House Of The Dragon Has Put Rhaenyra And Alicent In Impossible Positions

This post contains spoilers for season 1 of "House of the Dragon."

The "House of the Dragon" finale arrived with fire and blood on the brain; after 10 episodes of build-up and just barely avoiding the inevitability of a civil war, the dam finally broke and the uneasy peace of Westeros is officially no more. A new king has been crowned, completely ignoring the line of succession that King Viserys left behind and laughing off Rhaenyra Targaryen's (Emma D'Arcy) claim to the throne.

Usually, stealing a Targaryen's throne is a surefire way to dying a fiery death, but Rhaenyra's former friend — and key orchestrator of this coup — Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) has a plan. Unlike her father, who would much prefer to murder the princess and all her children, Alicent's plan does not involve dispatching the Kingsguard as assassins. No, Alicent instead offers terms of peace and a well-worn token of friendship. When Otto (Rhys Ifans) arrives to Dragonstone, he has nothing but a peaceful proposition and a folded-up page torn from an old history book. And shockingly, it's almost enough.

One memory to stop a war

A couple dozen time jumps ago, Rhaenyra and Alicent were childhood friends and sweet summer children, clueless to the difficult paths that lay before them. They spent their days strolling through the Red Keep, arm-in-arm or studying their histories beneath a weirwood tree. There, Rhaenyra would lay with her head in Alicent's lap, fantasizing about eating cake and flying together on dragonback. One such occasion saw them revisit the story of the warrior Princess Nymeria, which Rhaenyra recited from memory before tearing the page from the book.

At the time, it was nothing more than a sweet throwaway moment, showing off Rhaeyra's rebellious streak and Alicent's shock whenever her friend misbehaved. But decades later, it's a bittersweet blast from the past, reminding us of the friendship these women once shared. As distant as it may feel, their friendship has never been entirely lost to time because the finale lets us know that through all their years of conflict, Alicent still cared enough to hold onto this random memento.

Oh, to be in the room when Alicent pulled this page out of her drawer and handed it to Otto saying, "Give this to Rhaenyra, it'll make her call off the war." Otto probably went through various stages of rage before finally making his peace with the Seven Gods, writing Alicent out of his will, and sailing off the Dragonstone with the expectation of being burned alive. I swear you can see the shock ripple across his face when Rhaenyra decides to genuinely consider the offer of peace; Otto is stunned that of all things, sentiment has quelled the fires of a dragon. And he's not alone.

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) takes on look at the crinkled piece of paper and mutters, "What the f*** is this?"

A token of friendship, or something more?

Daemon is right to be confused! It's absolutely insane that Rhaenyra is still clinging to the possibility of salvaging this relationship — it's been 20 years, Alicent tried to carve out her son's eye, and now she's stolen her throne! But friendship is complicated that way. While reflecting on their relationship for "The Official Game of Thrones Podcast," (via ScreenRant) showrunner and executive producer Miguel Sapochnik even hints that their relationship has inklings of romance:

"They are good friends with this potential romantic entanglement from earlier on that has always been a big thing, for me, that I thought was an essential component of why they are such close friends. It seems like it's a kind of unrequited love. It's not something that Alicent chose to encourage. Did they ever have a thing? Don't know. But there's something there, right? And Rhaenyra has this deep longing for her best friend."

Platonic or not, neither of these women can fully let the other go and for a shining few moments, their relationship is almost enough to stave off a war. 

"Queen Alicent has not forgotten the love you once had for each other," Otto says on the bridge. "No blood need be spilled, so the realm can carry on in peace."

At this point, Rhaenyra has already been working overtime to keep the peace while her advisors are obsessed with plunging the realm into war. While they discuss armies and flying into battle on dragonback, Rhaenyra makes plans for envoys and ravens. She wants to win, but not at the cost of dividing the kingdoms. With this message, Alicent shows that she at least shares the latter goal. Through Otto, she offers terms for peace and a promise that it comes from a place of love. While Rhaenyra doesn't want to give up her claim to the throne, this does give her some pause.

The bond stays strong ...

There's no denying that their relationship has become considerably complicated over the years. 

When Alicent married her father, Rhaenyra was shocked and betrayed. But years later, they began to reconnect.

Upon learning that her friend had pre-marital sex and lied, Alicent essentially declared war against Rhaenyra. Things got so bad that the Princess fled with her family to Dragonstone, feeling so uncomfortable at court that she could not remain. Somehow, it just kept getting worse from there: the conflict was violently passed down to their kids and eventually, the tension between them all drove Viserys so crazy that even on his last night, all he could do was beg everyone to get along. And on that night, despite years of resentment, the two women made genuine strides towards one another, offering heartfelt toasts and finally beginning to mend what was broken.

For the first time in years, they seemed on the verge of reconciliation. But that fell apart when Alicent's awful son Aemond offended everyone by inciting a royal fistfight — and even then, Alicent and Rhaenyra made plans for another visit.

The fact that they keep circling back to their relationship isn't a matter of being indecisive — it's a show of how strong their bond has always remained. Though they keep finding reasons to reignite their conflict, they never truly give up on mending the friendship. The fact that Alicent kept a random piece of paper even after forming the Rhaenyra Hate Squad speaks volumes. That crinkled page is well-worn, and I like to imagine that Alicent has spent the past 30 years pulling it out of a drawer, reminiscing about their friendship and staring at it wistfully, longing for the days that she and her friend were at peace. But try as they  might to reconcile, those simple days are in the past.

... but it's no match for a war

Though they make every effort to be cautious in the face of inevitable war, Rhaenyra and Alicent have surrounded themselves with people who thrive on conflict. Otto has been vocal since day one: he was never going to let Rhaenyra ascend and has no qualms about murdering her for Aegon's reign. The rest of the Greens contingent includes folks like Criston Cole and Larys Strong, murderers through and through. As for Rhaenyra, she's got hot-tempered Daemon at her side, who was ready to feed Alicent to his dragon the second he heard of Viserys' death.

Being the ones in charge allowed the women to establish a fragile peace. Despite their allies encouraging extreme action, Alicent went ahead with terms of peace while Rhaenyra spent the finale searching for a way to seize her throne without burning half the countryside. But before their peaceful plans could be enacted in full, the game completely changed.

For the children

Much like he did at the family dinner, Aemond Targaryen has ruined everything. Alicent's vengeful second son has not forgotten the childhood tragedy that cost him his eye, nor the child who held the knife. When Lucerys arrives at Storm's End, he's doomed the second he crosses paths with his petty uncle. To his credit, Aemond had no plans to kill the kid: terrify him? Sure. Lightly maim him? Maybe. But murder?

Aemond may not have planned to kill Lucerys, but when you play with dragons, calamity is inevitable. His rogue dragon chomps down on poor Luc and the expression on Aemond's face says it all: this changes everything. When word reaches Rhaenyra, it becomes clear in seconds that plans for peace are now in the past. Murdering her son is not something that the Greens can come back from, intentional or not.

It's almost poetic: what dooms their friendship and any remnants of peace is their children. The very thing they are so desperate to protect. When their fiery rivalry began in earnest, it was because of Aemond's lost eye and Alicent desired vengeance. Grabbing a knife and threatening a child may have been a momentary blip for her, but it was a crucial turning-point; it's all passive-aggressive snark until the children get involved. That's the breaking point.

Could this all have been prevented with more time, better communication, or putting Vhagar on a leash? Maybe. But it's too late now. With their children at risk, Alicent and Rhaenyra have no choice but to do what they worked so hard to avoid: they're going to war, the full-blown fire and blood, armies and dragons kind. They have to protect their own at any cost, even if their fragile friendship is the first casualty.