George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones took the world by storm when it first hit HBO in 2011. Unlike Lord of the Rings, it told a much darker, more politically charged fantasy tale that blended violence, sexuality, and myth to build an enthralling world. House of the Dragon looks to rekindle that magic with a series set almost 200 years before the Mad King and the events of the main series. They give us a taste of a much different Westeros, one filled with dragons and a family at the pinnacle of their power. While different in many ways, House of the Dragon is a worthy successor to the Game of Thrones crown.
Set many years before the events that lead to the bloodbath seen in Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon puts its focus on the Targaryen family, with King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) still reigning over all the seven kingdoms with the help of military might, and a healthy supply of dragons should anyone get too out of line. The. The story focuses on Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), the young daughter of the king, giving the audience a sense of her defiant and rebellious spirit.
It would not be a Game of Thrones series without some family drama. The king’s brother Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) brings a level of chaos to King’s Landing, pushing many people in power to pick sides on how the kingdom should be run. But even with these minor troubles, things are relatively peaceful until some problems arises during the birth of the king’s child that turns up the heat and tensions in the kingdom. It is here when lords must pick sides on the nation’s future.
“House of the Dragon is looking to recapture the lightning in a bottle that made the original series so special…”
Set so far from the events of the first series, House of the Dragon is given the space to be its own story in the same universe. While we all know where things will eventually end up, there are generations of stories to tell before we get to that point. These are characters we have only heard about in passing, so seeing them built up and expanded upon works to not only explain more of the world we all know and love but craft unique characters to explore.
This is a long way from Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and the rest of House Targaryen in shambles, with the family now at the height of their power, dragons and all. With tales of how they were ruthless, willing, and mad with power in the original series, the contrast of a loving family offers new depth to the house and contemporary context to how the characters in Game of Thrones came to despise the once great family.
House of the Dragon is also a much more fanciful world compared to the first series; while there was plenty of myth and magic at play previously, it was very shrouded in mystery. Here they are put in full display, with there being much more screen time given to the dragons, even just minutes in on the first episode.
If I had any gripes with the presentation, it would be with the dragons. While better than many shows can pull off, Game of Thrones, with its few sections that featured these mythical features, set new benchmarks with what was possible on TV. House of the Dragon does well enough, but nowhere near these cinematic highs, with some of the effects looking a bit too CGI to feel fully part of the world.
“House of the Dragon is different enough to be exciting while never losing the thrill we have come to know from Game of Thrones.”
While the dragon effects may not be at the level seen in other entries in the franchise, the acting does more than enough to make up for this. All actors bring their A-game to this show, painting a range of characters, all with unique motivations, desires, and pain.
Matt Smith‘s Daemon Targaryen is very different from what we have seen of him in other roles, with the ruthless character as far from Doctor Who as possible. Milly Alcock manages that fine line between youthful defiance and love of her family and the kingdom. Even beyond the prominent family, there is much to love with what House of the Dragon brings to the screen, giving plenty of new characters to root for, despise and see evolve as the series progresses.
Game of Thrones is a landmark series that pushed the boundaries of fantasy drama on TV. It’s prequel, House of the Dragon, is looking to recapture the lightning in a bottle that made the original series so special. Judging bybthe first segment, it may have just done that. This is potentially one of the best openings a series could hope for, bringing a new world to life.
House of the Dragon is different enough to be exciting while never losing the thrill we have come to know from Game of Thrones. If the showrunners can keep the quality at this level, HBO has a winner on their hands. I, for one, am excited to see how this new fantasy epic unfolds.