Before Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) sailed to Westeros with her army of Unsullied and Dothraki to claim the iron throne, and before the Mad King (David Rintoul) descended from power and soiled his legacy, House Targaryen ruled the kingdoms. The premiere episode of House of the Dragon (HOTD), which aired on Sunday, August 21st on HBO and HBO Max, proved Westeros has always been filled with social climbers who will do anything to ascend to power and the Targaryen family is just as ruthless as ever as a new reign begins.
I didn’t start watching Game of Thrones (GoT) until season 6 was about to premiere. I did what any loyal TV watcher would do and binged the first 5 seasons before embarking into the upcoming. Although I was terribly confused at first with the plethora of characters with sophisticated names, I became hooked and an avid viewer of the global phenomenon. With House of the Dragon being the first spin-off series from the GoT universe, I knew I would give the premiere episode a chance to prove itself as a worthy counterpart to GoT After viewing episode 1 of House of the Dragon, twice, I will say that I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.
The first episode of House of the Dragon was titled “The Heirs of the Dragon” and picked up 172 years before the death of the Mad King and Daenerys’ birth. I was half hoping to hear the signature GoT theme song blasting through my TV speakers, but it was a subdued melody with a title card of the show that introduced the prequel. In this episode we find King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine) in the ninth year of his reign, his brother Daemon (Matt Smith) trying to make claim as his heir, Viserys’ wife Aemma (Sian Brooke) desperately hoping to birth a male heir, and Viserys’ daughter Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) just wanting to live her best life riding her dragon and eating cake with her best friend Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey). It should be noted that Alcock and Carey play the young versions of their characters and the series will later introduce Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke who will play Rhaenyra and Alicent, respectively.
Visually, House of the Dragon holds up to Game of Thrones standards. King’s Landing looked gorgeous and it felt very nostalgic to see all the elements of that world before it was destroyed decades later in the events that followed this show. GoT was infamous for its gruesome depiction of violence and gratuitous use of sex and nudity, and HOTD followed suit. It took around 20 minutes into the premiere episode for a violent moment to happen, but when it did, a grisly portrayal of power was shown followed by another brutal sequence that is not for the fainthearted towards the end of the episode.
Just because House Targaryen is the focus of this series doesn’t mean there isn’t a myriad of characters to sort through with names much like GoT that will take some time to remember. With a new assortment of characters, there wasn’t a clear indication of who would be the fan favorite(s). There were no real stand out performances that would warrant that, but I will say the relationship between Princess Rhaenyra and Alicent is being foreshadowed as the duo we need to keep our eyes on.
The end of “The Heirs of the Dragon” episode in HOTD was lackluster. There was no big moment that had me wanting more. This is contrary to the premiere episode of Game of Thrones in 2011 where at the end of “Winter Is Coming” Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) stumbles on Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) and her twin brother Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau )in a heated lover’s tryst and is pushed to his presumed death from a tower. That’s how you end a series opener, but “The Heirs of the Dragon” just announced a new heir and then credits rolled. No tease of impending doom. No “OMG” moment that went viral on social media. Just an ending. Although I didn’t get my big moment at the end, I’m loyal enough to GoT to see how this season pans out and will be tuning in every Sunday.
New episodes of House of the Dragon airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO and HBO Max.
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