I was…hesitant, to say the least when House of the Dragon was first announced.
HBO had many sequel series and spin-offs in the works back then, before they gauged and acknowledged the growing distrust in public sentiment for the brand.
It’s sad that I even have to say brand, and not book. Not even the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I (amongst other fans) are pretty sure author George RR Martin is never finishing.
If this series, HoTD, had come out say – three years ago, I still would have known ever sigil and House Heraldry, and even the greater region from which it came. I would still know, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the greater houses of Westeros lineage – in a similar fashion to my fervent comprehension of each and every episode and graphic novel of Nickelodeon’s Avatar the Last Airbender series.
I loved that show, and despite it ending in 2008 I can still tell you backwards and forward what happened in each episode down to the correct character quotes and lines.
Game of Thrones lore? Not so much.
Why is Game of Thrones Controversial?
I spent hours pouring over theories on the ASOIAF Reddit boards, and laughing at memes over at Freefolk. On a continuous loop, I watched uploaded official videos of the lore surrounding the Seven Kingdoms because I could not afford the exorbitant prices of the GoT series’ DVDs.
I eagerly awaited the odd sale to purchase the book series – a beautiful set of the most supple leather books, along with the Maester’s history of The World of Ice and Fire – naively believing the collection would be completed whenever George had time to finish the books.
Then, I was spit on.
I was belittled by the author of this amazing series, who would rather lie to fans that he’s locking himself in a cabin to finish writing, and take on projects such as Elden Ring and Wildcards instead of finishing the book series that brought him fame.
I – a Cinema Studies major who graduated from one of the top film schools in the world – was told by an episode director that since most people watch GoT on their phones, it’s not his fault fans worldwide reported being unable to see the aptly named episode “The Long Night”.
Then, the worst of it all – I, along with the rest of this collective fandom – was gaslit by big media and tech for expressing opinions, and criticism over the displeasure of watching firsthand the destruction of something “I loved so dearly” being decimated right before my eyes.
George just didn’t understand how “people can come to hate so much something that they once loved.”
I will never forget even the actors (in their own ways) trying to tell fans that the series would not end well. And that “Dany kind of forgot about the iron fleet” and that Jon Snow “doesn’t want it” when it came to a good storyline or the throne.
So yes, Game of Thrones is over and done – but I cannot forgive the decline of that series, the abysmal season 7 and season 8 – and then be expected, as a fan, to wholeheartedly support and believe in an admittedly promising prequel series.
House of the Dragon Episode 1 Review
With all that being said, I am still not quite sure why I decided to check House of the Dragon out.
It certainly wasn’t the borderline harassing emails from HBO Max advertising the series, and deep discounts on membership that would make it seem like I got “5 months free” of entertainment. Maybe it was, in small part, influenced by a very succinct and tepid review for one of the original series’ biggest critics in the show’s later degradation.
From the first moments of the show’s introduction, I thought to myself “wow, it’s nice being back in King’s Landing” only to then remember horrible visions of Daenerys Targaryen on her dragon, burning the city to the ground for no reason in “the bells”.
Why Exactly was Daenerys Triggered by the Bells?
The only reason I could reminisce was plot convenience.
The same convenience that led Tyrion to say that the bells were rung as a signal for surrender when in the past Varys said they had only been rung for the death of a king, an attack, or other acts of war.
I shake the thoughts off and admire the beautiful detail of the set and costume design in HoTD, instead.
Are Alicent and Rhaenyra Friends?
Let’s move on to the deep friendship shown between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower in HoTD episode one.
Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen is sat within the keep of King’s Landing, with her good friend Alicent Hightower studying the histories of Dorne. I smile at the prospect of Queen Nymeria of Dorne being further explored in the show and remember fondly how much Arya Stark adored the Warrior-Queen in the books.
Then I remember the “bad pussy” line, and the botched storyline of Dorne, and quickly let the thought pass away.
I scan the screen for more details, taking in the vibrant scenery of fall leaves.
I spot a Weirwood tree behind Alicent during the conversation and get excited at the prospect of the Old Gods watching, and logging the conversation. “Maybe years from now, Bloodraven (Brynden Rivers) will access this information as spymaster, or the Children of the Forest will whisper tales of the Targaryen dynasty to future Stark kids.”
Sadly, I am pulled from my Dream of Spring when I remember Bran the Broken of the HBO series, and not the Bran who is sitting under a tree most likely eating Jojen paste and downloading the secrets of the universe with Meera Reed tentatively standing guard nearby.
Bran has been under that tree for 10 years now in the books, you know?
King Viserys Throws a Tourney
A Tourney in King’s Landing takes my mind from aimless wandering, and fills me with a nostalgia for things long gone.
I loved the Tourney scene and again, has this been a few years earlier I would have still been able to name each house we saw. Daemon Targaryen, the admitted current villain of the series with an unscrupulous desire for power, decided to act very much like a Machiavellian Prince.
Daemon challenges Otto Hightower, Hand of the King’s eldest son and heir to a joust, and the man unseats him. During the second round, Daemon resorts to trickery by crippling his horse and exchanging blows until Daemon has regained his sense of manhood.
Feeling even bolder, Daemon then asks for Otto Hightower’s daughter’s favor in the Tourney, after unseating and nearly crippling her older brother. Wild.
Does Queen Aemma Die in House of the Dragon?
Within the castle walls, Viserys I’s wife Queen Aemma Arryn is attempting to deliver a male heir. Although seeming to care deeply for his queen, when being told only one will survive, or neither – the King decides to sacrifice his wife in favor of his (presumed) male heir.
An ornate tapestry of pleasure can be seen directly overhead, the words of Queen Aemma to Rhaenyra about childbirth being a woman’s battlefield ring in my mind.
In a very brutal and visceral fashion, the Queen is quite literally held down and gutted like a pig by the Maesters and her chamber ladies. The babe Baelon is taken from her womb, blood spattering and staining the marital bed from which the child was most likely sprung.
As the news of Queen Aemma reaches the court’s quarters at the tourney, I can’t help but feel bad for Princess Rhaenyra, who seemed to be the last to know. Although judging by her face when listening to the chatter surrounding her, I think she already knew something went terribly wrong with her mother.
The Verdict: A Promising Start
Overall, I enjoyed the first episode of House of the Dragon.
Maybe it’s just me, but I just can’t shake the (almost) PTSD-like flashbacks from the final season of Game of Thrones enough to be fully immersed in the prequel series.
I was totally into the episode ending when the lords of Westeros came to pledge fealty to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen as Viserys’ heir, only for a Baratheon ancestor (and cousin by blood) to hesitate.
(174 odd years later another Baratheon named Robert starts a rebellion and murders his cousin, the (alleged) Prince That Was Promised Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident. The smallfolk during GoT’s timeline still look for Rhaegar’s rubies from his armour that fell in the Trident – and I’m mad that I even know and remember that from the ASOIAF book series.)
I was so onboard with the political schemes and seeing Rhaenyra deal with the court full of snakes and the treacherous Privy Council, although I already know that her rule is later contested by her former friend Alicent, and this triggers the Targaryen Civil War known as the Dance of Dragons.
I even know how Daemon dies (or…doesn’t? His body was never recovered) during the Battle Above the Gods Eye with Prince Aemond Targaryen. And I didn’t even read the Fire & Blood anthology detailing the Targaryen family histories on which House of the Dragon’s plot is based.
But…mention of The Long Night being a warning passed from the first Aegon along the line of succession is what truly lost me on this series, and killed my hype for next week’s episode.
I mean, really – another Long Night? Wasn’t the first one enough of a failure, HBO?
Don’t put out feelers and attempt to pitch another spin-off prequel series when we all know how it will end due to Game of Thrones.
Especially when you have the man who directed that disastrous “Long Night” episode and told fans it was their fault they couldn’t see what was happening directing this first prequel series episode that mentions it?
Am I being too harsh?
Do you actually want to see a second Long Night in the Game of Thrones series?
Read Our House of the Dragon Episode 2 Review
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