Not for the first time, HBOpresented a baffling decision that needs further dissection. From to , the first season of the Game of Thrones prequel series is compelling to say the least. The last episode – – saw Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, aka The Queen Who Never Was, take her turn in the spotlight.
We discuss the huge final scene with the princess and why she chose not to burn a certain family to ashes.
Warning: spoilers in sight.
Why didn’t Rhaenys burn the Hightowers?
Despite being imprisoned by the Hightowers, Princess Rhaenys chooses to spare their lives for now. After escaping her room with the help of the deserted knight Erryk Cargyll, Rhaenys finds herself overwhelmed by the coronation ceremony of Prince Aegon. She sneaks off as Aegon receives the Conqueror’s crown, managing to descend under the floorboards and reunite with her red dragon Meleys. She and Meleys then burst through the floorboards, sending the ceremony into chaos.
Confronting the Hightower clan, including Queen Alicent, her father Otto and her son Aegon, Rhaenys has the opportunity to end the Hightower reign forever. All he has to do is say “Dracarys”, the High Valyrian word for “Dragonfire” and order Meleys to breathe fire. Instead, Meleys lets out a deafening cry. Rhaenys shares a meaningful look with Alicent, who is standing protectively in front of Aegon, before she and Meleys fly away.
Let’s allow the co-showrunners to explain why Rhaenys chose to spare the Hightowers. Here’s what Miguel Sapochnik says in HBO’s Inside the Episode featurette about creating the big moment for the character:
“We really wanted to make sure there was flesh in her character. Rhaenys wasn’t passive and felt this was an incredibly precious moment to – rather than just see her testify to something – to be able to take part in it. But her moral standpoint becomes the reason for inaction rather than action “.
Here’s what Ryan J. Condal says about Rhaenys’ motives behind saving Hightower lives.
“He knows that if he sets that stage on fire, he puts an end to any possibility of war and probably puts peace throughout the kingdom, but I think he probably doesn’t want to be responsible for doing it to another mother. And it’s a complex choice and one that people might argue with or have a problem with, but that’s the choice Rhaenys makes right now.We see her come out and be the one that will bring the news to Dragonstone of the coup and the theft of Rhaenyra’s throne. It was a great, you know, a great heroic moment for his character. “
Condal is right in thinking this is a controversial decision about Rhaenys’ character. In the end, wouldn’t he want to diligently serve his elected side by destroying the opposition?
Let’s take a look at her interactions with Alicent beforehand to help explain her motivations.
What do Alicent and Rhaenys say to each other before the coronation?
Halfway, Alicent visits Rhaenys at her quarters, where Rhaenys is currently being held. She informs Rhaenys of King Viserys’ death and Rhaenys quickly ascertains that Alicent is usurping the throne from Princess Rhaenyra.
Alicent explains that she came to Rhaenys to ask for his support. Alicent argues that House Velaryon’s alliance with Princess Rhaenyra has only brought bad luck. Rhaenys’ daughter, Laena, is dead. His son. Rhaenyra’s heirs are of questionable non-Velaryon inheritance. Only Rhaenys’ husband, Lord Corlys Velaryon, cares about the Iron Throne and is also potentially on his deathbed after a six-year war trip.
“The word of my house is not fickle” – this is how Rhaenys responds to all of this. His house is promised to Rhaenyra, so they will remain fiercely loyal.
Alicent then surprises Rhaenyra with her last, desperate plea:
“No. But, dear cousin, you understand what I say now more than any other soul. Princess Rhaenys, I loved my husband, but I will tell the truth we both know. You should have been the queen … The Iron Throne was yours. by blood and temperament. Viserys would have lived his days as a country gentleman, content to hunt and study his stories, but … here we are. We don’t rule. But we can guide men who do. Gently .. . away from violence and certain destruction and instead towards peace. “
Rhaenys is cunning again, she sees through Alicent’s words and realizes that House Hightower needs her dragon to overcome Rhaenyra. This is the only way Rhaenyra will be encouraged to negotiate and avoid war.
Rhaenys says Alicent is wiser than she initially believed, but berates Alicent for her continued service to men.
“Yet you still toil in the service of men. Your father, your husband, your son. You do not wish to be free, but to make a window in the wall of your prison. Have you ever imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?”
It seems that Rhaenys understands Alicent more than the other way around. Seeing Alicent at the coronation ceremony, standing in front of his son, Rhaenys may have decided to trust Alicent. He might have believed that Alicent would do his best to guide his son on the right path. Rhaenys, taking control of the situation, chooses a moral stand against violence and destruction and instead believes that there may be a way to peace.
Rhaenys also knows that if she stays with Rhaenyra, their part is even more powerful. Even if Rhaenys retires now, the part of him has a good chance of winning the wars that will ensue. Basically, Rhaenys rules.
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