House of the Dragon
Oh man! Those days are back again. The days of waking up every morning on Mondays (in India) and gearing to be transported into the world of George R.R. Martin. Albeit it is in a different form this time around as after the phenomenon of Game of Thrones, we now get a chance to deep dive into the world of Targaryens with HBO's latest mega show, House of the Dragon.
Having had the privilege to watch the premiere episode and the precap of upcoming episodes before hand, here's what I thought about it-
Making us remember & forget about Game of Thrones at the same time
As we pirouette into one Targaryen after another with the first episode of House of the Dragon, it is fascinating to fathom how effortlessly does the show manage to remember and forget about Game of Thrones at the same time. Even before the opening credits roll, a voice over explains the world of Targaryens as it was umpteen years before Thrones happened, 172 years to be precise. The opening line itself gives you goosebumps as it clears these are events hundreds of years before Daenerys was born and 'the mad king; Aerys Targaryen died. This is enough for the ardent Thrones fans to be all excited again and fasten their seatbelts. On the other hand, the giant glorious mess that was GOT's final season, you gradually forget about that disappointment witnessing one fantastical scene after another. It is like having a great meaningful relationship after a terrible/heartbreaking breakup! How apt is that analogy!
Viserys vs Rhaenys becomes Daemon vs Rhaeynra
The deliciousness of this world of Westeros always lied in the complicated relationships at play and there cannot be a better way to kickstart things here. Following the death Jaehaerys, the Great Council sits down to hold a vote on the succession that pits Prince Viserys I against his cousin, Princess Rhaenys. As obvious it is in this world, the former wins as the lords of Westeros won't accept a lady as their ruler. Soon enough and two mega events later, Viserys names his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen as his successor. And this of course, doesn't bode well with the maverick and thirsty Daemon Targaryen, who is Viserys' brother and this Rhaenyra's uncle. Already with the opening moments in the premiere episode, it gets more and more intriguing thus becoming brilliant viewing.
Unlike Thrones, it is centralised to its advantage
Why did Thrones lose so much mileage and become a disappointment (for most of them) with its final season? Because, fans couldn't help but but slam the rushed climaxes, unexplained culminations and loose ends that the umpteen parallel plots presented. Here, we are immersed primarily into the world of Targaryens and hence there isn't too much hopping around which works to its advantage. It is inevitable that with episodes and seasons passing by, we will have a few parallel stories coming in but it will always continue to be 'House of the Dragon' and not House of Starks, Lannisters etc. What is also inevitable is the comparison to GOT in essence and while unfair, it is actually a good thing. The first episode might make you think about Thrones often but by the end of it, I didn't care about Ned Stark, King's Landing or anything; instead all I cared about was this unexplored world of the dragons.
Gorier, Bolder & Crazier
It is amazing how the nudity, graphical violence and other factors in Thrones appalled so many, even more so because this is 2011 we are talking about. But the premiere episode of House of the Dragon makes Game of Thrones look like a warm-up when it comes to these details. Things are gorier, bolder and crazier and it still just one episode we are mentioning here. One scene in particular is so graphic, it will make you flinch and look away from the screen as well - but that is what this world is supposed to make you feel.
Expectations, Performances & Future
The biggest worry the makers probably had along with HBO was 'expectations'. Backing up to a gargantuan show like Thrones, you cannot help but have expectations especially after THAT final season. But with crisp writing, cautious and detailed world-building & impeccable performances, that fear is thrown out of the window almost instantly. Of course, the usuals are there - grandeur, big production scale, great CGI and all that but it is amazing how none of those really matter because all you care about is the fascinating and complex story of the Targaryen dynasty. This is propelled by impeccable performances but a vast majority of them. Milly Alcock as Rhaenyra is so expressive with even a few lines where you see a raging fire like the Dany we knew and at the same time, a sense of vulnerability when talking to her father and emoting. Paddy Considine as Viserys blends the emotions of being a good-man-being-selfish-being-sad-and-helpless really well. And ultimately, Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen will immediately give you flashes of Harry Lloyd as Viserys in Thrones, albeit not that crazy and vicious. The finest of acting performances make sure that the writing material is elevated several notches up. With such a brilliant first episode and the precap of upcoming episodes, the future holds some mad fun and of course more dragons.
It might sound unfair to make claims of having a stellar debut season on the basis of just one episode but the future seems brighter than ever. It is time to get all the disappointed Thrones fans (including me) invested again in this world and make for some of the best motion presentation viewing on can imagine.
Rating - **** (4.5/5)