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'House Of The Dragon': Why Rhaenys Chose Not To Kill The Greens

by Kristy Anderson 2 months ago in pop culture / tv
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A curse avoided.

Credit: HBO.

WARNING! SPOILERS for House of the Dragon 1x09, 'The Green Council'.

War is coming. In the penultimate episode of House of the Dragon's first season, we learn that King Viserys has finally succumbed to the flesh-eating disease he has been battling for most of the series, and tragically, a misunderstanding of Viserys's final words has left his wife, Alicent, believing he wants their son Aegon to succede him, rather than his oldest daughter, and Alicent's childhood friend, Princess Rhaenyra. This is music to the ears of Alicent's Father Otto, who had been secretly planning to crown Aegon anyway, regardless of the late King's wishes.

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, who had not yet left King's Landing following her visit to attend the meeting establishing the heir to Driftmark, is imprisoned in her quarters in the hope that she can be convinced to bend the knee to Aegon. However, unable to deal with the treachery of Otto and the council, and fearing what kind of King Aegon will become, Ser Erryk Cargyll helps Rhaenys escape. In the episode's dramatic final moments, Rhaenys, the Queen who never was, crashes Aegon's coronation on the back of her dragon, Meleys. However, despite having the entire Green party at her mercy, Rhaenys chooses not to fry them all alive, instead simply escaping on dragonback.

But why not?

Many fans were disappointed with Rhaenys's failure to burn the Greens, arguing that if she had, the coming Targaryen Civil War would have ended before it began. Countless lives would have been spared, and the age of dragons would have continued. The sequence of events that led to the great beasts' extinction would never have come to pass.

So, why didn't she? The obvious answer is that the show would be over, with a surprisingly uncomplicated ending considering the universe that it exists in. However, there are a few in-story explanations behind Rhaenys's decision.

The War isn't hers to start.

Anyone who has read the accounts of this period of Targaryen history in Fire and Blood, or watched House of the Dragon to this point, will know that a war between the Black and Green factions is inevitable, now that the Greens have crowned Aegon as King. However, the crowning itself is not itself an act of war. The War itself will only truly begin when Rhaenyra chooses, as we know she will, not to bend the knee to her half brother, and instead fight for her own claim to the Iron Throne.

Had Rhaenys killed Alicent, Aegon, and the rest of the Greens, she would have been firing the first shot of a war that isn't hers to start. Even if Rhaenyra might have been grateful to not have to make the choice to kill her half-siblings herself, she probably would not be able to let Rhaenys off the hook without any sort of penance, in the interest of not aggravating those displeased with the deaths, or looking as if she is condoning the actions of a Kin-slayer. Which brings us to our next major point.

The Curse of Kin-Slaying

As much as she may disagree with Aegon being crowned, or even dislike the Greens as a whole, Aegon, Helaena, and Aemond are the children of Rhaenys's cousin, the late King Viserys. While Rhaenys is depicted in the series as having a fondness for her cousin, it was likely not simple sentiment that kept her from roasting his children alive. In Westerosi culture, Kin-slaying, the killing of one's own blood, comes with a terrible stigma attached. The killer is often believed to be cursed by the act, even if it occurs in wartime.

This 'curse' was seen on more than once in Game of Thrones. Many Northerners attribute the tragic fate of Robb Stark to his decision to execute Lord Rickard Karstark, as House Karstark are blood related to the Starks. Lord Karstark's execution prompts the Karstark forces to abandon Robb's cause, forcing him back into negotiation with Walder Frey, which ultimately leads to the Red Wedding.

It's very possible that Rhaenys was not willing to curse herself by slaughtering a significant portion of her own family in the name of a War that had not yet even officially begun.

She wouldn't have actually prevented a war

Despite what some fans may think, Rhaenyra killing the Greens would not have actually prevented a war from breaking out. The deaths of Otto, Alicent, and Alicent's children would have angered the rest of House Hightower of Oldtown. Notably, Otto's nephew, Lord Ormund Hightower, is fostering Alicent and Viserys's fourth child, Prince Daeron, at this point in time. Daeron does not appear in House of the Dragon season one due to time constraints, but author George R.R Martin has confirmed that the character does still exist.

In the event of Aegon and Aemond's deaths, the surviving Hightowers, and anyone else eager to displace Rhaenyra in favour of a male ruler would have simply flocked to support Daeron instead. Rhaenys might have shrunk the scale of the war if she'd killed the Greens, as less Dragon Riders would have been alive to take part in the early stages, she would not have prevented it entirely.

It seems the Dance of the Dragons is simply destined to occur, and soon we will see it begin.

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Kristy Anderson

Passionate About all things Entertainment!

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