House of the Dragon Review

After the bitter taste that left fans disappointed in the final season of Game of Thrones, HBO is looking to reclaim its former glory and win the trust of the viewers with the prequel series House of the Dragon. There is a lot of hype going for it, but expectations are being kept quite low among fans hoping to restore their love of the world of Westeros. After seeing the premiere episode, it does reminisce on everything that made the mothership series so great. With this new time period filled with a vast range of characters, it’s a different yet familiar atmosphere for those who grew familiar with Game of Thrones. With its ambitious look and feel, House of the Dragon charters into new territory but feels the same as we deal with inner conflicts within a kingdom and the societal norms that also reflect our reality.

Based on George R.R. Martin’s novel Fire & BloodHouse of the Dragon chronicles the history of the Targaryens 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. We also get some history with the other houses like Hightower, Strong, and Valeryon as they share a history with the once powerful family on the Iron Throne. Just like the original series, viewers will get to see the struggles and conflicts with each of these houses, notably the Targaryens before their downfall. We do also see a lot more dragons roaming this world than how it is in the original show. The prologue begins with an ailing King Jaehaerys Targaryen looking to pass his crown to either his grandson Viserys (Paddy Considine) or his granddaughter Rhaenys (Eve Best). Despite Rhaenys having a solid firm on the throne, the council ultimately votes for her cousin Viserys’ rule over Westeros.

The story picks up 19 years later as King Viserys is facing a similar situation. As his wife Aemma (Sian Brooke) fails to give him a male heir, Viserys must choose between his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) or his only daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/Emma D’Arcy) as his successor. We are introduced to the characters who make up the council, including the King’s Hand Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), Lord Corlys Valeryon (Steve Toussaint) AKA the Sea Snake, and Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish). Daemon is a powerful and ruthless warrior who happens to be reckless and volatile. Seeing how Daemon can issue a problem in the future for the King, Otto sets things in motion to get Rhaenyra to become the ruler on the throne.

Unlike the main series, which focused a lot on the Lannisters and the Starks, House of the Dragon delves deep into the conflicts of the Targaryens. However, we do get introduced to some other characters outside the family like Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke), the daughter of Sir Otto and a close friend of Rhaenyra, Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), a muse of Daemon’s who becomes an important ally to him, and Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel), a skilled swordsman from Dornish. With both Rhaenyra and Alicent being portrayed by two different actresses, we can expect a time jump to take place in the series during the first season. It is an interesting way to move the story forward by seeing the two women’s relationship change over time, which seems to be one of the primary focuses of the series. Perhaps this is where the famed Dance of the Dragons fits into the story, a historical event that was mentioned in Game of Thrones. However, we have learned that some parts of history that we’ve known from the original series may not play out the same way as we thought. So that should at least keep fans invested in the series despite knowing what happens down the road.

The theme that is at play here is how power can bring the best and worst of men, but also how society can accept a woman in charge. We saw Rhaenys being rejected to rule over Westeros, but her niece Rhaenyra will have the opportunity she never had to sit on the Iron Throne. Just like what Aemma told her daughter Rhaenyra, bearing a child is their version of a battlefield. The show treats pregnancy like the trials of tribulation, which can be tough to bear. The show doesn’t shy away from how painful and gory childbirth can be, showing audiences just how much power women can have when they produce heirs for their husbands. We see lots of violence in the first episode, which is pretty much how Game of Thrones has been handling its stories.

But just like the original series, House of the Dragon also deals with the politics of this medieval-type world filled with dragons. We can see how much effort is being put into this show with the incredible CGI to bring this ancient version of Westeros to life and showcase the almighty power of these fierce creatures in the sky. Other than our fiery friends, the cast of this ensemble also puts out some amazing performances. Paddy is shown as the ruler who is stuck at a crossroads trying to please his family and yet be the King that Westeros needs. Both Milly and Emily showcase their innocence as two friends who see that their lives are about to change after the death of the Queen. It’ll be interesting to see how these two fares against one another once Emma and Olivia take over their roles in the next installments. However, the true stand-out has to go to Matt Smith as the ruthless and daring Daemon. Smith makes this character his own by making him the mean kid in the playground but also the one who has to fight for what he wants. He is charming, cold, and terrifying, just as a Dragon Prince should be.

With House of the Dragon, the showrunners have the freedom to scope out the story as they see fit. Since Fire & Blood is mostly an encyclopedia dealing with the history of Westeros before A Song of Fire & Ice, the show seems to be pulling only portions of the book to explore the Targaryens’ background. It is perhaps for the better so the writers don’t have to mess with canon as the original series did. Plus, George R.R. Martin is involved with the development of the series, so it is in good hands, to say the least. The show does feel more like the best parts of Game of Thrones, which would be during the first few seasons.

House of the Dragon has come off with a strong start for the series with a well-rounded cast of characters to intrigue viewers. This is in some ways closer to the original series in terms of content and tone by showing similar themes from the previous show. Of course, we can’t forget about these dragons roaming the lands, which should make for some pretty beautiful action set pieces to look forward to. Backstabbing politics, violence, and drama are what all the fans want in a show like this. Whatever comes next for this series, we are all ready for it.

House of the Dragon is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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