Many critics have praised the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon before its premiere on Sunday, August 21. GoT fans were devastated by the controversial ending to the 8-season series, which concluded on May 19, 2019. Despite the backlash, the series enjoyed enormous success and mass viewership. Especially, its 6th season made things more exciting before destroying the build-up in the next 2 seasons. However, per critics’ reviews, fans can get excited for the prequel as it has learned from its predecessor’s mistakes.
House of the Dragon Gets Hurrah from Critics
House of the Dragon is based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, a separate book from A Song of Ice and Fire, on which Game of Thrones was based. The mystical universe introduced the viewers to 7 houses vying for power in the fictional world of Westeros. The prequel series revolves around the Targaryen house with the addition of some new ones. Set almost 200 years before the events of GoT, HotD chronicles the civil war known as Dance of the Dragons that ensues between the Targaryens.
As per critic reviews, the build-up to that internal conflict intrigues the viewers instantly. If the fans loved dirty politics and the occasional backstabbing from GoT, they must be ready to get a little more of that. The show takes the viewers back to Westeros when Targaryens are in full power over the 7 kingdoms, about 100 years after thier formation and 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen. The kingdoms are mostly peaceful, but it has never stopped the dragon family from messing things up. The tension brews within the halls as King Viserys I (Paddy Considine) has no sons to succeed him. It all comes down to either passing the torch to his only daughter, Rhaenyra (teen: Milly Alcock, Adult: Emma D’Arcy) or his brother Daemon (Matt Smith). This choice soon becomes a dilemma that sets the stage for an epic conflict.
The backdrop makes it even more enjoyable. Many years before the events shown in HotD, the previous aristocrats only chose men as the leader of Westeros. They made Viserys I the ruler over a female family member Rhaenys (Eve Best). So, the king breaking tradition and making his daughter, a woman, his successor doesn’t go well with many parties. As explained by one of the dialogues in the series, “men will torch the entire realm than to see a woman ascend the Iron Throne”. It starts a chain of events, best described as “Fire & Blood”.
How is it Different from GoT?
GoT fandom remembers this universe as unapologetically dark, gory, sexy, and visceral, with no room for decency. If fans think they’ve seen it all in GoT, they are in for a nasty surprise. All controversial stuff is amplified in the House of the Dragon, given it’s the Targaryens in charge. They tend to make power dynamics, political battles, wavering loyalties, and complex negotiations more impactful.
However, unlike its predecessor, nudity and sex have been toned down a bit. Critics have reviewed up to 6 episodes and never saw any scene of sexual violence. But it’s George R.R. Martin’s story, after all. Targaryens practice incest as a ritual, which is the underlining topic in the entire series. It will undoubtedly make Jamie and Cersie Lannister look like saints after watching how shockingly “close” this dragon family is. This universe has no concept of morality, making it so interesting for fans.
Another thing that is ‘more’ in HotD than GoT is the number of dragons. There were hardly 3 dragons in the previous series, but HotD has them in abundance. There were also harsh reviews considering the show was haunted by the ghost of its predecessor’s failure. Some critics found it a bit slower in pace and feared that it might meet the same fate as GoT, which also took things slow for 7 years and ended them abruptly. Moreover, without the inclusion of a “good” character, there is no anchor of hope. Most of the time, it would seem like reality; a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats pretending to care about the world. Previous seasons at least had Jon Snow and Arya Stark determined to fight the evil, something average viewers could relate to. Overall, a bit of mix and match with extra flavour would never hurt a fan of this franchise.
Improved Focus on Women
Critics have found that House of the Dragon handles women better than Game of Thrones. The show has avoided over-sexualization and misogyny, a recurring theme in GoT. It had several unnecessarily disturbing sequences of women getting assaulted, raped, and mutilated for men’s pleasure. Thanks to the sexual politics going on worldwide, HotD has improved a lot on its portrayal of women.
Right from the beginning, the viewers are introduced to a lovely friendship between 2 women, Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower (teen: Emily Carey, adult: Olivia Cooke. They are childhood friends and share a tight bond till the end, which is why the imminent betrayal feels devastating and intriguing simultaneously. Alicent is the daughter of King’s Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans), who persuades her to marry Rhaenyra’s father. This threatens Rhaenyra’s succession, leading to a tragic fallout.
Rhaenyra’s husband, Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), is also nothing like the husbands of GoT ladies. He supports his wife and often provides a critical take on ongoing events that the audience desperately wants. Lastly, the credit goes to the actors for their brilliant performance in bringing Martin’s world from book to screen. Now it’s up to the fans, burned by GoT’s ending, to decide if HotD could return the glory days to this franchise.