House of the Dragon fans who grew fond of Milly Alcock’s young Princess Rhaenyra and Emily Carey’s young Alicent Hightower didn’t seem to suffer from too much whiplash Sunday after seeing them replaced by older actresses Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke.
If anything, the 10-year time jump gave viewers the villain they were ready and eager to hate in the Game of Thrones spinoff on HBO — the petty and vengeful Queen Alicent.
For those who haven’t watched the latest installment from Westeros, Alicent used to be best friends with Rhaenyra until she married her bestie’s dad, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) and started having his babies. Their hatred toward one another was in full bloom Sunday as the much older Rhaenyra gave birth to her third son and the queen demanded an immediate audience with the infant.
Why? Because Alicent knows the father is not Ser Laenor Velaryon, who Rhaenyra is formally hitched to. It was hastily revealed in episode 6 that the real dad is the valiant and loving Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr). Alicent is eager to unveil the truth so her son — not Rhaenyra’s — ascends to the Iron Throne.
But fans don’t seem to care who fathered Rhaenyra’s brood. They’ve already decided who the real villain is here and it’s not Ser Harwin — it’s that woman married to Viserys. Read some of their expletive-fueled, not-for-the-weak-of-heart missives against the evil Alicent, below.
Why such a drastic time jump? There’s lots of bread crumbs to drop before the real drama begins, explains showrunner Ryan Condal. “I’m excited about the pace and the structure of the story that we’re telling in the first season,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s very complex. It happens over a long period of time because children need to get married off and then grow up themselves and then have children of their own who grow up in order to tell the story of this generational war that is fought. HBO gave [former showrunner Miguel Sapochnik] the creative latitude to tell this incredibly complex story in a really patient and character-driven way that sets up a first season so that it launches you into one of the most famous and bloody conflicts in the history of Westeros — if not the most.”
Get used to the time jumps, fans. More are coming. “It’s what makes this premium HBO content versus the thing we would have been forced to make at a different outlet,” added Condal. “Most other places would not have had the patience and boldness to allow us to tell the story we’re telling. But this is how you tell this story correctly. We’re telling a story of a generational war. We set everything up so by the time that first sword stroke falls, you understand all the players — where they are and why they are. All the history is there instead of being told to you in exposition. This way you get to see it all happen.”