House of the Dragon S01E05 Proper Farewell to Alcock, Carey: Review
Before Emma D'Arcy and Olivia Cooke officially take over the respective roles of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Queen Alicent Hightower, we see Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in them one last time in the episode "We Light the Way" before the time jump in HBO's House of the Dragon. Alcock and Carey thrived well beyond their years of having to be on the opposite sides of the political coin in House of the Dragon. Alcock's Rhaenyra certainly had the advantage that Emilia Clarke's Daenerys never had in not having to be forged by trauma in her upbringing and maturing far more organically into her narrative. Carey's Alicent is dealing with a crisis threatening to usurp her standing with the iron throne. This is your minor spoilers warning.
First, Alicent has to deal with her father Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), being deposed as Hand of the King due to Rhaenyra's influence over her father, King Viserys (Paddy Considine). Otto correctly suspected potentially salacious and incestuous behavior between Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith). The only detail he got wrong was the consummation act, which goes to Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel). Rhaenrya was still aroused after Daemon pulled away from their mutual seduction and beckoned the Kingsguard to her chambers. Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch) brewed a special "tea" as contraception not long after their act. Second, some will argue that her son Aegon is the rightful heir, not Viserys' hand-picked successor in his firstborn and daughter Rhaenyra, also her best friend.
Cole is found to be wrought with guilt since he broke his vow of chastity, finding it difficult to resume his duties as Kingsguard with his leftover feelings for Rhaenyra, who's set to wed Lord Corlys Velaryon's (Steve Toussaint) son Ser Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate). Laenor has a gay lover in Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Solly McLeod). Similar to the circumstances with Renly Baratheon in Game of Thrones, queer members of royalty are still coerced into arranged heterosexual marriages to bear children and strengthen houses.
My God! Another Wedding?!
Since the backdrop of this episode is a wedding between Rhaenyra and Laenor, you can expect House of the Dragon to end in major chaos and death. Before you ask, no, it's nowhere near on par with the red and purple weddings from GOT. We do see Smith's Daemon back to his nefarious tricks after his tease into humanity in "King of the Narrow Sea," pissing off House Royce and his brother, the king, all at once. We do get more Daemon-Rhaenyra tease again on the dance floor. The best thing about Smith's performance is that he does so much with so little and is so devilishly fun.
I enjoyed Alcock, Smith, Considine, and Frankel's performances because they're the characters with the greatest range. I want to like Carey's Alicent more, but it seems like there is this switch the showrunners are purposely holding back on from realizing her full potential. She's literally become a far less charismatic boy scout like Ned Stark without the conviction to go anywhere else, even as her world is potentially falling apart sans the shocking anti-climactic execution. It's no fault of the actress, and I hope Cooke can bring out that fire Carey wasn't ever able to let us see, especially regarding the tensions between Alicent and Rhaenyra. The second episode, directed by Clare Kilner (who also did "King of the Narrow Sea") and written by Charmaine DeGraté, "We Light the Way," sets up the second half of the season pretty nicely, for the most part.