Sunday night, HBO is seeking to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with the debut of their Game of Thrones prequel, House of Dragons. For those who are wondering how it’s possible to have seen the first episode before its airdate, let’s just say I had to pledge my loyalty to House Targaryen for this to occur and promise to keep things spoiler-free or risk my head ending up on a spike. What was so striking is how that first episode perfectly encapsulates what Game of Thrones fans love about the show. Is it bloody? Oh, yes! Do we already have intrigue in the first episode? No Question about that. Nudity? Yep! All of those are woven within a story that takes 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen.
The series was created by Ryan J. Condal and George R.R. Martin using parts of Martin’s Fire and Blood, House of the Dragon. The series launches, telling the tale of Viserys I (Paddy Considine) and his lust for an heir to his throne so he can avoid a contentious succession. He has a daughter who certainly will remind fans of Daenerys, named Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), but she lacks that one quality that would make her a suitable heir.
Fans will fall in love with Alcock’s character. She’s feisty and, most importantly, loves riding dragons. She’s friends with Alicent (Emily Carey), who, in many ways, is the polar opposite of Rhaenyra. Both are trying to survive in their way in a male-dominated world. After the first episode, one gets the sense that these two will be the central characters of this show. The other character who stands out and will play a key role is Daemon (Matt Smith). Being that the king has no true heir, Daemon (who is also the King’s brother) is the next logical choice for the Iron Throne, but he’s everything a ruler shouldn’t be, according to Viserys. He’s ruthless and cunning and has demonstrated no ability to deliver measured responses. Daemon always takes things to the extreme. There’s a scene in episode 1 that indicates that point (you’ll know when you see it).
Miguel Sapochnik, director and co-showrunner, did a phenomenal job showcasing Jim Clay’s production design which is rich and detailed. Jany Termine’s costumes so far are terrific. It also shouldn’t come as any surprise that Ramin Djawadi’s score is epic in scale, as are the special effects.
While some might nitpick, House of Dragon is off to a strong start. If Sapochnik, Condal, and Martin set out to bring back those fans who were turned off after the final season of Game of Thrones, then mission accomplished. The ensemble is terrific and has the chance to regain what was lost during that last season. The buzz is back, and House of Dragon is determined to reclaim its place as HBO’s most talked-about show.