House Of The Dragon: The Green Dress And Alicent's Motivations Explained

Well, folks, I hope we've learned something from the most recent episode of "House of the Dragon." First of all, never go horseback riding alone ... not when you live in Westeros and especially when you happen to be married to the always unpredictable Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). Second of all, let it be known that there is such a thing as being too honest — which, again, goes double when you're a lovestruck knight of the Kingsguard in the middle of a brewing rivalry between two would-be queens. And last but not least, when you're keen on making a grand statement that hits hard politically as much as it does personally, then find yourself a great dressmaker that would put any number of red carpet stylists to shame.

Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) announced herself as a main contender in the game of thrones with a flourish by doing exactly that, using an otherwise unassuming green dress to pay off an entire hour of steadily mounting pressure, the discovery of betrayal, and perhaps even the pursuit of her own ambitions, as well.

Much like the best seasons of "Game of Thrones" before it, "House of the Dragon" has largely succeeded so far on the strength of its richly mapped-out main characters, all of whom come with fascinating flaws and innermost insecurities that still remain fully relatable. The only difference between us and them, of course, is that the ramifications of their shortcomings and grasps for power are truly dynasty-shaking to the extreme. By the end of the episode, the entire balance of power in the series has changed.

What led Alicent to this moment? How will this play out in the remaining season? And what exactly is the significance behind that striking green dress? Let's dig into it.

The 'Greens' and 'Blacks' explained

No story set in the world of "Game of Thrones" would feel complete without a struggle for the Iron Throne and all the bitter rivalries that come with such ambitions. "House of the Dragon," based on author George R.R. Martin's book "Fire & Blood," makes up for its lack of familiar characters with all the political infighting, power grabs, and courtly drama that viewers could ever need this side of "Succession."

Alicent's perfectly calculated choice to interrupt her royal husband Viserys' (Paddy Considine's) wedding speech with her unforgettable entrance gave viewers their introduction to the two factions that could very well tear the Targaryen family apart. (Hey, everyone could theoretically make up, set their differences aside, and learn to live happily ever after .... right?) Although the exact details in the book differ, Alicent's memorable fashion statement became known for kicking off the informal "Green" party made up of loyalists to the Queen and the succession represented by the birth of her and Viserys' firstborn son, Aegon. On the opposite end of the spectrum, "House of the Dragon" will likely emphasize the "Blacks" in upcoming episodes, named for the black and red color scheme of House Targaryen that represents Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and her claim to the Throne.

Thanks to the careful set up in the first four episodes, the divisions that will ultimately lead to battle lines in the sand have been drawn, the question of succession has been drilled into the heads of even the most casual viewers, and now all this tinderbox needs is a spark — likely in the form of King Viserys' failing health, as a spurned Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) ominously warns his daughter Alicent — to set it all on fire and burn the House to the ground.

How did we get here?

As much as it benefits an ensemble like "House of the Dragon" to dedicate itself to wonderfully complex characters with equally complicated motivations, perhaps the greatest aspect of the series is in how it challenges its viewers and forces them to keep up with the winding events of the story. Indeed, some may have found it somewhat difficult to chart the exact progression that Alicent undertakes from an uncertain and reluctant figurehead to a Queen who makes her boldest and shrewdest move yet — all while finally embracing the opportunity at her fingertips and truly owning the power that she wields. 

To many, the young Queen's ascension may feel as sudden and inexplicable as it does to Alicent herself.

As we saw in earlier episodes, Alicent and Rhaenyra grew up in court nigh inseparable and without even the slightest inclination to have a say in the rulership of the Seven Kingdoms ... until the years began to pass, Otto Hightower artfully maneuvered young Alicent into the King's path, and Rhaenyra began to wake up to the realities (and responsibilities) of her position as the King's heir. Despite the King's proclamation establishing the princess as next in line to the Iron Throne, the most practical members of court (such as Eve Best's Princess Rhaenys, who has firsthand experience with having her right to rule rejected by the kingdom at large) know that Rhaenyra's claim is tenuous, at best. Enter Alicent and the son she bears the King, which presents a whole new series of complications over who ought to rule next.

But even debates over succession only mean so much without a personal angle, which is where last week's incestuous little jaunt through the brothels of King's Landing comes in.

A frayed friendship ... or something more?

To bring it back to the green dress of it all, this episode (titled "We Light the Way") provides a handy explanation for Alicent's choice in garment, relating to the fiery green beacon that House Hightower has traditionally used to call their banners and signal the onset of war. The thematic underpinnings, however, extend far beyond mere color scheme and remain tightly interconnected with the various motivations that have led her to this tumultuous moment in the history of Targaryen rule.

Perhaps most impressively, actor Emily Carey does much of the heavy-lifting in Alicent's storyline with barely a word of dialogue.

In classic "Game of Thrones" style, this episode of "House of the Dragon" stages a series of largely one-sided conversations that forces the Queen to contend with her role amid much larger Targaryen drama. First comes the dismissal of her father and the Hand of the King, Otto, whose loss as her only major ally in court brings a whole set of problems ... one that the subtle prominence of manipulative Larys Strong (Matthew Needham, doing his own twist on Aiden Gillan as Littlefinger in the original series) only further complicates. Forced to make her own decisions for once, Alicent's summons of Kingsguard knight Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) prove fateful. Cracking under her (rather oblivious) interrogation, he spills the beans of his affair with Rhaenyra and sows even more seeds of dissent between the two former friends. 

All this combines to push Alicent from a young girl carried by the whims of others into a woman taking charge of her own destiny, leading smoothly to next week's recasting of both Alicent and Rhaenyra with Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy, respectively.

New episodes of "House of the Dragon" air Sunday nights on HBO.