Oh No, “House of the Dragon” Is Hinting at Queer Love

If there’s one thing I love more than stories about women with swords and also dragons, it’s — nothing, actually. I don’t love anything more than stories about women with swords and also dragons. Unfortunately, Game of Thrones, the most popular TV series of the past decade, which featured plenty of both, was completely unwatchable to me because of the way it endlessly tortured every lady in every land. The writers never managed to give a convincing reason why all the sexual assault was necessary; they just kept saying it was, you know, realistic for the time period. The time period of MAKE BELIEVE. And so, it is with deep trepidation that I tell you HBO’s prequel, House of the Dragon, which landed this week, is hinting at love between two queers. Love that was confirmed by some of the show’s leads.

Our esteemed Culture Editor, Shelli Nicole, loves this new series already and is going to give you the full rundown you’re jonesing for next week — but, for now, let me tell you about these queers.

alicent and rhaenyra walk in the woods and read a book

Right, so all of Emily Dickinson’s most erotic poetry was written TO Sue — but literally erased from history!

Emily Carey, who is queer IRL and plays young Alicent Hightower, read House of the Dragon‘s pilot and knew, “as a queer woman,” that Alicent had a thing for young Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. In “The Heirs of the Dragon,” the two canoodle like all queer middle school gal pals do: heads in laps; sweet, stolen glances; buttoning each other’s regal clothings up and down. They’re the only two young women in the Red Keep, which I don’t have any experience with, but I do know what it’s like to be best friends with the only other lesbian on your Little League team, so probably it’s similar. So charged, so fraught, so gentle and angry and fragile and perfect. There’s nothing else like it.

All of the actors who play Alicent and Rhaenyra have spoken about their relationship. Casey said the relationship “toes the line between platonic and romantic.” Milly Alcock, who plays young Rhaenyra, says it’s “a tactile closeness and emotional closeness.” Olivia Cooke, who plays adult Alicent, says their relationship is “intense” and “throwing all their emotions” at each other. And Emma D’arcy, who plays adult Rhaenyra, says their relationship is “erotic.” So, yeah, like I said, just like being a 14-year-old lesbian on a softball team. Almost old enough to drive, nowhere near old enough to process all those FEELINGS.

alicent and rhaenyra canoodle in front of the fire

On the whole, reception to House of the Dragon has been mixed. While the writers have said they’re not going to go all in on rape like the original, they don’t plan to shy away from brutalizing women. Aja Romano over at Vox contextualizes the pilot’s violent birth scene within a modern reproductive justice conversation: “The show wants us to understand that this is a world where women’s choices and even their bodily autonomy are severely limited. It’s a world that has abruptly become identical to ours in one respect: in post-Roe America, the state can now prioritize the life of the unborn child over the life of the mother.” In a word, it is, “torture.”

It’ll be interesting to see where the series takes Alicent and Rhaenyra’s relationship. At least we know they both survive their young love, for now, because the adult versions of them are also on the show. Keeping them alive is literally the least House of the Dragon can do.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


        • You’re right that it’s not a high bar, still disagree though. People enjoy some things BECAUSE they contradict their own real-life morals. It’s compelling and I’d argue potentially useful for entertainment to provide a playground for the darker parts of our natures. I’m never going to flense someone because I watch GoT, I think the majority of the audience can separate out the sexist influence from their real lives too.

        • Personally I enjoy AS reviews when they review and discuss these elements of the shows at length? If it’s a popular show where any LGBT rep is gonna be discussed by the public more broadly, I like being able to read at least one review that won’t just gloss over any sexist or racist elements in the show, and where if it does, the commenters will usually pick up on it. I think only reviewing things that are unproblematic in every way wouldn’t allow for broader discussion of those pieces of media amongst the marginalised people they harm.

          See also, I’m glad AS reviewed Wynonna Earp even though personally I found the fanbase overwhelmingly willing to write off the show’s racism because they got to see their white faves get together. I personally found Valerie Anne’s reviews too uncritical and saccharine – but then AS also publishes Dickens’ comics which called out this culture around WE. AS reviewing the show allows for critical discussion in the comments, which I think is cool, and the same is true here.

          I’m not gonna watch HOTD for the same reasons you’re not, but on the off chance it does something radically different to its predecessors, I might be willing to give it a shot. I won’t know until I read reviews from writers invested in the same or similar causes as me, and critical comments from readers of those reviews.

      • I could see a Catra/Adora style relationship without the third act where they get together. Which is obviously not what people want from a comfort watch, but nothing with anything to do with Martin is a comfort anything. Personally I’ve had plenty of repressed, intense, erotically charged, closeted friendships go south in explosive ways so I’m not mad about seeing that play out!

  1. They’re the only two young women in the Red Keep, which I don’t have any experience with, but I do know what it’s like to be best friends with the only other lesbian on your Little League team, so probably it’s similar.


  2. The looks that Alicent gives Rhaenyra remind me of the looks that Sue gives Emily (in Dickinson).

    Maybe because both of those actresses are queer IRL?

    Whatever that look is though, it gives me strong lesbian longing vibes.

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