The history of the Targaryen Kings of Westeros was told from the perspective of Archmaester Gyldayn of the citadel of Oldtown, in the book titled “Fire and Blood,” written by George R.R. Martin. “House of the Dragon,” the much-awaited HBO series, is an adaptation of Fire and Blood. The series is set approximately 200 years before the events of “Game of Thrones,” when House Targaryen was the sole family of dragon lords to survive the Doom of Valyria. The series has been directed by Miguel Sapochnik, Greg Yaitanes, Clare Kilner, and Geeta Vasant Patel. It is a very tricky job to make a prequel to a series like “Game of Thrones,” and often, it puts the creators in a quandary. If your screenplay isn’t captivating enough, then it’s blasphemy as you fail to live up to the expectations of the fans. If you try to keep the essence intact, then there is a threat of being charged for the vice of replication. So one has to keep the sanctity intact, and at the same time, be authentic and original in their approach, and that is what makes a prequel like “House of the Dragon” an extremely demanding and challenging task.
Disclaimer: The “Spoilers-Free” Review is written on the basis of the first six episodes provided by Disney+ Hotstar.
A lot of times, creators get overwhelmed when a project is backed up by a huge budget. They end up focusing too much on aspects that should have been merely used as accessories, and that in turn spoils the broth. It is to be realized that if one has to capture the imagination of an audience, then it can only be done by a strong and intriguing screenplay, which at frequent intervals is able to create discord that puts you in a dilemma and also has those tiny side squabbles that compliment the main conflict and make it even more complex and diversified. There is a reason why Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the first five seasons of “Game of Thrones,” worked immaculately well with the audience. There was one thing that was common between them, i.e., the characters went through a journey where we saw them transforming and getting frittered away by the sands of time. Be it Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Arya Stark, or Jamie Lannister; we saw a metamorphosis of sorts happen in front of our eyes. We saw their beliefs and priorities changing. We saw them analyzing their actions and scrutinizing their perceptions. Most of these characters were in constant self-doubt and resided in an alley that was shadowed by dilemmas or maybe a visceral fear of being displaced from a position of power. I believe that’s where the last two seasons of “Game of Thrones” missed the mark. Unlike reality, things become quite convenient, unambiguous, and categorical. Characters like Daenerys Targaryen become pure evil, and people like John Snow become a personification of purity and godliness. Time was not given to establish the intent and the emotions. As a result, it became a superficial, non-penetrating ending that left the fans disappointed.
“House of the Dragon” Season 1 seems to have taken a lesson from the misjudgments made by the franchise and has indeed taken a very balanced approach. First of all, it is important to say here that the look and feel of the series is quite similar to that of “Game of Thrones,” and it might coerce you to instantly make an assumption, but you need to give it time as there is no way it could be undermined as an imitation. The locations are familiar, the Iron throne is the same, the palace politics continues to be a thorn in the flesh of the ruler of Kings Landing, and the rapacity of characters to be in power is omnipresent. If you see it in broad strokes, then yes, it might feel like it is an apt description of the “Game of Thrones” itself, but “House of the Dragon” is able to add its own notes to the Song of Ice and Fire. The most intriguing aspect of the series is how the writers create a rigid dichotomy when it comes to all the female characters. No woman had ever sat on the iron throne as they were not considered competent enough to run the kingdom. They are oppressed, objectified, abused, and even tortured at times. They lived in an extremely patriarchal world, yet somehow they managed to yield power that was beyond the reach of their male counterparts. Alicent Hightower, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, and Princess Rhaenys Valaryon remind you of the strength, determination, foresight, and intent once shown by characters like Cersei Lannister, Arya Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen. It is a treat to watch them take the reins in their hands, fight valiantly for their rights in a male-dominated society, and prove to the world in the process that the grounds of discrimination do not hold true.
Most men in this world are blinded by their egos. They are self-absorbed and often give way too much importance to their existence. Their false sense of superiority often makes them do things that sow a seed of vengeance that gets nurtured in seclusion and hiding and then becomes the reason for the downfall of the whole kingdom. The political vendetta and desire for more ruins each and everything that comes their way, but somehow they find grounds to absolve themselves of any responsibility. “House of the Dragon” tries to find its own unique antagonist in characters like Daemon Targaryen, Otto Hightower, Lord Corlys Velaryon, Alicent Hightower, etc. It gives them time to establish their intent, then slowly peel the onion for the viewers to understand them and their intent holistically.
A special shout-out has to be given to the editing, costume, art, and, obviously, the visual effects teams. The deft cuts between scenes that involve literal violence and those which take a more metaphorical approach, not only link the essence of the two scenes, but cause a fervor where you cannot help but feel the euphoria of witnessing a magnum opus. “House of the Dragon” Season 1 takes a very balanced and subtle approach when it wants to honor the legacy of “Game of Thrones” and remind the audience that it belongs to the same world. The vague reminiscence works in their favor, and whenever you hear Ramin Djawadi’s title track, you cannot help but feel exhilarated. The series doesn’t shy away from the glorification of violence and, at times, showcases brutality and uses the blood bath as a ploy to amuse the audience. A section of the audience might be of the opinion that a lot of goriness could have been avoided, but it works in their favor. There is a desperation for power evident in most characters, that gives birth to a kind of insecurity that creates the most intriguing conflicts. They are ready to form alliances to further their camouflaged agendas. They are ready to put anything and everyone at stake to accomplish their goals. They are ruthless and, at times, compassionate. They don’t hesitate to betray their kin and, at times, can’t help but treat them with benevolence. There is a duality in the world, in the characters and it gives rise to an innate feeling of self-doubt.
“House of the Dragon” is a promising series, and if it takes the right tactical steps, it can establish its own distinctiveness, which a few might feel is in jeopardy. It is an enchanting visual delight, but I believe that the key to its success lies in the manner in which it treats its characters. It is inevitable to not compare it to its predecessor, but I think we shouldn’t deny the series a fair chance, as it has its heart in the right place, and there is an intent to create something unique, even though the foundation might be the same.
“House of the Dragon” is a 2022 Period Drama Series created by Ryan J. Condal and George R.R. Martin.