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House Of The Dragon Is A More Focused Return To The World Of Game Of Thrones

Four years after the end of Game Of Thrones’ infamous Season 8, HBO’s biggest franchise has finally returned with its first spin-off in the form of the prequel series, House Of The Dragon. We’ve been waiting for the next Game Of Thrones, and in the four years, no series has truly managed to reach the same heights. Is House Of The Dragon that series?

Dragon-On-Dragon Action

House Of The Dragon takes place around 200 years before Game Of Thrones, so first and foremost, it’s important to note that there are no returning characters. This is the age when House Targaryen still reigned and dragons still roamed the lands of Westeros. The main plot of this series follows the issue of the succession to the Iron Throne, but this time, it mostly revolves around the Targaryen royal family and those near them.

Game Of Thrones was famous for its simultaneous multiple complex narratives and different locations that shifted focus between each of them in real-time (for example, between the Lannisters, Starks, and Daenerys Targaryen, not to mention all the other characters in between),. However, House Of The Dragon has opted for a more focused internal storyline focusing on the Targaryens in and around King’s Landing, only occasionally visiting other new and familiar places in the Game Of Thrones canon.

I was given access to the first six episodes of House Of The Dragon, courtesy of HBO Asia. The pilot episode starts really strong, with an episode that feels a lot like the best of Game Of Thrones, featuring ample sex and violence. Just like the pilot episode of Game of Thrones, something happens in the first episode of House Of The Dragon that’s just as disturbing and shocking, but of course, I can’t spoil what it is. From there, the series gradually gets more complicated in the next few episodes, even featuring several significant time jumps that propel both the plot and characters forward.

Unfortunately, after an exciting and epic start, House Of The Dragon starts to meander near the middle, where things seem to be going nowhere in particular. The pacing of the series plods near the middle, but it starts to pick up again in the early beginning of the second half of the first season. The intrigue and complexity of the series do increase every few episodes with each time jump. Each time jump also introduces new characters and changes the status quo. I reckon that this is how House Of The Dragon aims to shake things up and make things interesting, as a replacement for the simultaneous multiple complex narratives and different locations in Game Of Thrones (which are absent in House Of The Dragon).

If the story of Game Of Thrones was set within one generation, the complexity behind House Of The Dragon is that it is a multi-generational story. Despite featuring a comparatively simpler narrative in that it’s focused on only the Targaryens in mostly one place (instead of following simultaneous multiple complex narratives and different locations like in Game Of Thrones), House Of The Dragon is ambitious in its own way, attempting to tell a story that spans several generations of Targaryens.

Without spoiling anything specific, there’s a huge change in the status quo in House Of The Dragon halfway through the first season’s 10 episodes. HBO Asia gave us six episodes to watch and for good reason, the shakeup is a major one for the series, with the introduction of several potential new protagonists or antagonists in the making. It looks like HBO has long-term plans for this series, and there’s potential for it to be just as big as Game Of Thrones. Game Of Thrones also grew bigger and better with each season (up until a certain point), so House Of The Dragon definitely has room to grow even more.

Out of all the characters in House Of The Dragon, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Emma D’Arcy) can be considered the main protagonist. For Game Of Thrones fans, the best way to describe her is that she reminds me a lot of Arya Stark, with a little bit of Arya Stark thrown in. She’s one of the primary candidates for the succession to the Iron Throne, but no one wants a woman as the queen of the realm. This is where heavier elements of feminism and rising against the patriarchy play a heavier role in the narrative of House Of The Dragon.

Most of the cast members give great performances, but the highlight of the series so far (and potential fan-favourites) is Prince Daemon Targaryen (in what is likely Matt Smith’s best role since Doctor Who). As I’ve previously mentioned, the plot revolves around the Targaryen family so the supporting cast doesn’t really get fleshed out as much as they did in Game Of Thrones. The majority of the screen time is devoted to both of the Targaryens I’ve mentioned in addition to King Viserys Targaryen himself (Paddy Considine with an amazing performance). The rest of the cast is just there for now, but other standouts include Rhys Ifan as Otto Hightower, the Hand of the king.

Viewers should temper their expectations when it comes to actual dragons. Yes, House Of The Dragon does feature significantly more dragons than Game Of Thrones, and at least one appears or shows up in every single episode, even for a brief scene or two just flying around. However, House Of The Dragon remains very much a TV series with a limited budget (albeit one with an HBO-level budget), so don’t expect dragons to play too much of a huge role in every single episode. That might sound disappointing but don’t be; the dragons still make an impact and will still add epicness simply by showing up, just like the dragons in Game Of Thrones.

Dracarys

No series will probably reach the level of peak Game Of Thrones ever again, and that applies to House Of The Dragon as well. That said, House Of The Dragon is quite good on its own merit, but we’ll have to wait until the end of the first season before we can even start truly making comparisons. In case anyone forgot, Game Of Thrones only truly broke into mainstream popular culture thanks to its iconic Season 1 finale, which legendarily killed off who we assumed to be its own main protagonist up until that point in time.

I’m still waiting for House Of The Dragon to get its own moment before it can cement its position as a successor to Game Of Thrones. Though after the disaster that was Game Of Thrones Season 8, anything can seem better.

FINAL SCORE: 80/100

We received an early screener of House Of The Dragon courtesy of HBO Asia. House Of The Dragon is slated to premiere on 22 August 2022 on HBO and HBO GO.

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