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"House of the Dragon" Highlights Unfair Burden on Grieving Women

“House of the Dragon” Highlights Unfair Burden on Grieving Women

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When dragons clash in war, devastation follows. However, the emotional toll of such destruction falls heavily on the women of Westeros, steeped in a history of rigid gender roles.

The second season of “House of the Dragon” sheds light on this dynamic. In a pivotal moment, Queen Helaena (Phia Saban) is forced to reveal her son Jaehaerys’ (Jude Rock) location to an assassin, resulting in his tragic death as retribution for the killing of Lucerys (Elliot Grihault). Helaena’s trauma is palpable, and her mother, the Dowager Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), is devastated.

“The child is dead. His pain is ended. But what they’ve done to my girl –” Alicent laments, her usually stoic demeanor breaking. “And what if the hand that’s done it is not who must be blamed? The gods punish us. They punish me.”

Their suffering does not end there. In a bid to turn public opinion against Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy), Alicent’s father Otto (Rhys Ifans), Hand of the King, devises a plan. He proposes a public funeral for Jaehaerys, with Alicent and Helaena mourning in full view.

“Let no one say I do not grieve,” Otto declares. “The realm must see the sorrow of the crown. A sorrow best expressed through its most gentle souls. I think you’ll all agree the king himself must be spared."

Grief in “House of the Dragon” underscores traditional gender roles, highlighting the disparity between men and women in Westeros. The very idea of Rhaenyra as a female heir brings much of the kingdom’s infighting to a head, as many are unwilling to accept a woman on the throne.

Women in Westeros are often called to perform their duties publicly even in their moments of deepest grief. This forced performance exacerbates gender divides, positioning women on the lowest rung of emotional labor.

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This hierarchical system is evident when Otto parades Alicent and Helaena through King’s Landing, despite their discomfort. Meanwhile, Aegon is allowed to remain secluded within the Red Keep, his emotional instability hidden to avoid showing weakness.

In this feudal society, men do not willingly display their grief. Toxic masculinity thrives, defining kingly strength in terms of rage and emotional suppression. A crying king is seen as weak, while an angry woman is derisively labeled a “c**t.”

During Jaehaerys’ procession, thousands of mourners surround the grieving mother and daughter. Helaena’s pain is visible as she struggles with the sight of her son’s unstable, sutured head during the procession. The spectacle becomes a grim testament to female grief, manipulated by powerful men.

Aegon instantly blames Rhaenyra for Jaehaerys’ death, despite his knowledge that it was Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) who commissioned the murder. This misdirected anger reinforces the show’s emphasis on gendered expectations.

The complexity of Aegon and Helaena’s relationship as siblings and spouses further complicates the emotional landscape. Actor Glynn-Carney suggests that Aegon finds solace in Helaena, the only other person who truly understands his pain. However, glimpses of their interactions show a lack of meaningful empathy, highlighting their emotional disconnect.

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Meanwhile, Rhaenyra faces a similar struggle. Her incredulous claim that she would never harm Helaena despite their enmity showcases a rare moment of compassion that she does not receive from her own allies. Even as she seeks her son’s remains, her husband Daemon demands action, wanting to retaliate immediately.

“Was this the queen’s command?” Rhaenys (Eve Best) asks, to which Daemon counters that Rhaenyra’s absence makes her exposed. Rhaenys argues that Rhaenyra is grieving, but Daemon dismisses it as shirking duties.

Like Otto, Daemon fails to grasp the breadth of Rhaenyra’s mourning. Rhaenys, having lost her children, appreciates Rhaenyra’s restraint, understanding her need for emotional space over vengeful impulse.

In Westeros, women are expected to showcase their grief publicly, often for political gain. This facade of emotional transparency mandated by a patriarchal society does not lead to healing but instead deepens wounds.

Rhaenyra’s reflection on ruling a kingdom of "ash and bone" refers to the destructive potential of long-repressed female grief. This theme recalls Daenerys Stormborn’s fiery devastation of King’s Landing in "Game of Thrones." The consequences of such grief are invariably catastrophic, shaped by a world that weaponizes emotions.

Source: Source Names