House of the Dragon: Episode 1 (Review)

House of the Dragon Promo (Source: BT)

Everyone on the internet knows about the last season of Game of Thrones. Even if they didn’t watch the show itself, they heard all about how horrible the ending was. It was HBO’s terrible end to a beloved long-running series. When House of the Dragon was announced fans of Game of Thrones were, understandably, nervous about a new show.

It finally aired a week ago and I’m happy to report that not only is House of the Dragon a worthy successor but it’s also an optimistic start to a new ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ story.

PLOT

The plot centres around the Targaryen Family almost 2 centuries before Daenerys Targaryen. The line of succession is thrown into question and the King must choose an heir. He must choose between his daughter, Rhaenyra, a young princess or his brother Daemon, a hot-headed warrior with a cruel streak.   

CHARACTERS

Rhaenyra is the protagonist, and she is a ray of sunshine in the dark world of Westeros. In her first appearance, she’s shown as an eager dragon rider (so much so that her parents say she reeks of her dragon) and a generally happy princess. She’s like a young Daenerys if Daenerys never went through any of the childhood trauma she did. She’s a very sweet and innocent child. She tends to her pregnant mother and happily sits under a tree, studying with her best friend Allicent Hightower, the daughter of the King’s hand, Otto Hightower.

Though she does have one point of contention. She knows she isn’t a son, a fact she has seemingly resigned herself to. During a funeral, she’s heartbroken that the death in question provided her father with true happiness for a few hours. It’s heartbreaking watching this young girl be struck by tragedy and then burdened with the responsibility of being heir to the Iron Throne by her father. Despite the heartbreak for her it’s easy to root for Rhaenery to end up victorious against the odds in this situation.

Viserys is the current king in this series. Unlike previous kings such as Joffrey or Robert Baratheon, he has kept the peace set by his grandfather for many years. He is uninterested in serious matters and is far more interested in securing his lineage through a male heir. While he always tries to be a good husband and father his ignorance leads to him making some pretty big mistakes. A lot of this is to do with his actor, Paddy Considine. He pulls off that charming lovable side while also making you feel utter contempt for his cowardly actions. While Viserys refuses to deal with hard situations head-on his brother Daemon is the very opposite.

Daemon is the wildfire of the show. Volatile but fun to watch go off. He is not a good person, but there’s no messing around with him. His best attribute is how he sees things for how they are. Unlike his passive brother he actually chooses to do something about the situation at hand, even if that solution is to dispense mass justice in a single go. He takes the initiative in dealing with the rampant crime in King’s Landing. He’s going to be an interesting character to watch develop as the series progresses.

Unlike the Game of Thrones pilot episode, it’s far easier to get into House of the Dragon. Instead of having multiple houses and multiple characters to keep track of its only 2 families and 5 main characters here. 3 Targaryen’s and 2 Hightower’s. There are other minor characters, but they quickly establish their relations and how they fit into the story. While we haven’t seen much of them they’ll play an interesting part in the coming game.

ACTORS

The original show had a cast of some of the strongest actors in the business. Charles Dance, Alfie Allen and Lena Heady were all phenomenal. Everyone on the cast gives an incredible performance. Perhaps the most stand-out performance is from Milly Alcock. She has a full range of emotions and it’s looking promising that she’ll play young Rhaenyra perfectly until Emma D’Arcy takes over as an older Rhaenyra.

STORY

This show is both its own entity and a welcome homage to early Game of Thrones. There’s the political intrigue, the royalty’s incestuous relationships, and the schemers who plan on playing the game. While it’s not immediately apparent what the main plot of the series will be (for those who haven’t read the book) the seeds definitely are planted in this episode.

OTHER NOTES

This series really has a beautiful colour pallet. While Game of Thrones had the occasional colour pop, like with Dany’s dresses this series isn’t afraid to shy away from beautiful bold colours that really do the books justice. Colours are integral to this story, specifically later when the sides divide.

The series has the hallmarks of Game of Thrones all over it. The most evident example of this is the jousting scene. It begins intercutting between Aemma’s c-section and the brutal tournament. Both are utterly horrific but brilliant. It’s truly an intense scene that is up there with the most shocking of Game of Thrones scenes.

Overall

House of the Dragon is a beautiful new beginning to the GoT franchise and in the coming episodes could even come to surpass the original if it continues with this level of quality.

The next episode is tomorrow morning at 2 am on Sky Atlantic or NowTV for UK viewers. For those who can’t get up early, it airs again on Tuesday night at 9 pm.