Emily Carey and Milly Alcock in <i>House of the Dragon</i> Credit – Ollie Upton—HBO
Warning: This post contains spoilers for House of the Dragon.
It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the Season 1 finale of House of the Dragon, but Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey, then Olivia Cooke) gifts Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock, then Emma D’Arcy) a page from a book that the two erstwhile friends discussed way back in Episode 1 of the show.
Alicent’s father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) travels to Dragonstone to offer Rhaenyra terms of peace. If Rhaenyra bends the knee to Alicent’s son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), Aegon will let Rhaenyra keep Dragonstone. Otto also hands Rhaenyra an envelope. Rhaenyra opens it and pulls out a folded-up page torn from a book.
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If that page looks familiar, it’s because Alicent read it to Rhaenyra at the beginning of the season while the two sat under a tree in King’s Landing. The passage in the history book pertained to Princess Nymeria—who, yes, is the namesake of Arya’s direwolf in Game of Thrones and is an all-around pretty badass lady.
Rhaenyra appears to be paying little attention to the lesson, but when Alicent grows fed up and walks away, Rhaenyra begins rattling off facts about Princess Nymeria. Princess Nymeria of Rhoyne led 10,000 ships across the Narrow Sea to escape Valyrian enemies. She married Mors Martell of Dorne and burned her fleet to prove to her people that they would no longer be on the run.
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Rhaenyra tears the page out of the book and hands it to Alicent “so she’ll remember it.” On its face, Alicent’s decision to send that page back to Rhaenyra signals that she does remember a time when the two were friends.
But if only Alicent had read up more on Nymeria, she might understand the irony of her own actions. Though Rhaenyra does not say so in that scene under the tree, Nymeria’s house, after years of conquest, took over Dorne, and Nymeria ruled as Princess of Dorne for more two decades. She survived over a dozen assassination attempts, quelled two different rebellions, and drove back a couple of invasions. She abolished gender-based succession in Dorne, and her eldest daughter succeeded her.
It’s a little rich for Alicent to send Rhaenyra a history of a ruler who abolished gender-based succession—after leading a coup to place her son on the throne based on the premise that his elder sister should not inherit the crown. (It was equally eye roll inducing when Alicent told the Queen Who Never Was, Rhaenys, last week that she was better suited to rule than Viserys while simultaneously lobbying Rhaenys to support her drunken son Aegon II’s clain to the Iron Throne.)
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As Rhaenys observers, Alicent seems incapable of imagining herself throwing off the shackles of the patriarchy and would prefer to simply create a window in her prison. If only she read more of that history book about Nymeria for inspiration.
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