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House Of The Dragon's Olivia Cooke Details The Thought Process Behind Alicent's Aegon Confusion

Contains spoilers for "House of the Dragon" Season 1, Episode 8 – "The Lord of the Tides"

The latest episode of HBO's "House of the Dragon," titled "The Lord of the Tides," ushered in another great rearranging of the pieces on the Westeros chessboard with a six-year time jump. With Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) severely wounded in battle, the question of who will succeed him as Lord of the Driftmark becomes the episode's primary focal point. The political battle pits Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson) against Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), with King's Landing losing hope that a severely debilitated King Viserys (Paddy Considine) will be able to settle the matter himself. Ultimately, King Viserys surprises everyone by making his way to the Iron Throne and officially declaring Lucerys the heir, much to the relief of his mother, Princess Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy).

For a minute there, this development seems to put a cap on the escalating battle of wits between Rhaenyra and Queen Alicent (Olivia Cooke), with Alicent even acknowledging and celebrating Rhaenyra's path to ascendancy. But things take another turn when Viserys, hallucinating on his deathbed, mistakes Alicent for Rhaenyra and quotes passages of Aegon the Conqueror's prophecy about the Prince that was Promised — which Alicent seemingly takes as him backtracking on his earlier decision and stating that their son, also named Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney), should be king. 

Since that surprising ending, fans have been hotly debating Alicent's true intentions and wondering whether her confusion was genuine. Now, Olivia Cooke herself has spoken out about that moment and shared the thought process that went into it.

Olivia Cooke played Alicent's confusion as genuine

It's no secret to anyone that the actions of Queen Alicent have become one of the great points of contention among the "House of the Dragon" fandom, and it's no surprise that her interpretation of King Viserys' parting words should stir further controversy. Some have been convinced that Alicent cynically heard what she wanted to hear in order to support her son's claim to the throne, while others believe that she genuinely misunderstood Viserys' ramblings. There's enough in the text to substantiate both possibilities, but, according to an interview given to The New York Times by Olivia Cooke and Emma D'Arcy, the latter reading may be closer to what was intended.

Asked about whether Alicent really believes Viserys wanted Aegon to be king, Cooke said, "We spoke a lot about this. There was a massive amount of relief when Alicent told Rhaenyra, 'You will make a great queen.' She's so over the fighting and having this ball of bitterness and anxiety in her stomach: Just let it go, Rhaenyra is the heir, this is fine."

In fact, Cooke doesn't even necessarily agree Alicent would have wanted Viserys to be referring to Aegon; she believes Alicent is left angry by the mishearing. "She's like, 'After all that?'" the actor said. "But Viserys is on his deathbed; that's what he requested, and so she must follow it through. Whether that's unconscious wishful thinking, I don't know, but that's how I played it."

The episode's director also intended it that way

Olivia Cooke wasn't the only "House of the Dragon" creative who corroborated the thesis that Alicent was being genuine in the episode's final moments. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the director of "The Lord of the Tides," Geeta Vasant Patel, and she made a statement to a similar effect.

When asked about whether Alicent deliberately misunderstood Viserys or genuinely thinks he wanted Aegon on the Iron Throne, Patel said, "It interesting [sic] you say that because that was my fear going in. The intention was that she genuinely thought he was telling her that her son was going to be the heir. The only way to get even close to achieving that was to feel the vulnerability and innocence in Alicent. We had to feel less of the conniving and more of the girl that we grew up with in episode one."

Despite the clarity of that intention, Patel welcomes the bafflement and controversy that the episode spurred, since even presenting Alicent's honesty as an actual possibility felt like an uphill climb. "The fact that you were even confused makes me feel good because I felt like that was such a high bar for us coming out of Miguel's [episode seven] when she was was [sic] hanging out with Larys in the last scene," the director said. "The joke is, I called Miguel and I was like, 'Can you please, like, do something at the end of your episode to help me a little bit with Alicent?' Nope, you're on your own!"