How 'House of the Dragon' season 2 will fill in the gaps of Rhaenyra and Alicent's stories

House of the Dragon season 2 poster featuring Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy
(Image credit: HBO)

The impending Dance of the Dragons war of "House of the Dragon" season 2 may be a conflict between two opposing factions inside House Targaryen — Team Black (the contingent that supports Rhaenyra Targaryen as heir to the crown) versus Team Green (those that back her half-brother Aegon II Targaryen's claim to the Iron Throne) — but it's also a fiery feud between two women. 

We're talking, of course, about Rhaenyra (played by Emma D'Arcy) and her former childhood friend Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), who dramatically changed up their dynamic when she, you know, married Rhaenyra's dad. (Awkward!) The relationship between the two female leads gets infinitely more complicated as we get deeper into the "Game of Thrones" prequel series and that will no doubt continue when the new season premieres on HBO and Max on Sunday, June 19. 

However, in "Fire and Blood," the George R. R. Martin novel on which "House of the Dragon is based," both Rhaenyra and Alicent are far more passive characters on page than they are onscreen — the former is basically a figurehead during the war and she and Alicent have no established friendship in the book. (Book Alicent is actually a whole decade older than Rhaenyra.) 

"House of the Dragon" executive producer Sara Hess told Entertainment Weekly about how it's both "a benefit and a hardship" for the show to fill in the gaps left by the book when it comes to Rhaenyra and Alicent's stories. 

"There's not as much roadmap there," Hess told the outlet. "We had to flesh out all of those things, but I think it is a benefit in that we're not going against anything that's in the book. It's not that it's saying Alicent did this and we're having her do something else, it's that she disappears from the narrative. It's really interesting to think about because women do disappear from historical narratives."

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There won't be any disappearing from this narrative for either woman — Hess notes that, though Rhaenyra begins season 2 in a position of great weakness (what with the shocking death of her son Luke, as well as Aegon II usurping her throne) and Alicent in one of great power as mother and advisor of the king, "the story of this season is that they change places." That heightened focus on the women characters also expands the stories of their children, especially those of Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell).

So, are you Team Rhaenyra or Team Alicent? HBO played into that rivalry by releasing dueling trailers to promote season two, one that followed D'Arcy's Rhaenyra and the Dragonstone forces and the other centered on Cooke's Alicent and the rest of the King's Landing crew. 

Whichever team to whom you pledge your allegiance, Tom's Guide will keep you posted on all things related to the second season of "House of the Dragon." In the meantime, you can catch up with Rhaenyra, Alicent and all the rest of your favorite "HOTD" characters by rewatching the show's first season with a Max subscription. 

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Christina Izzo

Christina Izzo is a writer-editor covering culture, food and drink, travel and general lifestyle in New York City. She was previously the Deputy Editor at My Imperfect Life, the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York.