TV Review: House of the Dragon, Pilot Episode
HBO's House of the Dragon takes what made Game of Thrones great and brings it back to the forefront.
This prequel, set two hundred years before the fantasy juggernaut, tells the story of the Targaryen family as cracks begin to appear in their god-like rule. Cracks that will eventually break and splinter the realm into the one we see in Game of Thrones.
It would have been easy for HBO to rein it in for this series. Start small again, similar to the first season of Game of Thrones, and build from there. But, the pilot does anything but that. If it was the wars for the Iron Throne that hooked you on the world of Westeros, then House of the Dragon promises to be a worthy successor. Because this story is not one of impending doom. The White Walkers won't trouble the lands south of the Wall for two hundred years. This is a story of succession and the damage that can do to the realm.
It should go without saying, but there are certain things that HBO just gets right with their big mainstream TV series. Those being the score & the cast. From the first notes of the score, produced by the returning Ramin Djawadi, it just felt like I was back in Westeros. I didn't think Djwadi would ever miss, but I'm pleased to see that he's started off incredibly well in this opening episode. If the score for House of the Dragon remains this strong throughout then we're in good hands.
Likewise, the cast did a stellar job all around. For one episode at little over an hour long, I already feel as though I have a strong understanding of the key players in this new game we're watching unfold. Just to name a few, Emily Carey as the young and innocent Alicent Hightower, Matt Smith as the outcast Daemon Targaryen, and Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen were all outstanding. But for me, it was Milly Alcock's portrayal of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen who stole the show. With future episodes jumping timelines, I'll be interested to see how having a large cast of intricate and meaningful characters will be managed.
There were a couple of moments of wonky CGI. But when you're now having to portray 10 dragons as opposed to 3, and more frequently, it's understandable that not every shot will look like what we'd come to expect with Game of Thrones.
I also found one of the scenes to be particularly uncomfortable as it pertained to the topic of taking away a woman's choice when giving birth. I don't mind what happened as a story-beat, but in today's climate I think it's worth noting and you can make your own judgment after watching.
Overall, as a pilot episode, I thought House of the Dragon did a phenomenal job of setting up the story, introducing us to a whole new cast of characters, whilst also providing enough call-backs in the score and sets that it felt like the welcome return we'd wanted.
I will be doing another blog once the season has finished. Giving my thoughts on it as a whole. But for now, House of the Dragon is off to a great start.