Spoiler-free review of the first season of The House of the Dragon, now available on HBO Max.
Succeeding one of the most successful series in history is not an easy job, even more so when within the same universe you decide to shift the focus to past events that require a long time to prepare and a much slower pace due to obligation. Nevertheless, The House of the Dragon not only manages to measure up, but far exceeds in this first season to most of the last years of Game of Thrones life.
With intelligence, The House of the Dragon takes Fire and Blood as a reference, by George RR Martin, which recounts a series of events in Westeros’ past from the point of view of various historians. But we already know what happens with historical stories: not all of them may tell the whole truth, so the series takes the license to function as the authentic reality, the one that will become canonical of the events of the past long before of what was seen in Game of Thrones. This works in favor of the series, which can take many liberties without feeling detached from the original work and without being aware of an ending that never comes from its author, as happened in the previous case.
All this leads to a series with a budget and production level that is not up to (almost) any other existing work on the market. Something that can only be considered when the license is powerful enough to know in advance that it will be a resounding success. Compare this first season of The House of the Dragon with the first of Game of Thrones, therefore, it seems unfair: They were very different moments in the middle and in the presence of the saga in popular culture.
The House of the Dragon is slow to start, and its first episodes can be considered excellent in direction, production, script and acting ability, but also in not giving too much to the viewer and making its turns very predictable. Is in the moment when all the game of thrones pieces are on the board when the series does what it does bestoffering an unparalleled show with a level of emotion at the height of very few recent productions.
Except for the occasional blunder at the photography level (hello, episode in which you hardly see what happens), The House of the Dragon plays at another level of visual and cinematic storytelling. The beauty and intelligence of the language that is taken in the direction is fascinating, and the best scenes are those in which the long silences appear and the mobility of the shots and the interpretation of the actors play their best asset, the one that makes the the series, in my opinion.
This can also play some tricks, since the viewer with the most skillful eye can anticipate the occasional turn thanks to this “excess” of intelligent narration, but it is not something that limits satisfaction, quite the opposite. The cast is at a superb level (except for some minimal cases where some performances do not finish convincing me) and the script assaults the viewer in each episode with stabs to his heart in the same way that the best moments of Game of Thrones did.
Being a series that covers so many years of events according to the original work, The House of the Dragon uses very notorious time jumps between a good part of its episodes. This leads to a very high pace once the first chapters have passed, with some of its events taking place in those moments of ellipsis, having to recapitulate through its dialogues so that the viewer knows exactly where in the story it is. situate. I understand that these jumps are made and, as George RR Martin himself comments, it is essential for the series to narrate all the events in ten episodes, and even so it is expected that there will be at least four seasons in total.
Personally, I would have loved if there were more episodes, even if that meant having more transition episodes or not having as many major events. But this is personal and, in this way, the pacing of the series feels powerfully structured with its presentation and march towards the final events, which in itself are still the true beginning.
The outstanding level of cinematography merges with a very high level of acting by most of the cast. Matt Smith has made us all fall in love with his interpretation of Daemon (for a reason he has become the “boyfriend of the internet”), but the last episodes with a Paddy Considine playing a huge Viserys makes him, for me, the true protagonist of the first season of House of the Dragon, with an interpretation worthy of any grand prize. Perhaps you have felt a little more lukewarm with the interpretations of Olivia Cooke and Emma D’Arcy as Alicent and Rhaenyra in their adult versions, respectively, below their counterparts in their youth (Emily Carey and Milly Alcock).
Another fear with which I went to The House of the Dragon, especially spurred on by Matt Smith’s own comments commenting that he thought he had too many sexual scenes in the series, was that gratuitous depravity that I think is exceeded on multiple occasions in Game of Thrones . Here it is much more measured and I do not consider that there is any excessand the lewd moments work to introduce or develop the personality of one of its characters.
Perhaps some of the events are debatable, especially those where a character performs a somewhat unjustified action considering the presence he had maintained up to that point in the series. Anything goes to generate something of a show, sometimes it does exceed certain episodesalthough in many chapters there is not a single glimpse of action.
The first season of The House of the Dragon not only stands as a worthy heir to the throne left by Game of Thrones, but probably shows itself to be superior in multiple facets. What he learned from the previous series is noticeable and his level of excellence in most of his direction, production and script is indisputable, as well as in his interpreters. We are, without a doubt, before one of the best series of the year.