FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
There was an air of mystery and also hesitation around the new prequel series House of the Dragon. The final season of Game of Thrones almost universally gave fans a bad taste in their mouths. And one could only be left to wonder if this new show would be able to overcome that unfortunate misstep in D.B. Weiss‘ and David Benioff’s otherwise beloved phenomenon. Or if it would just be more of the same. Luckily, in this series premiere, showrunner Ryan J. Condal looks to have learned from his predecessor’s mistakes. And has delivered a little bit of something for every fan of this franchise.
WHAT IS HOUSE OF THE DRAGON ALL ABOUT?
Although a part of me would have loved to see a series that follows the events of the original series, I will take what I can get. And I am sure the reported in-development Jon Snow show will satisfy that craving in the future. House of the Dragon takes place nearly 200 years in the past… As we follow House Targaryen, and the fight for the heir to the throne.
IS THIS SHOW GOING TO BE ABLE TO APPEASE DIEHARD GOT FANS?
I’m sure it was no easy task to create something in this first hour that would appease the diehard fanbase. And honestly, it is a minor miracle that Condal has been able to pull it off. As I try to remind many of my friends and colleagues who got into Game of Thrones once it had become a phenomenon… The first season started out very slow. And it wasn’t until the infamous Red Wedding that people started jumping on the bandwagon. Thrones took its time to laboriously bring Westeros to life, develop its expansive cast of characters and build the foundation of a compelling story. Dragon does have the upper hand in that much of the world-building has already been put into place. And all it has to do is branch out from that. It also seems that it will have a much smaller ensemble to concentrate on.
So, really all they needed to do was hook us with the story in this first episode… Then hopefully provide us with Game of Thrones staples like copious amounts of sex and violence, dragons, political intrigue, and epic battles. And Condal has risen to the occasion, and then some. Of course, aided by a vast budget that the Thrones showrunners would never have been able to afford for their first go-around.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST TAKE-AWAYS FROM EPISODE ONE?
What are my biggest takeaways from this first episode? First and foremost, in just an hour I have a clear understanding of what this show will be about… the downfall of a family due to the fight for the throne. I love that this seems to be more of an intimate affair, with the show having a razor-sharp focus on this family and their surrounding council. One of my biggest qualms with Thrones, was that there were so many story arcs happening all at once, that I found myself interested in some more than others. With this new set-up, we have a clear focal point that we can fully invest ourselves into.
The cast is also wonderful so far, with Matt Smith being the clear stand-out as Daemon. It will be truly interesting to see how these characters progress, as the show will also be implementing a time jump (which is teased in the Sneak-Peek at the end of the episode). Just the fact that I am already on board and starting to care about Princess Rhaenyra, King Viserys, Allicent, and Otto Hightower and Daemon is a true testament to what the writers were able to accomplish here.
WILL HOUSE OF THE DRAGON SHED A BIT OF THE BLEAKNESS?
And lastly, although the series will of course have its moments of darkness, it already feels like this is going to be a more watchable series. I always thought that Thrones took it too far with its bleakness. Some episodes were so grueling to get through that it felt almost like a chore. Especially when nearly every character was completely unlikable. At least in this first episode, although there are bodies being mutilated and backstabbing aplenty… There’s also a feeling of warmth here that was barely ever seen in its predecessor. The bond between King Viserys and his daughter, as well as with his brother, will most certainly be tested, but there seems as if there is a humanity that resides in them. It doesn’t feel as if every character up on screen is inherently evil, just flawed. And for me, that was a refreshing change of pace.
DOES THE SHOW DO ENOUGH TO DIFFERENTIATE ITSELF FROM GOT?
Obviously, we have a long way to go before we know if House of the Dragon will be able to hold a candle next to Thrones. But, using this premiere as a precursor, it definitely looks as if it has a great shot. There is enough here that makes it feel like it’s a whole new show, but it also has gone out of its way to make us feel as if we are right at home in Westeros again. This Fall has just gotten a whole better…
House of the Dragon premieres every Sunday on HBO.
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