House of the Dragon
House of the Dragon Cast: Matt Smith, Milly Alcock, Paddy Considine, Rhys Ifans, Emily Carey
House of the Dragon Creators: Ryan J. Condal, George R. R. Martin
Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar
Note: The reviewer was given access to the first episode of House of the Dragon.
For House of the Dragon, a clear-cut advantage yet disadvantage is the fact that unlike Game of Thrones, the Ryan J. Condal and George R. R. Martin-led fantasy drama is more intimate in comparison. On one hand, GoT spanned across the entirety of Westeros, whereas its prequel focuses on one dominant family; House Targaryen. But does House of the Dragon continue the extravagant legacy of Game of Thrones? Let’s find out…
Based on a portion of George R. R. Martin’s novel Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon focuses on the Dance of the Dragons, i.e. the Targaryen war of succession, exploring the beginning of the end of House Targaryen. Set 173 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), the first episode wastes no time in laying the foundation of the political chess game being played with King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) on the Iron Throne. Unlike vindictive kings and queens depicted in Game of Thrones, Viserys is a relatively good man, but a fool when it comes to ruling.
Given how Viserys is unable to produce a son, the MacGuffin in House of the Dragon becomes the heir to be chosen to eventually sit on the Iron Throne between two candidates; Prince Dameon Targaryen (Matt Smith), the sinister younger brother of the King whose wicked ways impress no one but himself and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), the King’s daughter whose gender imposes her from being the ideal, traditional choice. We also have the Hand of the King in Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) and Lady Alicent Hightower, his initially reserved daughter, as both add more intriguing pawns to the complicated chess game.
When it comes to the performances in House of the Dragon, the talented ensemble is picture-perfect in terms of casting. Although, their wigs are downright laughable! Matt Smith, in particular, as Prince Dameon Targaryen entices you with his delectable act as the gifted actor has a ball of a time playing the ruthless antagonist with finesse. Moreover, Milly Alcock is a revelation with her masterful balancing act, between naive innocence and confident maturity, when it comes to a complicated, fierce character like Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. It’s these two characters that I’m most excited to see thrive amidst the gruesome battle for the throne.
While you’d expect House of the Dragon to steer clear of the Game of Thrones shadow – especially with how ill-received the final season was – the first episode remains heavily influenced by the prodigal facets of the iconic series. Everything is bigger and not necessarily, better! While the increase in the number of dragons is wholeheartedly embraced, the extreme violence and sex from the get-go, at times, feels like a forceful obligation. In retrospect, every move in Game of Thrones was underlined with meaning, no matter how gory or sexual the encounter entailed. There’s one particular merciless bloody sequence, which I won’t spoil for you, that is definitely not for the faint-hearted!
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Speaking of the dragons in House of the Dragon, the visual effects are medievally stunning in every sense of the word while Jim Clay’s production design – with King’s Landing and The Red Keep where most of the storyline takes place – is intricately aesthetic, irrespective of the storyline geography limitations. Even Jany Temime’s costume design is worthy, weaving House Targaryen’s complex tale through every thread and steel adorned. Let’s not forget the return of GoT staple Ramin Djawadi whose score remains a powerful asset to Martin’s wildest fantasies.
In conclusion, while I wasn’t entirely convinced with how things have kickstarted for House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones enthusiasts will, nevertheless, be hit with a fever pitch, nostalgic for that charismatic, chaotic universe. Mondays won’t be so blue, but fiery dragon red, instead.