This story comprises spoilers for Season 1, Episode 4 of Home of the Dragon.
Like a courtroom musician ordered to strum a princess’s favourite tunes beneath a Weirwood tree, HBO’s Home of the Dragon is aware of easy methods to play all of the hits that fulfill Recreation of Thrones followers. The small-council conferences crackle with passive-aggressive stress. The units look eye-popping, the dragons solely extra so. The battle sequences seem to spill sufficient blood to fill the Slender Sea. Little can really feel actually contemporary a couple of present that takes place in such a well-recognized setting, with such acquainted politicking at play.
The one factor maintaining this sense of déjà vu from being utterly overwhelming has been the childhood friendship between Rhaenyra Targaryen (performed by Milly Alcock), the primary feminine inheritor to the Iron Throne, and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey), the daughter of the Hand of the King. In Hearth & Blood, the e book on which the sequence is predicated, no such intimacy exists between the characters. The pair have the cordial rapport anticipated of noblewomen—that’s, till Alicent bears the king, Viserys, a son who threatens to supplant Rhaenyra within the line of succession. From that time on, the 2 develop into political rivals. However the TV sequence at first appeared to present these characters a captivating dynamic that the franchise has hardly ever explored: a real feminine friendship.
The small-screen adaptation of the creator George R. R. Martin’s work has definitely been missing in the case of such relationships. Daenerys Targaryen and her handmaiden Missandei’s camaraderie was predicated on the latter being a subordinate; the identical went for Sansa Stark and her handmaiden, Shae. Although Alicent is considered one of Rhaenyra’s ladies-in-waiting when they’re younger, they’re each nobles and thus on barely extra equal footing. They each have shut ties to energy, however no expectations of wielding it in maturity. Their distinct personalities within the pilot prompt they’d make good foils for one another: Alicent is dutiful and restrained; Rhaenyra, plucky and unruly. Particularly as soon as Rhaenyra was unexpectedly named her father’s inheritor, Home of the Dragon appeared poised to point out how their relationship would evolve as a consequence of rising up in a system that prioritizes energy above all else, and that treats friendships as nothing however foreign money.
But the sequence has squandered a lot of that potential. In Episode 3, the present’s timeline skips forward two to 3 years from the place Episode 2 left off—when Viserys (Paddy Considine) chooses Alicent as his second spouse. The interval it glosses over may have make clear how Alicent and Rhaenyra’s bond shapes their lives in courtroom after their stunning rises to energy. As an alternative, the present doesn’t explicitly clarify what occurred between the 2 after Alicent turns into Rhaenyra’s stepmother. (Which is definitely salacious, however such twisted ties are widespread amongst Westerosi, and notably Targaryen, royalty.) The few scenes between them have been awkward, suggesting the 2 stopped being as heat as they as soon as have been towards one another, however by no means study the emotional stakes of their altered relationship. Scrutinizing the ladies’s conflicting concepts of obligation and love because the supply of their pressure would have made the present much more attention-grabbing.
Tonight’s episode, which tried to attract connections between Alicent and Rhaenyra’s romantic relationships, was notably irritating to look at. One scene cuts between photographs of Alicent obediently going to mattress with Viserys and photographs of Rhaenyra being seduced by her uncle, Daemon (Matt Smith), in a sweaty brothel. The parallel—that the ladies each have unfulfilling sexual encounters—is obscure and relatively low-cost, contemplating the 2 have barely spoken of affection on the present. Later, when Alicent confronts Rhaenyra in regards to the rumors of her evening with Daemon, the encounter makes little sense. Why would Alicent be so involved about Rhaenyra, and Rhaenyra so harm by Alicent’s accusation? It’s been years since they frolicked studying collectively within the godswood. Viewers have seen nothing however iciness in between.
A few of this ambiguity is as a result of the present has failed to present Alicent’s character a lot depth in any respect. Sure, she’s in loads of scenes, discussing succession with Viserys and her father, Otto (Rhys Ifans), however all we all know is she’s an obedient spouse and mom who watches carefully from the sidelines of each set piece. In Hearth & Blood, Martin describes how Alicent’s betrothal to Viserys is affected by rumors that she seduced the king, or that she’d been deflowered by Daemon. Martin means that Alicent got here to dedicate her life to her duties as queen, partly to make sure that her fame by no means turns into sullied. The TV adaptation’s rush to hurry by way of the plot blows previous her evolution.
That’s a disgrace, too, for the present’s depiction of Westeros. If these early episodes had paid extra consideration to Rhaenyra and Alicent’s friendship throughout their youthful years, their rift may have deepened the viewers’s appreciation of the brutality of this medieval world, past the routine bloodshed. For ladies, such a setting is harmful not solely in the case of childbirth or sexual violence; it is usually a spot the place probably the most harmless of friendships could be torn aside by societal notions of accountability and purity. Rhaenyra and Alicent are two of probably the most protected ladies in Westeros, and but they’re not freed from the burdens of fame. Seeing them as confidants—true confidants, not simply characters standing shut to one another in a handful of scenes—would have given viewers a special approach by way of which to view the world of ice and hearth.
I perceive Home of the Dragon’s must prioritize plot and deal with exhibiting the Targaryens’ development towards their eventual demise. However for a present that, in accordance with its producers, aimed to deal with “the patriarchy’s notion of girls” and the way characters comparable to Rhaenyra get “boxed out of a person’s world,” the restricted creativeness for his or her friendship is disappointing. Quickly, a brand new solid will take over the roles to painting the pair in older age, serving to the story barrel towards the civil struggle that results in the tip of a dynasty. By then, Rhaenyra and Alicent’s authentic friendship will most likely be nothing greater than a footnote. Westeros’s management might not respect ladies, however nobody is disrespecting these characters greater than the writers of Home of the Dragon themselves.