How the first season of House of the Dragon compares to Game of Thrones

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first season of House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones.


Recently, in order to compare, I decided refresh my memory about the first season of game of thrones. It had been a while, so why not watch some of the highlights (the premiere, the ending, Baelor) and see how it compared to the first season of House of the Dragon?

Then something curious happened: I couldn’t find any episode I wanted to skip and ended up accidentally watching the entire season in two days. It’s that good, quickly introducing (and then masterfully building) some of the best characters seen in modern media. How not to cheer for the ever noble Starks, lament the existence of Joffrey Baratheon, laugh with Tyrion Lannister, or get involved in the Daenerys Targaryen situation? It may not have the production value of later seasons, but it’s easily one of the safest and most competent premieres in television history.

Interestingly, even though its spin-off, House of the Dragon, tried to recreate the tone of Game of Thrones (other spin-offs are said to have been removed for not being Game of Thrones-like enough), departs significantly from the structure of the story and the characterization. Once the familiar opening theme is heard, the differences are accentuated from there, with characters (focusing heavily on one and later two factions, unlike its predecessor) having a much grayer morality. .

There is no arguing that The House of the Dragon has a high budget; while the first season of Game of Thrones had very little fantasy (both due to the nature of its plot and, probably, because of budget restrictions that became much more lax later on), the first one offers us incredible action scenes with adult dragons . But when it comes to storytelling, their different approach has mixed results.

Time Jumps vs. Story Branching

Perhaps the most immediate difference between The House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones it’s the fact that we’re able to stay focused on the Targaryens and those around them throughout the first season (something that will likely change in the future, now that the battle lines in Dance with Dragons have been drawn). Meanwhile, Game of Thrones constantly jumped from Winterfell to King’s Landing, to the lands on the other side of the Narrow Sea…

Looking back now, it’s incredibly admirable the amount of world building Game of Thrones was able to do in that first season. He had to immediately get us interested in the Starks, the Lannisters, the Targaryens, the Dothraki, and a bunch of groups in between, while stealthily weaving hundreds of years of history. Are we really interested in Jon Arryn, a guy that everyone tells us was a serious guy but was apparently unjustly killed? Not really, but it does make us worry about how his side effects affect the lives of people like Ned Stark. Also, the fact that Jamie Lannister pushes a sweet boy out of a window to hide that he’s banging his sister is a pretty solid way to build intrigue in the pilot.

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Having said that, there are some moments in which that structure of Game of Thrones is frustrating. When we’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see what will happen as tension builds around Ned in King’s Landing, it will rip us off to see how Daenerys is doing, or to show Jon Snow adjusting to the Night’s Watch. It’s a problem the House of the Dragon doesn’t have to worry about, and that’s often a relief; It gives us time to love the sweet bond between Rhaenyra and Alicent before slowly eroding it, and their heartbreaking breakup is the best part of the first season. It also gives us the opportunity to see the layers beneath the well-meaning but weak and passive Viserys, the sad and often cruel relationship between Alicent and Otto, and the sexual tension between Rhaenyra and Daemon.

However, the approach of The House of the Dragon often has problems with massive time jumps. They often had the same drawback as Game of Thrones’ branching narrative, but instead of separating us from a character we wanted to see more of, they robbed us of immediate sequels we might have otherwise seen. Also, while Emma D’Arcy has done an amazing job as the adult Rhaenyra, I’ve missed Milly Alcock’s impeccable work.

See those sequels probably would have better contextualized some of the character’s decisions, as in the case of the hitherto cold Rhaenys breaking into the Well of the Dragon (something I’ve already written about more extensively). But she also didn’t allow us to get attached to the characters outside of Rhaenyra, Alicent, Daemon and Viserys. This is the most shocking, in terms of comparison, in the ending, where the big death is that of Lucerys “Luke” Velaryon. It’s quickly made clear that he’s a sweet guy, but other than a few cute scenes in that final episode, we don’t get a chance to really get to know him.

That’s not to say it’s not heartbreaking when Vhagar decides to take a big bite out of him and his much smaller dragon Arrax, but that doesn’t compare to the time Game of Thrones got rid of its own main character. To this day, it hurts to see Ned Stark lose his mind in Baelor. We had a long time to come to love him and his noble ways, something we can’t say for Luke. I’m mad at Aemond, but not as mad as I am at Joffrey.

But even if they falter in their execution here and there, both approaches are smart ways to cover a lot of ground quicklyand to make us meet the many actors who are on stage.

Heroes and villains against all are villains

The other most notable difference between the two series is how quickly Game of Thrones established its good guys and bad guys. From the beginning, we know Ned as an honorable man and a doting father, and Daenerys is instantly likeable, always at the mercy of her horrible, abusive brother. Meanwhile, it only takes Joffrey two episodes to get an innocent butcher boy killed, and we’ve already mentioned that we’re introduced to Jamie and Cersei for the whole “pushing a boy out the window” thing. That’s not to say there aren’t more ambiguous characters on the sidelines (it’s hard to immediately know what to make of the wily Varys and Littlefinger, or the cheeky but humorous Robert Baratheon), but we know very quickly which sides to take.

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The characters in The House of the Dragon, meanwhile, vary infinitely more in their morals, and that’s by design; series co-director Miguel Sapochnik previously told IGN that he hopes viewers’ allegiances change from episode to episode. Rhaenyra, who could be called the main character of this series, is far from being an upstanding citizen, but it is also easy to feel her situation as she fights against the patriarchy of Westeros (same goes for the Queen that never was, Rhaenys) and the obligations of the crown

Things get even more complicated from there; Viserys means well and wants to keep the peace between the kingdom and his daughter, but his greed for a son leads to the tortuous death of his first wife. Alicent betrays her best friend and has raised absolutely insufferable children with Viserys, but you can see the love she still has for Rhaenyra and the way she struggles to be a pawn to the men in her life. . And then you have Daemon, a character who is, well, objectively horrible, but hey, he still loves his brother, and it’s hard not to love Matt Smith’s incredible performance. That’s something that’s consistent across the board.; Paddy Considine, in particular, did a fantastic job showing the many intricacies beneath Viserys.

And hey, human beings are messy; The House of the Dragon understands it and portrays it well, although it is sometimes hampered by the aforementioned time jumps.. It’s an undoubtedly intriguing approach; in fact, it’s where most of the intrigue in House of the Dragon comes from. While the first season of Game of Thrones focused on two central mysteries: who killed Jon Arryn and will Bran remember who tried to kill him? House of the Dragon leaves us wondering how many war crimes Daemon will commit in any given episode. It’s kind of a joke, but we’re actually waiting to see which side we’ll be on, something that can easily change from episode to episode.

Still, there are times when I missed having someone to support more clearly in La Casa del Dragon. Of course there are more noble characters, like Harwin Strong, but they tend to get killed very quickly. I find myself on Team Black not because I like Rhaenyra and Daemon so much, but because I can’t root for Criston Cole or Alicent’s horrible children. And, as despicable as they are, they are still not as hateful as Joffrey Baratheon. Also, there are times when The House of the Dragon feels oppressively dark; Basically, he could have used a Tyrion, someone to lighten the mood from time to time (I still laugh at his “confession” in the Vale).

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It may be unfair to compare the characters of The House of the Dragon with the already iconic ones of Game of Thrones, but It’s an unavoidable comparison. The House of the Dragon, like it or not, will always face the mother ship.

In the shadow of Game of Thrones

In that sense, It doesn’t seem like The House of the Dragon is shying away from that comparison.. Much has been made of his decision to keep the same theme song from Game of Thrones, but even before that, he doesn’t hide his origin. After all, it opens with a text card that tells us where in Westeros’ history we are at that moment, with words fading away until all that reads is “172 years before Daenerys Targaryen.” That is, points for self-awareness; They know who we are here for.

And while it’s a balm not having to get to know these different houses and people so quickly (when House of the Dragon brings out the Starks, the Lannisters, and the Baratheons, you can be sure the audience knows exactly what it means) so is faces the classic problem of the prequels. We know, much later, that the Targaryens are going to lose. After all, we already saw their descendants fall.

But what House of the Dragon is trying to do is make us care about those characters in the meantime, and that’s all any prequel can hope to do. It may not have all the unpredictability of Game of Thrones (although it has made some interesting departures from its source material, Fire and Blood), but It has some damn complex characters..

Then, what is better? The first season of Game of Thrones or House of the Dragon so far? Well, in a way, it depends. Do you prefer moral ambiguity or a clearer fight between good and evil (mostly)? I may prefer the charm and drama of Game of Thrones, but it’s also a relief to stick with one group through House of the Dragon. And, either way, you’re going to have some clutter in the narrative structure.

All things considered, the comparison between House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones may not be as direct as it first appears. You have to give credit to The House of the Dragon for having charted its own path; the world may be the same, but the stories told in it are startlingly different.