Warning: The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon’s fifth episode, “We Light the Way.” Don’t forget to check out our review, too!
Hooooo boy, there’s nothing like a Westeros wedding. The pageantry. The delicacies. The blood-curdling screams. Too bad there’s not a Seven Kingdoms version of Vegas, right? For those who just want to get the ceremony over and done with.
Well, that is kind of what happened at the end of “We Light the Way,” in a manner of speaking, as Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Laenor Velaryon got unfashionably hitched through teary faces, in the wake of the shocking murder of Laenor’s paramore, a full week before they were supposed to. And in the midst of this chaos, this celebratory day turned upside-down by bloodshed, was also the first shot fired in the upcoming Targaryen civil war, The Dance of the Dragons.
Queen Alicent made a huge move and took a side this week, choosing her son Aegon as successor and taking steps to fortify herself and family against Rhaenyra (and any offspring that should come from this new Targaryen/Velaryon union). Of course, this wasn’t a formal announcement or anything, just a rather showy display of passive aggressiveness and some pointed ignoring of Rhaenrya at her own wedding party. An icing out the Princess definitely noticed.
The Green Dress
With King Viserys in crumbling health thanks to getting slowly pricked to death by the Iron Throne (we see you, mighty metaphor) hard choices had to be made. Alicent’s been quite inert up until this point but now that her father’s been cast out of King’s Landing she’s the only one left to save her children. “We Light the Way” was also the first time Otto Hightower’s Littlefinger-esque scheming seemed purposeful and protective. He was a monster for putting his own daughter in Viserys’ grieving path (which he did before Rhaenyra was named successor) but now, years later, his logic about Aegon is sound. When the king dies there will be a giant rift and Alicent’s kids might face death.
Alicent would have never thought this possible previously, but after discovering that Rhaenyra lied to her about her virtue, exploiting their friendship as a weakness, the queen had to start considering the worst case scenario. By extension, could Rhaenyra truly do the unthinkable and have her and Aegon put to death? Were they actually friends? With the words of her father in her mind and Larys Strong (son of new Hand, Lyonel Strong) now acting like her own personal Varys, Alicent found herself confident and resolute for the first time. She was the queen and she would have it be known.
Arriving at the introductory wedding week shindig late, and interrupting Viserys’ speech, was a message in its own right, but donning the green dress was apparently a sign of war. Through side chatter we learned that the Hightower beacon flames, in their House Sigil, are green and that that color signifies a call to arms and allyship.
So for those looking for where the Dance of the Dragons started, the single moment when battle lines were drawn (even if it was just one-sided), it’s here in “We Light the Way” (which is the Hightower House Motto).
Saving Ser Criston
Every Dragon in Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon
Queen Alicent’s unconventional party entrance was noticed by all in attendance though only a few got the message signaling the rift between her and Rhaenyra’s future children. Her intentions are, for the most part, still secret. Which also means it’s the best time for Alicent to fill her ranks with loyalists. Her uncle, Lord Hobert Hightower, pledged himself and the armies of Oldtown to her, and Larys Strong seems like he’ll be good for King’s Landing intel. But the queen needed one more, an ace up her sleeve to help her sleep at night. And so she found a despondant Ser Criston Cole and, from the looks of it, saved his life.
What role will Ser Criston play in the future? It’s unknown at this time but it seems Alicent is looking for someone else who felt hurt by Rhaenyra. Someone who could relate to her feelings of betrayal. She sees Ser Criston as another victim in Rhaenyra’s wake and so right as he’s at rock bottom, about to take his own life in front of the Godswood (following his brutal public murder of Ser Joffrey Lonmouth), she stops him. It will now be up to Alicent to convince Ser Criston that his honor can be redeemed. That he still has purpose, and much to give to the realm.
There are ways to spoil yourself about Cole’s fate, if you choose, since the history of this entire saga, as GRRM laid it out, is totally searchable. But for now let’s just assume that Alicent uses her power as queen to spare Cole’s life. Will she make him her own guard? Could he ever be put back in charge of protecting Rhaenyra (as a huge slight)? For now, all we know is that she’s lonely, he’s lost, and they both resent the princess. And with King Viserys knocking on heaven’s door Alicent needs to circle the wagons.
Begun, the Dance of the Dragons has.
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