‘House of the Dragon’ review: Worthy ‘Game of Thrones’ successor is an excellent fantasy series in its own right

In the event you’re frightened about House of the Dragon movie after getting burned by the ultimate season of Game of Thrones, do not be. HBO’s epic new collection is great by and thru, juggling memorable characters, excessive fantasy, and intense feelings with practiced ease. You may be sucked in quicker than you possibly can say “Dracarys.

Set nearly 200 years earlier than Recreation of Thrones, Home of the Dragon is a prequel collection that focuses on the Targaryen dynasty on top of its energy. King Viserys (Paddy Considine) guidelines over a peaceable Seven Kingdoms, however bother looms on the horizon. With no sons to his title, the problem of Viserys’s successor is of utmost significance. Will he make his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, his inheritor, inserting a lady on the Iron Throne for the primary time in Westerosi’s historical past? Or will he title his brother, Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), as an alternative? This dilemma unit the stage for a familial wrestle of epic proportions. It is a battle that evolves from episode to episode, bringing in new gamers, new surprises, and new devastating deaths. However what else would you count on from a present set in Westeros?

Home of the Dragon is a household drama on an epic scale

A group of people gather around an old man on a throne. A banner with a three headed dragon hangs behind him.

Hearth and blood.
Credit score: Ollie Upton/HBO

The questions of succession and who will get to take a seat on the Iron Throne have already been coated at length in Recreation of Thrones. Nevertheless, in Home of the Dragon, this identical query will get put beneath a microscope. Whereas Recreation of Thrones adopted a number of households of their quests to retain energy, House of the Dragon Movie fixes its sights on only one: the Targaryens. Different households — such because the Hightowers and the Velaryons — determine into the Targaryens’ story as effectively, however they’re linked to the Targaryens by marriage, creating one large, silvery blonde household with a lot of points.

Home of the Dragon offers with these points in a wide range of methods, starting from the intimate to the epic. The Targaryens do not talk about their gripes at household dinners, however fairly debate them at council conferences, argue about them in court docket, and even battle over them on the battlefield. If none of that works, effectively, they will at all times ship within the dragons.

Our foremost anchor on this household is Princess Rhaenyra, who’s performed as an adolescent by Milly Alcock and as an grownup by Emma D’Arcy. She struggles with the truth that whereas she is her father’s eldest baby, she is a lady, and a lady has by no means sat on the Iron Throne. Princess Rhaenys (Eve Finest) got here shut however was handed up for her youthful, male cousin Viserys — Rhaenyra’s personal father, and the present king. With that precedent set, would the individuals of Westeros even settle for Rhaenyra, ought to she be named inheritor?

Home of the Dragon focuses on the ladies of Home Targaryen

Two women in lavish fantasy gowns stare at each other.

That is THEIR present.
Credit score: Ollie Upton/HBO

Home of the Dragon interrogates girls’ roles in Westeros higher than Recreation of Thrones managed to. To be clear, the present’s remedy for ladies is in no way excellent. A lot of its commentary tends to be pretty on the nostril — Rhaenyra’s mom straight-up tells her {that a} girl’s battlefield is childbirth — and among the feminine characters, comparable to Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno), are thinly drawn. Nevertheless, the present’s central and most compelling relationship is between two girls who’ve come to energy in numerous methods.

Considered one of these girls is Rhaenyra, and the opposite is her childhood pal Alicent Hightower, who’s performed as an adolescent by Emily Carey and as a grownup by Olivia Cooke. The 2 begin as quick pals who develop shut as a consequence of proximity; Alicent’s father Otto (Rhys Ifans) is Viserys’s Hand. Nevertheless, when Alicent marries Viserys and begins to current a risk to Rhaenyra’s succession, cracks type of their friendship. Their falling-out is the present’s best tragedy, expertly drawn out from episode to episode, and the actors who play these two characters — Alcock, D’Arcy, Carey, and Cooke — are all great of their roles.

Rhaenys, too, is a captivating character, having already petitioned for — and misplaced — the place of inheritor to the Seven Kingdoms. Because the Queen Who By no means Was, Finest is delightfully acerbic in her scenes with a younger Rhaenyra, virtually taunting her {that a} girl won’t ever sit on the Iron Throne. Equally pleasant is Steve Toussaint as Rhaenys’s husband, Corlys Velaryon. Corlys is a formidable sailor and warrior, however he is additionally a agency supporter of his spouse in what have to be the healthiest relationship in Westeros. He and Rhaenys might not get essentially the most display time, however any time you see them you possibly can rely on them to ship nice scenes — and a few glorious aspect eye in regards to the shenanigans occurring round them.

Does Home of the Dragon study from Recreation of Thrones‘s errors?

A young woman stands in a throne room, looking up at the man on the throne.

A well-known throne – now with extra swords.
Credit score: Ollie Upton/HBO

As a lot as I really like Recreation of Thrones, it was far from an ideal present. Its pacing in later seasons was scattershot, its huge scope made for an unwieldy conclusion, and it persistently used sexual violence as a plot system. Whereas I’ve solely seen the primary six episodes of Home of the Dragon, which have been made out there to critics forward of the present’s HBO premiere on Aug. 21, I used to be excited to search out the prequel avoids most of the missteps of its predecessor — to this point.

Home of the Dragon, which is tailored from sections of George R.R. Martin’s Home Targaryen historical past Hearth & Blood, strikes by a whole lot of materials at simply the fitting tempo. Time jumps between episodes get us to the necessary meat of the story, so we by no means really feel like we’re treading water between large set items. The give attention to the Targaryens and their interior circle additionally helps preserve the story extra contained than that of Recreation of Thrones. There are a whole lot of plates spinning, plot-wise, however they’re all intently related.

Whereas Home of the Dragon does fall into some traditional Recreation of Thrones pitfalls, comparable to gratuitous nudity and violence that seems to be extra for shock worth than the rest, it would not even come near the degrees of sexual violence in Thrones. Whereas there are 4 extra episodes I haven’t seen within the first season, my hopes that Home of the Dragon wouldn’t depend on rape as a plot system have been met to this point. It is a disgrace that these are hopes I even need to have within the first place, however I’m glad that Home of the Dragon has seemingly realized from Recreation of Thrones‘s most upsetting mistake.

It simply feels nice to be again in Westeros

A dragon flies over a large city.

The age of dragons is right here.
Credit score: Courtesy of HBO

Full transparency: I teared up not even 5 minutes into the pilot of Home of the Dragon. Ramin Djawadi’s soaring score mixed with the picture of a dragon flying over King’s Touchdown gave me an enormous dose of fantasy nostalgia. It instantly threw me again to watching Recreation of Thrones each Sunday evening, then obsessing about every episode till the subsequent one got here out.

Will Home of the Dragon attain Recreation of Thrones-stage hype? It is undoubtedly deserving of it: The present is as immersive as its predecessor, with obsession-worthy characters, costumes, and manufacturing design bringing you again right into a wealthy fantasy world. In the event, you cherished Recreation of Thrones‘s political machinations, Home of the Dragon has that in spades. Brace yourselves for whispered face-offs in darkish corners of the Crimson Hold, tense Small Council conferences, and shouty showdowns within the throne room.

In the event you’re extra of a fan of massive fantasy set items, Home of the Dragon additionally has you coated. Celebratory tourneys and lavish wedding ceremony feasts are staged with the load and aptitude of battle sequences. The present’s precise battle sequences are equally thrilling: A plot involving the battle to regain management of islands referred to as the Stepstones ends in a distinctive sequence centering on Prince Daemon. Matt Smith nails Daemon’s cruelty and vanity, however, on this scene, he will get to go full motion hero mode — and it is a pleasure to observe.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, Home of the Dragon is chock-full of — you guessed it — dragons! And in contrast to in Recreation of Thrones, these infants are absolutely grown. They’re gargantuan and beautiful, sparking awe each time they’re on display. It is all too straightforward to get swept up of their glory, simply because it’s deliciously straightforward to fall again in love with the epic world of Westeros. With legendary creatures, political backbiting, luxurious units, and extra, Home of the Dragon unquestionably captures the magic of Recreation of Thrones, including fairly a little bit of its personal to the combination.

Home of the Dragon premieres Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max, with new episodes airing weekly.

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