The much-awaited Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon finally has a cast most of us had not really anticipated for. On December 12, the show’s official social media account on Twitter broke the news: the cast will be led by Emma D’Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, joining the previously announced as Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen.

After HBO made the official announcement, the internet showed no chill as fans started being anxious about the cast that seems severely mismatched, the excessive misuse of terms like ‘mad’, and the overall misunderstanding of the plot as depicted in the book Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin.

Most fans hoped House of the Dragon would revolve around the Targaryens who came to Dragonstone roughly 300 years before the events of GoT, showing Visenya, Aegon, and Rhaenys’s Conquest and then moving forward in time from there. However, HBO decided to focus on a period in Targaryen history called the Dance of Dragons, a couple of years of bloody civil war and the events that led to it.

Let’s take a look at the characters and what about their casting has fans so riled up, shall we?

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen is King Viserys I Targaryen’s first child and chosen heir. She is, of course, a dragonrider. Anyone who has read Fire and Blood will tell you that Rhaenyra requires an actor with a solid persona and screen presence that gives the viewers the same cinematic experience that they might have felt while reading the book. Emma D’Arcy, though a great actor, does not seem a promising choice. For some reason, I cannot seem to picture the Truth Seekers star fighting it off with younger half-brother Aegon II over the Iron Throne. I hope they prove me wrong. 

Not to forget that Rhaenyra – there isn’t and shouldn’t be a way around it – is a plump lady, and Emma isn’t. In the book, Rhaenyra gains weight as a result of her many pregnancies, which fans love her all the more for. Something that is not fine is this not being reflected through the casting choice. However, there is also the possibility that Emma will only play young Rhaenyra and will be replaced by an older actress as the season progresses. It doesn’t make too much sense because D’Arcy is already an adult, but the casting was indeed for a ‘Young Rhaenyra.’ This is how the fandom imagined Rhaenyra and Daemon:

 

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Matt Smith, who has been winning hearts through his character in The Crown recently, seems like a misfit for the role of Prince Daemon Targaryen. He is King Viserys I’s younger brother, therefore Rhaenyra’s uncle as well as her loving second husband. Daemon is Rhaenyra’s biggest strength and supporter in the quest for the Iron Throne. He can be best described as a peerless and most skilled warrior of his time. Now, with that kind of description, it would have been a treat for fans to watch Travis Fimmel, the Vikings actor play the role, rather than the lanky Matt Smith. 

 

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It is pretty evident that the fans were expecting a powerhouse of a cast by how they have reacted to the reveal. The disagreement of Smith not being the right choice for the role of Daemon unfortunately led to many people body-shaming him and going as far as flat out saying he doesn’t deserve the role for his “ugly” look. While I also don’t believe he is the best choice for Daemon, it’s because of his physical build, rather than facial features. No one could deny Smith’s acting skills or dedication to past roles.

Some talented fans are looking at the bright side and trying to make it make sense with their art:

The casting of Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower and not ‘Queen Alicent’ lends even more evidence to the theory that the show will indeed begin when Alicent and Rhaenyra are young, 20-10 years before the actual Dance of Dragons.

The dangerously misused word

One word that has been constantly employed to describe the Targaryens is “mad”. HBO even referenced it in the official press release when describing Daemon by using the popular “the gods toss the coin” phrase. Normally, as a result, every major publication has now headlined articles describing Daemon as a “mad Targaryen”, which sent book fans on edge. Daemon is far from being mad. Yet this adjective is being carelessly thrown around like it’s no biggie, when its repercussions are extremely major.

Now, let us dissect the word and explore what it actually means according to the Mariam Webster dictionary: when used as an adjective “mad” means “mentally ill; insane”. It shouldn’t be misused, or it will lose its real significance.

While the show revolves around the surely controversial topic of incest, it is important to remind HBO to be mindful of using words such as ‘mad’, and unnecessarily associating it with so many characters. Abusing these words garners unwanted attention that can have repercussions in the real world. The point really is that these characters are NOT mad and yet they’re constantly being labeled as such. That is the thing about pop culture. Just because season 8 of Game of Thrones made Daenerys go mad and burn King’s Landing – which was completely out of character by the way – does not mean the next series in line, House of the Dragon in this regard, should have to portray every Targaryen as mad. Not when they weren’t in the source material. No, not at all.

 

Despite all its faults, GoT still has huge a fan base that is eagerly looking forward to House of Dragon. The prequel begins production in 2021 is expected to go on air in 2022 as per HBO’s programming chief, Casey Bloys. We only hope and pray that the show lives up to the standard and the fears we have regarding the characters not being portrayed how they should be or the storyline being out of place are only fears that do not turn into our worst nightmare on screen.

In the meantime, you can read Fire and Bloodthe book by George R.R. Martin on the history of the Targaryen reign in Westeros. That, I promise, will not disappoint.

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  • Haddiqua Siddiqui

    Haddiqua Siddiqui is a Multimedia Journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. Haddo, as her close friends call her, identifies as food-sensitive and stays away from anyone who does not have a sweet tooth. Currently, her wandering soul is on a quest of unlearning and relearning life. Send help!!

  • Federica Bocco

    With a degree in Communications and Media, an insatiable passion for humanities, social justice, and anything involving dragons, Federica is your fandom resident expert. She is a certified multitasker and professional workaholic who is proud to serve as Editor-in-Chief at The Tempest. Her biggest challenge in life is to smash the hetero-normative patriarchy while perpetually running around in seven-inch heels.

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