HOUSE OF THE DRAGON -- A GAME OF THRONES Prequel Lacking the Backstabbing and Action of the Original Show
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Game of Thrones was a massive hit for HBO and creator George R. R. Martin when it first aired. It makes sense that someone would take some peripheral characters like the Targaryens and spin them off into their own series. After all, they do have a pretty dark and sordid past, not that Daenerys doesn't. Most of this story was made up by the creators and writers, but it's still based on the book Fire & Blood by Martin. Usually, when the Game of Thrones series is based on books, it is pretty good. It's when they veer off of the books they falter. This show is pretty solid after five episodes.
King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine, Cinderella Man) is the ruler of the seven kingdoms and King of the Iron Throne. There is only one problem, though. He doesn't have a male heir; he only has a daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock). When a tragedy befalls the King's wife while in labor, the Princess becomes the only heir to the throne. But not so fast! The King's brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith, Doctor Who, The Crown), thinks he should be the heir to the Iron Throne. This show is just like Game of Thrones, with fewer characters and a less confusing story to follow.
As I said, there aren't that many characters to follow, but another lead important to the story is Lord Corlys Velaryon, "The Sea Snake" (Steve Toussaint), a member of the small council and a master of the seas with hundreds of ships. He has children he thinks should be wed to the King or his daughter. Speaking of daughters, we have a friend of Rhaenyra, Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey and later played by Olivia Cooke). She's the daughter of the Hand of King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, The Amazing Spider-Man). He convinced his daughter to wed the King and create heirs to the throne. This muddies the water even more.
Because House of the Dragon has fewer characters, they must be more interesting and engaging. The show focuses on this handful of characters and does a good job building them and their stories up. It just seems to be not enough after what was created in the sister show. There is just too much exposition and not enough action. There is a battle scene, so fans of those will be happy. Still, I don't think this show delves into the mythos of Westeros enough for my taste.
The show's title is House of the Dragon, so fans of the books will be upset if there aren't any dragons in this new show. I'm here to say there are dragons in the series, and they are badass. Both Smith's character and Alcock ride dragons. When they appear, they mostly wreck shop. The CGI on the dragons is damn good as well. These things look great. The CGI on them couldn't have been cheap either. The dragon scenes were probably the best in the show this far. The series needed them because of all the talking from the other characters.
Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal created this show based in part on the blessing of Martin. They were riding high from the previous show. That didn't mean they needed to make this show. Not everything needs prequels or sequels, for that matter. Granted, I've only watched five episodes, so maybe I'll feel differently after seeing the whole show. The problem is fans of Game of Thrones pretty much know this story already, so making it so slow at the beginning is not a good idea. There needed to be more action than just the one episode. I think it was episode four that had a big battle scene. There needed to be more stories to offset the fewer characters and action scenes. I know they were going off the book, but something needed to be changed to improve it.
The actors in the show were superb, though. What they had to work with and what they did with that was astounding to me. Considine, Smith, Ifans, Alcock, and Carey were all fantastic. I haven't got to the older versions of the princesses yet, so I don't know how they were in the show later in the season. These, mostly character actors, had the brunt of dialogue and killed it in every scene. Even though I wished there were more action scenes and characters to watch on screen, what I saw was done very well. From the writing aspect, it was first-rate. The direction of the episodes was done exceptionally also.
House of the Dragon brought me back into Westeros, which was fun to be a part of. The writing and acting were superbly done by all involved. The direction was also done very well. It didn't take much time to be brought right back into this world with the costumes, hairstyles, and those dragons flying around wrecking shop everywhere they went. There just weren't enough action scenes and deaths for my liking. I got to know the characters in five episodes but did not truly love them yet. That's a shame because, by this point in Game of Thrones, I loved some of the characters and the show.
House of the Dragon debuts on HBO on August 21 at 9pm ET/PT, with new episodes airing subsequent Sundays. Five out of ten episodes reviewed.