‘House of the Dragon’: A Worthy Heir

There have been few disasters in entertainment history comparable to the final season of “Game of Thrones” in 2019. In just six episodes, the once global phenomenon that drew millions of viewers came crashing down, derided for outright bad writing, even ruining its previous seasons in the eyes of many fans. When the “Game of Thrones” prequel show “House of the Dragon” was announced shortly after, many were skeptical of its success, given the show’s downgrading audience. So, does “House of the Dragon” stumble like Thrones, or does it soar?

Based on the novel “Fire and Blood” by George RR Martin, the series is set approximately 180 years before the events of the main show. “House of the Dragon” (HOTD) chronicles the reign of King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), a time of peace and prosperity for the Seven Kingdoms. In the first episode, Viserys names his daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy) his heiress, making her the first woman to claim the throne. This causes immense controversy and strife, especially after the birth of Viserys’ son, Aegon (Ty Tennant/Tom Glynn-Carney), whom many consider the rightful heir.

HOTD follows up on the first seasons of Thrones by presenting a story full of family drama and political intrigue that takes its time to develop the characters and their relationships. The showrunners do an amazing job of upping the stakes and tension from episode to episode while exploring some very interesting themes of gender, power, and politics. Although the writing is solid, the show sometimes jumps the shark when it favors spectacle over logic. Most examples of this are scenes of gratuitous violence that feel thrown in to keep viewers awake as characters endlessly argue over inheritance and inheritance.

The acting is another strong point of the series. From newcomers like Emily Carey (young Alicent Hightower) and Milly Alcock to industry veterans like Matt Smith (Daemon Targaryen) and Olivia Cooke (Alicent Hightower), “House of the Dragon” features some of the best performances on TV right now. Of particular note, however, is Paddy Considine with an Emmy-worthy performance as King Viserys. Both tragic and endearing, one can’t help but sympathize with him, even as he makes the worst decisions possible to save his family from falling apart. Considine’s performance is so incredible, in fact, that even George RR Martin admitted, “Your Viserys was better than my Viserys.”

The series’ pacing is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. While each episode feels action-packed and thin on filler, the fact that the story spans over 20 years means the writers are often forced to put in huge time jumps between episodes. Characters are born, die and marry, and there’s even an entirely off-screen war. The spectator must reconstruct what happened live thanks to contextual clues, which can be perplexing. That’s not helped by the frequent and questionable recasting to age many younger characters, and while the acting remains strong, it’s still shocking.

In all honesty, I was one of countless disillusioned “Game of Thrones” fans who thought “House of the Dragon” was going to be a dumpster fire, but I’m happy to say it far exceeded all my expectations. The showrunners are successfully emulating what made Thrones great in the first place in a way that still feels uniquely HOTD. Even with serious pacing issues, the show is still great, and season two promises to be even better, with more fire and blood.

Spectacle: “House of the Dragon”

Featuring: Matt Smith, Paddy Considine, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy

Favorite episodes: “The Lord of the Tides”, “The Green Council”, “The Dark Queen”

If you want: “Game of Thrones”, “The Crown”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”

Where to watch: HBO Max

Clovers: 4.5 out of 5

Contact Matheus Herndl at [email protected]


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