House of the Dragon’s Emma D’Arcy & Olivia Cooke on the Patriarchy in Westeros
Dragon House arrived mid-season with episode 5, “We Light the Way”. After observing a young Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) and Alice (Emily Carey) being driven by male politics, the series will now jump ten years to continue this power struggle. In a new interview with the Entertainment Weekly cast Emma d’Arcy and Olivia Cookewho are set to reprise the roles of Alcock and Carey as Rhaenyra and Alicent, respectively, discussed the themes of the series and the power dynamics between their adult characters.
The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros is a deeply patriarchal society, it was established with the first shot of the series which sees Viserys being chosen as king over Rhaenys, the queen who never was. D’Arcy explains that the “continued consolidation of male power and patriarchy” is what really got them excited about the script. Further explaining that the princess has “privileges but no power” due to the prevailing patriarchy. “It’s one thing to put two female characters at the center of a series like this,” D’Arcy continued, “but it’s another when they’re positioned within a patriarchy. are we paying attention to them, seeking at least to take control of their own lives?” Cooke agrees, saying Alice “struggles with her femininity and power”. We last saw the Queen as she realizes the consequences of her misplaced trust and her father’s final warning that shook her to the core. The actor explains the role “she has to play who is completely estranged from her husband or father or even his children. And also, just morally where she stands when she no longer listens to her father.
Essentially, D’Arcy explains it’s about “otherness,” revealing that the showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal created a program where the story is told from the perspective of a character who is “fundamentally different in a position of power”. Adding: “It seems really unusual to me. How to convince an electorate that you are not different? How do you do that when the whole system is built on the belief and the rule that you are not the same? Cooke shares their sentiment as Alicent’s role has been limited to giving birth to heirs, which the show discussed in Episode 4, when Rhaenyra remarks, “How romantic it must be to be imprisoned in a castle and forced to evict heirs”, and quickly apologizes. Cooke said: “Our bodies [as women] continue to be politicized. It’s interesting to play a character who is in medieval times and [seeing] how these things still go on.”
On one side we have Rhaenyra, the heir to the throne with rumors of illegitimate children and on the other we have Alicent who is walking a tightrope of being a ‘lady’ for her entire life. by being forced in any direction the men in her life see good. Cooke revealed, “Just the injustice she feels…She looks around her family, and they’re all screwed. She’s like, ‘I’ve been so perfect my whole life. I haven’t taken one step wrong, and it doesn’t matter. I think what we see in his evolution is this complete existential crisis.” She attributes the rivalry between the two to this in court as well as the loss of her friendship with Rhaenyra, “I think it’s the first real heartbreak, and the first only heartbreak that [Alicent’s] had because it was such a pure love.”
The new episode of House of the Dragon will be released on September 25, in the meantime, check out the teaser below: