TV & Movies

House of the Dragon Has an Aging Problem That Makes Me Question the Fabric of Time

As “House of the Dragon” Season 1 draws to a close, the 10 episodes will have covered over 20 years in the lives of these characters.

But you wouldn’t know it looking at some of them. There are characters who look unrecognizable from Episode 1 as well as new ones who have been introduced and recast faster than you can say “Which Aegon?” Still others are seemingly untouched by the passage of time. While certain recasting decisions make sense for the show’s timeline, others feel rushed and arbitrary, distracting from the central story.

Not only are characters aging rapidly and inconsistently, but the actors portraying them aren’t always the same age as the character, adding another layer of potential confusion for the audience. Hollywood loves to cast an adult as a teen, but when it comes to old and young teens aging just a few years, there’s not a big margin of error. As we head into the finale episodes and future of this series, “House of the Dragon” might need to hold a great council and set out some ground rules for how its characters grow older going forward.

Recasting (Part 1: Teens to Adults, Episodes 3-5)


Side-by-side images of three actors of varying ages in medieval dresses and with curly white haired wigs; stills of Laena from "House of the Dragon."

Nova Foueillis-Mosé, Savannah Steyn, and Nanna Blondell as Laena Velaryon in “House of the Dragon”

HBO

Ahead of the “House of the Dragon” premiere in August, one of the show’s buzziest aspects was that multiple actors would portray lead characters Rhaenyra and Alicent. The girls are around 15 years old in Episode 1 and portrayed by Milly Alcock and Emily Carey (aged 22 and 19, respectively) until Episode 5, when they would be about 20.

Rhaenyra and Alicent are older than Laenor and Laena Velaryon, as seen in Episode 1 when the latter two are literal children. The young Laena (Nova Foueillis-Mose) in particular illustrates how truly disgusting it is for anyone to suggest that Viserys (Paddy Considine, 49) take her as a wife (both actor and character are 12). The actors are recast when the show jumps ahead three years, making them around 15 or 16 but looking entirely adult so that it’s less gross for Laenor (Theo Nate, whose age IndieWire could not confirm but whom multiple sources allege is 36) to marry Rhaenyra while Laena (Savannah Steyn, 22) and Daemon (Matt Smith, 39) get their flirt on. 

10 years later, Rhaenyra and Alicent return as 30-year-old Emma D’Arcy and 28-year-old Olivia Cooke. Laenor (John Macmillan) and Laena (Nanna Blondell) are recast a third time and don’t look significantly older, just different — once again the casting mainly serves to not suggest that Rhaenyra and Daemon are married to teens, even though that’s exactly what happened. 

All of this makes sense in theory and has a clear purpose in moving the timeline forward. Teenagers grow up rapidly in a short span of time (even though that’s technically at a younger age than when we meet Alicent and Rhaenyra), and that’s underscored by the adults actors around them looking effectively the same. But over the course of a decade, even adults should start to look older…

The Evergreen


Side-by-side images of actor Rhys Ifans dressed in medieval formalwear on "House of the Dragon."

Rhys Ifans in Episodes 1 and 8 of “House of the Dragon”

HBO

Show someone uninitiated “House of the Dragon” Episodes 1 and 8 and they would have no idea that 20 years went by based on the adult (mostly white) men. Other than Viserys, who ages approximately 200 years since the premiere due to his special Targaryen leprosy, the others look exactly the same. They are portrayed by the same actors and not even slightly aged up, as if makeup and CGI don’t exist (arguably most of the CGI budget is for dragons, but still).

Criston (Fabien Frankel) appears to have the slightest dusting of gray in his dark hair in Episode 8, but Otto (Rhys Ifans) does not, and if Daemon is going gray it’s his own little secret because it does not show upon that white-blond Targaryen head. There is an incredible implication here that men are perpetually strong and fresh-faced and that women over 30 are so old that they are basically unrecognizable — but luckily Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) is back and also ageless, which means this creative decision is not affected by race or gender; it’s just kind of lazy. Corlys (Steve Toussaint) and Rhaenys (Eve Best) also look the same as they did in the pilot, probably because Velaryons moisturize and because these two just generally rule.

While a consistent adult cast drives home how rapidly the teens are growing up in early episodes, it’s harder to justify in the later half of the season. The “House of the Dragon” timeline hinges upon understanding that decades have passed and this family is growing — but that simply doesn’t make sense to a viewer looking at the untouched handsome face of Matt Smith, looking the same as it did supposedly 20 years prior.


Side-by-side images of a man in medieval attire with white blond hair (long in one photo, short in the other); stills from "House of the Dragon"

I too have had a haircut in the past 20 years.

HBO

Recasting (Part 2: Kids to Teens to Adults Pretending to Be Teens)

As soon as Alicent and Rhaenyra stop aging (because who wants to see a woman over 30), their children are off to the races. The timeline makes no sense looking at most of these kids, who as of Episode 8 are firmly in the 17-21 age range according to showrunner Ryan J. Condal, presumably because adult actors can work longer hours than minors. After the 10-year time jump, when Aegon should be around 12 or 13, he is portrayed by 20-year-old Ty Tennant and looks like this:


An adult man with long, white-blond hair, wearing medieval battle armor; still from "House of the Dragon."

Ty Tennant in “House of the Dragon”

Gary Moyes/HBO

Six years later, in Episode 8, 18-year-old Aegon is played 27-year-old Tom Glynn-Carney. That’s right: The actors playing mother and son on this show were born literally one year apart. There’s actually a note in George R.R. Martin’s “Fire & Blood” about how Alicent looks preternaturally youthful even into motherhood, but maybe that did not have to be taken so literally because it hurts my head. Aegon was already played by a 20-year-old and ostensibly only recast because everyone else was, and now they all look too old for their ages thanks to Condal’s decision to keep them 17-21.

“House of the Dragon” has plenty of justifications for its time jumps and recasting, but these characters are not aging at even close to a commensurate rate which only muddles the show’s already erratic pacing. Hopefully the final episodes and future seasons find a good rhythm and consistent cast, since familiar faces will only help fans connect more strongly with the characters.

If not, well, maybe Considine can make a special appearance as 30-year-old Aegon in the coming weeks.

“House of the Dragon” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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