In Praise Of Rhys Ifans, One Of House Of The Dragon's Secret Weapons

Rhys Ifans has the ability to be a live-wire actor of the highest order, unafraid to chomp on any scenery he comes across. Whether he is the wacky roommate in "Notting Hill," Luna Lovegood's equally spacey father in the "Harry Potter" films, or recently playing Rasputin in "The King's Man," the man knows how to have a good time on screen. When I heard he was cast on "House of the Dragon," I expected him to be in full-on delicious mode, where he would be grandstanding and delivering sinister quips with the best of them. 

After all, that is what this guy does, right? 


His performance as Otto Hightower, in many ways, has been the most subdued of the entire show. Ifans has found a way to completely bottle his tendencies to go big and made stillness a perfect weapon. He barely speaks above a whisper, forcing you to lean into everything he says. It's part of his ability to command and manipulate people around him to do things entirely in service of bolstering his own ego, most notably in forcing his daughter Alicent (Emily Carey) upon King Viserys (Paddy Considine). I see Otto as the heir apparent of Charles Dance's Tywin Lannister, a man able to exude power without having to prove that he has it.

Episode 4 sees a turn for Otto, though. Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) is the one person who has been able to see through his deceptions, as his power plays seek to remove her from being heir to the Iron Throne, and Viserys has dismissed him as Hand of the King. His power, which he has taken for granted and wielded without much opposition, is gone.

When is he going to blow his top?

Even though people may not know the name Rhys Ifans, he is probably the second most recognizable actor on the show behind Matt Smith. They are not going to have him stoically whisper and plot for the entirety of the show. He is a volcanic actor, and at some point, he has to explode. Now that his position has been taken from him, I fully expect Otto Hightower to go into "burn it all down" mode.

Episode 4 had that brief moment where he was about to enter the King's chambers to reveal the news about Rhaenyra and Daemon being seen in the brothel where his nerves almost get the better of him, and it is shot in this uncomfortable high-angle close-up with a really wide lens. He collects himself and proceeds as usual, but when I saw that specific shot, I knew that the bubbling under the surface had risen to a critical height.

Because Ifans has been so quiet thus far, the time he gets to finally let loose will be glorious, not to mention scary. Whenever someone keeps what troubles them at bay until they simply cannot take it anymore, the result is never pretty. "House of the Dragon" basically has a ticking time bomb in Rhys Ifans and they're milking every second of tension they can get out of him before it goes off. I will continue to eagerly anticipate that moment, and I assume it will inevitably be the clip they show if he gets nominated for an Emmy, despite the searing, quiet intensity where most of his performance lies.