This week was a somewhat jarring episode of House of the Dragon with a leap 10 years into the future. While most of the cast stayed the same, the show recast its two leads with actresses about ten years older than their predecessors. Milly Alcock was replaced as Rhaenyra by Emma D’Arcy and Emily Carey was replaced as Alicent by Olivia Cooke.
While I don’t think anyone has much to criticize about the performances of the new cast members, there is a sense that the show lost something by replacing its two young, talented actresses that fans had been getting to know over the first five episodes. There has been some hope that we might see them again in some sort of flashback in future episodes or seasons, and now the showrunner of House of the Dragon is commenting on that possibility. For now, it doesn’t seem like very good news.
“I mean, look, I don’t know,” showrunner Ryan Condal told Variety, saying that young Rhaenyra and Alicent “are not a part of the story that we’re telling, yet. That’s not a thing that we’re doing right now.”
He goes on to talk about how Game of Thrones is not a series that generally does all that many flashbacks, though it’s not impossible, and he doesn’t want to fully rule it out.
“There are things that we haven’t fully sorted out,” Condal said. “I’m not closing the door on anything. So there, how’s that for an answer?”
Still, if they do return, it would likely be for no more than a brief cameo. I do wonder if the writers of House of the Dragon knew how attached audiences would get to the initial actresses, and whether many would find it hard to flip over to new ones that had been recast. One of the issues is that it feels odd that some have been recast, while others haven’t. It’s weird, I would say, to have the also somewhat young Ser Cristen played by the same actor, just with a haircut, while his former lover Rhaneyra is recast entirely.
But this has always been the nature of the story House of the Dragon is trying to adapt from Martin’s original work, which takes place over the span of nearly three decades, by the time the tale is done. It’s just a big break from Game of Thrones where we saw its young actors literally grow up over the course of nearly ten years of that show, but House of the Dragon may not even have a story to tell with these characters past next season, so that option wasn’t really there, if the story needed to be moved along.
I have no doubt that both Alcock and Carey will have their pick of roles in the future here now that their time on House of the Dragon seems mostly wrapped, flashback re-appearance or not. I suppose it’s a good thing that their performances stood out so much that fans were this upset to see them go, but such is the nature of the adaptation at play here.