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House Of The Dragon: Changes To A Key Relationship From The Source Material Are Set To Make The Series Even More Heartbreaking

Friends to Enemies.

By Kristy AndersonPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Credit: HBO.

Just over three years after the conclusion of the original series, Game Of Thrones prequel House Of The Dragon has premiered it's first episode, 'The Heirs of the Dragon', to rave reviews, praising it as a brilliant set up for the series to come.

The series, based on stories contained George R.R Martin's novel Fire & Blood, chronicles the events leading up to the famed Targaryen civil War known as the Dance of Dragons. Since the full story the series hopes to tell already exists in this novel, many fans hope that House Of The Dragon will avoid some of the pitfalls that befell Game Of Thrones once the series reached the end of Martin's still unfinished 'A Song of Ice And Fire' novels. While the series writers had a rough outline for how the story was supposed to end, some subplots had to be cut, and storylines condensed or altered, leading to some fans disliking the show's ending, and others believing it was rushed.

However, despite already having a complete story ready to adapt, House Of The Dragon has already made one significant change compared to the source material, regarding the relationship of two characters who will eventually become the centre of the show's evolving coinflict: Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, officially named heir to the Iron Throne at the end of the show's first episode, and Lady Alicent Hightower, the woman who will eventually become her Stepmother.

Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in 'Fire & Blood'

In Fire & Blood, supposedly the first book in a multi-volume chronicle of the history of the Targaryen Dynasty, Rhaenyra Targaryen, the only living child of Viserys Targaryen and his first wife, Aemma Arryn, was six years old when her Father was chosen to inherit the Iron Throne after the death of his Grandfather, King Jaehaerys I. Two years later, Viserys named Rhaenyra as his cupbearer, and she was rarely seen away from his side. While young Rhaenyra was popular at Court, her Father and the realm at large hoped desperately for a male heir to be born, so that Viserys's unpredictable younger brother, the 'Rogue Prince' Daemon Targaryen, would be displaced as heir apparent.

The King's wishes seemed to come true with the birth of a son, Prince Paelon. Sadly, Queen Aemma died in childbirth, and baby Baelon followed just a day later. When Viserys received word that Prince Daemon was bragging about his chances to sit the throne improving with Baelon's death, he angrily stripped his brother of his position in the line of succession, and broke with tradition by naming Princess Rhaenyra as his official heir. Despite displacing him in the succession, Rhaenyra remained fond of her Uncle.

Martin's book portrays Alicent Hightower as about nine years older than Rhaenyra, so prior to the Princess's elevation to heir, the two would have had little interaction with one another except in passing as Ladies of the Court. Alicent is the daughter of Otto Hightower, Hand of The King to both Jaehaerys and later Viserys. Otto brought Alicent to King's Landing to act as a nurse/companion to King Jaehaerys in his final days, and the old King was believed to have grown quite fond of her. After Jaehaerys passed away, Otto allowed Alicent to stay on as a Lady of the Court, believing that it would be the best place to eventually find her a suitable Husband.

Sometime after the death of Queen Aemma, King Viserys was urged to take a new wife. Alicent caught his eye, and the two were married, although this went against the advice of his Council (aside from a delighted Otto), who had hoped to find the King a more strategic match.

At first, Alicent shared a cordial relationship with Rhaenyra, even embracing her as a daughter during her wedding to Viserys. However, this quickly changed when Alicent bore Viserys three sons, Aegon, Aemond, and Daeron, and was shocked when the King did not alter the line of succession in their favour, instead insisting upon Rhaenyra remaining as his heir. The decision also soured the relationship between Viserys and his Hand, as Otto Hightower had also expected the elevation of his grandsons.

The King's Court soon split into two factions, the Greens and the Blacks. While the Blacks supported Rhaenyra's claim, the Greens were in favour of Alicent's sons. After King Viserys's death, the conflict erupted into a full on civil war.

Rhaenyra and Alicent in 'House Of The Dragon'

From the outset, House of The Dragon portrays Rhaenyra and Alicent's relationship quite differently than the book on which it is based. While Milly Alcock and Emily Carey play the characters as teenagers in the early episodes, Emma Darcy and Olivia Cooke will portray Rhaenyra and Alicent as adults. The series has the two as being around the same age, and best friends, with the extra special closeness that is common in the friendships of teenage girls.

In the closing minutes of 'The Heirs of The Dragon', King Viserys declares Princess Rhaenyra as his heir. Earlier in the episode, we saw Otto Hightower send Alicent to provide comfort to Viserys after Queen Aemma's death. These visits will likely continue over the course of the series, eventually leading to their marriage, and the birth of Alicent's sons, which will drive a wedge between Alicent and Rhaenyra over the succession.

In what are certain to be heartbreakking scenes, we will see Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower's relationship deteriorate from best friends to bitter enemies as they focus on their own interests. Just like in the original series, the quest for the Iron Throne will cost relationships and lives.

We're in for a bumpy ride.

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Kristy Anderson

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    Kristy AndersonWritten by Kristy Anderson

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