House of the Dragon Hopes to Better Portray the Women of Westeros After Game of Thrones Criticisms

When it first premiered, HBO's Game of Thrones quickly earned a reputation for being a no-holds-barred show. Its unflinching look at the politics of Westeros and some of the best action scenes ever filmed for television helped catapult it to the top of everyone's Best-Of lists. But almost immediately, the way it handled nudity, sexual violence, and gender politics came under fire for being a little too true to the Middle Ages era that inspires much of the series' storytelling. Now, Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon is coming, and they are hoping to reverse course on that.

What had been fairly consistent (if sometimes low-key) criticisms of the original show took on a new life in the final season, as Daenerys Targaryen took on the role of antagonist, and issues with how the series wrote and treated women were inevitably back at the forefront. House of the Dragon seeks to address that whiel focusing on Daenerys's ancestor Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her childhood best friend Alicent Hightower, the Hand of the King's daughter, whose relationship threatens to tear Westeros apart, as the two become wrapped up in a bloody civil war for control of the country.

Emma D'Arcy, who plays Rhaenyra and uses they/them pronouns, told Entertainment Weekly that they see the character as "pushing at the edges of womanhood," adding that she is "obsessed with masculinity," and equates "maleness" to freedom. 

"She is a person who feels at odds with the way that she is read by the world – even this label the Realm's Delight, which implies a passivity, being an object of people's ogling," D'Arcy added. "It's like she has a doppelgänger. The doppelgänger is Rhaenyra born male, who has access to all the things that she craves and feels to be hers. She has this amazing connection with her uncle Daemon. In some ways, they're [of] the same fabric, and yet the rules are completely different [for them]."

Tackling these issues in a direct way is likely to generate more conversation, and some of it may be just as critical as the first time around, but they'll likely get points for the self-awareness. And of course, when you're looking at stories set in (or based on) the Middle Ages, succession battles are one of the most common themes you'll find.

House of the Dragon debuts on HBO on August 21.