Review - House of the Dragon: Game of Thrones' fiery return

As we reach the final throws of the prequel's first season, we take a look at what it has achieved so far.

Amelie Baker
14th October 2022
Image Credit: IMDB
Politics, sex, violence and dragons - House of the Dragon has it all; it is a truly strong return to the Game of Thrones franchise that previously fell flat during season 8.

It is rare that prequels live up to their predecessors but House of the Dragon is undeniably an exception to the rule. The world building, cinematography and script writing, amongst other attributes, have all been outstanding, and, as we approach the end of the first season, I think its safe to say it has been a roaring success for both die-hard Game of Thrones fans and new-comers alike. 

Although we may never see the likes of Game of Throne’s greatness again, House of the Dragon is definitely carrying forward its legacy of fire and blood.

Based on George Martin’s book Fire and Blood, the series details the Targaryen dynasty 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones. This first season is centred on Rhaenyra Targaryen, the only daughter of King Viserys (the fifth Targaryen King), as she struggles to legitimise her claim to the Iron Throne whilst competing with her uncle Daemon and facing the societal limitations of her sex (among other things - no spoilers!!). Overall, House of the Dragon is a well-researched introduction and return to the world of Westeros, albeit without the impending threat of the white walkers - at this point in time ‘Winter is not coming’ but a dragon-fuelled civil war inevitably is. 

Image Credit: IMDB

The power-houses behind Westerosi politics are 17 blood-thirsty dragons (the titular characters), all individual and vibrant - their design adhering to the books in ways Daenerys’ uniform dragons did not. The most distinct of these is Caraxes, the Blood Wyrm, a massive, mutated beast mirroring the political power/threat of his emotionally-erratic rider - Daemon. As King Viserys’ brother, he has hitherto fulfilled the role of self-entitled villain - violent, unpredictable and undeniably misogynist. And yet, we cannot whole-heartedly hate him. Matt Smith has outdone himself in the role of Daemon, capturing the detailed nuances of the second son, the side-lined Targeryan who simultaneously inspires horror and pity; love and hate. It is a sign of amazing acting and even better script-writing which invites the audience into this relationship of moral dilemma with such a multi-dimensional villain. Indeed, this lovable-moral complexity is a cornerstone of the Game of Thrones legacy, characterising many fan favourites such as the Hound, Jaimie and Tyrion to name a few - an area in which House of the Dragon does not disappoint.

‘Winter is not coming’ but a dragon-fuelled civil war inevitably is

Aside from dragons and morally-challenged characters, there is sex, severed limbs, burnt bodies and a blood-saturated wedding (not quite the Red Wedding though!), all offset by familiar places and familiar names to welcome us back. Game of Throne’s themes of gendered and hierarchical oppression also run throughout this prequel. Millie Alcock’s magnificent Princess Rhaenyra has to navigate society’s dichotomy of gendered restriction and liberation - the same as Cersei and Daenerys in an unchanged Kings Landing 200 years later. Afterall, the fact remains that Westeros does not take well to Queens. At all.

With the last half of this first season on the horizon, I cannot wait to see what is in store for us, and Rhaenyra, as Westeros is set on the path of war once more. Although we may never see the likes of Game of Throne’s greatness again, House of the Dragon is definitely carrying forward its legacy of fire and blood.

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