Age-old civilizations and even the legal systems of many countries in contemporary times believe in the law of retaliation. The concept says that a person who commits a crime must go through a similar ordeal as their victim was forced to go through. But Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi, the chief propagator of the concept of “non-violence,” disapproved of this notion. His ideology was underlined in Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” (1982), where it was said that an eye for an eye would make the whole world blind. It is true that any person who seeks retribution is going to dig two graves: one for his nemesis and one for himself. Alicent Hightower, seeking revenge, demanded that an eye should be cut out of Rhaenyra’s son, because of whom her son Aemond had lost his eye. Until now, everyone had turned a blind eye towards the rivalry that was slowly developing between the two factions, Green and Red, but with a dagger piercing the royal flesh, the eyes were wide open. A king in denial, Viserys Targaryen, who considered his family to be a perfect one, could now see his kingdom drowning in a stream of blood.
Aemond, Alicent’s younger son, had finally become a dragon rider. He had claimed the dragon, which was once ridden by Laena Velaryon. He rode Vhagar, and when Laena’s daughters, Rhaena and Baela came to know about it, they felt betrayed. It was their mother’s dragon, and they had presumed that they were the rightful owners of it. Aemond didn’t care about what they thought. He told the girls that if they had a claim on the dragons, they should have done something about it. They were sitting on the sidelines procrastinating, and Aemond saw the opportunity and latched onto it. Jacaerys and Lucerys arrived at the scene. They shared a close bond with their cousin sisters, Rhaena and Baela. Aemond scorned the girls in their presence. Things became even more heated up when he called them illegitimate sons of Ser Harwin Strong. The boys got into a scuffle. Aemond would have possibly severely injured Jacaerys, but before he could do that, Lucerys impaled his eye with his dagger. Aemond was taken to the maester, who said that though the wound would heal with time, the eye was lost forever.
The parents and the children gathered in Viserys’ chamber, in the hope that justice would be delivered in their favor. But the thing about justice is that it never favors anybody; it only balances the scales. Alicent demanded that retributive justice should be served at all costs. Viserys’ judgment didn’t align with her sensibilities, and the Queen felt sidelined. Viserys was quite unhappy with the fact that Aemond had referred to his cousins as illegitimate offspring. But he very well knew that not only Aemond, but the whole kingdom was talking about it. Alicent didn’t find anything wrong in asking for Lucerys’ eyes as she felt it was justified. Alicent lost her temper and assaulted Rhaenyra with the Valyrian steel. Aemond stopped her mother and told her that he didn’t need anybody’s eyes as he had already got what he had desired.
The seeds of retribution were sown a long time ago when the power mongers started playing politics to tilt the odds in their favor. Alicent had been brainwashed by her own father, and though there was some truth in the facts that he spoke, a lot of it was made up in his mind to fuel his ambitions. Otto Hightower and Larys Strong had created a crevasse inside her that was deepening every passing day. When Aemond lost his eye, the crevasse broadened so much that the wall of her conscience finally fell. She could do the most outrageous things without flinching an eye. Alicent always considered herself to be the flagbearer of righteousness. Retributive justice and righteousness do not go hand in hand. Righteousness always cares about the consequences. It cares about the footprints left on the sands of time. When Alicent demanded Lucerys’ eye, she didn’t care what precedent her demands, if granted, would have on the generations to come. She had always given a lot of importance to ethics and morals in her life, and she was delusional to think that she was still acting in accordance with them. Rhaenyra lifts up her veil and makes her privy to reality. After Aemond lost his eye, everybody showed their true colors. Everybody shook off their pretentiousness, not intentionally, though. At the beginning of the 7th episode of “House of the Dragons,” we saw Daemon giggling during his wife, Laena’s funeral, and we thought that he couldn’t be more unempathetic. But as the narrative progressed, we realized that maybe he was the only one who was not being pretentious. He was not acting to impress anybody or ask for any favors. Aemond, too, didn’t live under a delusion like his mother. He had no regret for losing his eye. He asked his mother to not ask for Lucerys’ eye as he knew that, with Vhagar by his side, very soon, he would get an opportunity to take revenge. Aemond was laden with a vengeance, but he didn’t let his passion take over his prudence.
It was surprising how something that started as a trivial issue transformed into a full-blown meltdown. It was because the elderly decided to let go of their reasonableness and jump into the puddle. When Alicent demanded an eye for an eye, she kickstarted a chain of events that led the kingdom to a civil war, which came to be known as the “Dance of the Dragons.” Alicent was never like this before, and we saw her getting transformed and giving into her fears through the course of the narrative. The seeds of fear, insecurity and doubt were sown by her own father inside her. The younger generation was nothing but an embodiment of those fears and insecurities. There was a moment when the children started quarreling in the court, and the older generation just stood there, seeing how their own enmities had been transferred through their blood. Viserys was shocked to see what they had become. He was a man of ideals and principles, but the rivalry had overpowered everything. He realized at that moment that they couldn’t be a family ever again. He realized that they just wanted an excuse to burn each other alive.
The concept of “an eye for an eye” is fueled by a feeling of vengeance. The concept thrives in an environment that is infused with a feeling of insecurity. Otto Hightower was somewhere disappointed in his daughter as she didn’t feel the need to seek redressal. Slowly, the insecurities started creeping inside her. They took over her conscience, and, from being someone who believed in the Faith of the Seven, she became somebody who would resort to violence under the pretext of justice.
Alicent didn’t realize that there was no winner in the battle she wanted to fight, and clearly, it was not something that one could call justice. There is a difference between an act of justice and an act of crime. The whole concept becomes flawed when you cannot differentiate one from another. She kickstarted a cycle that wouldn’t end unless it engulfed the House Targaryens into the sea of destruction. Viserys knew that Alicent’s wants and desires, if fulfilled, could never lead to the creation of a just and thriving society. Maybe that is why he didn’t give in to it. But it was a bit too late now. The kingdom had turned a blind eye towards this growing animosity, and now it had taken on a full shape and form. The sound of war trumpets could already be heard in the crimson sky. The two factions stood on the brink of a civil war, ready to put everything at stake and fight for retribution.