I must admit that after all the disappointment from Game of Thrones‘ final season, I tried to not care about its prequel House of the Dragon, a tale about the Targaryens 172 years before the birth of Daenerys.
Still, curiosity got the best of me and I found myself gravitating towards the first episode several days after the premiere. And as with the first season of Game of Thrones, it had all of the ingredients of a compelling tale about a family’s hold to power amid betrayals and tragedy. I got goosebumps already.
Synopsis: King Viserys (Paddy Considine) has been dreaming of a male heir for years, not sparing a thought for his firstborn Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock) as his successor due to tradition. But when the death of his beloved wife Aemma and his son is mocked by his brother and supposed heir Prince Daemon (Matt Smith), he banishes him and hands over the realm to his capable daughter.
The first episode is typically the starting point and even though there were a lot of familiar names either mentioned in Game of Thrones like Aegon, Viserys, Baelor and the like, there were still plenty of house names to catch up on. Episode 1 clearly established the court’s position — who was pro and against Daemon as the king’s heir, who were holding grudges for a previous snub, who may be planning to take down the king and his descendants to seize the throne (ehem ehem, Otto Hightower).
It was heart pounding to say the least. At the same time, it was exciting to see the majestic dragons as the powerful beasts they were. There were good parallels between Rhaenyra and Daenerys, enough to remind everyone that the Mother of Dragons came from a line of regal, ambitious leaders who had to carve out their mark by force. From her ancestors, you can tell where Dany got her pride from. She seemed like a good mix of her kin, in her early days at least before she turned mad .
There was a brutality to the old Realm that stemmed from the Targaryens in charge. There was a sense of arrogance in their stride and heir white hair seemed like a symbol of their heritage. This was mostly owed to Daemon’s approach to getting things done. And truly, he spoke the truth when he told his older brother that he needed the Prince by his side because he was weak. Worse, he was gullible to the manipulations of the Hand of the King Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). If the personalities of Viserys and Daemon were combined, they would have made one great king. But that’s a story for another day.
I liked how the world was consistent with that of GoT, from the costumes to the characters. Knowing that these events transpired before the Long Night truly adds a new layer of appreciation for GoT. It was also bittersweet because House of the Dragon very clearly underscored the importance of the role of the Targaryens in the prophecy, none that really materialized in the end of Game of Thrones because showrunners were too busy wrapping things up to work on their Star Wars deal with Disney.
So far, I have high hopes for this prequel especially since the source material Fire and Blood was already completed by George RR Martin unlike his Song of Ice and Fire saga which remains incomplete up to this day. Kudos to the production and the cast for delivering an intriguing pilot at a fraction of the budget of the original GoT pilot.