The first official 'Game of Thrones' spin-off series is here. Despite our initial hesitation (thanks, season eight), we have to admit that this prequel has hooked us in and stolen our (dragon)hearts all over again.
Cast your mind back to 2019 - everything seemed so much easier, right? It was a year Supermacs triumphed over McDonald's, 'GOT' alum Sophie Turner married Joe Jonas, and 'Downton Abbey' was taking every mother's money at the box office. No, three years isn't that long ago, in fairness. But is three years enough to make us forget about that dud of a final season of 'Game of Thrones'?
'House of the Dragon' takes viewers back to Westeros 200 or so years before Daenerys Targaryen started to rise to power, to a time when her family ruled the seven kingdoms. Picking up 100 years into the Targaryen reign, led by King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine), we witness multiple births, deaths and dragons weaving in and out of the storyline at a much slower pace than we're used to. Thankfully, this initial slower pace in the first half of the season works before the cast changes and plot cogs begin to turn at a faster pace from episode six onwards.
We're told the foundation of this story (based on George R.R. Martin's encyclopedic book 'Fire and Blood') within the opening moments of episode one: King Jaehaerys Targaryen was the fourth king of the Targaryen Dynasty and, foreseeing a rift amongst his family in terms of his succession, to prevent a war breaking out he asked the people of the realm to elect his heir. Voting came down between Princess Rhaenys Velaryon (Eve Best) and her cousin Viserys, with the latter coming out on top.
And so, who will Viserys name as his heir? Dare he choose his eldest daughter, a young Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock), which would be the very first time a Queen will rule the kingdom? Or will it be his brutish younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith)? Treading spoiler territory is very difficult - so we're going to nip the rest of the storyline in the bud right here.
Instead, let's discuss how it feels to have something 'Game of Thrones'-related on our screens again. In all honestly, there's a sense of comfort knowing that the battle for the Iron Throne is picking up all over again - even if it is in prequel form. As those 'Game of Thrones' credits roll (the very same ones are back once again - except this time there's no epic intro to see unravel), you can't help but feel a squeal of joy. Yay to unexpected medieval deaths!
Unbeknownst to us while watching the original series for the very first time, 'Game of Thrones' became synonymous with shocking its audience. The pilot episode famously involved an incestual romp which was followed by a child being pushed from a high window and remaining wheelchair-bound forever more. Little did we know that this would be one of the tamest episodes of the franchise.
The same can also be said for 'House of the Dragon', and fans will no doubt feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that there are shocking moments to come. Plus, there's lots more dragons this time around, which is always fun to see.
One thing to note about the series is that time passes by rather quickly. Some episodes jump years, others decades, which can be confusing at times, especially because the audience isn't actually told this, but is forced to piece it together by observing whether someone is still pregnant, has had their baby, or if the baby is now suddenly a toddler etc. Just like there are lots of dragons, there's also lots of babies, so take note as some will eventually play a larger role in future episodes and seasons.
Episode six sees a huge shift, as the younger cast members are changed over by their older counterparts: Princess Rhaenyra, initially played by Milly Alcock is later replaced by Emma D'Arcy; while the younger Alicent Hightower, daughter to the Hand of the King (Rhys Ifans) is played by Emily Carey and is swapped out for Olivia Cooke. Not an easy transition to pull off, especially since some of the cast remains the same after the time jump, but it's a necessary way of making the storyline that much more believable.
It'll be interesting to see if 'House of the Dragon' continues the 'Game of Thrones' tradition of having episode eight be the most shocking episode of the season. Or maybe the creators wanted to step away from this expectation? Well, it appears that they've retained a core part of the original's foundation (death, shock value, and war), so we don't see why this shouldn't continue here.
Just like King Jaehaerys Targaryen thought that the only way the House of Targaryen would flounder would be by its own hand, the original 'Game of Thrones' series collapsed underneath the weight of itself and churned out a stinker of a final eight. 'House of the Dragon' is attempting to spark up our interest in the franchise once again, and to be honest, we can't wait to see how this reign of terror continues.
'House of the Dragon' begins on Sky Atlantic and NOW at 2 am on Monday, August 22. The 10-episode season will release a new episode weekly.