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House of the Dragon (Season 1) Review

House of the Dragon

Episode 1 – The Heirs of the Dragon

After finishing off with one of the most dividing endings of all time, my expectations from this series were at all time low. Naturally, I didn’t bother keeping up with every aspect of the production. I did not know who the cast was. I did not care. Come 22nd August when Disney+ Hotstar reminded me that yes, the series premiere is live, I sat through it, expecting disappointment.

Spent close to 45 minutes looking up the Targaryen family tree after.

The pilot has successfully dragged me, and I guess many others, back into the fantasy world we swore we’d never go back to since Bran ascended the throne. My curiosity has piqued, in spite of me having to sit through an hour and five minutes of ridiculous white wigs donning the screen. The Heirs of the Dragon is a solid reintroduction to the world we forsake long ago and the characters are not half bad. Paddy Considine’s King Viserys is not the Targaryen we’re used to – brash, impulsive, or murderous. A damn fine casting job. Matt Smith has some big shoes to fill on the antagonist side, a job I don’t think he’ll have trouble with.

What I’m most excited to see is whether or not this show will be able to stand on its own without constant foreshadowing or referencing events that will occur a 172 years later. However, starting off with an emotionally-draining labor sequence, polished up CGI, quality production design, Ramin Djawadi’s influential score, and timely appropriate dialog gets it full marks from me.

For now. We shall see.

Episode 2 – The Rogue Prince

Still from House of the Dragon – The Rogue Prince

There will be a lot of opinions on the reuse of the Main Titles reuse from Game of Thrones. Here’s mine – it reeks of laziness. Not to mention, the blood rivers make no sense. Are we feeling this because we aren’t engrossed in this world as of yet where we can name every character right off the bat? Oh well, time will tell.

Thankfully, the plot is taking minimal if any inspiration from its predecessor. What House of the Dragon has accomplished is taken a world we know and filled it with a story-line that one can grasp based on preconceived human psychology. Characters and their alliances are being formed on logic and reason in the societal systems of medieval times. However, we still have far to go and see if the twists and turns stay effective.

House of the Dragon’s second episode continues delving into the troubling times that lay ahead for King Viserys; a casting I’m still in awe of. One can help sympathize with him on the cards he has to deal with. On the other hand, Milly Alcock’s Rhaenyra inspires hope and I am dreading the episode that has the alleged time jump.

Episode 3 – Second of His Name

Still from House of the Dragon – Second of His Name

The story has come to its first time jump. The whiplash that accompanies watching Alicent dreading the fact that she has to marry Viserys, her confidant’s father in one scene, to watching her doting after her firstborn in another is sweetly ironic. House of the Dragon has us all quickly adjusting to all these taboo topics for the sake of the story, providing us yet another level of immersion, but here I am a bit concerned where exactly will the story draw a line.

That limit still remains unexplored, as the dear Hand suggests betrothing a two year old.

Second of His Name, while providing us with a glimpse of what actually transpires in the “Hunt” activities the King partakes in, also takes us to into the final moments of a battle that have as much impact on the story as Game of Thrones’ Night King’s conquest. There needs to be priorities on hypes.

What keeps on working for the House of the Dragon series is that we’re still in the discovery phase of the show, being enthralled by basic human psychological games that make such dramas richer in content. The third episode keeps that tradition alive, although some of the story-lines that have wrapped up will leave open chances for stagnation. Where do we go from here?

Not having a single line of dialogue is no problem, as Matt Smith’s Daemon steals the show from the perfectly-cast (I never get tired of saying it), two-fingers-now-missing, Paddy Considine’s Viserys. And that’s saying something, when the latter has two perfectly utilized opportunities in the form of heart to heart monologues. The show, while it already has a stacked cast than its predecessor, is now starting to flex its muscles and is going for the gold.

Episode 4 – King of the Narrow Sea

Still from House of the Dragon – King of the Narrow Sea

After last week’s action-heavy events, it is pleasant to witness an episode that has substituted its battlefield tension to a sexual one. The vile tastelessness of the common folk is broadening the perspective on the realm’s perception of the Iron Throne as well as the one who sits on it. House of the Dragon is going back to its political and familial conflicts where one’s choices and its accompanying consequences are coming home to roost.

The plot is moving ahead but for some reason, we seem to be stuck in the same issues that plagued us the past three episodes – will there be a change in the heir now that Aegon is in contention? The time skips don’t seem to have thrust us past these pressing matters, which begs the question – for what were they implemented? There is a slight juxtaposition in what House of the Dragon intends to be. An epic fantasy it is, but for those who don’t know the whole picture, the journey along seems to be circular in nature.

Fortunately, from where things are, we seem to progressing onto more pressing matters…

Episode 5 – We Light The Way

Still from House of the Dragon – We Light the Way

Thus arrives the mid-season finale, and I fear, the exit moment of many of our primary actors who’ve carried the show through its various twists and time jumps.

We Light the Way is in many ways the bookend of this saga. We are now in a state of frenzy where secrets are accidentally being revealed (nice going, Ser Criston Cole). Alliances are being formed between the most unlikely pairings of houses. And apparently, the role of the Baelish-ian instigator is still up for grabs.

Week after week I marvel at the way House of the Dragon sets up stories, schemes and people who inspire hatred but also engross you into considering their point of view. Perhaps it is the fact that I am used to this type of television programming now than I ever was when I first started Thrones, but House of the Dragon does not use gratuitous violence or sexuality as a crutch to draw viewers in. The family drama is invigorating on its own.

The story may be faster and the time jumps whiplash-y but those complaints matter not in the grand scheme of our enjoyment of the show. Although I fear how well-received and acclaim the matured actors get, now that they have to fill in the proverbial big shoes of the younger cast.

Episode 6 – The Princess and the Queen

Still from House of the Dragon – The Princess and The Queen

One of the things House of the Dragon does better than its predecessor is exposition. I do not mean that the dialogues are filled with foreshadowing, or that the viewer is spoon-fed who is what and what the scenes are talking about. No. The time jumps allow viewers to soak in the present situation. Without a lot of information, we are able to confer a lot – Where does the conflict between the princess and the queen stand, where Ser Criston Curr-whatever thinks of and where his allegiance lies, and what ten years and a Baelish-on-steroids cripple can do to turn you against your own interests.

While one may just be getting used to the constant whiplash, one can’t help but wonder – why on earth are we skipping other important moments and leading (my personal favorite) poor old Viserys to an early grave and a series exit. Does a man not deserve spending the few years he has on indulging on his harmless sculpting habits? To quote George Costanza – “Why must there be a problem?”

Improved CGI aside, House of the Dragon is creating a niche of epic fantasy, one not filled with innumerable characters with unpronounceable names like Lord of the Rings, but one where each week you’re waking up from a dream that has thrust you in a familiar place with new circumstances. The jump in quality over its predecessor (yes, even the earlier stronger seasons) is so obvious, we might have a Frasier on our hands.

Episode 7 will be reviewed once it airs next week

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