, and Alicent demands one of Luke’s eyes be removed in kind.
Queen Alicent is not a violent person, so how did she get to the point where she would wish for a child to be maimed? Her reaction is far more understandable when you look at all the events that led up to this moment and see how they brought her to her breaking point. Alicent was a very young woman when her father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) sent her to comfort King Viserys upon the death of his wife Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke). The anxiety she felt during this time manifested itself as self-harm and her father chose to ignore her pain in order to move forward with his plans. She was just a pawn in his game and when the King announced their impending marriage she lost her best friend and confidant Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), the only one who saw her as a complete person.
Alicent Has Never Had the Same Chances That Rhaenyra Has
From then on she was basically alone in the Red Keep day after day, with only her much older husband and father for company. She almost immediately started having children, first a son and then a daughter, and with her only friend Rhaenyra still angry at her, she spent most of her time comforting crying babies or having unsatisfying sex. Just when it looked like her friendship with Rhaenyra might be repaired, Alicent was betrayed and used by her – she was tricked into defending Rhaenyra’s lies which inadvertently led King Viserys to fire Otto. Before he left King’s Landing her father scared the life out of her. Convincing her that if she didn’t fight for her son Aegon’s right to rule, and win, all of her children would be sent to their deaths by her old friend.
The ten-year time jump was a very hard time for Queen Alicent. Afraid for her children’s lives she watched Rhaenyra make a mockery of the realm by having a succession of brunette sons. While obvious to literally everyone her husband refuses to hear anything negative regarding their true parentage. She is basically gaslit by her own husband, told over and over again that she is crazy for believing what is clear to her and everyone else. She is now completely alone, her father is gone from King’s Landing and her children are still too young to share in any of her burdens. The only company she has is Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) who is not in a good place mentally as he is still bitter and angry at Rhaenyra after she rejected his marriage proposal ten years before, and Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) who feeds her fears for his own agenda.
When Larys Strong murders his father and brother, he confronts Alicent with his deeds, implying that they were done on her behalf. This brings a new terror to Alicent as if it was ever to be revealed, it would put her in mortal danger, and she finally realizes that her greatest ally is a very dangerous man. When Lady Laena dies, Queen Alicent and her children are forced to gather with Rhaenyra and her sons on Driftmark, and Alicent is forced to witness the effects of Larys’ handiwork firsthand, as Rhaenyra’s son Jace is clearly mourning the loss of Ser Harwin Strong, a man he very recently realized was his father.
Viserys Favors Rhaenyra and Aemma Over Alicent
Her husband has spent years favoring his daughter over his Queen, and as a new kind of insult he accidentally refers to her as Aemma and, whether he realizes it or not, he leaves with Ser Harrold who then directs Criston Cole to guard her instead. Alicent is once again shown where she and her children stand in the pecking order, the bottom. Then comes the moment in the middle of the night when she is pulled from her bed to find her youngest son with a long gash across his face, and his eye damaged. All of these years of effort to protect her children from harm and her son has still been badly wounded. When Maester Kelvyn (Haqi Ali) informs her that Aemond’s eye is not salvageable she is rightfully devastated.
The King handles the entire situation in his usual manner completely ignoring the fact that Rhaenyra’s boys took out a blade during a fight with their son. Viserys instead turns his questions on Aemond and then screams at Aegon when Aemond points to his older brother as the source of the rumors about the Velaryon boys being bastards. While Rhaenyra calls it treason, it truly is only an insult levied by a child and is nothing when compared to the actual physical and lifelong injury caused by Luke. Alicent is justified in her anger, as once again the King has sided against her and their son who did come out of the fight with permanent damage. For Alicent, the pain of having her concerns pushed aside for Rhaenyra’s once again is then compounded when the King requests that they all apologize to one another as if they are all equally to blame.
Her sudden thirst for blood is a reaction to all that has occurred, but when she turns to her sworn protector Ser Criston for support at this moment, he turns her down. After over a decade of sneering and cursing at Rhaenyra behind closed doors, he is not willing to go to the lengths that someone like Larys is. When the King then reiterates that the matter is finished, she looks into his eyes and sees that he will never support her or her children and that she is completely and utterly alone. As a final slap in the face, the King doubles down on his support for Rhaenyra claiming that anyone who speaks ill of her sons’ legitimacy shall lose their tongues. The subtext of which is a warning to Alicent and her sons, that they too will suffer this punishment if they mention it again. Grabbing the King’s dagger is a moment of insanity after more than a decade of emotional trauma and repressed fear, for she knows that if she does not stand for her children then no one will, and while wanting a child to lose an eye is never an acceptable response, her anger is justified.