House of the Dragon, the latest adaptation from fantasy writer George R.R Martin, has hit our screens. Following the footsteps of the giant that was Game of Thrones, I think everyone felt trepidation when it came to this show. Particularly in an era of television where spinoffs have become so popular and commonplace, they are beginning to lose their allure to audience members.
But House of the Dragon has a more difficult job in appeasing its audience then most spinoffs. Its predecessor left many of its fans with a sour taste in their mouths, its final season becoming a huge culture moment – arguably for all the wrong reasons.
So going into episode one of this show as a fan of the original, I was concerned it would follow the same path. However, it seems the show’s writers Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik and Martin himself have taking efforts to correct the issues with the original in a seamless way. Sapochnik and Martin both having been involved with the original is a significant factor in helping achieve this.
What was so great about the original show was the dedication to the court level drama in the first few seasons. The tension and commitment to highlighting the small details within the quiet moments as well as the big dramatic crescendos was thrilling to watch. However, where the original failed was maintaining this balance and as it gave less time to the bigger moments in the final few seasons it began to feel like an entirely different show.
House of the Dragon has the flavour of the original whilst standing out on its own. The story is contained within the capitol of Westeros and so despite the time jumps every episode we don’t feel lost as an audience. The court politics is the focus as we follow the Targaryen dynasty and King Viserys’ (played by Paddy Considine) struggle to secure his succession. This again is a familiar theme with fans of the show, but not too strenuous that new viewers would be completely lost.
Our main character, Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock and later Emma D’Arcy) daughter of the King is made heir to the throne, a move that causes the main tensions of the show. As the decision to make a woman heir to the throne becomes a cause for contention among the nobles at court. This plotline is both gripping as we witness the beginnings of the plots against Rhaenyra’s claim, as well as being a refreshing new take on the succession dilemma within Westeros.
A failing of the original was its handling of the misogyny of the time. Arguments were made that the explicit gender-based violence and sexism were period accurate, but it being a fantasy show criticisms were ample and fair. This show tackles misogyny head on and makes it the overarching plot. House of the Dragon placing the women as the main characters and openly criticising the patriarchy within its plotline serves not only to grip audiences but correct its predecessors’ errors, all whilst feeling effortlessly done.
With powerhouse performances from its ensemble cast as well as intriguing plot and dialogue, House of the Dragon is both new and nostalgic for fans of Game of Thrones and new fans to the world of Westeros.