House Of The Dragon Just Made Alicent Hightower Its Most Conflicted Character

If there's one thing Alicent Hightower certainly is, it is conflicted. To like Rhaenyra or not to like. To hate Rhaenyra or not to hate. In "House of the Dragon," HBO's breathtaking adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "Fire and Blood," Alicent is the show's most conflicted character. And that's saying something, because there are many.

While "House of the Dragon" is relatively faithful to its source material, it takes the initiative to inject secrets, altercations, and personal struggles between characters that causes the souring of their relationship, making these one-dimensional historical figures seem more human. Their emotions drive them — whether it's ambition or power they seek — there's more to the conflict between them than just pure politics.

Alicent Hightower and Rhaenyra Targaryen are what one would call childhood besties, their relationship has seemingly queer undertones, and they're driven apart by their personal struggles. And with every new episode, Alicent confuses audiences rather than getting them to understand her; we're in the dark about her motivations, so all we see is her maddening change of heart. Her involvement in the usurpation of Rhaenyra's throne, while relying on her dying husband's incoherent last words, is insidious, and "The Green Council" has taken a step forward in illustrating just how complicated she is.

Alicent is unintentionally strategic

While Alicent Hightower does mirror Cersei Lannister in many ways, it's hard to disagree that she's a woman in an unsettling position. Alicent hasn't been a good person for a long time — she obeys her power-hungry father, manipulates her aging husband, spoils her sons, and leverages her relationships with those around her to have power and security for herself. In the process, she loses the one relationship in her life that actually matters: Rhaenyra's friendship.

It is evident that Alicent does not relish living under male dominance, but she accepts it as her fate regardless. She only talks about duty, sacrifice, and faith to use them to her advantage. Alicent genuinely believes she's acting on the words of her dying husband, knowing it is fully wrong for her narcissistic, rapist son to rule as king. And yet, when she finds the men around her were plotting to achieve the same goal, but with dishonorable intentions, it angers her. She doesn't want Rhaenyra dead — she wants Rhaenyra to make peace with her son stealing her birthright. 

Alicent does carry power, and as seen from her conversation with Rhaenys, she is self-aware and intelligent. The men in her life have caused her more harm than good — but dare she question their actions. So, she directs her frustration and rage toward the woman whose life she wishes she could have — who stands up for herself in a way she never could. Rhaenyra had a loving father who believed in her until the end, not to mention she had good men in her life (even if one of them is her uncle), something that Alicent never did. She is flabbergasted at how Rhaenyra's life has turned out. The yearning has turned into hatred.

She is complicit in the crimes of The Small Council

"House of the Dragon" makes a solid effort to portray Alicent as a grey character — a victim who has been manipulated and tossed and used for the ambition of others. She had a loveless marriage, was forced to push out heirs one after the other. She never found happiness after losing her friendship with Rhaenyra. No one can deny that she's had a tough life. 

But in the penultimate episode of the series, Alicent calls out her father, Otto Hightower, for using her in his game, which pronounces her understanding of being treated as a pawn. This is where it is established that Alicent knows she has been manipulated, but there's also nothing she's going to do to change that — she has come too far in this game. She has been complicit in the murder of others, but she chooses to discourage that of Rhaenyra, even though it would be beneficial to her. There's no singular way to understand this other than surrendering to the belief that Alicent has her own moral compass. She views male power as an accurate illustration of authority, so she chooses to resign to her fate. She believes she can only secure a place of power by leading these men. It's a very "savior complex" situation that Alicent uses to make herself feel better about her life. "If you can't beat them, join them" appears to be her mantra.

This is where the possibility of a potential redemption becomes impossible, though. 

Alicent has made peace with patriarchy

Alicent's involvement in the usurpation of Rhaenyra by letting the men around her make the decisions is unfair. Patriarchy is definitely to blame here — it is what drives Westeros — but Alicent is also at fault for condoning it. Alicent pushed her baseless feud with Rhaenyra onto her children, planting hatred in their hearts for her and cultivating stories of their desired deaths for years. She was complicit in the princess's expropriation for much longer than she gets recognition for. It is true that Alicent has been stripped of her agency by those around her, but she's very much an active part in the taking down of Rhaenyra.

Alicent wants to be influential. She has deceived herself into thinking she's not at fault like the others. It's almost like she's in denial — she has been gliding through the flames of war for years, but she's surprised when it comes to facing the consequences. Alicent didn't personally ask for Rhaenyra's murder — but it is the only thing that will solidify her son on the throne. She knows that. It's the bloody process that she hates, not the end result.