House of the Dragon really pulled it off

This story contains spoilers for the entire first season of house of the dragon.

One of the most common complaints about serialized television in the streaming age is that it moves too slowly. Entire seasons contain plot lines that could probably fit into one episode; the characters spend a year preparing to do something. I watched all the episodes on amazon The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power arms crossed sullenly, amazed that such an expensive production dared to have little to no narrative drive for most of its runtime. house of the dragon, its big-budget fantasy rival at HBO, leans toward the opposite extreme. If anything, the show has felt rushed, madly jumping back in time and sacrificing some character development for the sake of plot, plot, and plot.

Still, my biggest takeaway from last night’s Season 1 finale, “The Black Queen,” was the amusing surprise that previous episodes had only served to set the table, albeit on a grand scale. For its first season, set in 19 years, house of the dragon It charted the start of a civil war within the ruling House Targaryens, but it wasn’t until the end of “The Black Queen” that that war really started. I know enough about the source material written by George RR Martin to know that from now on, the story will have to drastically slow down. But that perspective only makes house of the dragonThe first season is a most impressive and downright avant-garde achievement.

The scope of Season 1 required skipping some massive developments. Whatever drew Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by Emma D’Arcy) to Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr), the secret father of her first three children, hasn’t really been elucidated, even though rumors of the illegitimacy of her offspring had been a common thread. The changing nature of Rhaenyra’s second husband (and uncle), Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), was hard to follow: he started out as an irresponsible rabble-rouser, became a fearsome one-man warrior, and then spent much of the second half of their life. the season as a supportive and discreet husband until the end.

[Read: The glaring flaw at the heart of House of the Dragon]

However, I appreciated the speed. The time-jump nature of house of the dragonis first The season allowed the show to pack an emotional saga into 10 episodes, beginning with the teenage friendship between Rhaenyra and Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), and ending with them plotting a war against each other led by dragons. The show’s ninth episode saw Alicent and her father, Otto (Rhys Ifans), conspire to place their son Aegon on the throne after the death of her husband, Viserys (Paddy Considine), against Viserys’ stated wishes. that his eldest daughter, Rhaenyra, be first in line for succession.

“The Black Queen” showed the other side of that maneuver, with Rhaenyra learning of Aegon’s hasty coronation and deciding whether to march against him or retreat in the name of peace. A war of dragonriders against dragonriders, she said, would devastate the land both sides fought for. Why not marry off everyone’s children to each other, or retire to their own lands to live elegantly and avoid further misery? And again, house of the dragon has offered peace as an option the characters have to wrestle with, and they are rarely bloodthirsty enough to rule it out. Instead, the myriad pressures of court politics and the uncontrollable array of lords and conspirators within it continue to push the world into chaos.

The original game of Thrones, which is even longer, dealt in part with how the pursuit of power corrupts decent people, and how the act of seizing it often exacts an immeasurable price. But house of the dragon he has made that the sole focus of his narrative. All the characters want a chance to sit on the throne or be the power behind it, and every time they stray from the idea, the gravitational forces of ambition pull them right back into it.

[Read: House of the Dragon had one great idea]

Rhaenyra was seriously considering staying out of the fray, even sending her sons as envoys to various lords to sound out if they would support her. But while doing so, a young boy, Lucerys (Elliot Grihault), ran into his uncle Aemond (Ewan Mitchell), whose eye he had cut out in a fight years before. His feud turned into a game of chicken dragon riding, with Aemond causing Lucerys’s fire-breathing steed to attack, then losing control of his own dragon and watching in horror as it bit his nephew. in pieces. War, once likely, is now inevitable, and Rhaenyra’s face at the end of the episode suggests that her heart has hardened beyond reason. Her rage feels powerfully earned, powerful fuel for the drama of the coming seasons.

My main fear is that house of the dragon it will only get darker and bloodier as it progresses and delves deeper into the particularities of the “Dance of the Dragons”. Showrunner Ryan Condal has promised that the series will show a more humorous side in the future, a welcome notion that’s hard to believe given the family bloodshed to come. As much as I’ve swallowed all the palace intrigue and royal politicking thus far, I can’t deny that the show lacks the kind of memorable characters (Tyrion, Cersei, Bronn) that kept game of Thrones juicy and spicy years in its operation. But I would have also scoffed at the idea of ​​cramming 19 years of storytelling into one season earlier. dragon House, to my delight, he proved me wrong.

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