TL;DR – You can feel them trying to get lightning to strike twice, but it never rose above being just fine, bar maybe the tournament scene.
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge service that viewed this episode.
House of the Dragon Review –
There are many TV shows that come and go, but few have stamped a legacy as much as Game of Thrones. But that legacy is complicated and fraught with tension. It rose to be one of the most well know shows in TV history, a place where everyone had to know what was going on, and moments like the Red Wedding echo across the zeitgeist in a way maybe only the MASH finale and moments like that had. But then Seasons Eight happened, and it was like watching all that momentum crash against a solid object like one of those experiments in MythBusters. The entire marketing push disappeared overnight under the wave of discontent, and I wondered if this was the last we would see of this universe that someone had paid a lot of money to dabble in. there were talks of sequels and prequels. Still, none of them ever got anywhere, well, that is until today.
So to set the scene, in the dying days of King Jaehaerys Targaryen (Michael Carter), there was a succession question, so he held a Great Council in the ruins of Harrenhal. Where the lords combined supporting Prince Viserys (Paddy Considine) over Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best). Eleven years later, King Viserys’ wife, Queen Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke), is pregnant again, and all hope is that it is a boy. But the vultures are starting to circle, and one of those with knives out might be the king’s own brother Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), Commander of the City Watch. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
I wanted to go into this show making sure I did not over-hype myself up about it or needlessly be weighed down from the endeavours of the past. Which is why I waited a week before I dived in, so I didn’t get caught up in that first-look discourse. There was always going to be some tension in this first episode as the show feels out just how much it should hang on to the past and how much it should be its own thing, and I have to admit, there were these powerful moments of nostalgia. Ramin Djawadi’s musical score as the dragon soared over King’s Landing. Or walking through the Red Keep and seeing those same sets and locations. However, there were also these moments that felt less like nostalgia and more like grappling hooks trying to yank the two shows together. The first moment was in the opening info-dump where the show lingered on the name Daenerys, and then the end where Viserys pontificates on the prophecy of Ice and Fire, which had the unfortunate job of bookending the episode in frustration.
While some elements didn’t work, there were nuggets of interest here that held out some hope. The first is the performance of Paddy Considine. He plays a character that probably is as weak as his brother says he is, but he is also deeply passionate about his family and has moments of strength. This leads to some interesting moments where he has to make big calls about life and death, and you see that decision run through his performance. Also, Matt Smith is in full chaos-mode throughout, and as we saw in Mobius, that can lead to good things.
Much of this episode sets up the political situation that will be the main focus for the rest of the season, so there is a feeling of building a foundation, but also that it was not really a story in its own right. This means we get a lot of King’s Council meetings and look, I love exploring politics in these shows, but here it felt all exposition and less narrative. Thankfully the show takes a turn during the interspaced tournament/birthing sequence that does give me some hope for the future. Also, I am unsure if this was just because of the service I watched the show on, but many of the visual effects felt flat like the compositing had not been completed.
In the end, do we recommend House of the Dragon: The Heirs of the Dragon? Well, frankly, it was a perfectly okay hour of television. However, I am not sure it grabbed me, especially not as well as the first episode of Game of Thrones. However, some moments here showed real promise, and I am looking forward to seeing if they can build upon those moments as we advance.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of House of the Dragon
Directed by – Ryan Condal
Written by – Miguel Sapochnik
Created by – Ryan Condal & George R. R. Martin
Based On – Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin
Production/Distribution Companies – 1:26 Pictures, HBO Max, Binge & HBO
Starring – Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Emma D’arcy & Rhys Ifans with Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Sonoya Mizuno, Fabien Frankel, Milly Alcock, Emily Carey & Graham McTavish and Sian Brooke, David Horovitch, Bill Paterson, Gavin Spokes, Michael Carter, Steffan Rhodri, Elliot Tittensor, Garry Cooper, Julian Lewis Jones, David Hounslow, Frankie Wilson, Mikhail Sen, Rhys Parry Jones, Luke Tittensor, Gary Raymond, Andrew Bicknell, David Cann, Merjam Germann, Matthew Carver, Nova Foueillis-Mose & John Arnedo.
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