Episode 5 of House Of The Dragon was the best episode since the premiere, and in many ways I think the show really finds its stride at this moment—fittingly, during an episode bookended by two bloody and horrific murders.
The second of these murders takes place during a wedding, which is rather on brand given how well nuptials typically go in George R.R. Martin’s writing. This episode, perhaps more than any other, felt very much like a proper Game Of Thrones episode to me—though in many ways this show plays that game even better than the original series, which was much more concerned with zombies and prophecies and other epic fantasy tropes than House Of The Dragon.
In any case, it’s all very bittersweet. Just five episodes in, just as the show is finding its feet, and we’re already losing two of the main actors. All told, four actors are recast mid-season (one already has been)—three in one fell swoop. Two of the show’s brightest stars have fallen, and we should give both Milly Alcock and Emily Carey the praise and kudos they deserve.
So why are these actors being replaced mid-season? The answer is entirely about logistics.
The show takes a massive ten-year time-jump between Episodes 5 and 6 and instead of aging up the actors with makeup or special effects, the showrunners decided on casting two sets of actors instead. House Of The Dragon has already taken several smaller time-jumps, aging up its characters by at least four or five years, but with this next one, new actors were needed, and as much as it pains me to say it, I think it’s the right call.
This next time-jump changes everything. Not only do all the established characters get older, we get a whole fresh batch of new faces—mostly children of Rhaenyra and Alicent—including Viserys and Alicent’s first son and potential male heir Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney). He’s almost as old as Rhaenyra was in the series premiere when we meet him in Episode 6 (and the actor who plays him is 27).
Let’s take a look at the recast actors and who each character will be played by for the rest of the series.
Rhaenyra Actress Milly Alcock Is Being Replaced By Emma D’Arcy
I’m not just annoyed that I’m going to have to relearn some actor names for review purposes (it’s not easy to remember all these names!) I’m sad that Rhaenyra’s eyebrows have gotten so much paler over the years. I’m sad about this because I can relate. My eyebrows used to be so much darker and they’ve just gotten lighter and lighter over the years I’m afraid they’ll disappear someday!
Emma D’Arcy, who identifies as non-binary and is referred to as ‘they’, is 30-years-old, just eight years Milly Alcock’s senior. That’s about right for the time jump, though. Rhaenyra is hovering around 20-years-old by Episode 5, give or take, and 30 is just right for her in Episode 6. She’ll have been married to Laenor—a gay man—for that entire time. They’ll have several children.
While Alcock is a newcomer, D’Arcy has been in a few shows including Truth Seekers and Wanderlust. The British actor definitely brings experience to the table. I’ve seen Episode 6 and genuinely enjoyed her performance, but it’s a big change and takes getting used to, especially given how terrific Alcock has been so far. She’s one of the only characters viewers have really connected with on an emotional level, so the change is a bit jarring.
Alicent Actress Emily Carey Is Being Replaced By Olivia Cooke
Olivia Cooke is replacing Emily Carey as an older version of Queen Alicent. Carey is 19 and Cooke is 28, so the age gap is just about right for the time-jump, though I believe Alicent is supposed to be slightly older than Rhaenyra and both Alcock and D’Arcy are older than their counterparts.
Cooke is the most well-known of this bunch, having starred in Bates Motel and Vanity Fair and played roles in major movies like Ready Player One. I think she looks more like Carey’s Alicent than D’Arcy looks like Alcock’s Rhaenyra, also, which makes the change slightly less jarring. But here’s the thing: Having seen Episode 6, I can say that Alicent herself has changed more than Rhaenyra, something that’s strongly hinted at by the end of Episode 5.
The other two actors who are being recast are Rhaenyra’s husband Laenor and his sister Laena. Laena—who was just a child when her father, Lord Corlys, offered her to the king as a bride—showed up as a fully grown woman in Episode 5 which was a little odd given how little the other characters have aged.
Laenor, played by Theo Nate, is being replaced by John MacMillan who I think looks the least like his younger self compared to all the other new actors. We don’t have many images of him in the show just yet, but here’s one of him and Rhaenyra and their children:
I don’t think it’s spoiler territory, really, to point out that Rhaenyra’s kids don’t have very dark skin and don’t look very much like their dad at all. Given his “tastes” there’s almost certainly a very good reason for this, which we may find out in next week’s episode.
Speaking of next week, here’s the trailer for Episode 6:
You can see the new actors in action in this trailer. It’s pretty intriguing actually. You can also see some hints about where things have ended up ten years in the future. Harwin Strong appears to have a much more prominent role. He’s the character who fought his way past the throng during the Green Wedding and carried Rhaenyra to safety.
We also see Laena Velaryon with a child and Daemon nearby, hinting that the two may have started a family together. Daemon certainly likes his women young!
Lots of big changes ahead, and in many ways the real story is just about to begin. Everything up to this point has been setup. Big changes—and dragon-infused civil war—lays bloody on the horizon.
You can read my review of Episode 5 right here. Watch my video review of the new episode below:
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