It’s hard to sympathize with someone who has been marked as the face of the ‘bad’ side in a show. Alicent Hightower is one of George R.R Martin’s most complex characters till date. We’ve seen the passionate, conspiring, ambitious and ruthless Cersei Lannister who would have done anything for her children.
We’ve also seen the kind, loving and just Catelyn Stark who lived under the shadow of her righteous yet stubborn husband, even after his death. Alicent Hightower is a bit of both, but not in the right proportions.
We first met Alicent as friend and childhood companion to Princess Rhaenyra and witnessed her rise (and fall) as she constantly pitted herself against her dear friend, simply because her father expected her to do so.
Alicent was used as a pawn by her father, Otto Hightower to fulfill his ambition. Otto designed the perfect plan to bring his daughter closer to the King when he was most vulnerable, and it worked. We saw Alicent having no ambition during the beginning and blindly following what her father intended her to do.
However, it does seem like subconsciously she knew that she was being used. It is here that you spot a bit of Cersei in her, who too was married off to Robert for political reasons. However, the difference is that Cersei had the confidence to speak about it, but Alicent never did, until it was too late.
1. Alicent’s Relationship With Rhaenyra
It is easy to sympathize with Alicent, if you think about it. Alicent never had the chance to lead her life the way she wanted. She was stuck in a loveless marriage and was treated as a tool to ‘prepare’ her incapable son to rule the seven kingdoms. The burden seems like few words here, but it isn’t.
However, her only flaw is that her anger and discontent was directed towards Rhaenyra, although whatever she went through was solely because of her father. Throughout the series, we see young Rhaenyra leading her life the way she wanted to.
She had premarital sex, which her father quickly overlooked. Had it been any other woman in the family, would it be so easily overlooked? She was able to freely make her own decisions. More importantly, Rhaenyra had the confidence to do so and stand by her deeds.
Alicent never had the opportunity to experience such privilege, which is probably what pitted her against her childhood best friend. She grew up watching Rhaenyra lead the life she had always wanted for herself, while she was stuck in a loveless marriage. In fact, she was compelled to produce more heirs for the King.
2. Alicent’s Ambition Was Never Her Own
She knew her children could not get the throne unless it was by treacherous means. The irony of Alicent Hightower lies precisely here. She has been chasing an ambition that was never hers and fighting for a cause that was not meant to benefit her in anyway.
If all of this was not enough, Alicent constantly had to deal with her sick husband being a terrible father to her children and biased in favor of Rhaenyra. It is not that difficult to understand why she behaves how she behaves, especially when Rhaenyra’s children get no punishment for taking away her son’s eye.
It is hard to see your husband, who should technically also be your support system, treating your children like they do not matter, while Rhaenyra gets a free pass for everything. Yet, the irony is that she could never develop an ambition of her own.
It took an almost dead Viserys to utter the name of Aegon and Alicent to misunderstand the meaning of his words for her to actually do something to crown her son King. It is as though the writers of the show were afraid to give her ambition.
Moreover, Alicent clearly heard what she wanted to hear because she was too afraid to accept that she herself wanted her son to be King. She convinced herself and remained in delusion about Viserys’ last words, when anyone who knew Viserys would know he would never say something like this.
Imagine if Alicent had even a little bit of the ambition that Cersei had. It took courage for Cersei to place her cruel, inhuman son on the Iron Throne, despite of people brewing up a rebellion.
In case of Alicent, it was all in her mind. Rhaenyra did nothing which could hint that she had any plans of murdering her children. Yet, Alicent kept trying to tell Aegon how he is the ‘living, breathing’ threat to Rhaenyra. In a way, she was responsible for the growing rivalry between her and Rhaenyra’s children.
Alicent could at least try to not be a part of her father’s schemes when she grew up and knew better. As a child, she had no choice. But as an adult, she had. She could not have let her father return as Hand. She did not need his help to protect her children as they weren’t in danger in the first place.
Another irony is that Alicent was heartbroken when she realized Rhaenyra had lied to her about having sex before marriage. She decided to declare war on her for this reason. It is true that Alicent was only trying to help Rhaenyra and informed her about it beforehand.
However, she herself kept her meetings with Viserys a secret from Rhaenyra as a child. Perhaps, she was trying to support her father. She may have not understood that she was being used as a pawn. But in this case, she should have understood why Rhaenyra kept her secret from her as well.
3. In Support of Alicent Hightower
The sub-heading confused you, didn’t it? I am one of those few people who still decides to choose Team Green, not because of the incapable Aegon II, but because Alicent Hightower deserved better.
While it is true that it is her own father who has always been responsible for Alicent’s tragic life, it is not unheard of to ask for a better life for your children. As I mentioned above, Viserys was clearly partial towards Rhaenyra.
Alicent led her life watching Rhaenyra get a free pass for everything. Moreover, no matter how we say it, it is true that her children are bastards. Though they are still Targaryens and do have a claim to the Throne, it is not cool to punish people for speaking the truth.
I know what you’re thinking – Ned Stark gave his head because he dared to call Joffrey a bastard. And yet, Ned was never considered the evil one. In this case, Viserys openly declares that he will have the tongue of anyone who dares to call Rhaenyra’s children bastards. I bet 100 bucks he would not have done this had it been the case with his own children from Alicent.
You could argue that no one bats an eyelid when men father a number of bastard children. We’ve seen Robert Baratheon do the same, and Aegon II himself has been following the same path in HOTD. However, the difference is that none of these bastards were considered heir to the throne, nor did they inherit anything from their fathers.
In this case, it is not exactly wrong that Alicent wishes to point this out, especially since no other woman would have been forgiven for doing what Rhaenyra did. I am not saying Rhaenyra should be punished for things like premarital sex or a consensual open relationship. But we must also understand that this is a privilege only she holds and it’s natural for other women to consider this unfair.
So, it is not strange that Alicent wanted to support her children. It is true that her son was absolutely incapable of ruling, and Aegon himself had no desire to rule. But that’s how it works – you’ve to pay to fulfill the ambition of your family members.
Lastly, if these sagas of power politics have taught us something, it is that hierarchy is outdated and that it never works. The Iron Throne, or any other throne for that matter, should not go to someone “next in line”. Neither should the King alone decide who should be named heir.
I just feel it is very dated to mark someone as ‘evil’ simply because they consider themselves fit to rule. For instance, if Alicent ever felt her children should be given a chance at it, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is another case that Aegon II himself does not desire to rule, but we’ll save that for another article.
What I mean is, wanting to be King or wanting power is not wrong, as long as you don’t do horrible things to get there. So, Alicent cannot be marked evil simply because she wanted her sons to be King, after her own life was reduced to such a tragedy.
4. The Tragedy of Alicent Hightower
Though Alicent stands on a side that will be historically considered the ‘wrong’ side, it seems like she still has some goodness left in her. Though her father, Otto, insists on having Rhaenyra and Daemon killed, she remains strictly against the idea.
In fact, she even tells Aegon to not consider the proposal. If you ask me, the Alicent Hightower of episode 9 is my absolute favorite. For the first time, Alicent confronts her father for using her as a puppet in his schemes.
She also informs him that things will go according to her wishes now, and that she would not want Rhaenyra killed. In fact, she has her father’s spy network destroyed because it was due to them that her father could get hold of Aegon before her.
The tragedy of Alicent Hightower is the fact that though she did not want any of this to happen, she will become complacent in the death of many. In an earlier episode, she ended up being indirectly responsible for the murder of the Strongs because she spoke of her discontent to Larys Strong.
Perhaps, Alicent needs to stop leading her life for her father, husband and son and start leading her life for herself. What she is doing and will be doing will lead her nowhere but only cost her loss of mental peace and happiness.
5. About House Of The Dragon
House of the Dragon is the prequel series to HBO’s blockbuster Game of Thrones based on George R. R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood.
Set three hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will show Westeros under the Targaryen family’s rule before the dragons went extinct. It will follow the Dance of the Dragons, the Targaryen civil war between siblings Aegon II and Rhaenyra, who fought for the throne after the death of their father, Viserys I.
Directed by Ryan Condall and Miguel Sapochnik, the show stars Paddy Considine as Viserys I Targaryen, Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen, Tom Glynn-Craney as Aegon II Targaryen, Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, Steve Toussaint as Corlys Velaryon, Eve Best as Rhaenys Velaryon, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole, and Graham McTavish.