House of the Dragon Review: Game of Thrones Prequel Is a Thing of Beauty

House of the Dragon Review Matt Smith Daemon Targaryen House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon — premiering August 21 on HBO Max and August 22 on Disney+ Hotstar — is in a strange position. Through no fault of its own, a cloud hangs over the Game of Thrones prequel spin-off. The eighth and final season of Thrones left a bad taste in almost everyone’s mouth because of the weird and rushed creative decisions it made. At the same time, the huge success of Thrones over the years – it was the biggest TV show of the 2010s – House of the Dragon also exists. It would never stand a chance, and the work wouldn’t have more spin-offs if its big brother didn’t pave the way for an epic fantasy series on television. (Actually, Thrones also has Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV show thanks to it, which is due in 10 or so days.)

But beyond that, House of the Dragon has nothing to do with Game of Thrones. It’s still set in Westeros, but it takes place about two centuries earlier. This means that no throne characters will appear, although there are plenty of family dynasties that you will recognize. While there is no continuity in front of the screen, the people behind the screen carry on. Don’t worry, Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss, who were rightfully blamed for the Season 8 mess, aren’t involved.

Game of Thrones composer Ramin Javadi returns in the same capacity for the prequel series, setting his own theme. House of the Dragon earns your love and respect before introducing a modified version of the GoT theme at the end of the first episode. (I haven’t seen the title sequence, so I can’t tell if it’s that epic.) Most notably, Miguel Sapochnik — who directed some memorable Thrones episodes, including Season 5’s “Hardhome” and Season 6’s “Battle of The Bastards” include “” and “The Winds of Winter” — co-showrunner with Ryan Condle (Colony).

Everything you need to know about House of the Dragon

And thankfully, they know what they’re doing. House of the Dragon is a thing of beauty right from the first episode, as it delivers a compelling and compelling pilot that had me wanting to watch it again the moment it ended. Of course, the Thrones prequels benefit from existing world-building — Westeros, King’s Landing, and the Red Keep are no longer foreign to us — but the writing, direction, and performances elevate it even further. It demonstrates visual construction, narrative momentum, and moment-to-moment flow. These may seem like small things, but they can make or break a TV show. Additionally, there is an increased understanding of female characters that pays off immediately. Sure, Game of Thrones has had its fair share of women at the forefront, but their frequent handling has also led to its most complaints.

The Thrones prequel shows itself to be more mature in this regard from the get-go. Set in a Westeros that’s even more patriarchal than we remember — and with a lot more dragons — House of the Dragons begins with a grand council called by the ailing King Jaerys Targaryen to choose a successor, since he’s outlived both of them. of his children. (Why aren’t the other powerful houses of Westeros vying for the throne? Because obviously no one wants to go up against a family with dragons.) Consider his eldest son’s daughter Rhaenys (Eve Best), and her younger cousin Viserys (Paddy). Even though Rhaenys’ claim is strong, the council votes for Visery. Simply because he is a man and a woman has no priority on the Iron Throne.

Nineteen years later King Viserys finds himself in a similar pickle. With his wife Emma (Cian Brooke) unable to “provide” him with a male heir, Viserys must choose between his daughter Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock/ Emma D’Arcy) or his younger brother Damon (Matt Smith). Naturally, since he is a man, Damon is considered the heir. But Damon is also reckless and temperamental, as Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), the King’s hand, warns. Viserys makes the bold choice to nominate Rhaenyra as his heir, which upsets many in King’s Landing as it goes against tradition. Otto, who hates Damon, begins to implement his own plans by bringing his daughter Alice Hightower (Emily Carey/Olivia Cooke) into a position of power.

Inside House of the Dragon, the fiery Game of Thrones prequel spin-off

The main focus for House of the Dragon is the friendship between Rhaenyra and Elicent. Or rather, how friendships are broken by patriarchy, what they want and what is expected of them. So unlike Game of Thrones, with two actresses playing their roles, the prequel takes a time jump to portray its story. Alcock and Carey play them as teenagers, while D’Arcy and Cook move forward through the seasons. The time jump brings us to the second half of the famous Targaryen war, the Dance of the Dragons — which was talked about in Game of Thrones — although it’s unclear how long Condal and Sapochnik would have spread it over. (Spotochnik has pointed to (The nature of the anthology, for what it’s worth, means another time jump.)

House of the Dragon is undoubtedly a narrow focus, as its title makes clear, as is Game of Thrones. The first season revolved mainly around the Starks and Lannisters, with other characters introduced in bits and pieces. House of the Dragon gives us some non-Targaryen characters, although they are all connected to the Dragonriders in one way or another. There is the King’s Council, consisting of Otto, Damon, and the famous seaman Lord Corlys “Sea Snake” Velarion (Steve Toussaint), who is also the husband of Rhaenys, The Queen Who Never Was. Dornish swordsman Ser Kristen Cole (Fabian Frankel) is also part of the main cast, as is dancer Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno) who grows close to Damon as the show progresses.

That’s what you can expect from a TV show internal costs At $20 million (roughly Rs. 159 crore) per episode, House of the Dragon is well-shot, appropriately epic and boasts excellent production values. That’s more than what HBO spent on the final season of Game of Thrones ($15 million per episode). While Thrones had to prove itself before it got a big budget — the first season grossed $6 million (about Rs 48 crore) per episode — HBO has been comfortable paying the fantasy show a lot from the start, since it owns a proven universe. (Also, there have been giant dragons for a minute, and I’ve heard they cost a lot to make.) Although I think it also needs to be spectacular, HBO’s House of the Dragon to justify that investment.

She-HulkHouse of the Dragon and more on Disney+ Hotstar in August

House of the Dragon Review Matt Smith Daemon Targaryen House of the Dragon

Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon
Photo credit: Ollie Upton/HBO

Game of Thrones may have ended in ashes and flames, in its heyday, there was no show quite like it. Not only was it captivating with its twists and violence, it also provided a storyline that could only be done on TV. Characters you initially despised redeemed themselves years later, while those you idolized or respected paid a heavy price for their values. Thrones was also very (darkly) funny, a trait that many people overlook – especially those who try to emulate it. And Benioff and Weiss were great to fall back on George RR Martin’s books.

Condal and Sapochnik don’t have it at all. Yes, technically, House of the Dragon is based (one section) on Martin’s 2018 book “Fire and Blood.” But it is not a novel like the novel that was adapted into Thrones. This is a great encyclopedia, a dry history of the Targaryen years from Aegon I’s conquest of Westeros to the reign of Aegon III. In true GRRM fashion, Fire and Blood is the first of two planned volumes, and the second volume is as undated as “The Winds of Winter”. This fact may be alarming to some interested viewers given how it all ended with Thrones.

But House of the Dragon shows that we are in safe hands. In fact, there are some glimmers here that suggest we might be getting the best Game of Thrones return yet, let alone our collective terrible memories of Season 8. By the dragon, do we deserve it.

House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, August 21st at 9pm ET on HBO Max where available. It premieres in India on Disney+ Hotstar on Monday, August 22 at 6:30 AM IST.


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