Photo: ‘House of The Dragon’
After the eighth and final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ completed its six-episode run on HBO, fans were largely left disappointed by what they felt was a subpar conclusion to a show which they have invested hours of their time into. So it was to be expected that when a prequel series that would eventually become ‘House of The Dragon’ was announced, fans still felt that the world of Westeros needed to redeem itself to win them back. Fans were also understandably questioning why they should be interested in a series set two hundred years before the events of ‘Game of Thrones’ where many of their favorite characters from the original series would be absent. Based on George R. R. Martin’s historical documentation of the Targaryen lineage ‘Fire & Blood,’ the first season follows the events leading up to the infamous Targaryen civil war, better known as “The Dance of Dragons” (not to be confused with the fifth book in Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series of the same name).
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After the release of the pilot, any previous animosity fans had towards revisiting Westeros immediately evaporated. The pilot was astoundingly great, so we all assumed that the show was going to be good. What we did not know was just how good this show was going to be. For a while, it was a tie for me between this and HBO Max’s ‘Peacemaker’ as my favorite show of the year, but after seeing the season finale last week, I can definitively give that title to ‘House of the Dragon.’ This is not only the best season of TV to air in 2022 but may even be one of the greatest first seasons to a show of all time.
Adapting an Extensive History of Westeros
As alluded to above, Martin’s book ‘Fire & Blood’ is more along the lines of historical documentation than a traditional novel. In that sense, other than a series of events, notable conflicts, and maybe some bits of character info, the show did not have much to adapt as much as it did to build off of. And it did so spectacularly. Every character moment is packed with so much depth and detail that makes the emotional tension in every scene so flavorful, engaging, and never exhausting to watch. One thing that Martin clearly understands when writing his books is that every incident and every action has consequences. So his heavy involvement in the series was obviously for the better (even if it meant time away from writing ‘The Winds of Winter’).
What is especially wonderful was how the show aired almost all its episodes concurrently with Amazon Prime’s ‘The Rings of Power.’ For a handful of weeks, we were given a new episode of ‘The Rings of Power’ on Friday, then a new ‘House of the Dragon’ offering on Sunday. Both shows are very different from each other and represent two different sides of the fantasy genre coin. ‘The Rings of Power’ is more lush and mystical, while ‘House of the Dragon’ is more elaborate and grounded. As a lifelong fantasy fan, it is really something special to see these shows explore their respective source material with their own flare and spin on this beautiful genre of storytelling.
Martin echoed this same sentiment in an interview a couple of months ago when asked how he felt about the two shows premiering simultaneously. He essentially said that while a bit of friendly competition and comparison will be fun, what it is, even more, is to relish the fact that we live in a time where high-concept fantasy stories are at the pinnacle of streaming TV. These are the two examples in the spotlight right now, but there’s also Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’ and ‘Shadow and Bone’ as well as Amazon’s other notable fantasy series ‘The Wheel of Time.’ The fantasy genre looks to be thriving and healthy across the ever-growing medium of streaming.
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Season 1 Review and Recap
When everything transpires in the pilot, we immediately think everything will play out a certain way. That is not the case. The show manages to find ways that surprise us in ways that are unpredictable (unless you’ve read the book) yet earned. The one decision that the show has received some criticism for is the choice to jump ahead ten years midseason and switch out many of the actors we immediately grew attached to in the first five episodes. This is certainly fair criticism given the events that began to unfold in the fifth episode, however, whatever questions we had were quickly put to bed with the following episodes. The fear of losing certain talents that were perfectly cast in their respective roles, such as Mily Alcock and Emily Carey, immediately evaporated within two minutes of seeing their older counterparts, Emma D’ Arcy and Olivia Cooke, on screen. The series has many of the same elements that made ‘Game of Thrones’ so enthralling (and sometimes disturbing) to watch. The gore, violence, sex, and incest are all still present, though maybe not as often. The fact that this show can still craft tension just as effectively, if not more, with not as many graphic scenes is really worth commending.
Whereas its predecessor was more of an ensemble story with roughly equal screen time to characters such as Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister, ‘House of the Dragon’ is almost entirely focused on Rhaenyra Targaryen as its central protagonist. She fills that role extremely well for one reason: she is at the center of so much conflict. Whether it is animosity from the realm to accept her on the Iron Throne due to her gender, the anxiety of having her heirship challenged by her half brothers, the swelling rumors about her paramours, all of them actively working against her, thus making her an effective protagonist.
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Season 2 Predictions
If you’ve read ‘Fire & Blood,’ you probably already have a good idea of what is coming. If you haven’t, you can still somewhat predict it. War is coming. We’ve only seen a small taste of “The Dance of Dragons.” The actual dance hasn’t even started. It will especially be interesting to see what Rhaenyra’s move will be given the ending of the season finale. Daemon, her uncle/husband, will be another character whose unpredictable nature will be interesting to watch in the following season. Regardless, the world of Ice and Fire is back, which means our counting down of the days till the debut of the next season is back as well.
By Nader Chamas
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.