The season one finale of House of the Dragon had its fair share of shocking moments, but there’s one particular scene from the penultimate episode that fans can’t get out of our heads, however hard we may try.
After a long day spent going head-to-head against her father to locate and gain control of her son Aegon, Alicent meets with the eternally creepy Larys Strong in the darkness of her room. Larys offers her information, specifically about spies and how her father first learned of Aegon’s location. But the full details come at a pretty degrading price for Alicent: She has to show Larys her bare feet and look the other way while he masturbates at the sight of them. Based on the fact the exchange is performed in an unspoken, almost routine manner, it’s pretty clear that this happens often.
Olivia Cooke, who plays Alicent, spoke about this particular storyline for the first time during a recent interview with Variety and confirmed the scene made her just as uncomfortable as the rest of us.
“It’s disgusting, it’s demeaning, it’s assault. But she’s not really left with any choices,” Cooke said. “She’s surrounded herself with psychopaths and murderers. There’s no one else to turn to. Maybe she thought she could turn to Talia, but she’s turned out to be a spy.” Alicent has every reason to be desperate—and Larys, knowing this, exploits this desperation for his own sexual fulfillment.
“She knows what Larys can do, how powerful he is and how he won’t stop shy of killing his entire family in order to progress in this court,” Cooke explained of the power dynamics between Larys and Alicent in the scene. “It’s difficult, because she has no choice but to go along with a lot of the things that he does. She needs the information. Ultimately, she knows how she’s going to get it. If she doesn’t have the information, it could result in her death or in her usurpation or in her children’s death… It’s just an absolute necessity, unfortunately.”
Cooke also had words, not just about the power dynamics of the situation, but how the scene has since been treated among House of the Dragon’s sizable fandom. The memes have been… pretty out there.
“It is wild, because there are beheadings, people getting their cocks cut off, graphic violence and brothel scenes, but getting my feet out and him wanking off, that’s the most shocking,” Cooke said. “It’s funny, isn’t it? I knew on the day, I didn’t want this to be gratuitous at all because I know my feet will end up on various sites. It’s wild how you can’t predict which scenes people have the biggest reactions to, and unfortunately it was that one.” Given the going rate for feet pics in some corners of the internet, I hope Ms. Cooke is getting paid by HBO.
I will say, all of the admittedly pretty hilarious jokes about Larys and Alicent’s little deal aside, there’s a lot about the scene that’s pretty unsettling. To Cooke’s point, there’s the fact that it’s, essentially, a form of abuse, in that Larys capitalizes on Alicent’s need for information to survive and protect her children. Then, of course, there’s the not-so-subtle ableism of it all—the camera pans between Alicent’s feet and Larys’ metal foot as he diddles himself, reminding us of his disability. Even if it wasn’t HotD’s intention to link Larys’ disability with his creepiness, the damage is already done.
In any case, Cooke has all my respect—not just for acting her heart out as Alicent, but for being brave enough to take on the full force of the internet foot fetish industrial complex. If she doesn’t win an Emmy for her sacrifice, then what was all that even for?