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House of the Dragon, Season 1 | tv review

There's a lot to like about the Hot D.

 

Season summary: An internal succession war within House Targaryen at the height of its power, 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen. (IMDb)


It took friends pestering me about Game of Thrones for a couple of years before I started watching that show and loving it, so it was a unique experience to be into another show in the same setting - albeit a couple of centuries earlier - from the off. Then again, it wasn't entirely smooth sailing for House of the Dragon's first season, thanks to the time skips and the necessary re-casting it entailed.


The problem the team behind the show had is that so much of the story they originally envisaged would require lots of flashbacks, so they simply chose to show us the backstory as episodes of their own, with the second half of the ten-episode season taking place much, much later than the first half - the most prominent changes being the replacements of Milly Alcock with Emma D'Arcy and Emily Carey with Olivia Cooke as Rhaenerys Targaryen and Alicent Hightower respectively.


All due credit to the casting people, with the younger actresses looking shockingly similar to the older pair who were intended to be the main characters of the entire season. The problem with that though, is the difference both in performances and story, with the first five episodes of House of the Dragon feeling more enjoyable than the second lot of five.


I think the main reason for that is the younger characters could be more impulsive due to their ages, and everything felt just that little bit more alive. I did appreciate the show as a whole for the more political aspects of Westerosi society being the focus throughout, but the second half of the season felt quite dry as a result - something being interesting and something being exciting are not always an overlap.


Despite the stronger presence of women at the top of society compared to Game of Thrones, the second half of the season felt very much like it belonged to Paddy Considine's Viserys - to be fair, he was brilliant from the start - and Matt Smith's Daemon. The two brothers have quite the tempestuous relationship and it's a lot of fun to see the ups and downs between them, although it's made perfectly clear that they really do love each other as family.


And I do have to admit that I'm fully onboard with Team Black after this season - Rhaenerys' and Daemon's side to be clear - with the Greens, led by Alicent and her father, Otto (Rhys Ifans), proving a little too scheming and nasty for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, Rhaenerys and Daemon are nowhere close to being considered 'nice' people, but they seem to have a lot more heart to them, even if that does lead them to bad choices.


The Greens are interesting to watch scheme, but a lot of their scenes feel like what we could've got in Game of Thrones between Tirion and Varys if you drained all humour and warmth from them. I'm hoping that later seasons - the second is scheduled for 2024! - can round them out a little more to make them at least a little more enjoyable to watch.


House of the Dragon's debut season ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, although it's one of those situations where I think audience knows what's coming and will eagerly anticipate it as a result, making the long wait all the more frustrating. I'm going to cheat a bit and read ahead, which I think is indicator enough of how highly I rate this show so far despite its issues - I really enjoyed what I watched and want more of it as soon as possible.


House of the Dragon's first season is a welcome return to form for the setting of Westeros, but is still lacking a special something that Game of Thrones had. It looks and sounds great, and the performances are almost all excellent too, but the time skips really don't help the story flow all that well and it often results in characters making choices that feel needed to progress the plot rather than making sense for that person.

[8/10 - Very Good]

 

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