TV SHOW REVIEW - House Of The Dragon: Season 1
I’ll admit that it’s been tougher than usual to make my way through a TV show because there are so many new seasons of things coming out. That being said, occasionally I do like to write reviews on shows which are on right now because my thoughts are still fresh. So when HBO announced that they were making a Game Of Thrones prequel named ‘House of The Dragon’, I was intrigued. Lots of fans of the original show, myself included, felt extremely hard done by the finale, and perhaps we all wanted redemption!
The first season of ‘House Of The Dragon’ is set around 900 years before the events of Game of Thrones. It centres around the ruling family of Westeros, the Targaryens and their allies and enemies. We see right at the beginning of the show how Viserys I is crowned King of the Seven Kingdoms. Despite his desire to have a male heir, he is initially left with only his daughter Rhaenyra. He decides to name her his heir, much to the chagrin of his younger brother Daemon, who clearly has his eyes set on power. After the death of his wife Aemma, Viserys is advised to find a new wife. Despite proposals from his closest allies, the Velaryons, Viserys chooses Alicent Hightower, the young lady who is best friends with his daughter. Naturally, this betrayal creates a large rift between both Rhaenyra and Alicent, but also Rhaenyra and her father. Credit is due to Viserys, however, because even though he has further children with Alicent, two of whom are male, he doesn’t relent in changing his mind about his heir. When Rhaenyra accepts the proposal from Laenor Velaryon, it seems that Viserys’ legacy is safe and he can rule with ease. However, nothing in Westeros is ever stable for long. Alicent’s father, Otto, who is the Hand of the King, seeks to have his grandson, Aegon Targaryen installed as Viserys’ heir. When the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s children comes into question, Otto and Alicent attempt to sway the King’s opinion by insinuating this information. Viserys remains steadfast in his support of Rhaenyra, and when Daemon and Rhaenyra decide to get married, following the tragic demises of their previous marriages, it’s evident that the politics of the game is heating up. Can Alicent and the Greens of Hightower pull off their secret plan? Or will Rhaenyra and the Blacks of Targaryen keep the throne?
I think I can safely say that the majority of Game of Thrones fans really felt let down when the show ended a few years ago and many probably had a little bit of hesitation watching this. I certainly felt this way, as did my siblings who are huge fans themselves. Nevertheless, we persisted and I have to say I was not disappointed. House of the Dragon Season 1 immediately pulls you in with its intriguing storyline and likeable characters. In a way, it’s kind of refreshing to see other houses in play, such as the Velaryons who aren’t even in Game of Thrones. One of the interesting things about this show was that the writers had created quite drastic time jumps between episodes. Some of these jumps are months and some are considerable years. Initially, I did wonder how this was going to work, but I think it’s fairly clear that this season is supposed to be the set-up for future seasons. In that sense, I didn’t particular mind the time jumps, because they were clearly focusing on certain key events, but at the same time, it did sometimes feel a little disjointed. Evidently, the lore is there, but I’m hoping there are still some surprises waiting for us to see!
Casting-wise, let’s start with Paddy Considine who plays Viserys I. Viserys had some traits which reminded me of Robert Baratheon, but overall he seemed like a good leader. I have to say, that despite the time jumps, this man remained a constant. I’m sure there were people putting bets on when he was going to die. Milly Alcock and Emma D’Arcy played young and adult Rhaenyra respectively and both bought something different to the role. Milly’s Rhaenyra was clearly full of life and at times, fiery and after five episodes we were sad to see her go, but Emma did a fantastic job of making us fall in love with the adult Rhaenyra who still had that fire but was a lot more poised. On the other side were Emily Carey and Olivia Cooke who played the young and adult Alicent Hightower. Alicent as a character doesn’t seem like a complete villain but I can see her potentially developing into one. Otto Hightower was played by Rhys Ifans who also does an excellent job. However, there were two performances in this show that have to be commended. The first is by Matt Smith who plays Daemon Targaryen. I’ve only seen Matt as Doctor Who, so watching him play a character that is very very different was exciting to see. He was my favourite character in the entire season, but again, there are moments where I wonder where his allegiances lie. The other standout performance was by Fabian Frankel who plays Sir Criston Cole, a knight who is initially loyal to Rhaenyra before switching to the other side. As put by the Meticulous Marauder, ‘no character has ever made me switch my love to hate, quite like Criston’, and I would heartily agree with her!
HBO always like to give their projects big budgets and given the success of Game Of Thrones, they knew they were onto a winner here. Since the Targaryens are known to have dragons, there was lots of CGI work. I was highly impressed with the designs of the dragons, each of which was unique in style, unlike Daenerys’ three dragons in Game Of Thrones. Many of the sets also seemed grander in design although we mostly stuck to two or three locations. The music had Ramin Djawadi’s iconic theme return, but I do hope that perhaps we might get ourselves a new theme for the next season. I know it’s a recognizable tune, but this is a different show, please guys.
Overall, House of the Dragon’s first season successfully pulled me back in. Even though I love Lord of the Rings, I’ve not seen any of the Rings of Power episodes because House of the Dragon took priority. The casting was excellent, the time jumps innovative, and it seems like HBO have found writers that aren’t looking to jump ship early. This show could potentially redeem its sequel!
Story Arc: 14/20
Integral vs filler episode: 15.5/20