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House of the Dragon Cast Two of Its Most Important Characters For Season 2 and I’m Feeling Extremely Normal About it

Every House of the Dragon news has me wondering how I'm going to make it through next season.

A picture of Meleys, the dragon of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, in the first season of House of the Dragon

With season 2 of House of the Dragon officially in production, it was only a matter of time before we got some casting news. After all, the world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has always been filled with characters, from pivotal to marginal ones, and we know this very well from Game of Thrones—there are still so many members of the Green and Black factions that need introducing now that the Dance of the Dragons is really picking up traction.

Rumors have been swirling around for a hot minute, but now that HBO has made things official let’s take a look at the people joining the cast and what we can expect from the characters they’ll be playing. Of course, as you can imagine, I’m taking this news calmly and serenely, the usual feelings that House of the Dragon inspires in me.

So who are the new members of the House of the Dragon cast?

The first of HBO’s casting announcements for season 2 of House of the Dragon introduces four new characters to the show—one who’s definitely on the Black side, one who’s equally definitely on the Green side, and two more who are somewhat more difficult to ascribe to one faction or the other.

Abubakar Salim will take on the role of Alyn of Hull, described as a sailor in the Velaryon fleet who has already served in the war in the Stepstones that we saw at the beginning of season 1. The actor has worked in Sky One’s Jamestown and also already worked with HBO as the Father in Raised by Wolves. He’s also the voice of Bayek of Siwa, one of the precursors of the Assassin Brotherhood, in both Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.

Freddie Fox will step into the shoes of Gwayne Hightower. While in book canon Gwayne is the youngest son of Rhys Ifans’ Otto Hightower and so the youngest brother of Olivia Cooke’s Queen Alicent, the family tree has been slightly altered and simplified for House of the Dragon—and Gwayne has become Otto’s heir.

What remains unchanged is the fact that Sir Gwayne—who has already made an appearance in the show at the tourney in the very first episode, where Daemon throws him off his horse—is the uncle to Alicent’s children, the newly crowned King Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney), his Queen, Helaena (Phia Saban) and everyone’s favorite criminal Aemond Targaryen (Ewan Mitchell). Fox has appeared in television, film, and theatre productions—from The Great to Black ’47 to Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet—and he comes from a family of actors and actresses.

Simon Russell Beale, or actually, Sir Simon Russell Beale, recipient of several BAFTA, Olivier, and Tony Awards and described by The Independent as “the greatest stage actor of his generation” will portray a character that bears his same name—Sir Simon Strong, the current castellan of the great castle of Harrenhal and the great-uncle of Ryan Corr’s Harwin Strong and Matthew Needham’s Larys Strong.

Last—but definitely not least—is Gayle Rankin, whom you might already have seen in Netflix’s Glow and playing Queen Victoria in The Greatest Showman. She will take on the role of Alys Rivers, described as a healer and a resident of Harrenhal and a character that definitely will leave her mark on the story of the Dance.

Of course, Martin’s Fire & Blood, the in-universe chronicle of the Targaryen dynasty on which House of the Dragon is based, can tell us a lot more about these four characters—but that comes with several major spoilers of events that are going to happen in the upcoming season 2 and the future seasons as well. So read on if you want to know, or skip this next section and proceed to the one after it to remain spoiler-free.

What role will their characters have in the upcoming seasons?

Let’s start with Gwayne Hightower, who as far as canon tells us has a minor role within the Dance. Then again, the show might have reduced the number of people in the Hightower family tree to make things less confusing for the viewer and so Gwayne—who was just one of Otto’s sons in Fire & Blood and has already had an upgrade to his eldest son in House of the Dragon—might play a greater role in the war. 

All the Hightowers, of course, fought on Alicent’s side and for King Aegon, so we might see Gwayne descend on the field of battle with the rest of his family’s host. And considering that Daeron Targaryen, Alicent’s youngest son, has been said to be in Oldtown all throughout the first season of House of the Dragon, it’s not unlikely to imagine where Gwayne will be Daeron will be also.

The only glimpse at Gwayne Hightower we got in the first season of House of the Dragon
Gwayne Hightower appeared at the tourney in the first episode of House of the Dragon, even though his face was conveniently never seen behind his High Tower-shaped helm (HBO)

Then there’s Sir Simon Strong, another character with a minor role who can’t really be described as one of the Greens or one of the Blacks since Harrenhal will be taken first by one faction—the Blacks, when Sir Simon surrenders the castle to Prince Daemon Targaryen and his dragon Caraxes—and then by the other—the Greens, when Criston Cole and Prince Aemond Targaryen take possession of the castle well into the war. 

Sadly, Aemond Targaryen has a notorious dislike for Strongs and he’s also not the most emotionally regulated person on the continent. By the time he conquers Harrenhal, he has also just received some pretty bad news from King’s Landing—and so all male Strong descendants don’t fare too well once the Greens arrive.

The three members of House Strong we've seen in House of the Dragon so far are Lyonel Strong, Hand of the King, and his sons, Harwin and Larys
Lyonel Strong was Simon Strong’s nephew, which makes the latter the great-uncle of the current Lord of Harrenhal, Larys (HBO)

Notice that I did say “male Strong descendants”. It’s an important distinction that brings us to Alys Rivers, one of the most anticipated characters and a fascinating one at that. Now, Alys Rivers lives in Harrenhal as well and rumor has it that she was a bastard daughter of Lyonel Strong—and so the half-sister of both Harwin and Larys. That’s mainly because of her surname, Rivers, the one that is given to bastard children in the Riverlands in the same way bastards in the North are called ‘Snow’.

Alys Rivers is a very mysterious and intriguing figure. The direct in-universe sources that lived through the Dance of the Dragons and reported it for posterity all agree saying that she was knowledgeable of herbs and medicine and she could very well have been a witch, or even a seer. And she’s definitely a magnetic person—so much so that when Aemond Targaryen arrives at Harrenhal and orders that everyone with Strong blood be put to the sword, he decides to spare Alys and only Alys and take her as his lover instead.

A picture of Aemond Targaryen, played by Ewan Mitchell, revealing his famous sapphire eye in House of the Dragon
Will House of the Dragon go with the magic route all the way and make Alys Rivers actually a witch or “simply” a very knowledgeable and persuasive woman? In any case, I’m already losing my mind over it (HBO)

Moving over to Rhaenyra’s side, we have Alyn of Hull, who will also become known to history as Alys Oakenfist. He is a major character not just for the events of the Dance but also for what comes after it. 

To make a very long story short, Rhaenyra has more dragons than her half-brother but lacks dragon riders—something that was already discussed during her war council in “The Black Queen”. So she puts out a call to all those on Dragonstone who have Valyrian blood, dubbed “dragon seeds,” inviting them to try and claim a dragon for themselves. 

Alyn and his brother Addam are presented by their mother who says they are Laenor Velaryon’s bastard sons, even though some historians believed they had actually been fathered by Corlys—the version of facts the show might go with, considering the age of the actor chosen to play Alyn. 

Both boys end up being legitimized by Rhaenyra at Corlys’s request, and the Sea Snake takes Alyn as his heir—and he will indeed become the Lord of Driftmark after the Dance ends, playing a pivotal role in Westerosi politics throughout his entire life.

A picture of Corlys Velaryon, the Sea Snake, as he appeared in the first season of House of the Dragon
Corlys Velaryon of course takes a special interest in Alyn of Hull and his brother and will continue to do so throughout the Dance (HBO)

Can we expect more House of the Dragon casting news soon?

Based on what Fire & Blood has told about the Dance of the Dragons and the years after it, it’s very likely there will be more casting announcements after this one. 

We still need a face for Cregan Stark, for starters, who is the Stark of Winterfell in the time of the Dance and whom Jace Velaryon has flown off to talk with in the final episode of the first House of the Dragon season. And then there’s Prince Daeron Targaryen, the youngest of Alicent’s children with Viserys, who hasn’t appeared in the show yet since he’s been living with his mother’s family in Oldtown but who definitely needs to be there with his dragon Tessarion for the battles that are coming our way.

But those are just two of the characters that we can expect will make their debut on our screen in season 2—there’s Addam of Hull, Nettles, and the other dragon seeds, for starters. And let’s not forget the lords that are part of the Winter Wolves and the ones that will form the group dubbed “the Lads”. So I’m guessing we’ll be discussing new characters very soon.

(featured image: HBO)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.