House of the Dragon Will Have a Significant Time Jump and Major Character Recasting

House of the Dragon has made a major debut with its premiere episode and seems to be a hit with millions of viewers – even those who were left disappointed (if not jaded) by how Game of Thrones ended. In fact, buzz around the new characters introduced in the Targaryen-focused series is so positive that a lot of fans may not realize that the series is already teasing a major time jump, which will also require a major recasting of some key characters, who are already taking the lead as fan-favorites!


Rhaenyra and Alicent Will Be Recast

(Photo: HBO)

House of the Dragon Episode 1 ended with the obligatory Season 1 preview trailer, which details how the tradition-defying decision of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) to name princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) as his heir will stir conflict within the king's court, the realm, and the Targaryen family. Fans may not have put two-and-two together in the quick-flash sizzle reel of footage, but the Season 1 preview trailer definitely reveals Rhaenyra at two distinctly different ages in her life, played by two different actresses. 

It's been no secret: actress Emma D'Arcy has been openly promoted as the older Rhaenyra in the marketing and press tour for House of the Dragon, which certainly suggests she has the more extensive screen time in season 1 compared to Alcock.

In conjunction with Rhaenyra being played by a different, older, actress, Lady Alicent Hightower will also be recast. Emily Carey played Alicent in House of the Dragon episode 1, but Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) will play the older Alicent. Again, Cooke's role in the show has never been a secret from anyone who followed House of the Dragon's production – but mainstream viewers may be caught unaware when the time jump and recasting happen in the show. 

House of the Dragon's Time Jump & Character Recasting Explained

(Photo: HBO)

Why is House of the Dragon recasting main characters during the season? The time jump is the answer.

 Some of the biggest developments in House of the Dragon won't be dragons and battles – but rather weddings, funerals, and births within the Targaryen family, over the years. All of this is foreshadowed in the premiere, with marriages, birth, and/or death all being key elements to galvanizing the plot, as well as reminding Game of Thrones fans of the chess-like moves the main characters must consider in their acquisition or maintenance of power and position.

 In that sense, the challenges that Rhaenyra will face as the chosen heir will only fully begin when she's a matured woman and has to do "battle" on two fronts: the battlefield and the birthing bed (as her mother warned). A time jump between a younger Rhaenyra and an older version of the character is very necessary. The same goes for Alicent, whose adult life will bring similar womanly obligations and challenges. 

Why Does House of the Dragon Need New Actresses for Rhaenyra & Alicent?

(Photo: HBO)

Aside from the obvious narrative advantage to show time progression and maturation in the two characters: 

Game of Thrones was one of the bigger targets when it came to re-examining how Hollywood exploits gratuitous nudity and sexuality, with stars like Emilia Clarke never feeling quite comfortable with some early sexual scenes featuring her character when she was in her early 20s.  

That's all to say: Millions of fans are probably happy with the young actresses playing Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in House of the Dragon Episode 1. That said, no one necessarily needs to see those same young actresses take on some of the more explicit moments (violent or sexual) these characters will almost certainly be involved in. Yes, Milly Alcock is 22, and Emily Carey is 19 – but they are also clearly playing significantly younger than that in their respective roles in House of the Dragon, so... hence the recasting for everyone's clarity, and comfort. 

House of the Dragon streams on HBO Max.