Emma D’Arcy on HotD: Women ‘can become skeptical & fearful of other women with power’


New York Magazine’s Vulture has good coverage of House of the Dragon. In addition to their recaps, they do pretty good previews and analysis, and they do interviews with the main actors after significant episodes. After Sunday’s season finale, Vulture published a conversation between one of their writers and the two leads of the show: Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke. In the discussion, the two leads discussed their characters’ season-long arc with one another, their characters’ roles as women in a male-dominated world, and the mid-season tipping point between the two.

There’s so few women in this world that I think there’s a feeling of gleefulness when men identify them as special.
OC: They’re not immune to the feeling of a powerful man bestowing his light on them. They live in this society that rewards [them] when that happens.

Did you approach scenes with other female characters, like Eve Best’s Rhaenys, differently than scenes with male characters?

OC: When I had that scene with Rhaenys, there was an equity that hadn’t been there before. Speaking to a woman who was also fucked by this system and trying to appeal to that was unifying. There’s a different quality to it. You can’t really quantify it until you see the scene on television.

ED: The irony is, we don’t get that many scenes solely with another female character. In Rhaenyra’s scene with Rhaenys, she’s far more intimidated by the conversation she’s about to have than she would be were it a male character, because all of her tools have been built to manipulate and navigate men. She feels transparent. It’s a very revealing and uncomfortable conversation.

That’s the other irony, I suppose: When women do manage to protect some corner of power within a patriarchy, they can become skeptical and fearful of other women with power because their tools are not made specifically to navigate that type of power. And/or, we have the same skill set, and suddenly there’s a rivalry that is very different from the rivalry felt with male colleagues.

In episode seven, “Driftmark,” Alicent’s son Aemond and Rhaenyra’s son Lucerys fight after Aemond calls him a bastard. Luke slashes Aemond’s face, causing him to lose an eye. Alicent boils over in that moment and attacks Rhaenyra, but Rhaenyra has to keep her guard up.

ED: It’s such an interesting scene, right? My sympathy is fully with Alicent. On the page I was like, Well, she’s f-cking right.

OC: Someone’s lost an eye.

ED: Someone’s lost an eye! I’m so amazed every time Paddy basically tells you to let it go. Simultaneously, Rhaenyra is playing quite a basic game: Lie hard, do not back down, and weaponize this word “treason.”

OC: Alicent’s being gaslit massively and she f-cking explodes. In friendships or relationships, when it gets to the point where you feel you’re going mad, there’s no route out other than complete volcanic annihilation.

ED: There is something resentfully delicious in it for Rhaenyra, in that she so rarely gets definitively the backing of her father. Early on, she loses both her best friend and her father because they get married. These moments where she gets publicly chosen, and chosen instead of you — there’s a really violent quality of vengeance for her.

[From Vulture]

Truly, the relationship between the two women on the show is fascinating and compelling. (I am aware Emma is nonbinary, but the character is not so I will switch accordingly). The relationship and all its prior closeness and tension was fascinating when the characters were younger and is all the more so now that they’ve reached adulthood and have their own families and simmering resentments. I appreciate that Emma and Olivia are cognizant of the deeper implications of the dynamic their characters with one another and then womanhood and the patriarchy and general. Yes, the story is about a feud between two specific women, but there are universal themes about being chosen and women operating within the patriarchy that are extremely relevant to this day. Emma has a point that women can become skeptical and fearful of other women with power because we’ve observed that to be true even in present day. All too often, women want to be chosen and identified as special by men, and work against other women to be preserve their own place as power-adjacent within the patriarchy. Of course other women are fearful of that. And who would have thought we’d have so much in common with fictional Westeros, forced deadly births and all.

But back to Dragon shenanigans, I was interested to hear their take on the eye for an eye scene. I was sympathetic about the lost eye up until the point when Alicent wanted her cop to extract the eye of an 8-year-old with his mother, brothers, and grandparents just looking on. That was nuts! Little boys viciously fighting is one thing, but a grown man (probably gleefully, considering his bitterness toward the mother) removing a child’s eye as payback is just no. Of course Viserys didn’t agree to that. And of course Rhaenyra wants the backing of her father and to be publicly chosen. He should have chosen her for her whole life, but spent too much time trying to make everyone happy. God, I can’t wait for the second season of this show.




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