Otto Hightower is the villain we love to hate on House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon season 2
House of the Dragon season 2 /

I loathe Otto Hightower, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment but the House of the Dragon villain is the kind of character that you love to see on-screen. Not because he secretly has a heart of gold or is an evil man who happens to love fiercely. No, it's because he's exactly who you expect him to be--a cold strategist who callously uses the emotions of those around him to his advantage. This is not to say that he doesn't feel, we saw his grief (somewhat) on display in season 2 episode 2 "Rhaenyra the Cruel."

But mixed into his subdued "devastation" over the murder of his grandson was a calculated control. He put into motion a funeral procession that used the smallfolk's sympathy for the crown in the midst of abject tragedy to bolster support for their campaign against Rhaenyra. With the grieving Queen Helaena and the dowager Queen Alicent in the procession along with Jaehaerys’ body on display, Otto was able to secure their position.

When Aegon squandered what his wife and mother were put through for brief, vengeful satisfaction–hanging all the rat catchers and leaving them as a warning to any citizens of King’s Landing who might dare to rise against him and his family–Otto lost it. Not over the dismissal of what Helaena and Alicent had to do for his and the crown’s sake. Never that, no. He was angry because Aegon undid his ploy that would have carried favor for them throughout the war.

They successfully portrayed Rhaenyra as a power hungry, vile, cowardly child murderer and pretender to the throne and had won the smallfolk to their side to boot. The surrounding kingdoms were horrified by what they were told transpired. It weakened Rhaenyra’s position. Now word will spread that Aegon is impulsive and cruel, choosing to punish the many rather than enacting justice upon those who actually committed the crime.

From experience, the smallfolk are always wary when the powerful are incited because it usually blows back on them, the innocent. Aegon proved them right and with food growing scarce in King’s Landing because those with money are hoarding what’s available, the city could become a powder keg.

The king is worried about the threat outside their gates but he may find that he’s stirring up trouble within his own walls much to his detriment. It’s that shortsightedness that set Otto off on a glorious rant (and a brilliant bit of acting by Rhys Ifans, I must say!). He dragged his grandson across the coals for his capriciousness and shamed him by sharing that Viserys had been right about him, he is unfit for the throne. He also insinuated that Aegon was not king because Viserys willed it or wanted it so. I’m not going to lie, I turned into the eyes emoji when he made that snide comment. I’d been waiting for someone to say it and finally it happened!

Otto is a terrible grandfather and an even worse father but he is a master at delivering scathing commentary and I was not disappointed by his read of Aegon. He is, however, without power in King’s Landing now that his grandson has stripped him of the title of Hand and given it to Criston. The former member of the Kingsguard had come up with a foolhardy plan to send Arryk to infiltrate Rhaenyra’s castle by impersonating his twin, Erryk, and assassinating her in her own bedchamber. Predictably, the plan was derailed, and the attempted murder prevented, but it gave us a better scene than “Blood and Cheese,” and for that I’m grateful.

As for Otto, he’s off to drum up support for their cause in Highgarden. He’d wanted to head to Oldtown to see his grandson, Daeron, clearly to shape him into the man he wants him to be since he failed with Aegon. But Alicent convinced him to focus on courting the Tyrells, so he’ll be doing what he does best–manipulating people into doing his bidding. It seems you can’t keep a good villain down for long, there’s always a move to be made.

But before the episode could end, Otto did give us one last father of the year moment. Alicent tried to open up to him about her ill-advised affair with Criston and he immediately shut her down telling her that he didn’t want to hear it. Truly a gift to his family, this one.