REVIEW – House of the Dragon (2022)

By Jorja Connolly

HBO’s House of the Dragon (2022)

When I first heard about the release of House of the Dragon, I was sceptical. I was hesitant to put my faith into another Game of Thrones series, after being so disappointedby the final few seasons of the original show in 2013, when Season 3 quickly picked up the books. This included the House Targaryen history book titled Fire and Blood, which is written from the perspective of people in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world, and documents historical events from multiple views (some more reliable than others). When it was announced that the first Game of Thrones prequel series would be focused on the Targaryen Civil War, known as the ‘Dance of the Dragons’, I wondered how the writers would sieve through Fire and Blood’s wildly differing accounts. I was somewhat relieved to hear that the original showrunnersof Game of Thrones were not involved, with new writers,Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, and special input from the original author himself, crafting this latest instalment.

​I think it is fair to say that the writers had a mountain to climb, not only in terms of the pressure to create a good show, but also to almost redeem the franchise after the extremely disappointing end to the flagship series. It did not help that the events this new series is based on, were not covered in the same detailed and elaborate style of the main books; Fire and Blood only references the war in a few dozen pages. Yet, due to this lack of finer details, Condal and Sapocknik were able to weave their own story around Martin’s personalframework, creating, in my opinion, a vast and wonderful story with detailed characters, all with their own motivations and faults.

​The first point I want to make hails the excellence of the casting and acting performances. Casting director, Kate Rhodes James, did an exemplary job filling the roles of the series and the actors she picked brought the story to life in a magnificent way. To me, the main standout of the cast was Paddy Considine, who portrayed the patriarch of the Targaryen family, King Viserys I. His role was definitely adifficult one, having to play a character that goes through so much change over the years, both physically and mentally. I will not spoil it, but Paddy gives a showstopping performancein the last episode King Viserys appears in, bringing me closeto tears on multiple occasions. Other actors I would like to praise for their brilliant performances are Emma D’Arcy, Olivia Cooke, Eve Best, Steve Toussaint, Rhys Ifans, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, all of whom worked together to create a brilliant story.

One of my only criticisms of this series is the pacing. At multiple points throughout Season 1, there are time jumps ranging from one to ten years, with some executed more successfully than others. The most jarring jump occurs between episodes Five and Six, where a full decade passes. Here, two of the main actors, Milly Alcock and Emily Carey, are replaced by Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke,respectively, to show the ageing of the characters. Initially,this jump is quite difficult to wrap your head around, especially if you have not read the books, as we see an onslaught of new characters portraying Rhaenyra and Alicent’s children. I think the writers handed the jump as well as they possibly could have, regarding the time they had allotted for this season, however, I do believe that Season 1would have greatly benefitted from being longer – or even Season 2 fully exploring the backgrounds of the characters before the impending war – as key moments like the War of the Stepstones and Princess Rhaenyra’s wedding, are confined to half an episode, and some relationships feel rather rushed. I know that the writers were trying to cover the extensive background efficiently, so that they could move into the real meat of the story, but in doing so, I think they missed out on something that was really appreciated in the original series; a slow and deliberate pace. I think if they had drawn it out slightly more, and really focused on the character relationships, the looming breakdown of the Targaryen family would have been even more impactful, making the viewer even more invested in how those relationships are further destroyed by future events.

I could go on about this series forever, but for now, I will sum up House of the Dragon as a triumph. Condal, Sapochnik and Martin have managed to create something that rivals the initial few seasons of its predecessor. Everything from the acting, to the costumes and sets, to the dragons, are masterfully executed, all adding up for a thrilling experience that I would recommend for anyone to see. Now, we just have to wait two years for the release of Season Two.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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