Television will never be the same as it was before Game of Thrones (2013-2018) slithered onto screens across the globe and vanquished an already vibrant industry. The epic HBO series grabbed us by our throats and sucked us into its own scintillating, imaginative, and brilliantly constructed little universe. The only caveat, of course, is that it ended on a sour note—with a final season (the most anticipated final season in TV history) that left millions of viewers distraught and dissatisfied. And now, four years later, it’s about time we received that feeling of redemption. Unfolding around 172 years before the events that transpire in Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon follows Westeros under the reigns of a peak Targaryen dynasty. We are only halfway through the first season, so I can’t testify too much about the essence of this new HBO feature, but what I will say so far is that House of the Dragon captures everything that made Game of Thrones so consummate in the first place—while replacing the duo that spoiled GoT: i.e. D.B. Weiss and David Benioff (who diminished George R.R. Martin’s original novels with an airball of a final season), instead opting for a new writing team featuring Martin himself.
The ambitious prequel series, based on Martin’s 2018 prequel novel Fire and Blood, features visceral parallels with the original Game of Thrones series. From the scope of the acting ensemble to the quality of the set, cinematography, and writing to the nature of the characters, you see the many connections between the epic dramas. Perhaps the most evident is that of Daenerys of Game of Thrones and her ancestor Rhaenyra of House of the Dragon; both begin as young, innocent, blonde princesses who initially struggle to prove themselves to a misogynistic world wherein their worth lies in their beauty and fertility, only for each to gradually decimate anyone who stands in their way. But indeed, what made Game of Thrones so iconic was its ability to outperform the rest of popular television in such a multi-pronged manner. For there are thousands of components constituting the ostensible quality of a series, and House of the Dragon does shine in a multitude of avenues.
In particular, the way the character dynamics are framed is striking. You think after watching the pilot that certain characters will construct a particular type of relationship together, and then they end up getting pitted against each other. You think another set of characters will face off as enemies, but they surprise you by developing an amicable relationship. It’s kind of the quintessential dynamic we see in dramas, and the only difference between it rendering a boring, uninspired, banal ensemble and a truly compelling one is how well the actors play their characters within the parameters established by the screenwriters. Fortunately, though, House of the Dragon flexes its high budget with an ensemble of established actors, many of whom have been due for a high-profile role after playing more peripheral ones in the past. What drew me in is the underrated Matt Smith as Daemon—as well as Milly Alcock as a young Rhaenyra and Paddy Considine as King Viserys.
As for the inevitable question of whether you should watch Game of Thrones in order to understand and appreciate House of the Dragon: I honestly don’t think it’s necessary. Sure, if you are relatively familiar with the world of Westeros, it will expedite the process of familiarizing yourself with House of the Dragon; it will also enable you to spot certain parallels and nuances that you wouldn’t see otherwise. But again, you will be fine even if you never saw an episode of Game of Thrones. After all, the two main plots are separated by two centuries. And while we’re on this topic, let me say that things that may have deterred you from Game of Thrones might not necessarily manifest themselves this time around. In other words, certain polemics that divided Game of Thrones fanatics, namely the graphic and promiscuous sex scenes, are less frequent in the new hit. I suspect that, while writers in the early GoT days relied on sex to generate headlines, stir controversy, and reel certain audiences in by the hook, none of that is needed anymore. Why? No Game of Thrones spinoff will encounter any trouble garnering viewers.
As for the actual plot of House of the Dragon: I’ve only seen the four episodes released thus far (four being the prototypical number of episodes critics watch before they begin working on a review), but what I can say is that the fresh series essentially follows an internal succession war within House Targaryen, which controls the monarchy of The Seven Kingdoms, tracing a kaleidoscopic struggle between an array of characters vying for a spot in the line of regal succession for when an aging King Viserys passes away. Furthermore, the Targaryen-themed series lays all of the groundwork for the whopping, bewildering, stunning, sensational multitude of events to materialize in a few generations.
Needless to say, though the lucid parallels are evident, the spinoff series does adopt some subtle changes in tone and approach while, of course, injecting a fresh new consortium of characters. Plus, with a pilot episode premiering nearly a decade beyond when the GoT pilot debuted, there are improvements in not only the cinematography but also the set designs and the editing. However, flashy elements aside, the series feels a bit too overindulgent. The CGI is cool at times, but on some occasions you get the feeling that you’re watching a Michael Bay film: explosions, dragons, people getting incinerated by dragons, etc. It’s a beefed-up Game of Thrones—perhaps to a fault. Perhaps the directors are trying so hard to recreate the magic of GoT when they should be pushing audiences in new directions.
At the end of the day, I have only seen four of the first season’s ten episodes, so my review is subject to a variety of potentially volatile changes. Who knows? House of the Dragon could end up a masterpiece. It could also end up an absolute flop; likewise, I implore you to remember that my review, as well as my final rating of the show, could end up changing in a slew of ways. I just hope that I don’t have to find myself in a few years roasting this series for conjuring a stale, haggard wannabe series that ultimately fails to amass enough funding to even continue after two or three seasons. Only time will tell. But hey, I can’t think of anything more exciting (at least in the arena of popular television) to watch unfold this fall.
I’ve been meaning to watch this. I’ll have to subscribe to YouTube tv soon 🤷🏾♂️
Hope you enjoy!
And oh is it on Youtube TV? I thought it was just on HBO Max. Cheers!
But apparently you can watch the first episode for free on Youtube. https://www.engadget.com/house-of-the-dragon-game-of-thrones-hbo-youtube-premiere-episode-free-174317975.html
Thank you so much for sharing!
Here’s the episode 5 preview for those reading this review now and gearing up for tonight:
Thought have changed aftre seeing episodes # 3 & 4
Same. How so for you personally?
Saw ur fav GoT scenes in the comments… let’s see house of dragons scenes now : )
As in my personal favorites? Not sure yet but I’ll send the ones that I found the most compelling so far (not sure how long these videos will last on Youtube before they get taken down but we’ll see)!
perhaps its no coincidence Daemon appears in all of these.
crabfeeder a lame character. i like the little boi who courted rhaenyra n cut up the older boy bullying him
Agreed on both of those hahaha
Agreed. Matt Smith is an underrated rapper!
Wow, talking about favorite rappers with a friend over text while checking these comments and this was quite the epic fail lol.
Hi Luke. I’ve been waiting for your review of this HBO series.
I believe your reviews are truly balanced and have the point of view of a true movie connoisseur.
Actually, I was quite surprised by the bed scene in this series. I think GoT is a movie for all ages. Unfortunately I was wrong.
I was outplayed while watching it with my 10-year-old brother. Hhh
In terms of effect, it is really amazing. Quite an interesting story in my opinion. But the sex scene is not pleasing to the eye.
But I’m not surprised, almost all HBO series contain vulgar sex scenes 😁. But I’m not surprised, almost all HBO series contain vulgar sex scenes whether straight or LGBT.
Thanks for the review Luke. Very useful..
Hi, Afriant! Thank you so much for your kind words (they made my day), and I totally understand what you’re saying. Very true indeed, lots of sexual and graphic stuff in HBO content (and GoT content in general), and I’m sorry you had to deal with it with your little brother of all people. Sounds not fun. Hope you enjoy the rest of the season!
Also, yeah that bed scene in the first episode you mentioned was INSANE!
Thanks for your review. I stayed away from all trailers of this series looking to be seeing it with fresh eyes. I have read the five Game of Thrones books. I have not read the book which is the base if this series. I am so far underwhelmed by this effort. I find it slow. I find that the main king and daughter characters are not as bright as they at first seem. They are subject to manipulation which seems odd given the source. It moves slowly and without the number of complex families involved. Game of Thrones was a marvel at creating numerous complex families and characters. They aren’t just good and evil although there are some you cheer for more than others. This series has fewer families. Fewer interesting characters. Matt Smith who is brilliant in The Crown and Doctor Who is given a character who is pretty much more dark.
As you say, so eloquently, it is only 4 episodes in (although your gratuitous nudity and sex sequence appeared in episode 4) and there are many directions it can go. I have heard that the season 2 has already been green lighted.
We’ll see where they go but so far there isn’t much of a comparison to early GOT to this. Enjoy!!
Hi, Robbie! Thank you so much as always for your thoughtful, impassioned, & highly knowledgeable takes. Well said on literally everything you mentioned as well (as usual, too!) and I’m so glad you brought up the points you did. To be honest, I wrote a lot of this review after the first 2 episodes. Just planned on editing it as I went, but sadly I’d already written most of it when I got to a point where I felt like the screenplay was a bit too bleak and the pacing was too off. And totally agree as for Matt Smith in The Crown (such an under-appreciated actor!) and cheers to the prospect of House of the Dragon getting better from now on rather than worse ha.
P.S. We’re also on the same page regarding the disparities in the quality of things like the palette of characters between GoT and HotD, too! I guess I just didn’t want to get too caught up in the game of comparing the two and wanted to give House of the Dragon its own stage, its own to chance to prove itself without the foundational support of GoT, and I guess we can say that the jury is still out in that regard (and even if HotD doesn’t pan out as well as GoT did from seasons 3-6 in particular, at least they hopefully won’t bow out with a season as bad as GoT season 8)!
(Alas, I may have to bite my words and delete that comment if House of the Dragon’s final season is as disappointing as that final GoT one! 😂)
Thank you so much!
You’re most welcome 😊🙏