Perhaps the most anticipated new show in 2022 is House of the Dragon on HBOMax. After the wildly unpopular and broadly panned conclusion of Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for the release of the prequel to see if it can ease their unsatisfied souls. A sequel might have done the trick better but House of Dragon is what it is and fans will take what they can get.
It is easy to forget the magnitude of impact in which Game of Thrones had on culture. The show ran from 2011 to 2019 and aired primarily before the advent of streaming platforms. It often outshined college and professional sports for water cooler chatter on Monday mornings. The merchandising was woven deep into the fabric of our daily lives (who has not seen a garment or accessory that states “I drink and I know things” ?).
So when in May of 2019 it came to a catastrophic conclusion causing basically the entire nation of television watchers to uproariously denounce the franchise, it was eerie to watch Game of Thrones magically disappear from culture. Most fandoms reign much longer than the lifespan of a franchise. It’s easy to forget that there was a time when Game of Thrones had as much cultural relevance as the Harry Potter franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it absolutely did. Fans felt so deeply betrayed by the conclusion of the series that they simply never spoke of it again.
So it is with tepid forgiveness in their hearts that fans return to the storyline. House of the Dragon has a lot to prove and frankly, the cards are stacked against it.
The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: House of the Dragon
Overall Rating: Promising but a prequel is a prequel
House of the Dragon is very promising and looks like it will be saturated with colorful characters both loveable and detestable. The beautiful costuming, set design and cinematography live up to its predecessor whereas the storyline seems to be significantly more restrained which isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the original sprawling storyline was partly the reason for its downfall (re: untied loose ends). Like Game of Thrones which leaned heavily on the real-life global conflicts in the time of England’s Cousins wars (1460 – 1490), House of Dragon is drawing from already existing culture and lore. In only one episode, the show has made major references to the 1100s Northern English and surrounding island cultures (think slightly post-viking). These elements give the show a lot of potentials to be a richly woven success.
However, a prequel is a prequel. One of the problems with House of the Dragon is no matter how good of a story they tell they cannot erase the ending of Game of Thrones which ultimately is the ending of House of Dragon. So it may be hard for viewers to engage knowing that at the end of the day – the result is the result and they didn’t like that result.
Ultimately, time will tell if House of the Dragon can stand on its own wings. But right now it shows a lot of promise.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Good set up
The familial drama set up in House of the Dragon is well done and done much faster using narration techniques than the Game of Thrones world development which was extremely tedious. The show centers around the royal Targaryen family 180 years (or so) before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen when the Baratheons took hold of the iron throne. So far, viewers have been introduced to ostensibly the leading lady, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her family as well as their close allies the Hightower family. There has already been dragon flight, political intrigue, medieval style tournaments, unfolding prophecies and more.
A story of a royal family in conflict is an easy one to allow to spread out with a lot of space for growth. The directional potential of the series is basically endless. By setting the story so far in advance of Game of Thrones, the writers don’t have much to worry about in terms of continuity. It would be easily explainable that in the 150 years between the stories, unknown events occurred which rectified any inconsistencies.
For entertainment value, House of the Dragon is quickly following in Game of Thrones’ footsteps and with its current pace, may even be a little more fun a little faster.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: It would have more if it didn’t rely on cheap tricks
House of the Dragon is nothing if not high quality. The CGI dragons are as lifelike as Game of Thrones and the beautiful ancient cities are imagined idyllically into a fairytale world. The costumes are well conceptualized as earlier iterations of the clothing seen and worn in its predecessor (plus high quality and believably meant for royals). The show is meticulously filmed and beautiful to look at which goes a long way.
Further, the new faces and familiar ones are well cast and already pulling their weight. Matt Smith (Dr. Who?) as Prince Daemon Targaryen is already creating the perfect love-to-hate villain akin to Cersei Lannister of Game of Thrones. Newcomer to American markets Mille Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen gives authority, mystery and someone viewers are probably going to have a conflicted interest in supporting.
However, House of the Dragon took a page from Game of Thrones and steered pretty hard into shock value in an obvious attempt for notoriety. There are multiple disturbing and highly graphic scenes in the series opener including one which involves a horrific ancient childbirth. Was this horror necessary for the story? Absolutely not in at least one case of the two major graphic sequences. Did it cheapen the overall quality of the storytelling? Yes absolutely. At least there hasn’t been any rape scenes as of yet. But I’m not holding my breath.
Is it liberal propaganda?
There doesn’t seem to be any modern political agenda whatsoever to be wary of.
House of the Dragon’s first episode was good enough for viewers to give a chance even if the Game of Thrones finale broke their spirits. But only time will tell if it can heal (probably not).