Cast changes are sometimes necessary, but was it really needed in HBO’s House of the Dragon?
The sequel to Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, has proved to be a stellar fantasy epic so far. The emphasis on the Targaryen lineage has worked wonders for a series that was, in its latter seasons, criticized for its lack of focus. Like many GoT fans, I’ve been enjoying the new direction in which House of the Dragon is heading – particularly after the bitter taste that GoT‘s Season 8 left me.
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However, it’s not all smooth sailing for the Targaryens. Episode 6 marked a clear before and after for the show – one that could spell trouble for the series in the long run.
Beware of the spoilers ahead, as they take us a decade into the future for those who haven’t seen episode 6 yet.
Remember Jaqen H’ghar? The Faceless Men could alter their entire physical appearance to deceive their targets. Unfortunately for Hollywood execs, no actor has been able to do this (yet). When your story calls for a ten-year time skip, you’ll inevitably encounter continuity issues with the looks of younger characters.
The Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower House of the Dragon cast change might have sounded like a harmless idea, but never underestimate the power of fans’ attachment, especially when Milly Alcock and Emily Carey were delivering such outstanding performances.
It gets even worse when you consider that Alcock might as well be the face of the series for non-fans, so imagine their shock when they hear that the main character is only in the show for five episodes.
House of the Dragon‘s narrative demands some considerable cast changes, that might be true. However, I can’t help but feel like it could have been done more tastefully, and I think I’ve found the show that does this sort of thing best: Netflix’s The Crown.
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Exploring a Lineage
Unlike Game of Thrones‘ focus on multiple Houses, House Targaryen is undoubtedly the star of the show in House of the Dragon. Seeing the actors age in their roles and live through the traumatic experiences that lead to the fall of one of the most powerful Houses in all of Westeros makes for outstanding entertainment, but it also takes a toll on the actors.
Perhaps the House of the Dragon cast change would have been less traumatic for fans if it was in the same vein as The Crown: time skips and inevitable recasts would only happen between seasons. This would certainly help fans digest that some of the characters they know and love now look completely different.
The only downside to this approach is that, inevitably, different actors will lend different visions of the same character to audiences. Between episodes 5 and 6, it seems like Rhaenyra (now Emma D’Arcy) and Alicent (Olivia Cooke) are completely different characters.
I can’t help but think that maybe it would have been better if Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal took some liberties with the source material when it comes to the age of the characters. Perhaps this would have allowed Milly Alcock and Emily Carey to keep playing the same characters for the duration of the show, with just a hint of makeup and movie magic to achieve an older look.
All that said, it’s still a bit early to declare that House of the Dragon has been “ruined” by the cast change. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with the new actresses moving forward, and how they adapt to the fantastic prequel story we’ve been seeing so far.
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Tell us, do you think HBO ruined House of the Dragon with the cast change?