House of the Dragon Episode 5’s biggest canon change matters more than you think
House of the Dragon may have just devised the most dramatic entrance in television history. When Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) barged into her stepdaughter (and ex-BFF) Rhaenyra Targaryen’s wedding reception not only late but also sporting the rich forest green of House Hightower, the outfit choice wasn’t just a fashionable one befitting a queen, it was also a bold statement.
But perhaps most important, it also marked a dramatic change from how the same scene takes place in George R.R. Martin’s original books. Here’s why that matters, and what it means for the future of House of the Dragon.
Major spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon.
Alicent Hightower’s green dress, explained
Wearing an emerald-hue gown to a ceremony wouldn’t be given a second thought in our world, but in the fierce and unforgiving dark medieval fantasy realm of Westeros, green equates to war.
As Alicent struts into the banquet hall Larys Strong turns to his brother Harwin and whispers, “The beacon on the Hightower. Do you know what color it glows when Oldtown calls its banners war? Green.”
Alicent’s dress was not just a fashion statement, but a full-blown declaration of defiance against the crown. At this point in time, that conflict is more of the psychological games and diplomatic warfare variety. Nevertheless, the pronouncement is made, loud and clear.
Curiously, this now-iconic House of the Dragon scene was altered significantly between the books by George R.R. Martin and the HBO adaptation of those texts (even though Martin is involved with the prestige drama series). That difference may have been for the better.
How House of the Dragon changes Westeros history
In Martin’s Fire & Blood and The Princess and the Queen, not only are the roles reversed, but the setting is different, too. The controversy happens at a jovial tournament meant to celebrate the five-year wedding anniversary between Alicent and Viserys when Rhaenyra shows up dressed in the Targaryen colors of red and black.
Alicent does wear green for the first time at this event as well, however, Rhaenyra’s wardrobe was considered the more scandalous of the two. (Although fans of the books have often wondered how much sense that made, contextually. Shouldn’t Alicent’s outfit be the one to garner more gasps from the crowd?)
In House of the Dragon’s source material, Rhaenyra wearing red and black to her parents’ five-year anniversary is a “screw you” to them both, marking the symbolic birth of the “Greens” and “Blacks” factions. (The Blacks are Team Rhaenyra, the Greens are Team Aegon II, in regards to their respective claims to the Iron Throne.)
HBO changed canon by setting the spotlight on Alicent’s anger and audacity rather than Rhaenyra’s spark-plug bravado. Alicent wears green because she’s sick and tired of Targaryen foolishness in court. Her husband, Viserys, doesn’t respect her feelings, opting to give her father Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) the pink slip instead of pardoning his Hand for confronting him with (mostly) the truth about Rhaenyra’s dalliances.
When Alicent makes her stylishly late entrance she is publicly affirming that, while she may be married to a Targaryen and has given birth to three children that bear the Targaryen name, she is and will always be a highborn lady of House Hightower.
The rivalry between the Greens and the Blacks has just been set in motion. And by the looks of it in the promotional teaser trailer for Episode 6, Alicent doesn’t stop wearing a symbol of her defiance for a long, long time.
House of the Dragon Episode 6 airs Sunday evening, Sept. 25 on HBO.