This article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 5.
Very few things can stop a droning king midway through his prepared remarks, but as it turns out, the boldness of Queen Alicent (Emily Carey) is one of them. Arriving late and announced to a royal feast in honor of the Princess of Dragonstone and her impending marriage, Alicent pointedly enters the Red Keep’s throne room while her rapidly aging husband, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), struggles to stand up and give his first of likely many planned toasts honoring his daughter.
Viserys promptly forgot about all that as he sees his young wife draped in a rich emerald green gown, cutting a figure as bold as the legend surrounding Anne Boleyn, the lady and eventual queen who allegedly inspired the song “Greensleeves.” It’s also worth pointing out that Anne Boleyn was the direct inspiration for Margaery Tyrell in “A Song of Ice and Fire” and Game of Thrones. This power move of stealing the princess’ attention also feels exactly like something Margaery would’ve done to one of her political enemies—but never her friends. And Alicent and Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) are friends, right?
Alas, probably not anymore. The green dress is a message and declaration of intent toward the queen-to-be. It is also the first public rip in the Targaryen family’s tapestry. Pretty soon, it’s probably going to be tearing at the seams.
What the Green Dress Represents
The television series’ writers are pretty explicit as to what the color green means, at least to the more learned courtiers in House of the Dragon. The ever growing in importance sons of the new Hand of the King, Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), even spell it out for the viewer.
“The beacon of Oldtown, do you know what color it glows when it calls its banners to war?” smirks Larys Strong (Matthew Needham) to his older brother Ser Harwin (Ryan Corr).
“Green,” is Harwin’s guess and the obviously correct answer.
The actual beginnings of House Hightower are so ancient that no one can quite remember if they’re descended from the blood of the First Men or not. Either way, House Hightower’s wealth and power dates back to the Age of Heroes when the port city of Oldtown flourished around the family’s eye for trade and commerce. In those temperate climates, the future Hightowers built four beacons of wood before supposedly commissioning Bran the Builder to construct a fifth and final beacon made of stone. If the name Bran the Builder sounds familiar, it’s because that was the descriptor applied to the Stark King of Winterfell who also built the Wall (allegedly with the use of magic).
However Oldtown’s beacon was constructed, this enormous lighthouse (modeled after the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the lost ancient wonders of our world) has stood for thousands of years and became the sigil and namesake of House Hightower. But it’s worth pointing out that in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, on which House of the Dragon is based, there are no passages about “green” being a color signifying war in Oldtown.
In other words, this is an addition to Game of Thrones lore, but a prudent one since it gives added meaning to the moment Queen Alicent declares that she and Princess Rhaenyra are no longer friends. Surely, a young woman as visibly well read as Rhaenyra would’ve studied at length the family histories of her childhood best friend, and knows the significance of the color green. And the look of dawning dismay on Rhaenyra’s face when Alicent addresses her not as friend, or even daughter, but as stepdaughter, suggests the rift has formed for all to see.
Why Did Alicent Go Green and What Does that Mean for the Future?
Since House of the Dragon began, many have been speculating “who is the new Tywin” or “who is the new Varys.” Some even, a bit inaccurately, dubbed Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) as the new Littlefinger. Ser Otto, however, already had reached the highest station he could ever hope to attain as a second son of a great house when he became Hand of the King. He was self-serving and conniving, but he’d already climbed his own personal ladder and wishes the ascent of grandson Aegon, Second of His Name, to be smooth and unchallenged.
Conversely, young Larys Strong revealed himself in his second episode to love the messiness of spilled tea. By revealing to Alicent that Rhaenyra drank Moon Tea (Westeros’ version of Plan B), he not so subtly placed a wedge between a queen and princess whose fortunes will inevitably be placed at odds against each other in a patriarchal society, but he planted the seed for chaos, ladders, and all that kind of fun.
For Alicent this is more personal though; Rhaenyra was her best friend and perhaps something more. Hence why the jealousy on her face in the fourth episode when she hears that Rhaenyra might have slept with Uncle Daemon is hard to read. Is she upset that her BFF is enjoying her sexual freedom while Alicent is shackled as the glorified baby maker to an old, decaying king? Or is she upset her BFF is enjoying sexual freedom with anyone other than her? It might be a mixture of the two, because Rhaenyra didn’t technically lie to Alicent when she swore that Daemon “never touched me”—at least as far as Alicent can prove.
But getting confirmation from Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) that Rhaenyra enjoyed sexual abandon with her sworn protector while Alicent reluctantly did her duty (as defined by men like her father and husband, who are both of the same age) disgusts Alicent. Although, we suspect it offends her more that she considers Rhaenyra’s protestations a lie of omission about Criston. And unlike the “queer customs” of the Targaryens that Alicent doth protest too much about, her disdain for Rhaenyra unsheathing Criston’s sword has less to do with spoiled virtue and more to do with living a life the queen consort can never enjoy.
She believes Rhaenyra is allowed to do whatever she wants without consequence. Alicent, meanwhile, stood by Rhaenyra as a friend. As a result, she forfeited her father’s company and (questionable) guidance, since Otto was effectively banished from court. She chose to love Rhaenyra unconditionally, it felt she paid a price, and the princess again does what she wants—and never with Alicent.
So it seems the queen is finally choosing to become her father’s daughter, and that she will increasingly attempt to high-road Rhaenyra. Last week she sneered at the strangeness of Targaryens, and this week she talks down to her as stepdaughter in public. For all the court to see.
Green will thus become a symbol of her political rejection of Rhaenyra’s authority and rights as heir. In fact, without really spoiling anything, green will become a significant color of choice for those who consider themselves supportive of Queen Alicent and her own offspring by the king, young Prince Aegon.
Alas though, this will be the last time we see Carey and Alcock in the roles of the rapidly estranging royals. It is bittersweet to know that since the two have been so good in their roles, with Alcock in particular becoming a standout as the princess who actually has been silently fighting for years against the misogynistic assumptions made about her ability to lead. She and Carey got to play two young women who could sympathize with those indignities.
Going forward, we imagine the sympathies of Olivia Cooke’s Alicent will have faded away. Looks of love and longing will soon be replaced by stolen glances of envy—and green.