The violence is just as brutal, relationships are scarier than ever – welcome to “House of the Dragon”, the “Game of Thrones” that might also be called “Dated and Related”.
The stakes are high, considering that “GoT” was the biggest show in the world during its 2011-2019 run, even if it fell in widespread ridicule the end.
While “House of the Dragon” (premieres August 21 at 9 p.m. on HBO) isn’t a masterpiece, it’s an addictively watchable series filled with thrilling drama, palace intrigue, and nostalgia for “GoT.”
Set 172 years before Daenerys was born, it gives us Westeros by ‘Succession’. We’re rooted in the drama of her ancestors, the silver-haired Targaryen, dragon-riding, incest – and what led to their decline, with Daenerys and Jon Snow the last of their lineage.
The main conflict in “House of the Dragon” based on the book by George R.R. Martin “fire and blood” It is a civil war between Princess Rhaenyra and her half-brother Aegon II (who is not yet born at the beginning of this show) over who will take the throne. The Targaryens are the powerful players who ruled Westeros during this era, but the current King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), a sane (modern of this world!) ruler, needs to name an heir.
Fans looking for characters to hang on to and root for – the way the original show Starks gave us – will be disappointed. The Targaryens are a group of thorny strangers, all show relationships straight from Groomers R Us, with middle-aged men pairing up with young girls they’ve known for years, often blood relatives, to boot. Dragons, battles, and politics are all well and good, but they weren’t the only factors in why “GoT” reached such a huge audience.
The main contender for Viserys I’s crown is his young daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (Melle Alcock in the first few episodes; in later episodes after a time jump, she played Emma Darcy). But it is unusual for women to rule, so the king’s advisors fear it could cause chaos. We mostly see her making fun of her friend Aliscent Hightower (Emily Carey, and later Olivia Cook), whose father Otto (Rhys Evans) is the Hand of the King. Rhaenyra also has an uneasy immersive dynamism with her uncle Daemon (Matt Smith chewing landscapes, bleeding danger).
The incest between twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister was tough on “GoT,” but at least they were the same age, and the show offered plenty of palatable romance to counteract it. It’s annoying — and sure enough surprising — to watch Daemon, who pays 40, flirt with his little niece.
As the king’s brother, Dimon is another contender for the throne, but almost everyone (including Otto, who hates him) thinks this would be a disaster, as he is reckless, violent and power-hungry. (Of course, it offers many vile, terrifying scenes or just plain fun.) And when the king finally has a baby, questions of his succession become even more complicated.
Like “GoT”, “House of The Dragon” features plenty of character scheming in rooms and action scenes full of brutality. Sometimes the writing is almost comically heavy. In one episode, a pregnant woman compares childbirth to a battlefield. Later, the scene oscillates back and forth between her labor being bad and a battlefield full of men beating each other violently. “GoT” wasn’t a stealth show, but it didn’t quite hit viewers over their heads like this. The actress’s exchange with Rhaenyra and Alicent is also annoying – although both pairs do well, the switch seems unnecessarily distracting, as the leap in age isn’t entirely clear.
For better or worse, the scope of “House of the Dragon” is smaller than that of “GoT”. If you get tired of Jon in the freezing cold, you can always count on “GoT” to change the scene to a different character or family. In “House of the Dragon” we only have the lavish Targaryens, and the prime location (with a few exceptions) is King’s Landing.
Aside from having questionable wigs, “House of the Dragon” is the best it can be: a gritty political fantasy that makes you want to keep watching. And she manages to learn at least one major lesson from “GoT”: her sex scenes are more tastefully filmed, and she portrays nudity for both women and men — and the former seems to have a good time, too.
It remains to be seen if broader audiences can overcome their anger with the end of “GoT,” or whether this will be a more niche show for hardcore fans. But, a lot of spectators should catch fire.
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