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House of the Dragons: Review

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Highlights

  • House of the Dragon premiered August 22
  • A prequel to Game of Thrones, set about 200 years prior
  • House of the Dragon is out on Disney+


The long-awaited prequel to the fantasy epic Game of Thrones, which has ruled the televisual scene for the past eight seasons despite its exorbitant production costs, has finally been released. It is based on sections of the best-selling novel written by George R. R. Martin in 2018 and titled Fire and Blood. The story of the Targaryens, who were the ones who started the entire bally thing, is told in "House of the Dragon."

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House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game of Thrones that takes place roughly two hundred years before the events of that series. It covers the beginning of the end of the rule of House Targaryen. These occurrences culminated in a civil war and the extinction of the dragons – at least, they did until Daenerys Targaryen came along. The most important piece of literature is Fire and Blood, which is a work of fiction authored by George R.R. Martin that describes the history of the Targaryen rulers. The book starts off with Aegon I's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros using his family's technologically sophisticated artillery, which consists of dragons. After this, there will be some calm until the inevitable political upheaval that will follow the succession. The conclusion of Fire and Blood, which serves as the major source material for House of the Dragon, has two chapters that focus on the aftermath of the catastrophe that was described earlier.

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Although it takes place around two centuries ago, it is still taking place in Westeros. This implies that none of the characters from Game of Thrones will make an appearance, but there will be plenty of family dynasties that you are familiar with. Despite the fact that there is no continuance visible to the audience, the personnel working behind the scenes continue on. The creators of Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who were justly chastised for the debacle that occurred in season 8, are not participating in any way.

Ramin Djawadi, who served as the composer for "Game of Thrones," will reprise his role as composer for the prequel series, drawing inspiration from his previous work. Before it plays a slightly altered version of the Game of Thrones theme at the end of the first episode, House of the Dragon has already won over your affection and respect. Importantly, Miguel Sapochnik, who has directed some of the most memorable episodes of Game of Thrones, including season 5's "Hardhome," season 6's "Battle of the Bastards," and season 7's "The Winds of Winter," is now a co-showrunner alongside Ryan Condal (Colony).

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Despite the passage of several years during Viserys I's rule, not much progress has been made. Once again, the king does not have a male successor, and he is blind to the fact that his ferocious dragonrider daughter, Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), has the potential to be anything more than an ornament to the court. Although his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) is now presumed to be the heir apparent, this status may soon be challenged. After a stillbirth and five miscarriages, Queen Aemma Arryn, played by Sian Brooke, is expecting a child for a sixth time and is getting close to her due date. Viserys is certain that he will soon become a father to a child; in fact, he is so certain of this outcome that he plans a jousting competition to commemorate the forthcoming arrival of his child.

It should not come as a surprise that the jousting sequences are excellent because the director of the pilot episode (and co-showrunner of the series) is none other than Miguel Sapochnik, who filmed some of the most jaw-dropping and intricate clashes on Game of Thrones. After more than 60 years of peace in Westeros, the knights are a little bit bloodthirsty, and it's just a matter of time until the tournament devolves into a horrific, blood-drenched free-for-all battle to the death.

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At first glance, Viserys I, whom we meet in this episode, appears to be a kind guy. He lacks his grandfather Jaehaerys I's political acumen, but he is also not as insane as Daenerys's father, Aerys II, or "The Mad King." He has assembled a powerful little council to lead the kingdom, including the most amazing man of his time, Lord Corlys Velaryon, or "The Sea Snake," as Master of Ships (Rhys Ifans as Hand of the King Ser Otto Hightower). Rather than pay attention to Lord Corlys' well-sourced news regarding military alliances in the east, it seems like Viserys would rather joke about with his colleagues at the Small Council table.

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It's a lot like the early episodes of Game of Thrones in that it slowly builds its characters, establishing their personalities, motivations, connections, and conflicts. They are slowly maneuvered into situations that foreshadow the most catastrophic level of violence. It's a complex piece with a budget that dwarfs that of the first season of Game of Thrones. The writing is crisp, and the direction is polished. For example, the third episode contains a massive celebration hunt, complete with sets and extras, while the episode prior to that features elaborate dragon scenes. A similar scenario occurred early in Game of Thrones and included a small number of characters in the woods; George R.R. Martin didn't like it since he wanted the hunt to be appropriate for a king.

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In the end, House of the Dragon seems less concerned with crafting truthful situations and more concerned with catering to its audience by providing more dragons, more gore, more surprise killings, and a more costly historical re-enactment. Veterans of Game of Thrones, such as director Miguel Sapochnik and composer Ramin Djawadi, can make this new series seem and sound like more of the same, but it is as hollow and brittle as the gigantic scale model of the kingdom that Viserys takes joy in making. That's a rather shaky groundwork for an epic tale, so perhaps the prophesy holds true: the House of the Dragon can only be destroyed by the House of the Dragon.


Cast: Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’Arcy, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Sonoya Mizuno, Rhys Ifans, Milly Alcock, Bethany Antonia, Phoebe Campbell, Emily Carey, Harry Collett, Ryan Corr, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jefferson Hall, David Horovitch, Wil Johnson, John Macmillan, Graham McTavish, Ewan Mitchell, Theo Nate, Matthew Needham, Bill Paterson, Phia Saban, Gavin Spokes, Savannah Steyn Network: HBO

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