Queen's Gambit

House of the Dragon Episode 9 reveals Alicent Hightower's greatest flaw

A queen is only as good as her scheme.

House of the Dragon isn’t a story about good people, but interesting people. There’s no point in defending any of their actions. You just need to pick which downright terrible person you want to root for the most, much like its fellow HBO series, Succession.

Judging by this skewed rubric, the most dastardly characters become the most powerful, and those who let morals get in the way are fighting an uphill battle. That’s why it’s surprising Alicent Hightower, the key to the Green Council’s coup, blundered in the penultimate episode of House of the Dragon.

King Viserys became delusional in the last moments of his life, speaking to his dead wife Aemma and talking about the prophecy that’s carried its way through not only the entire season, but centuries of history in Westeros. Eventually, it claims, an Aegon Targaryen will unite the Seven Kingdoms against an unknown evil.

Alicent stands over her late husband’s body. HBO

Viewers know exactly who “The Prince that was Promised” is: Aegon Targaryen, better known as Jon Snow, who defeated the Night King and the White Walkers in the last season of Game of Thrones. But the dramatic irony is lost on Alicent, who thinks Viserys is referring to their own son, Aegon.

Viewers are led to think this has given Alicent the perfect excuse to quickly and cleanly replace the existing heir, Rhaenyra, with Aegon. However, when she brings this revelation to the council, she realizes they’ve been planning to install Aegon without her input for a while. This jarring announcement makes her falter.

Alicent at the council. HBO

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a sense of guilt or shame in Alicent. When faced with the maid that Aegon assaulted, she comforted her and told her she did nothing wrong. Now she’s realizing her son can’t be trusted to rule a stable, let alone the realm, and that her council has been making decisions without her. She’s surrounded by people she can’t trust. It’s never a good sign when Larys, the sinister spymaster who exchanges information for looks at your feet, is your closest confidant.

As we near the final episode of Season 1, will we see Alicent reach her breaking point? Will she succumb to the emotional weight of what she’s doing for her family, or will she shed that humanity like a bad habit when the going gets tough? We won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

House of the Dragon Episode 9 is now streaming on HBO Max.