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House Of The Dragon Fans Have The Same Complaint About Its Female Characters

Contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" Season 2, Episode 3 — "The Burning Mill"

In the third episode of the second season of "House of the Dragon," Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D'Arcy) and Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) finally meet again. Desperate to speak to Alicent before the Targaryen civil war keeps escalating, Rhaenyra infiltrates King's Landing dressed as a Septa and surprises Alicent while she's praying (and she's armed with a knife, just to be as safe as possible). While trying to reason with her childhood friend-turned-stepmother-turned-enemy, Rhaenyra is shocked when Alicent reveals that her late husband and Rhaenyra's father, King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), whispered a name before he died: "Aegon." She assumed he was naming their son, Aegon II Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney), as the heir to the Iron Throne. However, Rhaenyra knows he was referencing Aegon the Conqueror's prophecy of "a song of ice and fire," which Viserys shared with Rhaenyra after he named her as his heir.

All of this is to say that this bloody war pitting kin against kin could have been avoided if Alicent had just asked a follow-up question. But it also, according to some fans, betrays a larger weakness within the show's lead female characters. In a thread aptly titled "Why is the show allergic to women being ambitious?" in the "House of the Dragon" subreddit, u/Icy_Major_4860 wrote, "I hate the stupid addition of the prophecy in the show. Not only does it justifies Targaryen's invasion of Westeros but now entirely changes the Dance of the dragons war. If not for the prophecy, would Rhaenyra really give up the throne for peace even at the cost of her son? Can it not just be her ambition or her desire or her belief in her birthright?"

Fans are worried that Alicent, Rhaenyra, and the rest of the female characters don't have enough ambition

Rhaenyra isn't the only one catching heat from "House of the Dragon" fans on Reddit — Alicent's getting criticized, too. "Same for Alicent," u/DesSantorinaiou wrote. "We see her abusing her son, telling him he IS the challenge etc. but then she NEEDS Viserys' approval. WTF. And now that she knows she didn't have it, it doesn't matte because mEn CraVe WaR. Women CAN be ambitious and cross lines for what they want. At least some of them can. Not all of them had to be written the same way but not all women are pacifists etc."

Other people praised different female characters, like Eve Best's "Queen Who Never Was" Rhaenys Targaryen. As pointed out by u/sluttydrama, "It's funny how Rhaenys had more ambition this episode than Rhaenyra & Alicent."

Some fans, though, think that the nuance seen in Alicent and Rhaenyra is exactly what makes them so compelling. u/Serious_Guide_2424 wrote, "My thought during this episode is that they ended up accidentally promoting the stereotype that women are not fit rulers because they're too emotional and soft." In response, u/sAldrius made a good point. "Er... I mean you COULD say the show portrays ONLY women as fit rulers because they're not overly emotional or violent (which is also a bad stereotype). I wouldn't say it portrays Alicent or Rhaenyra as unfit rulers, or overly emotional. Or even soft." So who's right — and what can the women of "Game of Thrones" tell us about this argument?

It could be argued that the women of Game of Thrones were too single-minded — and it brought their characters down

The legacy left behind by the women of "Game of Thrones" is ... not great, to be honest. Yes, the show does have compelling, complex, and fascinating female characters; as u/MadScientist1683 lamented in the same Reddit thread, "Christ what wouldn't give for a Cersei, [Olenna Tyrell], or some sand snakes right about now," referring to Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Olenna Tyrell (the late Diana Rigg), and the female Dornish characters known as the Sand Snakes.

Putting aside that the Sand Snakes were some of the most universally despised characters in the original series (due more to the dour Dorne plotline than any other reason), let's look at Cersei and her eventual enemy, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the descendant of the characters seen on "House of the Dragon." Both Cersei and Daenerys are single-minded in their pursuit, which is control of the Seven Kingdoms and to sit upon the Iron Throne ... and for a while, they get some actual nuance where that goal is concerned.

As the show draws to a close, though, both characters turn cartoonishly evil. Cersei blows up half of King's Landing to avoid a public trial, never faces any consequences, and ultimately threatens to kill her brother-lover Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) multiple times. Daenerys finishes what Cersei started and murders countless innocents in King's Landing because ... she's mad. Frankly, as "House of the Dragon" continues, it could benefit from giving its female character some layers and conflicted feelings, instead of simply turning them into merciless murder machines to make them look "tougher." 

Do fans have a point about Rhaenyra and Alicent in particular?

Fans of "House of the Dragon" do make a good point overall; it can be frustrating to watch Alicent and Rhaenyra spin their opposing wheels as other people in their respective Team Green and Team Black camps kill one another without a second thought. It does, however, feel like an important character trait for both of them to be hesitant and overly cautious as the Dance of the Dragons continues, based on both their previous relationship and their fears of hurting their own family.

All the way back in Season 1, when young Alicent and young Rhaenyra were played by Emily Carey and Milly Alcock, the two were close friends and confidantes, with many fans even wondering if there was a potential spark between the two girls. They're ultimately divided by Alicent's marriage to Viserys and further split by Rhaenyra's tryst with the hated Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), a knight who eventually becomes Alicent's lover (potentially out of sheer spite regarding Rhaenyra, but that's an entirely different issue).

Alicent and Rhaenyra both want to win the war and claim the Iron Throne, but the fact that doing so means defeating the other remains a huge, scary sticking point for both of these radically different women. Lest Alicent and Rhaenyra become as one-dimensional as Cersei and Daenerys were at the end of "Game of Thrones," they should maintain some of this conflict and nuance, even if it irritates the audience. It's a real, human reaction on a show where dragons fly above everyone's heads — and that can't be overlooked.

"House of the Dragon" airs new episodes on Sundays at 9 P.M. EST on HBO and Max.