If you fell in love with Game of Thrones for its overabundance of sex and violence, House of the Dragon will not disappoint. However, if it was the complicated variety of stories and characters that were interwoven into one epic saga over the course of several years that you loved, House of the Dragon doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor — yet. Despite this, HBO’s spin-off is still an enjoyable watch, and it encompasses much of the GoT magic that captured the world’s attention over a decade ago.
House of the Dragon takes place 172 years before the death of the Mad King that led to the events of Game of Thrones. The spin-off series follows Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, first portrayed by Milly Alcock, as she comes of age and is set to potentially ascend the iron throne. Throughout the series’ first few episodes, Rhaenyra grapples with her relationships to her father, King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), her Uncle Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), and her friend Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey).
'House of the Dragon'
House of the Dragon is a successful attempt at redeeming Game of Thrones by diving deep into the Targaryen bloodline, limiting the series' scope but opening up its characters.
Release Date: August 21, 2022 at 9 p.m. EST
Cast: Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Emma D'Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Rhys Ifans, Milly Alcock, Emily Carey, and more
Creators: Ryan J. Condal and George R.R. Martin, based on portions of George R.R. Martin's novel, Fire & Blood
It’s impossible to review House of the Dragon without comparing it to Game of Thrones, so naturally, fans will be pleased to know that the spin-off series fully encompasses the fantastical period drama element of its predecessor. However, by following just one family, the Targaryens, it misses out on some of the epic storytelling that made Game of Thrones so unique.
While that may disappoint some fans, we’re actually on board with this decision. It may feel like following one family limits the scope of the world being explored, but because many of us already have the context of Game of Thrones, we still have more than enough of a world built. And by diving deep into the Targaryen bloodline, House of the Dragon is able to further flesh out its characters.
Within the first six episodes, House of the Dragon creators Ryan J. Condal and George R.R. Martin have been able to tell a clear-cut story that’s not too challenging to follow. In doing this, there’s actually time to flesh the characters out, especially Milly Alcock’s Rhaenyra. It’s as if House of the Dragon is trying to make up for Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)’s flawed character development from GoT’s final season.
In many ways, Princess Rhaenyra is reminiscent of Daenerys, between her appearance and affinity to dragons. But her rebelliousness, independence, and passion remind us of Arya Stark and even Cersei Lannister, making Rhaenyra the feminist trifecta in one character. Milly’s performance is just as impressive; her sharp line delivery and expressive eyes communicate Rhaenyra’s emotional burden.
Game of Thrones fans are understandably apprehensive when it comes to the franchise after its Season 8 boondoggle. The eighth season was panned so hard by critics and audiences that we’re afraid of falling in love with another George R.R. Martin project just to get disappointed at the end. However, we have hope for House of the Dragon.
It may not start out with as many intersecting storylines, but that allows for fewer plot holes and loose ends to tie up by the end of the series. In many ways, it seems that House of the Dragon is an attempt at redemption within the world of Game of Thrones. If so, it’s not a bad attempt. With mentions of Baratheons and Lannisters, as well as cheeky foreshadowing of events that would eventually play out in Game of Thrones, there’s plenty of fan service.
But if you’re one of the rare viewers who didn’t watch all eight seasons of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon luckily stands on its own. There’s an entirely new story, somewhat of a classic story of marriage as a political act by royalty, that follows a new set of characters. So is House of the Dragon as good as early Game of Thrones?
Well, there are no iconic Tyrion Lannister-esque quotes yet, and its limited scope provides fewer characters and scenarios to draw us in. But House of the Dragon has the look and feel of GoT without overcomplicating its premise. So perhaps by the end of the new series, Game of Thrones will just be a dot in the distance behind us. ⅘