‘House of the Dragon’ Makes ‘Game of Thrones’ Darkest Plot Even Darker

I like it game of Thrones, prequel series house of the dragon it is as much a complex political drama as it is a fantasy epic. That’s especially clear in Episode 6 now that Rhaenyra (Emma D’arcy) and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) are adults and vying for control of the kingdom. But the enmity between these two goes beyond mere politics, it is downright religious. And in the process, it could redefine one of the most iconic scenes in game of Thrones history.

Major spoilers ahead for episode 6 of house of the dragon.

house of the dragon Episode 6 explained

In house of the dragon In episode 6, it quickly becomes clear that a more mature Rhaenyra Targaryen (now played by Emma D’arcy) has had children out of wedlock with Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr) while her gay husband is having fun. Rhaenyra’s father, the king, refuses to see the truth, but everyone knows her children are bastards. And no one seems as upset about it as Alicent Hightower/Targaryen Queen (Olivia Cooke).

Of course, Alicent has political reasons to be upset: her own children are entitled to the throne Rhaenyra is heir to, but her disapproval goes beyond the succession battle. Alicent sees Rhaenyra’s actions as a stand against the new new gods (the main religion in King’s Landing). And although there is no High Sparrow here like in Game of Thrones to punish heretics, Alicent finds another kind of ally to execute her religious revenge.

Larys and Alicent began to become more friendly in episode 5 of house of the dragon. hbo

After Alicent expresses her displeasure with Rhaenyra in front of Larys Strong (Matthew Needham), she plans the accidental arson that leaves his own brother and father dead. When Alicent realizes what happened, she’s visibly shocked, but she doesn’t seem completely upset about it either. How did Alicent get to this point? Her response is tied to her religious beliefs.

What is the Faith of the Seven?

The Faith of the Seven openly regains dominion over King’s Landing 300 years after the events of house of the dragon. hbo

You can remember the Faith of game of Thrones Seasons 5 and 6. It is a monotheistic religion that believes there is one god with seven aspects (just as Christianity believes there is one god with three aspects: a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit). They are often collectively referred to as the new gods.

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These seven aspects are:

  1. The father
  2. Mother
  3. The maid
  4. the old woman
  5. The warrior
  6. the blacksmith
  7. The stranger

The Faith expressly forbids the murder of relatives, bastardy, incest and homosexuality. Larys (and Alicent, to an extent) use their beliefs to justify Rhaenyra’s punishment by murdering Harwin.

The Faith of the Seven may have started in Essos and emerged among the Andals thousands of years ago. The Andals are one of the main ethnic groups from which the humans of Westeros descend. It is said that they were tall and blond. (The other two main ethnic groups are the First Men and the Rhoynar. Hence the full title of the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms is “King or Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men).

The Andals are also said to have brought the Faith of the Seven to Westeros with their invasion. Some of the Andals were said to have the seven-pointed star of faith carved into their skin to show their devotion and to intimidate the native Westerosi from worshiping the old gods.

What is House Hightower’s connection to the Faith of the Seven?

Hightower House plots and prays. hbo

Hightowers in Oldtown, one of the largest and oldest noble houses and cities in Westeros, formed and built by the first men, before the Andal invasion, was friendly to the Andals. The head of House Hightower at the time, Damon Hightower, accepted the Faith and built the first clan in Oldtown. Oldtown eventually became the center of the Faith of the Seven. Oldtown is also where High Septon lives (in Starry Sept). In the moment of house of the dragonthe Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing (where the High Septon lives during the events of game of Thrones) has not yet been built or exploited.

Alicent and Otto (Rhys Ifans), among other members of House Hightower currently at court in house of the dragonThey were raised to be devoted to the Faith of the Seven. House Hightower wants more power restored to the Faith, which was curtailed during the Targaryen dynasty.

What is the Targaryen Doctrine of Exceptionalism?

King Jaehaerys I Targaryen, along with (at the time) Prince Viserys I Targaryen, his first wife Aemma Arryn, Corlys Velaryon, and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. hbo

There was a lot of drama between the Faith of the Seven and King Jaehaerys I Targaryen (King Viserys’s grandfather).

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Before the events of house of the dragon, Faith and House Targaryen were at odds with each other. Details of the Faith Militant Uprising, as described in the A song of ice and fire The texts of the prequel are complex, but the most important part of the rebellion is its aftermath.

When Jaehaerys ascended the throne, he was crowned by the High Septon. While the Targaryen king before Jaehaerys was openly against the Faith of the Seven, Jaehaerys wanted to make peace in order to restore order to King’s Landing. But he also wanted to make sure the rules didn’t apply to the Targaryens.

During negotiations between the High Septon at the time and the king, it was agreed that the Iron Throne would always protect and defend the Faith, essentially making the Faith the primary religion of the Seven Kingdoms. However, the Faith had to accept that the laws and justice of the Iron Throne were ironclad and accept the incestuous practices of the Targaryens.

Although the Faith considered incest an abomination in all other circumstances, the Targaryens were not like other human beings. They rode dragons, had “dragon blood” and are one of the noble houses left from the Curse of Valyria. At least, this is what Jaehaerys says to convince the High Septon to create a loophole in the form of Targaryens. And so the Targaryen Doctrine of Exceptionalism was born.

The High Sparrow in game of Thrones.hbo

It is because of this doctrine that Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) had to take her infamous “walk of atonement” in the game of Thrones Season 5 finale. The “walk of atonement” is a public ritual of penance in the Faith of the Seven that requires the damned to walk naked through the streets to the nearest sept. In this case, the closest sept was the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing.

Cersei is found guilty of acts of “falsehood and fornication”. She is accused by her cousin, Ser Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), who joined the Faith Militant and claims that she has committed adultery, incest, and regicide, all of which are true. However, Cersei only confesses to adultery and denies the other two charges.

She is sentenced to do the walking by High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), the newly appointed High Septon who re-established the Faith Militant and began pulling strings at King’s Landing once more during the reign of Tommen I Baratheon (Dean Charles-Chapman).

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Thanks to the Doctrine of Exceptionalism, no Targaryen has ever held the same standard. As a Targaryen, Rhaenyra is free to commit to brothers, cousins, and uncles, without thinking of the ethical implications. Alicent Hightower calls these customs “queer” in Episode 1 and makes fun of them, perhaps a hint that the noble houses that practice the Faith of the Seven see through the Doctrine’s insincerity.

House Hightower, now with easy access to the Targaryen ruling class, may see Aegon II’s ascension to the throne as their opportunity to rehabilitate the Faith, reunite Church and State, and unwind the Doctrine of Exceptionalism once and for all.

What is Alicent Hightower’s relationship to the Faith of the Seven?

Alicent admits that she often turns to religion to deal with her own mother’s death, hoping to inspire Rhaenyra to do the same. hbo

In both the books and the HBO series, Alicent Hightower is pious. Her holier-than-thou attitude that only becomes more prominent with age. She was raised religiously, which makes sense given that she is a highborn noble lady in House Hightower. We see her pray with Rhaenyra in episode 2 and pray again, alone in her chambers, in episode 4.

Alicent’s religiosity is probably why she was so anxious and overwhelmed by her father’s insistence on courting Viserys into marriage. We never see them having sex on screen before marriage, but it is strongly implied that she was asked to visit her bedroom at night (by her own father!).

Her faith may also be one of several reasons why she was so angry at Rhaenyra for not abstaining from sex before marriage, perhaps projecting her own shame onto the princess.

What is Larys Strong’s relationship to the Faith of the Seven?

Larys Strong comes to stir the pot at Red Keep. hbo

Larys motives have always been an enigma, but, in house of the dragon, they are clearer. He is using practices of mutual faith and hatred towards the Targaryen dynasty to manipulate Alicent and amass power.

Larys could simply be aiming to get closer to Alicent and her son Aegon II, believing her claim to the Iron Throne to be more legitimate than Rhaenyra’s and thus have a higher chance of success. But in the books, Larys likes to play both sides depending on her personal benefit.

Larys could also be putting on a play for the role of High Septon, the highest-ranking cleric in the Faith. Either way, there’s nothing about this union that’s holy.

the Reverse analysis — As long as the Targaryen Doctrine of Exceptionalism remains, Rhaenyra is protected from the Faith of the Seven (although there are clearly plenty of other threats in Westeros). We probably won’t have another atonement walk like the one we had in game of Thrones, but if we do, it could reveal just how powerful Alicent has become. And it will probably be even worse than what Cersei will endure hundreds of years later.

house of the dragon airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on HBO and HBO Max.

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