HBO’s long-awaited Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon, is finally here. The fantasy series’ premiere episode aired Sunday night and delivered more than its fair share of bloodshed, nudity, and dragon-riding. In typical Game of Thrones fashion, House of the Dragon’s premiere also introduces plenty of names, faces, and royal houses that viewers will have to become well-acquainted with if they want to keep up with the HBO series’ multi-generational story.
But, of all the characters introduced in House of the Dragon Episode 1, few are more important than Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). While she doesn’t have much of a major role in the House of the Dragon’s premiere, it won’t be long before Alicent emerges as one of its most noteworthy figures. With that in mind, here’s everything House of the Dragon viewers should know about Alicent Hightower.
Introducing Alicent Hightower
House Hightower is one of the oldest royal families in the region of Westeros known as the Reach, which is primarily ruled by House Tyrell. Unlike the Tyrells, who rule from a castle known as Highgarden, the Hightowers hail from Oldtown. The port city is well-known for its large, white castle, called the Hightower, which serves as the seat of House Hightower. Oldtown is also the home of the Citadel, where Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) briefly conducts some integral research in Seasons 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones.
House Hightower’s Oldtown roots and lengthy history make it one of the most powerful and well-known royal families in Westeros. The family’s symbol is a tower with fire coming out of the top of it, which is why Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) chooses the knight with that sigil to be his first combatant during the jousting tournament in House of the Dragon’s premiere. Notably, while the Hightower knight’s identity isn’t specified, it is likely that he is Gwayne Hightower, one of Alicent’s brothers.
All of which is to say: Alicent Hightower isn’t just the best friend of Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock). In fact, by the time House of the Dragon begins, Alicent has already spent quite a lot of time around Targaryen royals. Her father, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), served as the Hand of the King to Jaehaerys I Targaryen (Michael Carter) before assuming the same role for Jaehaerys’ successor, Viserys I (Paddy Considine).
When Otto first became Hand of the King, Alicent accompanied her father to King’s Landing. While there, she became a constant companion to the older Jaehaerys. She spent so much time with Viserys’ predecessor that Jaehaerys began to mistake her for his own daughter, and it’s said that he passed away while Alicent was reading to him. Knowing that, it suddenly makes a lot more sense that Alicent’s father, Otto, so abruptly suggests that she spend time with Viserys in the House of the Dragon premiere.
Additionally, despite what his title may suggest, Otto Hightower is not actually the Lord of his house in House of the Dragon. Instead, that title is held by Otto’s brother, Hobert Hightower (Steffan Rhodri), who briefly shows up to swear his loyalty to Rhaenyra Targaryen at the end of the House of the Dragon premiere. In other words, while Otto holds great power as the Hand of the King, his royal position within Westeros is not as straightforward as one might assume.
Of course, Alicent’s position within King’s Landing’s royal circle will only continue to grow and evolve over the course of House of the Dragon’s first season. Without spoiling anything, the series’ premiere does a good job of planting the seeds for Alicent’s overall role in the show. While she is currently played by Emily Carey, a mid-season time jump will see Olivia Cooke take over as Alicent. (Similarly, Emma D’Arcy will eventually replace Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra Targaryen.)
The Inverse Analysis — House Hightower doesn’t have much of a presence in Game of Thrones. However, thanks to both Alicent and Otto, the Hightowers are going to be one of the most important families in House of the Dragon. In fact, Otto’s brief conversation with Alicent in the House of the Dragon premiere does a good job of establishing the two characters as the series’ stand-ins for Cersei and Tywin Lannister.
Indeed, while House Hightower is famously known as one of the Westerosi houses that chose not to go to open conflict with Aegon the Conqueror when he began his quest to unite the Seven Kingdoms, one shouldn’t expect the Hightowers who are alive during House of the Dragon to bow down quite as quickly before their Targaryen rulers.
New episodes of House of the Dragon air Sundays on HBO.