Nowadays, when a franchise succeeds, it’s rare that the studio behind it doesn’t invest in giving it a sequel. A sequel or prequel for either the big or small screen. With ‘Game of Thrones‘, this dilemma was even more evident thanks to the rich fantasy world created by George R.R. Martin in his novels. For this reason, two years after the (controversial) end of the parent series, it arrives on HBO and HBO Max ‘The House of the Dragon‘. This prequel series travels back nearly 200 years, to a time when the House of Targaryens ruled all of Westeros. And, unlike her older sister, her focus will be solely and exclusively on that family and its heyday.
The plot of ‘The House of the Dragon’ focuses on the reign of Viserys I Targaryen. Facing the inability to conceive a male child, the king has Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen as his only daughter. This, due to her status as a woman and therefore her alleged inability to inherit the crown, must dispute the Iron Throne with her uncle Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother. From there, the conflicts and gossip within the family give rise to numerous divisions and alliances to see who will be the new monarch. A whole dance of dragons that will endanger the stability of the Targaryens and their kingdom.
The importance of legacy
Perhaps one of the aspects that could most concern the fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ was to know if ‘The House of the Dragon’ would be up to the task in terms of its production. Being a spin-off series, many voices intuited less care, something that would be understandable since the matrix is to date the most expensive series of all time in its last seasons. However, there is nothing to be alarmed about. This new approach to Poniente perfectly meets expectations, showing impeccable sets, costumes, staging and special effects. In fact, being located mostly inside the palace of King’s Landing, a terrain known to fans, the atmosphere that is breathed from minute one is identical to that of its predecessor. Add to that an epic new soundtrack that manages to salvage some melodies from the original series, and the spruce up ensemble is made to be savored with relish.
Something similar happens with the entire narrative framework, where the viewer who has followed the books and the previous series will find themselves particularly comfortable among rewards that constantly remind them why they love this franchise so much. Whoever comes to the new saga will not find obstacles to discover this world and the rules that govern it, but it is clear that ‘The House of the Dragon’ intentionally has many elements very similar to the success of HBO. The main goal of the creators was to resemble ‘Game of Thrones’ as much as possible so that, from then on, they could travel freely. And that is exactly what he does.
dance of dragons
Located mainly in King’s Landing, the series kicks off with a formidable pilot episode that introduces who will be the great protagonists of the story and the relationships between them. Thus, from very early on we are introduced to palace conspiracies. Each character has their own objectives, which leaves magnificent sequences with powerful dialogues that discuss power, betrayal, family, freedom, patriarchy or the duties that the crown implies. It was one of the great components for the franchise to succeed, and in ‘The House of the Dragon’ they turn fully into it from their script, successfully building a latent tension that could explode at any moment. As if that were not enough, he does all this -at least at first- without skimping on action scenes or dragons.
The tone that sows ‘La Casa del Dragón’ is exceptional, vibrant, allowing the viewer to enter between walls that see and hear everything. However, it is also true that with the passing of the episodes the series loses some steam at certain times. Some debates on politics and society end up being too repetitive, materializing in over-expository scenes that, in reality, lead nowhere. And although there are spicy and murky love triangles, there is not as much violence or as much sex as in ‘Game of Thrones’, ingredients that added greater interest. This makes the initial breakneck pace slower and jerkier, though it should also be noted that the series always finds a way to pick itself up. Whether it’s a high-flying episode close, a new conversation that brings more to the story and reconnects the viewer, a bloody battle, or the flight and flare of a dragon, there’s always an ace up your sleeve.
One of the points that can weigh him down the most, and in which he loses in the inevitable comparison with ‘Game of Thrones’, is the lack of that spirit of adventure that was so ingrained in characters like Arya, Jon Snow or even Jaime. The title itself warns that ‘The House of the Dragon’ is going to work on a single family whose conflicts take place in the palace, whether in King’s Landing, Dragonstone or any other enclave in Westeros that has a castle to access. And that part is worked with great care. But there is only one protagonist, Daemon Targaryen, who allows himself to live things outside of these environments and break the monotony of the established rhythm. For the public that looks for something more in the series than dialectical crossroads about power and control, it can end up being a bit uphill.
Despite how faithful and affiliated ‘The House of the Dragon’ is to ‘Game of Thrones’, there is a purely creative decision in which she completely distances herself. For reasons of script and plot, the series is forced to make several temporary jumps. With them, the bases that had been presented before change again and again. The protagonists have a new context, some gain power and others lose it. There are new alliances while others have been diluted. Even the casting of some characters, as was already announced, changes to exemplify the passage of time, being the most striking part of the process as it occurs when the eye has already taken a liking to those faces. They are a series of decisions that will upset the audience, from whom we will have to wait for a response, either positive or negative. It is true that when this happens the series starts to walk immediately and effortlessly but, at least, it is clear that the decision is quite risky.
The Targaryens, charismatic family
Regarding the cast of ‘The House of the Dragon’, the effort with which the actors try to imprint all the charisma possible on their characters should also be noted. Especially good are Milly Alcock as the young version of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and matt smith like his uncle Daemon Targaryen. Both shine with works that allow them to explore in depth the nooks and crannies of two complex characters full of machinations. Beside Paddy Considine like King Viserys, they carry the entire series on their shoulders, earning points every time they enter the scene.
As for the secondary, none stands out especially, if anything the duet Emily Carey and Olivia Cooke like an Alicent Hightower that is gaining ground as the episodes go by. It is actually absurd to stop to judge which performances deserve more recognition because, in a saga like this, we know that each character can become important from one moment to the next and in the most unpredictable way. For now it is still early to judge if the extensive cast can hold the pulse of the original series and the immense legacy that it carries. But, of course, with the choice of several members of the cast, the wickerwork has been woven that can lead the protagonists of ‘The House of the Dragon’ to gain a foothold in the hearts of fans.
The conclusions drawn from ‘The House of the Dragon’ are, in essence, very positive. It is true that some aspects must still be polished, such as leaving the rooms of the King’s Landing castle to open up a little more to the almost unlimited possibilities that Westeros offers. But, in general terms, the series is very fresh and at the same time very faithful to the tone of ‘Game of Thrones’ that so much fell in love with in its day. The Machiavellian conspiracies and the worked scripts make it a very solid proposal that will dazzle fans from its portentous pilot episode. ‘Game of Thrones’ is still very much alive.
The best: The start of the series, the interesting palace intrigues as a common thread and the charisma of its protagonists. Everything reminds of ‘Game of Thrones’.
Worst: Some moral debates raised become repetitive. It misses more exploration and spirit of adventure.