House Of The Dragon: 9 Ways Season 1 Made The Greens Look Way Better Than In George R.R. Martin's Book

Otto, Alicent, and Ser Criston in House of the Dragon
(Image credit: HBO)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of House of the Dragon.

The first season of House of the Dragon has officially come to an end, and the finale with Luke's death after Aemond chased him through the skies on Vhagar pretty much guarantees that the dragons will dance in Season 2. Neither Targaryen faction has clean hands after the first ten episodes, which any reader of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood source material could have predicted. What readers might not have seen coming were the twists that I'd say made the Greens look a lot better than they did in the book. 

Of course, the Greens weren’t saints even after getting a nicer portrayal than in Fire & Blood, and the Blacks – a.k.a. Rhaenyra and her supporters, named as such by George R.R. Martin – have blood on their hands too. Plus, Fire & Blood is a history book based on unreliable sources with biases of their own, so what’s on the page was never going to be exactly what happens on screen. 

Still, if one side benefited from friendlier treatment in the adaptation, it was definitely the Greens, particularly Alicent. That could affect where fans’ loyalties lie when the war inevitably gets truly ugly. So, as the wait begins for Season 2, let’s look at 9 ways that House of the Dragon made Alicent and Co. look better than they did in the book!

Spoilers are ahead for Fire & Blood as far as Luke’s death in the “The Dying of the Dragons” chapter, and no further. 

Young Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: hBO)

Aging Alicent Down (And The Targaryens Up)

House of the Dragon started with Rhaenyra and Alicent both in their mid-teens, with Alicent around 15 when Viserys (who looked to be at least in his 40s) chose her to be his second queen. In Fire & Blood, however, Alicent was 18 when Viserys decided to marry her, while Rhaenyra was only nine and the king himself wasn’t yet 30. With the show aging Alicent down while also aging Viserys and Rhaenyra up, it was natural to have a soft spot for the lonely girl who had been forced to marry a man decades her senior, then abandoned and lied to by her former best friend.

Young Rhaenyra Targaryen and Young Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon.

(Image credit: HBO)

Making Alicent And Rhaenyra Childhood Friends

Alicent and Rhaenyra were such close friends at the start of the series that a mere reminder of their bond moved the Black Queen to the verge of tears in the Season 1 finale. Fire & Blood tells a different story, with Alicent and young Rhaenyra briefly getting along after Viserys took his second wife, after which Alicent wanted to supplant her stepdaughter as first lady of the realm. In the show, Rhaenyra’s lies about her night out seemed like betrayals to Alicent; in the book, there would be no reason to expect them to be confidantes. 

Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Otto Scared Alicent Into Fearing For Her Children's Lives

The show’s version of Alicent accepted that Rhaenyra was Viserys’ heir, until Otto – who had been the one pushing for Aegon to replace Rhaenyra – convinced her that the princess would murder her children if she became queen. Rhaenyra had given no indication that she’d do any such thing, but Alicent believed her father. Book Alicent had no scruples about pushing for her son to be heir, so much so that the king’s main objection to marrying Rhaenyra to Aegon wasn’t their age difference of ten years, but rather because – in his words – “the boy is Alicent’s own blood” and “she wants him on the throne.” She was ambitious in the book, not fearful for her children’s lives.

Rhaenyra, Jace, and Luke in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Rhaenyra's Children Are Very Obviously Bastards

In the show, Alicent had a point about Rhaenyra getting away with breaking the rules, because her three eldest sons with their pale skin and dark hair were clearly Harwin Strong's bastards. As the son of Rhaenys and Corlys, Laenor had inherited the white Targaryen hair and darker Velaryon skin, and any child of his with Rhaenyra should have looked similar to Daemon and Laena’s daughters. In Fire & Blood, Laenor’s half-Baratheon mother had dark hair, meaning that the three boys could have more easily passed as trueborn Velaryons who had gotten their hair from their father's Baratheon blood. Alicent was clearly right in the show; Rhaenyra's ruse was a bit more believable in the book.

Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower on House of the Dragon.

(Image credit: Photograph by Ollie Upton / HBO)

Alicent Truly Believes Viserys Changed His Mind

Arguably the worst thing about the Greens in the book is that, at the end of the day, everything might have been just fine in the realm if they didn’t usurp Rhaenyra’s throne. In Fire & Blood, they did it out of ambition to crown the half-Hightower Aegon as king, and Alicent was an active participant in hiding Viserys’ death to get plans in place. 

House of the Dragon gave Alicent the excuse of genuinely believing that Viserys’ mumblings about an Aegon meant that he wanted their son to be king, and turned her deliberate move against Rhaenyra in F&B into a dutiful woman's tragic misunderstanding of a propechy. The show also entirely cut book Alicent’s reported line of “mayhaps the whore will die in childbirth” about Rhaenyra when the princess was pregnant with the daughter who would be stillborn. 

Alicent standing over Viserys' body on House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Viserys Wasn't Left To Rot

On the show, the gap between Viserys’ death and Aegon’s coronation was about two days, and Alicent wept over her husband's death. In Fire & Blood, Alicent and Co. sealed the room and left him rotting where he’d died for a full week. There were rumors that Alicent had even already prepared the guards and servants on what to do when he was inevitably found dead. She was a grieving wife who wanted to follow her husband’s last instructions on HOTD; she was an ambitious mother who wanted Aegon on the throne in F&B.

Fabien Frankel as Criston Cole holding up a sword on House of the Dragon.

(Image credit: HBO)

Ser Criston Didn't Deliberately Kill Lord Beesbury

While the small council scene in the penultimate episode didn’t leave any of the Greens (other than Alicent) looking very good, there was one way that the show was gentler on them than the book was, and that was in the death of Lord Beesbury. Criston Cole killed him on the show when he shoved the lord down into a chair, and his head hit the table hard enough to kill him, although that evidently wasn't Cole's goal. 

F&B gave three accounts of Beesbury’s death, and all made it clear that his demise was the result of a deliberate action. While Cole did kill him on the show, it was arguably an accident rather than slitting his throat or throwing him out the window like two of the book’s scenarios. Notably, Cole was also seemingly aged down to be closer to Rhaenyra’s age in the show. In F&B, he and Daemon were only a year apart. 

Ewan Mitchell as Aemond after killing Luke on Vhagar in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Aemond Didn't Mean To Kill Lucerys

While the Greens stealing the throne was the inciting incident for the conflict in F&B, Aemond drawing first blood by killing Lucerys guaranteed Targaryen civil war. Although no firsthand accounts could come from the dragon battle above Storm’s End, Aemond told his nephew in F&B that “I will have your eye or your life, Strong,” then went after him and Arrax on Vhagar. There’s no sign that it was an accident (nor was it out of character for book Aemond), and he earned the name “Aemond the Kinslayer” for it. 

In HOTD, Aemond never explicitly threatened Luke’s life in front of witnesses like in F&B, and his nephew died because they both lost control of their dragons. Arrax actually provoked Vhagar, and Aemond tried to stop the massive dragon from the killing bite. While Luke’s death was still Aemond’s fault in the show and Targaryens losing control of their dragons is an intriguing twist heading into Season 2, Vhagar disobeying turned the Green kinslaying into a tragic accident… and that could make what the Black side very deliberately does next hit a lot different than it does in the book. 

Daemon in the Vale in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Making Daemon Look Much, Much Worse

House of the Dragon certainly made the Greens look more sympathetic in comparison to Daemon, who is presented as far worse in the show than the book at this point in the story. Show Daemon bashed his first wife’s head in, abandoned his niece in a brothel, was a neglectful father, beheaded Vaemond in open court, ignored Rhaenyra in labor, choked her shortly thereafter, and wanted to go to war immediately. Sure, the show gave him some touching moments, but he’s been set up as a villain already. 

In F&B, Daemon had appealed to Viserys multiple times to legally set aside his first marriage, definitely didn’t kill Rhea Royce, executed Vaemond on Rhaenyra’s order, wanted to fight the Greens with words before war, and seemed like a good enough husband (to Laena and Rhaenyra, anyway) and father before war came. He still did plenty of terrible things that didn't make it into the show, but wasn't guilty of everything that HOTD portrayed. 

Daemon is both hero and villain in George R.R. Martin’s lore; HOTD has leaned a lot harder on villain than hero, and readers know that the pre-war portion of his story was probably the show’s best chance to show his good side before things get much, much worse after Luke's death. (Non-readers might not want to Google what I'm talking about.)

Now, none of this is to say that House of the Dragon didn’t soften some of what the Blacks did as well, and I would say that the moral scales are still weighed in favor of the Blacks even with the Greens looking better on screen than the page. Alicent has been spared a lot of her uglier book actions, and even Aemond – who should basically be the Green Daemon – isn't as bad. (Otto and Aegon are still pretty terrible.)

Of course, readers probably have an idea that the weight of those scales could shift pretty dramatically when the Blacks respond to Luke's death in Season 2. Unfortunately, Season 2 isn’t expected to hit HBO until 2024. You can always revisit the first season of House of the Dragon streaming with an HBO Max subscription, and find some alternate viewing options on our 2022 TV premiere schedule. If you managed to read this whole list without first reading Fire & Blood, check out some spoiler-free reasons why you should.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).