TL;DR – The bookends of this episode are full of intrigue. It just falls out during the middle
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge service that viewed this episode.
House of the Dragon Review –
I have been wondering why I have been having a bit of a disconnect with the show. The production is just as good as Game of Thrones, the narrative has all the elements that usually capture me, and the cast is giving their all in their performances. After some thought, I can tie it down to the show’s narrative structure being like quicksand underneath, with you never being able to grab a foothold. An issue we see in part today, but maybe for the last time.
So to set the scene, at the end of last week’s The Princess and the Queen, Laena Targaryen (Nanna Blondell) begged her dragon Vhagar to incinerate her after her labour went wrong. At the start of this episode, all of the Targaryens and Velaryons have gathered in Driftmark for Laena’s funeral. However, the growing divides continue to spew forth after Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) took her family from court to Dragonstone, and the accusations of her children’s parentage still linger. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Where this episode excelled was in those moments of family drama when many different sides come hurtling together. In the funeral’s aftermath, you have a bevy of emotions crashing over the party. Some are overcome with grief, others are bored, yet still, others see opportunities. Because it is a public event, all are on display, and the slightest misstep is fodder for gossip and slander. There is a slow dividing of teams as King Viserys I Targaryen’s (Paddy Considine) health continues to deteriorate, and different people are trying to curry favour around the court.
This mood is escalated in the showdown after the children’s brawl ends with a lost eye. In that one moment, the whole scope of the political landscape is laid bare. The King that is blind to it all, a Queen (Olivia Cooke) looking for blood, a Princess protecting her children, an absent ‘father’, a Queensguard (Fabien Frankel) taking orders outside his command, and an accusation was spoken aloud. Even if you know the outcome before going in, there is still a level of tension that anything could happen. The way that Rhaenyra navigates the situation and takes a significant risk made for electric television to watch.
I just wish more of this episode came with that level of intensity. Unfortunately, between these two bookends was a dreary tail of woe and ick. The commitment to natural light sources sometimes works in the show, but in this episode, we see the downfall of that you try to squint to work out what was happening. Made worse by a sound mix so bad I had to go back and put subtitles on at points. We then get to the point in the story that you can feel they were dreading when an uncle and niece hook up. Followed by a sequence that was clearly aiming for that power and joy we got from How to Train Your Dragon and missed because every time it cut back to a close-up shot, it all looked fake.
In the end, do we recommend Driftmark? Well? Unfortunately, this is a series in which it has to take a jump back whenever it seems to take two steps forward. The fact that we have not had time to get to know the children and their performances also hurts. It has a lot of things going for it, but those leaps create frustration that they just undid all their hard work, and so far, that is happening nearly every episode.
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 – Miguel Sapochnik
Written by – Kevin Lau
Created by – Ryan Condal & George R. R. Martin
Based On – Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin
Production/Distribution Companies – 1:26 Pictures, GRRM, HBO Max, Binge & HBO
Starring – Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, Olivia Cooke, Emma D’arcy & Rhys Ifans with Steve Toussaint, Eve Best, Fabien Frankel, Graham McTavish & Matthew Needham and Wil Johnson, Leo Hart, Harvey Sadler, Ty Tennant, Leo Ashton, Evie Allen, Shani Smethurst, Eva Ossei-Gerning, John MacMillan, Phil Daniels, Alexis Raben, Arty Froushan, Haqi Ali, Bijan Daneshmand & Bill Bekele
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