A Farewell To House Of The Dragon's Milly Alcock And Emily Carey

This post contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" episode five.

Getting to see the Stark kids grow up was a major part of the experience of watching "Game of Thrones." Across eight seasons, the likes of Arya, Sansa, and Bran slowly but surely made their way from being spirited, naive whipper-snappers to cunning warriors, strategic leaders, and, er, weirdo seers who set Westeros on the path to being a democracy one day (or not).

"House of the Dragon," on the other hand, has operated on an accelerated timeline. In just five episodes, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) and Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey) have gone from being young teens idling in the Red Keep's gardens to the controversial heir to the Iron Throne and queen of the Seven Kingdoms, respectively. Alas, the show's next time jump will be its biggest one yet, which means the time has come to bid farewell to Alcock and Carey as Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke take over their roles to depict Rhaenyra and Alicent as adults. Not since Colin Robinson went from happily singing show tunes as a child to being an angsty teen energy vampire overnight has adolescence seemed so fleeting.

But before they go, let's take a moment to salute Alcock and Carey for all their hard efforts. By putting in the legwork to define their characters as well as they have, both actors have set the stage for the drama to come as "House of the Dragon" season 1 enters its back half.

All hail the queen of chaos

It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Alcock has at fleshing out Rhaenyra as the feisty Targaryen daughter who just wants to fly on her dragon all day we met at the start of "House of the Dragon." In just two episodes, Alcock wholly sold her character's arc from postmodern Disney princess type to her father's heir presumptive, her mother's horrific death having forced Rhaenyra to grow up far too quickly.

Even then, her newfound burdens (which include knowing her ascendancy to the Iron Throne will very likely plunge Westeros into war) weren't enough to rob Rhaenyra of her spirit. Indeed, Alcock has been superb when it comes to capturing the different aspects of the character's personality as a young adult, from the way she avoids confiding in anyone other than her protector, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), to the "I can make him worse" energy she emanates whenever Rhaenyra spends time with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith). It's that mix of political savvy and recklessness that has come to define King Viserys' (Paddy Considine) would-be successor, laying the groundwork for her evolution post-time jump in episode six.

On a different but related note, Alcock deserves an extra shout-out for making the show's "Inside the Episode" behind-the-scenes videos a delight. I don't recall the last time I laughed out loud as properly as watching the "House of the Dragon" creative team talk about the series' risque sex scenes with the upmost gravity, only for Alcock to matter-of-factly chime in, "The brothel days were really funny!" Truly, a queen worth fighting for.

A lady who knows how to play the Game of Thrones

Alicent's own journey has paralleled that of Rhaenyra in "House of the Dragon" so far. Like her childhood friend, Alicent has been thrown head-first into adulthood sooner than she expected, becoming a queen and mother before she's even had a chance to finish growing up. Thankfully, Carey has thrived at portraying the nuances of her character, not least of all when it comes to filling in the gaps in her and Rhaenyra's changing relationship after each of the show's time jumps. The patriarchy-enforced strain between them has become so thick in their interactions over time, you can almost taste it.

In some ways, Carey has had the hardest role in the series up until now. Where Rhaenyra has at least a couple of people she can be open with in her life (as open as anyone can be when playing the Game of Thrones), Alicent doesn't really have anyone. Her father Ser Otto (Rhys Ifans) only ever speaks to her in cryptic commands before his blunt farewell warning in episode five, whereas Alicent is stuck having to constantly play the role of the dutiful, nurturing wife to Viserys. It's only thanks to Carey's performance that we ever get a feel for what's actually going on in her character's head, revealing Alicent to be far more cautious and calculating than so many of the men in her orbit seem to believe.

If there was even the slightest doubt Alicent isn't a serious contender in the Game of Thrones, her upstaging of Rhaenyra and Laenor's (Theo Nate) wedding festivities has shut them down, heading into this next time jump.

New episodes of "House of the Dragon" premiere Sunday evenings on HBO and HBO Max.