‘House of the Dragon’ review: Brutal, creepy ‘GoT’ prequel

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The violence is just as brutal, the relationships scarier than ever – welcome to ‘House of the Dragon’, the ‘Game of Thrones’ spin-off that might as well be called ‘Dated and Related’.

A lot is at stake, as “GoT” was the biggest show in the world during its 2011-2019 run, even if it crashed into a widely mocked ending.

While “House of the Dragon” (premiering August 21 at 9 p.m. on HBO) is hardly a masterpiece, it’s an addictively watchable series full of juicy drama, palace intrigue, and audience-friendly “GoT” nostalgia.

It takes place 172 years before the birth of Daenerys and gives us Westeros through ‘succession’. We’re anchored in the drama of her ancestors, the silver-haired, dragon-riding, incest-happy Targaryen family — and what led to their demise, with Daenerys and Jon Snow the last of their bloodline.

The main conflict in ‘House of the Dragon’, which is based on George RR Martin’s book ‘Fire & Blood’, is a civil war between Princess Rhaenyra and her half-brother Aegon II (who is not yet born at the beginning of this year). ). this show) about who will get the throne. The Targaryens are the rulers who rule Westeros during this era, but the current king, Viserys I (Paddy Considine), a wise ruler (a novelty in this world!), must name an heir.

Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in ‘House of the Dragon’. Behind her sits Paddy Considine while her father, Viserys I, sits on the throne.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO

Fans looking for characters to cling to and root for – like the original show gave us the Starks – will be disappointed. The Targaryens are a bunch of spiky crazies, and all of the show’s relationships come straight out of Groomers R Us, pairing middle-aged men with young girls they’ve known for years, who are often blood relatives, to boot. Dragons and battles and politics are all well and good, but they weren’t the only factors why “GoT” reached such a large audience.

The main contender for Viserys I’s crown is his young daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock in the first few episodes; in later episodes, she’s played by Emma D’Arcy after a time jump). But it’s against the norm for women to rule, so the king’s advisers fear it will cause chaos. We usually see her romping with her boyfriend, Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey, and later Olivia Cooke), whose father Otto (Rhys Ifans) is the Hand of the King. Rhaenyra also has an uncomfortably flirty dynamic with her uncle Daemon (a landscape-munching Matt Smith, who exudes menace).

The incest between twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister was icky on “GoT,” but at least they were the same age, and the show also offered many more tasty romances to counter that. It is disturbing – and will certainly raise eyebrows – to see Daemon, who is approaching forty, flirting with his young teenage niece.

Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in the first few episodes of "House of the Dragon."
Milly Alcock as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in the first few episodes of ‘House of the Dragon’.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO
Matt Smith wears a helmet with a sword.
Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen in ‘House of the Dragon’.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO
Olivia Cooke as Elder Alicent Hightower, left, and Emma D'Arcy as Elder Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in "House of the Dragon."
Olivia Cooke as Elder Alicent Hightower, left, and Emma D’Arcy as Elder Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO

As the king’s brother, Daemon is another contender for the throne, but almost everyone (including Otto, who hates him) thinks that would be a catastrophe as he is impulsive, violent and power hungry. (Of course, he delivers many of the scenes that are filthy, gruesome, or just plain fun.) And when the king finally has a baby boy, matters of his succession get even more complicated.

Like “GoT”, “House of The Dragon” features plenty of characters making plans in rooms and action scenes infused with brutality. Sometimes the writing is almost comically heavy-handed. In one episode, a pregnant woman compares childbirth to the battlefield. Later, the scene cuts back and forth between her labor going bad and a battlefield full of men violently beating each other. “GoT” wasn’t a subtle show, but it didn’t overlook the viewers that much. Swapping actresses for Rhaenyra and Alicent is also shocking – while both pairs are good performers, the switch feels unnecessarily distracting, as the jump in age isn’t as obvious.

Graham McTavish on a horse.
Graham McTavish as Ser Harrold Westerling in ‘House of the Dragon’.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO
A dragon
One of the many dragons on ‘House of the Dragon’.
Thanks to HBO
King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen) talk in front of a dragon skull in "House of the Dragon."
King Viserys (Paddy Considine) and his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, talk for a dragon skull.
Photo by Ollie Upton / HBO

For better or worse, “House of the Dragon” has a smaller scope than “GoT”. If you got tired of Jon in the freezing cold, you could always count on “GoT” to change the scene to a different character or family. In ‘House of the Dragon’ we only have the grandiose Targaryens and the main location (with some exceptions) is King’s Landing.

Aside from having questionable wigs, “House of the Dragon” is well done for what it is: a pulpy political fantasy that will make you want to keep watching. And it manages to learn at least one important lesson from “GoT”: the sex scenes are more tastefully filmed, show nudity of both women and men – and the former seem to be having a good time too.

It remains to be seen if a wider audience can get over their anger with the “GoT” ending, or if this will be a more niche show for hardcore fans. But it should set many viewers on fire.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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