‘House of the Dragon’: How Premiere Sets Up Two Key Relationships

"She's emotionally confused... and I want the audience to feel confused with her," Emily Carey tells IW of her character's predicament.
A father and daughter in medieval outfits meet in the lamp-lit living quarters of a palace; still from "House of the Dragon."
"House of the Dragon"

House of the Dragon” just introduced two seemingly inseparable young women in Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) and Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock).

“It’s just a tangible closeness between them emotionally, physically — tactile closeness,” Carey told IndieWire over Zoom ahead of the season premiere.

But the relationships that might cause quite a stir in Westeros take root in the pilot, which premiered Sunday night on HBO. Rhaenyra is noticeably close with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith), and Alicent is tasked with “comforting” King Viserys (Paddy Considine) after his wife dies in childbirth.

“She’s confused, emotionally confused,” Carey said of Alicent. “I don’t think she’s even even thought of the implications of this meeting with the King until she’s in there. The door closes behind her and she’s suddenly acutely aware that she’s in room alone with a man — which [she] hasn’t been apart from her father — in his chambers, it’s the king, it’s her best friend’s dad…A lot of emotions all at once: Guilt, duty, all of that comes into play, and I want the audience to feel confused with her.”

Carey also told IndieWire that the Hightowers are “passionate people,” and that Alicent and her father Otto (Rhys Ifans) struggle to communicate and open up to each other emotionally. She finds that emotional connection, unexpectedly, in King Viserys.

“There’s a strange friendship that starts to spark and I think you see that in Episode 1,” she said. “There’s a shared trauma between them. Alicent, in a weird way, is also comforting him [as] if she would have comforted her father when her mother died. There’s a similarity between between the two, and so there’s a strange draw and a pull between these two characters in that they’re both showing emotional vulnerability in a context that they maybe haven’t before.”

A man with silvery hair sits upon a throne made of melted swords, looking down at a woman with similar hair in a medieval dress down below; still from "House of the Dragon."
Matt Smith and Milly Alcock in “House of the Dragon.”HBO

Suffice it to say that Rhaenyra will probably not be thrilled by the prospect of her best friend possibly seducing her father (and at such a delicate time!), but fans of the show will have to wait and see exactly what direction that story goes.

The other relationship that instantly scorches like dragonfire is that between Daemon and Rhaenyra, who could simply be close relatives or be taking a cue from their family’s history of rampant incest.

“Me and Matt wanted to leave that door half-open and up to the audience’s interpretation, which was actually so fun to play with, toeing that line,” Alcock said about the duo in the premiere. Daemon brings Rhaenyra gifts from his travels across Westeros and they are the only two characters in the pilot to speak in High Valyrian, establishing an instant connection.

“There is this shared bond that they have being able to speak in that language because not many people speak it,” she said. “We’ll see what happens with their relationship, but it was a joy to work with Matt.”

“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays on HBO.

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