HBO’s House of the Dragon is a political drama, a tragedy, a household saga, and the prequel to a really well-known property. All of these issues work in its favor in Season 1, Episode 1, “The Heirs of the Dragon,” besides its affiliation with Game of Thrones. The iconic franchise would not carry the identical weight because it did earlier than the present’s finale dissatisfied followers and critics. That failure is House of the Dragon‘s burden to bear. Even although the present valiantly tries to determine itself as a separate entity, it struggles to flee the shadow of its predecessor.
In reality, House of the Dragon wears its Game of Thrones connections on its sleeve, a lot to its detriment. It would not matter what number of years earlier than Daenerys Targaryen this takes place as a result of utilizing Daenerys as a benchmark means reminding us that, irrespective of how a lot we attempt to separate this explicit tragedy from that of Danaerys, they’re all a part of the identical story. There’s no pleasure to be present in rooting for the Targaryens They all the time lose, as does the viewers.
There is one thing sort of poetic about the best way that the present frames the autumn of House Targaryen across the notion that, in the long run, Targaryens might by no means lose in opposition to an outdoor enemy. Instead, “the only thing that could tear down the House of the Dragon was itself.” This is true of this story and The Game of Thrones. But one of the best ways to take pleasure in this story is to separate what’s occurring in House of the Dragon from what’s going to occur in Game of Thrones. It is troublesome to make this distinction when there’s additionally a lady with platinum blonde hair on the middle of this story. Rhaenyra Targaryen is not as compelling a protagonist as Daenerys, however she’s nonetheless likable, significantly contemplating there is not any approach for contemporary audiences to divorce themselves from fashionable concepts as they watch. For followers, Rhaenyra is the rightful inheritor, whether or not she finally ends up having a brother or not.
Spoiler alert, she would not, however there’s nonetheless a way of unfairness to her place as the longer term Queen. After all, her father Viserys solely ended up on the throne above his older cousin Rhaenys as a result of he was a person, which suggests the proper political resolution would have been for him to call his brother Daemon as inheritor, not his daughter Rhaenyra. But the place there are Kings, there are schemes, and typically battle could be traced again to only one resolution.
The first episode is just about all exposition. It begins with Rhaenyra as a carefree little one who yearns to be her father’s favourite and nonetheless enjoys her freedom. It ends with the burden of the crown on her shoulders. But the episode additionally establishes her relationships with the individuals who will come to outline her story: the mom she loses approach too quickly, the daddy who reluctantly makes her his inheritor, the perfect pal who will sooner or later turn into her most bitter enemy, and the uncle who will sooner or later turn into her biggest ally.
Milly Alcock shines as Rhaenyra, significantly when she shares scenes with Emily Carey’s Alicent Hightower, her closest pal and the daughter of Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King. As King Viserys loses his spouse and Otto Hightower places his daughter in the proper place on the proper time to catch the King’s eye, the present does an awesome job showcasing how younger each Rhaenyra and Alicent are. A majority of the political machinations occurring at this early stage are out of their management. Matt Smith’s Daemon Targaryen, a personality that might have been creepy, annoying, or worse, as an alternative finally ends up nearly likable on the energy of a efficiency that does its utmost to maintain the character grounded. Whether that holds going ahead is anyone’s guess, however horrible wig apart, House of the Dragon has greater than sufficient good appearing to hold it.
It would possibly nonetheless not be sufficient for some viewers to overlook the top of Game of Thrones, nevertheless it’s exhausting to fault HBO for attempting to start out anew. And, if everybody concerned has realized that coherent journeys are extra necessary than stunning endings, then maybe there’s nonetheless room for a satisfying ending — if not a contented one.
The first episode of House of the Dragon aired Sunday, August twenty first on HBO and is now streaming solely on HBO Max.