The first episodes of the much-anticipated House of the Dragon, the first spin-off series from the larger Game of Thrones franchise to hit our screens, have raised a ton of questions in fans and cinephiles alike. While comparisons to the original series are inevitable, House of the Dragon is also bringing its own set of conundrums, questions, and compelling character arcs to the table.
What has got the internet buzzing so far? Let’s take a look at some of the key talking points from this much-anticipated prequel series.
Did Fans Like It?
Let’s not beat around the bush on this one. Game of Thrones took a massive PR hit in its last two seasons as HBO ventured beyond the existing source material and sought to bring the far-ranging series to a suitably epic conclusion. They messed up. Few had anything good to say about the beleaguered 8th season of the previously massively popular show, and redeeming the rushed plot arcs and hammy characterization it was plagued with was always going to be a tough task.
Additionally, it’s clear that House of the Dragon is meant to be quite a different beast. Dealing with the prehistory of the tangled Targaryen family tree, and how it came to be in the mess it was at the opening of Game of Thrones, it promises to be a smaller and more insular setting rife with political bickering.
Overall, while its early days for the series yet, fans seemed to get sucked back into the intrigue of the Red Keep and its many inhabitants.
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones came to be known for its titillating sex scenes and oppressive climate of misogyny. Often written off as ‘reflective of the era’, some fans do question what era we’re talking about. While it may be based on the European medieval period, the wider landscape of A Song of Ice and Fire is, of course, wholly fantasy fiction. Do we really need quite so much dour doom and gloom in the setting, with that in mind?
While showrunners have paid a lot of lip service to the idea of dialing back on this very bitter take on the setting, we haven’t seen much of that play out to date. We have been promised some more female-centric plotlines, however, including a focus on the dangers of childbirth in pre-modern medical settings. For this, however, it seems we will have to wait a bit.
Will the Actors Work?
Love or loathe the original series, you have to admit that it has some truly compelling performances that sucked viewers back in over and over. As a prequel to the original plot line, we obviously weren’t expecting to see all the familiar faces again, but fans have been buzzing about whether the new cast would be able to carry this lofty torch forward into another setting.
Jamie Lannister fans will no doubt be thrilled by the stellar performances to date from Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen. Creating an arrogant character we love to hate, but feel compelled to watch, is no small feat, but so far, he’s managing well.
Likewise Milly Alcock, as Rhaenyra Targaryen, creates a compelling character battling with perceived betrayal from her best friend and family both. It’s a complex character, but she’s brought her to life magnificently. In fact, some fans are disappointed that she will have to be replaced by Emma D’Arcy as the character ages up. However, the first looks at Emma in the role show a startling similarity to Milly, and we’re hoping they will carry on the torch fantastically. No doubt there’s some further stellar performances to come, too!
Game of Thrones was already known for its sweeping scenery and compelling landscape that truly did feel like a living, breathing world instead of just background. House of the Dragon goes into production with even more money behind the scenes, so there’s a lot to expect from it in a cinematographic sense.
The opening episode gave us a sweeping and dramatic tournament rich in clever CGI, excellent camera technique, and staggeringly rich set design. Episode two delivered equally well with a sweeping scene at Dragonstone rich in breathtaking cinematography and an excellent score. So far, so good when it comes to the sets and filming for this sequel, right?
With the dragons taking a new front-and-central role in the story, dare we hope for an epic dragon battle or two from future episodes? We’ve been promised plenty of dragon-related hijinks, but for now we shall simply have to wait and see.
A Changed Mood
Set nearly two centuries before the events of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon was always going to have a very different character from the original series. We’ve been promised more fine-print intrigue and political maneuvering, rather than the complex and widespread overall plot of the seizure of the Iron Throne from the original.
However, many fans of the original series seem to feel that House of the Dragon is succeeding in bringing back the complex and nuanced, multi-layer characterization of the killer first seasons of the original show despite this tighter focus on one dynasty and its political shenanigans. We’ve already seen some colorful world-building and deep-dives into complex characterization that even the most jaded fan can resonate with – and there’s plenty more to come!
Game of Thrones became a landmark series of the recent generation. Like it or loathe it, it had a feverish grip on our imaginations and has worked its way into cinematographic history in a way few series manage to do. House of the Dragon had a lofty legacy to live up to, not helped by the concurrent release of some other fabulous fantasy series at the moment. With both Rings of Power and the Wheel of Time to compete with, House of the Dragon is managing to hold its own, keep fans tuning in, and keep the talk coming in fast. We look forward to seeing what the next few episodes bring to the table, too!
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