The New GoT Series Is Already Failing Its Women Characters

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones. Remember how Game of Thrones spent eight seasons building up its women characters as the next leaders of Westeros, only to have Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) burn down her capital city for no reason, and scheme queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Heady) die afraid in the arms of her brother-lover, before handing the keys to the kingdom over to Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright)? Bran!
Well, just two years later, it looks like the show is back on its bullshit once more. House of the Dragon, a prequel series that rewinds Targaryen history back 300 years before the events in Game of Thrones, has released its first character photos along with some descriptions, and I am not impressed. 
Based on George R.R. Martin’s book Fire & Blood and co-created by Martin and Ryan Condal, House of the Dragon centres around some of Daenerys’ most fabled ancestors. There’s King Viserys (Paddy Considine), one of first of the Targaryen line to rule over Westeros after his ancestor Aegon conquered the land in — you guessed it — fire and blood. At his side are his warrior sisters, Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy), whom we heard about in the original series as Arya Stark’s (Maisie WIlliams) favorite heroines. So far, so good. But it’s the way these characters are actually being described that’s giving me pause. 
Take King Viserys, whose blurb reads: “Viserys was chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind, and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy, but as we’ve learned from Game of Thrones, good men do not necessarily make for great kings.”
Now look at Princess Rheanerya’s: The king’s first-born child. She is of pure Valyrian blood, and she is a dragonrider. Many would say that Rhaenyra was born with everything…but she was not born a man.”
Viserys’ bio has personality traits. He’s a nice guy who might not be very good at ruling. Meanwhile, his sister exists only in relation to men — she is the daughter of a father, and...not a man. 
Viserys’ younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) is described as: “The younger brother of King Viserys and heir to the throne, Daemon is a peerless warrior and a dragonrider who possesses the true blood of the dragon. But it is said that whenever a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin in the air…” (Translation: good fighter, probably a Mad King in training.)
Meanwhile, his sister, Princess Rhaenys Velaryon is: A dragonrider and wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon, "The Queen Who Never Was" was passed over as heir to the throne at the Great Council because the realm favoured her cousin, Viserys, simply for being male.” (A wife, and...not a man.)
Do you see a pattern emerging here? No, not yet? Okay, let’s continue. 
Meet Lord Colrys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), aka 'The Sea Snake": "The lord of House Velaryon, a Valyrian bloodline as old as House Targaryen, 'The Sea Snake,' is the most famed nautical adventurer in the history of Westeros. He built his house into a powerful seat that is even richer than the Lannisters and that claims the largest navy in the world.”
And Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke): She’s the daughter of Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the Hand of the King, and the most comely woman in the Seven Kingdoms. She was raised in the Red Keep, close to the king and his innermost circle; she possesses both a courtly grace and a keen political acumen.”
He’s an adventurer who makes the Lannisters look like they live in Flea Bottom. She’s the hottest girl in Westeros with a  famous dad. 
Finally, given the backlash Game of Thrones received for its poor handling of Missandei’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) storyline, you’d think the creators might try to be a little more cautious this time around. And yet, Mysaria, played by Sonoya Mizuno, is described as having been “sold more times than she can recall.” This doesn’t inspire much confidence, especially given the original show’s history with problematic depictions of sexual assault and violence against women. But it’s all the more disappointing given that House of the Dragon came at the expense of Bloodmoon, GOT’s first woman-directed, woman-led series, which was reportedly cancelled by HBO in October 2019. 

Sure, there’s a good chance House of the Dragon will be good and exciting. Game of Thrones certainly was, at least, initially. But the memories of that dismal and disappointing final season are still too fresh in my mind to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. House of the Dragon is a perfect opportunity to re-engage with fans, and renew the communal bond that kept so many of us invested in a show about dead ice people, dragons, very dirty men, and yes, powerful and complicated women, for almost a decade. Why lean into tired tropes when you can break the wheel?

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