The highly anticipated House of the Dragon is finally here! A prequel to the popular TV series Game of Thrones, it is set 200 years before. Thus, the story explores the beginnings of the House Targaryen and their fated downfall. It shows the events leading up to and covering the Targaryen war of succession known as the “Dance of the Dragons.” 

Both are based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire. While House of the Dragon in particular is based on portions of Fire & Blood. The adaptation from text to TV is created by Martin and Ryan Condal for HBO. Season 1 consists of ten episodes with the premiere on August 21, 2022

Until now, people are still expressing their huge disappointment with the eighth season of Game of Thrones. So much build-up from the plot and character development was lost. The much-awaited Battle of Winterfell that Jon Snow prepared his whole (and second) life for, only lasted one episode. He did not even get the chance to battle with the Night King himself. 

Everything was rushed, especially Daenerys’ transition to becoming the Mad Queen. However, it is also important to note that these scenes were compressed into six episodes. The writers probably tried in every way they could to squeeze every important detail in. 

Fortunately, HBO announced an upcoming prequel series. Fans are hopeful this new show will bring back the old hype. While critics had the opportunity to see the first six episodes ahead of its release. 

Here is a compilation of their thoughts and reactions:

What did Critics think of the series?

The Hollywood Reporter

Photo courtesy of The New York Times
  • The Hollywood Reporter had mixed feelings regarding the show. As it is solely focused on House Targaryen, its plot was not as expansive as the original series. Though the show’s production elements and performances by Milly Alcock and Matt Smith are notable to mention. House of the Dragon cannot compare to the vast and in-depth narrative of Game of Thrones. Precisely because it is a prequel, it also did not have its own voice.

“It’s disconcerting to see House of the Dragon becoming less distinctive and more beholden to Game of Thrones as it goes along, when it ought to be the opposite. There’s a lot that’s impressive in the first six episodes, but it’s as safe as a show with incest, gore and horrifying depictions of childbirth could possibly be.” 

Entertainment Weekly

Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen
HBO
House of the Dragon
  • EW also praised Smith and Alcock’s performances. They noted that the beginning may be a bit dragging at first, but the build-up improves. It was able to establish the right storytelling to show characters facing consequences for their decisions. Just like The Hollywood Reporter, they also mentioned the amount of childbirth was quite disturbing.

“And the sheer number of childbirth scenes would be a running gag if the show didn’t render them, with vivid detail, as a genuine medical horror.”

IGN

Photo courtesy of CinemaBlend
  • While IGN rates the series premiere an 8 out of 10, noting its close tone and content to the original series. They express the good kind of nostalgia that reminds them of the original but also establishes their own struggles for power and new characters fighting battles. 

“We also have dragons, inbreeding, and resentment. It’s good to be back in backstabbing Westeros.”

BBC Culture

Photo courtesy of Nerdist
  • BBC Culture noted the relevant task of House of the Dragon to make up for the disappointment brought by the season finale of Game of Thrones. Similar to the original, it started off slow and steady, providing its audience a significant amount of time to build up the characters and know them enough. However, they also noted that the prequel takes a darker and more solemn take. 

“It gradually maneuvers them into positions that suggest nothing but the most unavoidable bloodshed on the horizon. It’s a rich, textured work, sharply written and handsomely directed, with a budget that far outstrips season one of Game of Thrones.”

The New York Times 

Photo courtesy of Polygon
  • With similar mixed feelings, The New York Times expressed underwhelming reactions to the series premiere. Though the story itself is serious, that sense of seriousness was not engaging for the audience. There were multiple scenes where characters felt flat, with lots of sitting around tables and conversing. 

“And when the show ventures into the field for battle or romance, the filmmaking feels rote as well, but without the overlay of zippy special effects that Game of Thrones offered.”

USA TODAY

Photo courtesy of L’actu en 5minutes
  • USA TODAY expressed disappointment with the prequel. They noted that House of the Dragon was a big risk, especially when compared to the first show. In addition, it sets an expectation for the fans to elevate the disappointment brought by Season 8. Unfortunately, for them, the prequel did not succeed in those areas. 

“For fans who love the world author George R.R. Martin created with his A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels, it’s a deep disappointment.”

The L.A. Times

Photo courtesy of Nerdist
  • While The L.A. Times mentioned its in-depth writing of female characters.

“House of the Dragon has a depth of understanding of its female characters that GoT took years to find … It’s a strong setup for all manner of familial treachery — preferably atop a dragon.”

The Chicago Sun-Times

Photo courtesy of India Today
  • A positive take for The Chicago Sun-Times, House of the Dragon captured political intrigue, family melodramatics, and powerful performances from the cast. They also praised its quality direction, cinematography, and the familiar, great score from Ramin Djawadi.

“House of the Dragon has the gravitas and visceral gut-punch effectiveness of a series that could be with us for a very long time.”

CinemaBlend

Photo courtesy of TechnoPixel
  • CinemaBlend made a justifiable comparison of the prequel from Game of Thrones. They noted that though House of the Dragon had a bigger budget and better effects, it failed to capture the exact hook the original series had with Jamie pushing Bran out of the window. Despite our strong urge to compare the two, they think that it would be better to watch the show without considering the original.

“It’s worth watching and masterfully expands on the limited source material of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood as a fictional history book, but perhaps trying to leave the Game of Thrones comparisons out of the experience would be for the best.”

Rolling Stone

Photo courtesy of House of the Dragon on Facebook
  • Finally, Rolling Stone also felt disappointed. Similar to previous reactions, it cannot compare to the original. While House of the Dragon simply aimed to tell the untold beginnings of House Targaryen, its sole focus on one family affair made it incomparable to the vast and expansive story of Game of Thrones. 
  • They stated that House of the Dragon has only scratched the surface for most of its fun parts. The whole show was simply built around family affairs, and the amount of Targaryens felt like they were only meant to fill the plot.

“Game of Thrones had a rueful sense of humor to go along with its violence and mind games, and highly quotable characters like Tyrion and Cersei. None of that wit or energy is present here.”

Verdict: honoring Daenerys Targaryen’s roots

Photo courtesy of That Shelf
  • Based on the critics’ initial thoughts from the series premiere, Game of Thrones remain incomparable. Furthermore, the original series explored several families, various characters, and an extremely wide world with fantastical elements. On the other hand, House of the Dragon simply tells the story of one house. It is, in a way, to honor a significant character from the original.
  • Daenerys Targaryen was not just one of the main characters, she also established a powerful character as a woman and a ruler. Thus, it is not questionable why fans loved her. She was the mother of dragons, after all. But the eighth season did not give her character justice. Her transition to becoming mad was rushed and her death was underwhelming. 
  • House of the Dragon, then, can be seen as a remembering of Danaerys. In Game of Thrones, she was one of the last Targaryens left. She was basically alone in her house. House of the Dragon provides us an understanding of her family, her roots, and why things had led to her situation then. Therefore, as an avid fan of Game of Thrones and the mother of dragons, House of the Dragon is still worthy to watch.

By now, the first episode of House of the Dragon is already available. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? Share them below!

Until then, stay with us here at Spiel Times for more content.

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